A couple of weeks ago, I finally found the Telecaster for me. I wasn’t even looking for it, either.
What Did You Buy?
I bought a Fender Postmodern ’63 Journeyman Telecaster in aged firemist silver.
It’s got a two-piece ash body, one-piece maple neck & fingerboard, with a Seymour Duncan Seth Lover humbucker in the neck and a reverse-angled Nocaster pickup in the bridge. While the bridge saddles aren’t compensated, the middle saddle is staggered, which seems to help intonation quite a lot.
As far as I can tell, Fender’s been building these for dealers in small numbers since 2020. They seem to have been very popular; I’ve only been able to find one remaining in stock at a dealer, and that’s at a suspiciously low price 🤔
Why Did You Buy It?
I bought it because I played better, and more confidently, than I normally do.
I have been feeling a bit of buyer’s remorse over the PRS Paul’s Guitar recently: it’s made me realise that, deep down, I want a great Telecaster. So when I was in my local guitar shop for something else entirely and saw this, I had to try it. And I’m glad that I did.
I got to run it through a King of Tone pedal into a Blackstar Studio 10 6L6 – a sound that I know pretty well. I was on the red side, in overdrive mode, with all the controls set in the Mick Taylor position (2 o’clock for everything) … and in the middle position, it just sounded immense right from the first note.
More importantly, it sounded right for me.
Everyone in the shop was cooing over the colour and the relicing that has been done, but honestly, I didn’t notice any of that at the time. All I cared about was how the guitar felt in my hands, how it sounded through the rig, and how it reacted to my playing … and how I reacted to playing it.
I’m normally quite timid when I’m trying a guitar in the shop. No matter how the folks in the shop have set the amp, I’ll turn it down until it’s as quiet as I can get away with. Not this time. I definitely played quite a bit louder than usual, and probably spent a good half hour or so annoying everyone else in the shop with my bad playing.
What Do You Think About The Relicing?
I have no idea how a well-used guitar will age naturally. I’ve been playing since the 1980s, and none of my guitars have ever shown much sign of ageing. So I can’t tell you whether or not the relic job is ‘authentic’.
All I can do is tell you whether or not I like it.
Aesthetically, I think it looks great from the front. The neck in particular … as I’m writing this, I keep glancing over to the guitar, and I just love how the neck looks. I’ve looked at photos of other examples of this guitar, and the relicing job on those necks looked fake, because the neck just looked too clean. Not a problem with this one!
I’m not sold on the random dings in the top of the guitar’s body. Their location, by and large, just doesn’t make any sense to me. It’s the same with the dings on the back and sides of the guitar.
The nitro cracking on the front … I’m very meh about it. I don’t mind it, and it is kinda cool how it completely disappears at certain angles. It definitely adds to the vibe of the guitar, but for me, it’s not a reason to buy the guitar.
Oh yeah, did I mention the guitar’s finished in nitro, not poly? For me, that’s a big reason to seek out these reliced Fender guitars.
Rightly or wrongly, I’m a big believer that guitars finished in thin nitro coats are going to be livelier, more responsive than guitars encased in poly armour. That’s important to me, because I play with such low overdrive levels, my idea of a rhythm tone is often cleaner than most pro’s “clean tone”.
It’s the same with the neck. I really don’t like the ‘stripped’ look of the back of the neck; I think it looks completely fake. But in the hand, it feels fantastic. I’ve got several guitars with oiled or satin neck finishes, and they’re always my favourites to play.
What Do You Like About The Sound?
It’s the smoothest-sounding Telecaster that I’ve personally every played. Throw in how musical the middle position sounds, and how much the guitar sings in the neck position, and … yeah. It just really suits me for where I am right now and what I enjoy playing.
In the shop, it was the middle position that won me over. I was running it through my King of Tone in a Blackstar Studio 10 6L6, and right from the first note, I was sold. The KoT and Studio 10 6L6 together dump just the right amount of low-end to offset how thick the guitar sounds in the middle position.
