Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups

Have you ever tried a vintage Fender? How did they compare?

Discussion in 'Vintage Tele Discussion Forum (pre-1974)' started by soma89, Oct 16, 2016.

  1. Flaneur

    Flaneur Friend of Leo's

    May 24, 2010
    I always wonder if those Case Queen original 56's play worth a darn. Seems like their immense value lies in their originality and condition. As has been said earlier, if they played and sounded good, you'd think another player would have discovered that, over the course of 60 years.
    I've played a number of good old guitars. Some were in great, lightly used condition and others had been modified to keep them useable. All of them showed signs of honest wear.

    I own and use a 'player grade' '76 Tele, which sounds and plays great. It won't win a beauty pageant- but I'm not a collector. Music is a practical, aural, rather than visually aesthetic art form, after all......

  2. refin

    refin Friend of Leo's

    Feb 24, 2005
    Florida Panhandle
    To me,vintage guitars are hit and miss,although a good example is something wonderful.I've played more good ones than "meh" ones,and a few dogs.I had a '52 all gold LP that was a pig.
    There are too many great builders and winders the '70s/'80s the only way to get the feel and sound of a GOOD vintage instrument was to buy one.I still love the good vintage pieces,but they aren't all worthy of the hype.Investment,yeh---tone and playability,no.
    songtalk likes this.

  3. tealsixtysix

    tealsixtysix Tele-Meister

    Sep 6, 2015
    Massachusetts USA
    I had a 63 Strat that was meh. I have a 66 Jazzmaster that's terrific. I've played... I dunno, 50-ish pre-1970 Fenders over the last 30 years. The good ones are great, but there are plenty that aren't as good as a random new US Fender off the rack at GC. These days I tend to think that a new CS guitar is the best bet if you want a great Fender.
    The Guy and 63telemaster like this.

  4. 63telemaster

    63telemaster Tele-Meister

    Jul 29, 2013
    I think a lot of the player grade vintage guitars can be great and are therefore good value for money but my guess is you won't see many for sale. My '63 refin tele falls firmly into that category and I haven't found anything that I'd replace it for....and I have looked.

    I continue to see plenty of wall hanger grade vintage guitars on my travels and I'm guessing these are the dogs that give good vintage guitars a bad name.
    J Hog likes this.

  5. BBill64

    BBill64 Tele-Afflicted

    Sep 19, 2011
    United Kingdom
    I played a mid 70s tele last week. It was a good tele. My MIM 60s classic is also a good tele. They're not that different in terms of sound/feel.

  6. cabra velha

    cabra velha Tele-Afflicted Platinum Supporter

    Jan 21, 2016
    estados unidos
    I quit chasing vintage just because it was so hit-and-miss and seemed to have nothing to do with value. I've owned 4 pre-CBS and a couple late 60s and some 80's stuff. My L series strat was light and lively but had many issues that at the time I wasn't equipped to deal with, it had been refinished so I didn't feel I was giving away the crown jewels when I sold it. A 65 tele and a 69, the 69 was better in all respects and a fraction of the price. Briefly had a 59 tele that was actually great but it had a neck repair and I was nervous about the amount of money I had in it. Then I started building partscasters in the early 90s and haven't owned a complete Fender instrument since. I've said this so many times I know I sound like a broken record (for those that can remember what that is) but I believe the best guitars ever made are being made now.
    songtalk likes this.

  7. TimothyC

    TimothyC Tele-Afflicted

    May 12, 2016
    Yeah they had a 61 double cut junior that felt pretty great. It was well played but so light and resonant, I was blown away. We probably played the same one
    StrangerNY likes this.

  8. Ricky D.

    Ricky D. Poster Extraordinaire

    Oct 22, 2006
    Raleigh, North Carolina
    I'll let Major Gruber explain.


  9. The Guy

    The Guy Tele-Holic

    Sep 15, 2016
    Ok... But that sounds more like "what makes the millenium falcon the millenium falcon" ;) ...thats a great characterization of a great guitar though!

  10. Radspin

    Radspin Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

    Mar 7, 2008
    Long Island, NY
    To answer The Dog's question, for me, a dog is a guitar that's unresponsive, hard to play, lacks sustain, requires constant truss rod adjustment, has bad workmanship or other issues and doesn't stay in tune.

    Unresponsive...sounds dead or plunky, doesn't respond to nuances in your playing, doesn't sustain, doesn't "sing" or feel "alive."

    Hard to play...pretty self-explanatory although some guitars just need a setup.

    Some guitars require constant truss rod adjustment and others are extremely stable.

