Please Educate Me: Why Tele Is The Most Versatile

Discussion in 'Telecaster Discussion Forum' started by omlove, May 7, 2019.

  1. omlove

    omlove Tele-Meister

    Dec 1, 2017
    new york
    I heard this phrase a lot: Telecaster is the most (one of the most) versatile guitar.

    I recently discovered esquire wiring, that got me into learning about different tele wirings. It is very interesting that there are various options out there. But just considering the standard three-way switch and master volume/tone control, would strat be equally or more "versatile"? Strat has 3 different pickups and 5 voices while tele has three. It also has two separate tone controls. Les paul has 2 volume/2 tone controls.

    I think the versatility partly comes from the very different tones from tele bridge and tele neck pickup. But again, many tele players say "who needs a tele neck pickup anyway"... So it appears even with just the tele bridge pickup, it can have a range of tones and play a variety of genres.

    I am here to learn and appreciate your thoughts.
    Skydog1010, Ian T, Luis Mendo and 3 others like this.
  2. blowtorch

    blowtorch Telefied Ad Free Member

    May 2, 2003
    Strat is fine but in general more "clackity".
    With a tele you can play jazz no problem on the neck pickup, and the bridge pickup rocks well, even better if you have a 4 way wired in there.

    The tele bridge is THE classic country chicken pickin tone

    In-between is great for bluesey etc tones.

    Tele wins at versatility, having said that, technique ALWAYS comes first
  3. BorderRadio

    BorderRadio Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

    Apr 2, 2014
    Phoenix, AZ
    I don’t even understand what the term versatile means anymore, and I’ve been playing for over 25 years. 50 years ago it might of meant it could do country and western, rhythm and blues. Rock and hillbilly. That’s all a given now, but a Tele can do post punk, post rock, techno spy-twang space as well. It’s proving to handle anything new that comes along.

    IME, limited mind you, I think they Tele forces you stop staring at it and play it. You can’t ‘hide’ behind mushy mids, you have to control the highs. Once you use the tone knob, it doesn’t mud up, it just give more tones. No bells, no whistles, just the notes you can pull out of your head. Plus it cuts like a mutha...
    zammie, hotrodkid, bo and 10 others like this.
  4. littlebadboy

    littlebadboy Tele-Afflicted

    Jun 25, 2016
    Midwest, USA
    I used to be a mod freak. I could say that the tele is so easy to do mods on. It is still playable even with all its guts out connected with alligator clips.
    Telecaster88, Heathfinn and ifallalot like this.
  5. StoogeSurfer

    StoogeSurfer Tele-Afflicted

    Jan 26, 2011
    I agree with this versatility concept. I have been a Strat guy for a long time, and I love a vibrato, but you can do so many interesting things with your fingers on a Tele, IF ... you know how. I hold Danny G. up there as the gold standard for things that are possible on a Tele.
  6. Danjabellza

    Danjabellza Friend of Leo's

    Sep 22, 2014
    Pahrump, nv
    The tele bridge pickup works beautifully for clean stuff like chicken pickin, edge of breakup, crunch, classic rock, and surprisingly great for high gain applications as well. A lot of bridge pickups, especially single coils aren’t so great in one or more areas, the tele bridge pickup really is great in all those areas. It’s kind of like a master of all trades jack of none. You can find pickups that are better suited to one or two of those areas, but you won’t find another single pickup that is as wonderfully diverse in all these areas. A good P90 is probably the only pickup that can cover similar numbers of territories with any sort of competition. Mind you, P90s are my favorite pickup. A tele in the bridge and a P90 in the neck is the perfect combination for me.
    Last edited: May 7, 2019
    hemmings, Skip D, Piggy Stu and 3 others like this.
  7. nojazzhere

    nojazzhere Doctor of Teleocity

    Feb 3, 2017
    Foat Wuth, Texas
    The versatility I like about my Tele is I can play ANYWHERE with it.....a fancy/schmancy society party, or a dive honkytonk......a bar or a Bar Mitzvah. I do have a middle pickup in mine, but it RARELY gets switched on. But I also like the versatility of how it can be modded. I don't think I'd ever be willing to take a router to a Les Paul or ES 335........but my Telecaster almost "welcomes" stuff like that! ;)
    Skydog1010, lineboat and JL_LI like this.
  8. JL_LI

    JL_LI Friend of Leo's

    May 20, 2017
    Long Island, NY
    More different tones are available from my Strat, especially with 7 tone switching, all of them good. I have a beautiful warm bridge pickup tone from my SG and other very useful tones as well, especially with blended pickups, but it only sounds good like that played with a pick. My Gretsch Annie is a finger picker's dream but tone is more limited and is very difficult to manage if I use a flat pick. I can play my Telecaster finger style or with a pick. I get the twang I want for traditional country from the bridge pickup and beautiful warm jazz tones from the neck. Blended, they defy description. Don't get me wrong. I wouldn't give up any of my guitars. I might bring only the Gretsch to a coffee house. But I can bring my Telecaster anywhere and have very good to great tone for everything I play, finger style or with a pick. That's what versatile means to me.
    Last edited: May 8, 2019
  9. srvbluezz

    srvbluezz Tele-Holic

    May 25, 2006
    You can make a Tele sound like a les paul or strat...a strat or paul can't get that bridge telecaster tone.
    ClashCityTele and Skydog1010 like this.
  10. Obsessed

