On Saturday, I posted this photo with the caption: “Here’s a shot of the best Strat that I own. Happy #straturday everyone!”
It caused so much offence that another guitarist blocked me on Twitter.
Let’s talk about that.
But It’s Clearly A Telecaster?!?
Yes, that is definitely a photo of a Telecaster. I framed the shot to make sure it was obviously a Telecaster.
The guitar in the shot is Spot, my 2015 Fender USA American Deluxe Telecaster in
clown burst aged cherry burst. In many respects, it’s the 2015 equivalent of today’s American Ultra Telecaster.
It’s also the best guitar I currently own for making some of the sounds we typically associate with a Stratocaster.
How Is That Possible?
A few years ago, I had the original Noiseless N3 pickups replaced with a set of Fender Custom Shop Twisted Tele pickups. These pickups go a long way to making the neck position on Spot sound like a really nice Strat.
At the time, it wasn’t a deliberate choice – it was literally the only set of Fender-made Telecaster pickups they had in the shop the day I dropped the guitar off. I’d taken the guitar over to Andertons to have the neck looked at (a story for another time), and decided to take the opportunity to upgrade from the stock N3 pickups while it was on the bench.
It was one of those serendipitous moments that makes life such a wonderful experience.
The Twisted Tele pickups are marketed for making your Tele sound more like a Strat; well, at least in the neck position. The neck pickup is a different construction to your normal Tele design. And, in my opinion, it certainly delivers.
For me, the must-have characteristic of a great Stratocaster is a piano-like quality to clean notes. I’ve heard people call this “bell-like”, because the note sounds more struck than plucked.
Spot has that, and it does that a little better than any of the Strats that I currently own. Throw in the Twisted Tele neck pickup to give the sound a little more width and smoothness than your typical Tele neck pickup – while keeping the mid-forwardness of a Tele – and the result does it for me.
There’s a bit more to it than just the pickups, though.
Not Your Traditional Tele Bridge, Either
These American Deluxe Teles don’t have your classic 3-barrel Telecaster bridge saddles. They’ve got 6 Strat-style bridge saddles instead, and I’m convinced that they’re part of the reason why Spot can sound more like a Strat than your typical Tele …
… because (in my hands) that bridge feels like a Strat, and that influences my technique.
Does the bridge saddle material (chrome-plated steel, vs brass barrels) make a difference? Definitely does. Take a 3-barrel Tele bridge, and swap between steel and brass barrels to hear it for yourself. But I don’t think it’s the sole cause.
I know from personal experience that a 3-barrel Tele sounds more like a Tele in my hands than Spot ever has. But that’s because I grew up playing Strat knock-offs. Playing a 3-barrel Tele is a different experience for me. I play them differently, and that helps them sound different.
Why Does This Cause Offence?
I don’t know … but it did.
I think it’s a strange thing, to take offence because someone is enjoying a piece of gear. Especially a piece of gear that you haven’t heard, and haven’t asked questions about.
Be happy for the joy that others find in their music and their gear. Be happy for them. Their happiness doesn’t have to be at your expense – unless you choose to make it so.
Don’t be that person. Don’t make that choice.