    Bad workmanship can make a guitar less than optimal, especially in the case of a Fender where the neck is misaligned and the high or low E string is too close to the edge of the neck.

    A guitar that won't stay in tune is a complete deal-breaker for me and it drives me nuts. I want a guitar that you have to tune a couple or a few times during a gig, not after every other song.
    4telecaster4, The Guy and StrangerNY like this.

  11. Ricky D.

    Ricky D. Poster Extraordinaire

    Oct 22, 2006
    Raleigh, North Carolina
    I bought a new Squier Standard Tele back in 2007 from a store that had a big inventory. I spent a few hours and played about 20 of them, same model, theoretically identical guitars. They were all decent, but one just had something, a different feel/sound /? that told me this was the one to get. Unmistakable.
    john kleeman likes this.

  12. NiceTele

    NiceTele Tele-Afflicted

    Dec 20, 2012
    A long long time ago I had a '60 Strat and sold it to buy an SG- never missed the Strat. I had a '62 Jazzmaster that was great, but I needed cash so it got sold. I bought a Smith era Strat off a guy that spent a lot of money on an original '64 Strat, and the newer Strat was so much better in sound and playability when we did an A/B comparison- made the seller a bit sad.

  13. Chicago Matt

    Chicago Matt Friend of Leo's

    Aug 23, 2014
    I started playing electric guitar in the early 60's. I've had a lot of nice guitars. I do miss the '62 Strat that I sold off in the 80's. It really sang! However, before I sold it, I bought a new Corona-made Fender '62 reissue Strat in '85 or so. It was VERY similar to the vintage '62 in every way, close enough that I was cool with selling the original. I have guitars to play them and am not a collector. I wish I still had the '62, but more for the monetary value it would have now than anything else. I still have that reissue which is 30 years old now :)

    I agree with dsutton24 about this:

    4telecaster4, songtalk and The Guy like this.

  14. AJ Love

    AJ Love Friend of Leo's

    Jul 10, 2005
    Madison WI
    Every guitar needs a great setup and needs to matched up with a great amp that is also "setup" well with the right tubes/speakers/settings/bias to make it sing.

    Not to be Captain Obvious but I think that is what it is....

    I've never played a modern production guitar that has been through a truly great setup, so I don't feel qualified to comment on them

    The components of the vintage guitars and amps are a step above. The wood, the pickups and something about the way an instrument settles over time that makes for something special. The best Vintage guitars I've played are better than the best Custom Shop guitars I've played.

    I own a Fender Custom Shop Esquire "Partscaster" that I really love. It has the neck from one CS Nocaster & the body from another, with a Mare pickup and older vintage electronics. It is great, but not as great as the best Vintage guitars I've played.

    They all still need to be setup well and matched with the right amp. A "Holy Grail" 1953 Telecaster into a Chinese made Pignose 7-100 is not going to sound as good as a modern $300 guitar into a well maintained well setup Fender Blackface amp from the mid 60's.... again, Captain Obvious, I know
    t guitar floyd likes this.

  15. StrangerNY

    StrangerNY Tele-Afflicted

    I've had a few vintage guitars - but I've been playing for such a long time that when I owned most of them they were just 'old guitars.' '65 Strat, '66 Mustang, a '61 Strat that I sold and still miss 30 years later. All of them played pretty well, and the '61 was exceptional. But at the time nobody was really paying that much attention to the vintage market - hell, there really wasn't much of a vintage market. My Fenders were just solid old guitars.

    I recently got a '66 Tele, and that guitar is one of the good ones. Nice finish, honest wear, plays and sounds incredibly good. To think that back in the day I could have probably gotten it for about 10 percent of what it cost 3 weeks ago. Mind-boggling.

    - D
    J Hog likes this.

  16. RoscoeElegante

    RoscoeElegante Friend of Leo's

    Feb 19, 2015
    I think that Middleman, above, pretty much nailed it. Or at least my experience and sense of all this.

    I will, though, emphasize the well-broken-in factor.

    A big factor for me in a guitar's playability comes from how its edges have been smoothed and slicked by decades of heavy playing. A friend had a mid-'50s Esquire that was just amazing because it felt carved to fit my hand. Even its body felt naturally, accurately contoured. It played like butter and was tucked like an old wallet. I don't know what the truth is about the different woods debate (of course), but that old originally slow-seasoned wood, coupled with decades of being seasoned through time, exposure, and use, sure is apparent.