At home, through my Axe FX 3 preset, it did sound muddy at first. Thankfully, the Axe FX 3 is a wonderful problem-solving tool (more on that in an upcoming blog post!), and once I’d dialled in some suitable tone-shaping, the middle position was just 😘 Best of all, the exact same tone-shaping really suits The Earl (my PRS Paul’s Guitar) too – much better than my old preset I’d built for The Earl.
In the couple of weeks I’ve had it, I’ve learned how to make the bridge pickup rock out, and how the neck pickup can sing.
How Hot Is The Bridge Pickup?
Fender advertise the bridge pickup as having a hot, fiery tone. I have some hot Telecaster bridge pickups. They all have more output than this bridge pickup does.
The two things I’d say about this reverse-mounted Loaded Nocaster bridge pickup are:
- It’s very very compressed.
- It’s the best-sounding Tele bridge pickup I’ve ever tried.
The compression thing might be a deal-breaker for you. My dynamics are alright, but I can’t get this pickup to clean up just from my picking technique alone. In that respect, it’s a lot more compressed than the Twisted Tele, Texas Special, or Antiquity pickups I’ve tried before.
There’s something about the top-end of this bridge pickup that’s everything a Telecaster normally isn’t. At least in my hands, this guitar is all rock and no twang. It sounds more balanced, while also still sounding vintage-voiced.
I Might Switch To 10s On All My Fenders
Until now, I’ve always put 9-gauge string packs on my Fender guitars, and 10-gauge string packs on my PRS and Gibson guitars. It’s all about the string tension for me. Why make it any harder than you have to?
This guitar – a standard Fender scale length of 25.5″ – came with 10s. I’ve never nailed my string bends as well as I have on this guitar. I’ve had absolutely no problem at all playing with the heavier gauge strings. And this is from someone who used to prefer 8s for over a decade.
I’ve got to change the bridge saddles and restring Hedgehog (one of my Squier Esquires) soon. I’m going to put a set of 10s on that, and find out whether 10s work for me on there too or not.
Not The Guitar I Would Have Spec’d
If I was ordering a Custom Shop Tele, there’s no way I would have picked some of the specs of this guitar.
- Vintage tuners? Hate ’em with a passion. Hate them even more now that I’ve discovered these have a non-standard bore size, making it impossible to replace them without reaming the headstock.
- No truss rod adjustment at the nut? Hate that with a passion too.
- 3-barrel bridge saddles? I’d have gone with the American Deluxe-style 6 block saddles instead, for better intonation.
- Maple board? Give me a decent slab of rosewood every time.
- Humbucker neck pickup? I’d have played it safe, and gone with a Twisted Tele single-coil, for Strat-like tones. Or maybe a P90. Certainly would never have picked a Seth Lover humbucker. I’ve had those in a Les Paul, and they didn’t impress me at all.
- Reverse-mounted bridge pickup? Never knew that was a thing. I didn’t even notice it until after the guitar was home.
- Ash body? Yeah, I’ve long suspected that I’d prefer ash over alder. Probably would have pushed for a one-piece body if it was an option, though.
And yet … this is very much the Telecaster I’ve been looking for. That search is well and truly over.
Does It Have A Name?
Yes. I’m calling it Mirage, because of the way it changes colour and the way the relicing changes appearance depending on the viewing angle.
In the past, I’ve said that I’d rather have several good Telecasters (ie, I preferred having options) than one great Telecaster. I was wrong, and by the time you read this, those Telecasters will have been sold.
I’m keeping the two go-karts (the Squier Esquires). They’re still a lot of fun, and they give me a bit of variety. (Also, one of them is incredibly light, something I really appreciated when recovering from surgery last summer …) The American Deluxe? We’ll have to see.
I’ve also learned that I’ve got some buyer’s remorse over getting the PRS Paul’s Guitar; that what I really wanted was a great Telecaster. The Paul’s Guitar does pair really well with this Telecaster. But I’m going to have to get the problem with the pickup grounding fixed. I’ll come back to that topic later this year, I hope.