    I too have noticed a different level of neck resonance on the vintage stuff. It's the first thing that hits me whenever I pickup a vintage Fender. It's as if those necks have become like the bodies of acoustic guitars. They make the whole guitar seem more responsive, with the vibrations right there in your fingertips.

    And since I squeeze the neck too hard unless I'm fingerpicking something kinda dainty, the vintage guitars' low frets don't sharp out on me, and make fingertip vibrato stuff easier to play. More nuance is available.

    That said, there sure are tons of great new/non-vintage guitars out there. I was just playing my 1990s(?)-era $300 Tradition S-type w/ splittable rail pickups and a Wilkinson trem, and it's mesmerizingly good.

    Even though I'd trade my vintage van and several imaginary kingdoms for a vintage Strat neck on it.
    StrangerNY likes this.

  17. Steerforth

    Steerforth Tele-Afflicted

    May 17, 2009
    My first really good guitar was a second-hand pre-CBS Telecaster. I loved that guitar. It played so easy and sounded so good that I couldn't imagine anything better. It's been a long, long time since those days, but today I have a 50s Road Worn lacquer finished Telecaster. If my memory is accurate, this modern one is just as good. So spending a fortune on vintage guitars, to me, is all right if you just love that old stuff. But having owned both, I'll save some money and just buy the newer models with the features that I like.
    Chicago Matt likes this.

  18. deytookerjaabs

    deytookerjaabs Friend of Leo's

    Jun 5, 2015
    IMO, if you've played a good amount of original teles (and strats) you can kind of appreciate them versus modern builds for their quirks. But, I'm a big fan of some of the vintage specs. The neck pocket depth seemed to vary a good bit in the 50's, sometimes the fretwire was almost identical to banjo wire (very tiny), that contour behind the nut was often practically 90 degrees, I'd swear there were slight variations in the horns, definitely a bit of variation on the body edges, and there were probably subtle finish inconsistencies when new too.

    The old ones have an almost amateurish toy quality to them whereas new stuff tends to be very consistent and honed in. And, dang, to get that real tiny wire you have to get 80's MIJ guitars, that marketing "vintage correct" wire is bunk!

    When I taught lessons at a vintage dealer they went through a period of selling off the old guitar inheritance while become a new Fender dealer (along with custom shop). No doubt, at that time, the new reissues were just off. Orange looking neck finishes, thick undercoats on the body, bigger wire, and the custom shop had this satin "relic" finish that was just....waxy feeling? No doubt Fender has gotten better but there's still a slight over-built quality on many of the USA guitars.

    At the same time the neck warps and non-functioning rods was an issue on a decent amount of the old stock but funny thing is....buyers didn't care! The old ones ranged from "awesome toy" to straight up garbage, and yeah, many of those old single coils seemed to have gotten too thin with age. That's why I've straight up told people "some of the cheapest strats/teles feel more original than the high end builds." Sounds strange, but that's how I feel from experience.

    There's lots of tone myths regarding the old guitars thanks to certain players. Early 60's strats aren't FAT...tuning down 1/2 step with big strings and the right action IS fat. I've played many...put a set of slikys tuned to 440 and they sound thin...think old school buddy guy tone! Same goes for lots of teles...very bright/thin at the bridge with very dark neck pickup....almost like a caricature of themselves. Don't get me started on how brittle original jazzmaster pickups can get...almost ear piercing but...when you consider age you really have to figure they sounded a bit different when new.
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2016
    AJ Love likes this.

  19. twang junkie

    twang junkie Tele-Meister

    Nov 14, 2013
    I tried a 52 re-issue tele the other day, the shop owner is a friend, he told me Fender have spent two years getting this one right. They cost £1450 in the UK and it's a lot of guitar for the money, it plays well and sounds great, is it as good as my 57 Esquire? Well, it's different. I don't own any new instruments anymore, I have always favoured vintage guitars, they feel better in my hands, they look better to my eye and sound better to my ears, there is no right or wrong answer to this question it's a personal thing like vintage clothing and antiques, some love em others not so..............I love em.

  20. Radspin

    Radspin Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

    Mar 7, 2008
    Long Island, NY
    As has been said a million times...there were good old ones and new ones. But, there's something about the look and feel and sound of a good old one that's just inspiring...maybe it's partly psychological because you know you're playing a "real" one, but if so, it works for me.

    For what it's worth, the best guitar I ever played was a 1954 Strat. It was so special that, even 25 years later, I remember it like the day I played it. it felt and sounded astounding. Looked great too!
    t guitar floyd likes this.

IMPORTANT: Treat everyone here with respect, no matter how difficult!
No sex, drug, political, religion or hate discussion permitted here.