    Obsessed Telefied Ad Free Member

    Nov 21, 2012
    I must admit that the tele seems the most versatile from a finger picking and modding perspective, but as an overall versatile electric player, I would say the 335 beats it hands down,
    Greg_L and Route67 like this.
  11. Chiogtr4x

    Chiogtr4x Poster Extraordinaire

    Mar 29, 2007
    Manassas Park, VA
    My answer is its 'less is more' simplicity:

    You get ( with current 'modern' switching/controls) 3 great PU tones that sound fantastic clean or with moderate OD, and ( IMO, I stay away from middle PU setting here) 2 that sound great with serious distortion or fuzz

    You get a very easy to manipulate ( on a gig) Control layout-
    ( just a personal experience note: you can really appreciate just one Vol. and one Tone control of a Tele on a gig, after getting confused with what to do with 4 controls on a Gibson; versatile yes, but frustrating for me)
    You get a great fast neck on a rock solid body and fixed bridge for clear acoustic tone sustain and tuning stability
    - Indestructible yet beautiful
    - you can play any style of music ( even 'plugged in acoustic' in middle PU setting) on a Tele!
    Last edited: May 7, 2019
  12. beninma

    beninma Friend of Leo's

    Mar 17, 2017
    I have very limited ability manipulating the volume & tone knobs, and I'm mostly only used to playing a Tele but do some of those tricks come into it?

    Telecasters hold tune so well that you can do things like bend strings behind the nut (Campilongo), you can bend strings & do tone knob sweeps at the same time (e.x. Kirchen), it's easy to do volume swells.

    Lots of other guitars make it harder to access the knobs & pick at the same time. (Maybe someone can list other guitars where it's easy to do this.)

    Most strats have the tremolo system, it makes certain kinds of bends harder as when you bend one string you pull on all the others via the tremolo. The stereotypical Telecaster does not have that weakness. The Tremolo on the strat can be a huge advantage in the right situation, but you can bend the neck on a tele to get some of that back, and a good Tele won't go out of tune from doing so.
    nojazzhere likes this.
  13. jim777

    jim777 Tele-Meister

    Mar 16, 2004
    South New Jersey
    I also wouldn't say that the Tele is the most versatile guitar, but they do an awful lot very well and a few things very uniquely. And that doesn't mean "you can't play X on a tele", you can play pretty much anything on anything. If you get a decent multi-effects unit you should be set no matter what the leader throws your way :)
    guitartwonk likes this.
  14. guitartwonk

    guitartwonk Tele-Meister

    Dec 30, 2017
    People's Republic of Blighty
    It's not. The Stratocaster is the most versatile. It has more sounds than a Telecaster. It plays faster, it's more comfortable...

    I know, I'll get kicked off here for saying these things, but they're true.

    But, I still love Teles. Always will. They have a charm that's all their own.

    Sent from my Phone using Tapatalk
  15. T Prior

    T Prior Poster Extraordinaire

    Mar 17, 2003
    Charlotte NC
    regarding tones compared to a Strat, obviously it's not more versatile. But thats not where the statement regarding versatility is derived from.

    It was born from "The Tele can offer tones from Ice Pick Bright to Warm Jazz tones". The placement of the Volume and Tone Knobs are also factored in, easily rolled off without stretching the right hand out of playing position. Add tuner keys on one side. Its the whole package, not just the PUPS.

    Quite honestly I don't think it was ever meant to be a "serious" statement but rather an opinion or maybe a marketing thing.

    But thinking about it, as a Tele player for decades, for me, the Strat Middle PUP and knobs are awkward, the Middle pup is in the way of my right hand finger picking and Gibson Volume and Tone Knobs are really difficult to roll off without moving the right hand. I know I can't do it !
    Last edited: May 7, 2019
    nojazzhere and Route67 like this.
  16. jvin248

    jvin248 Poster Extraordinaire

    Apr 18, 2014
    Lions & Tigers oh Mi !

    Ergonomics play a role in the tones from the guitars. A Tele bridge sits about where your hand naturally hangs so you pick near the saddles most often, a Strat sits further right plus has the volume knob is in the way so players are often strumming between the neck and middle pickups, a LP tends to feel like playing more to the left with your hand palm muting due to the bridge style.

    Watch how Bill Kirchen plays a hundred other players and their separate gear and different guitars here. Watch where he is picking and turning knobs. Ignore that left hand side.

    Prince1999, Erdowonge, Skip D and 5 others like this.
  17. raysachs

    raysachs Friend of Leo's

    May 21, 2017
    Near Philly
    I don't buy that the tele is any more versatile than any other two pickup guitar with a three way switch. Or, particularly, more versatile than a strat, which it's three pickups and various combinations. I love teles, but to me their appeal is the simplicity, not really the versatility. I don't have to think too hard to find the right position of the three and get the single volume and tone controls set right. And I'm not particularly versatile either, so it's got more than enough options for me on plenty of occasions. But if I was gonna ever have one guitar again, it would have to be a strat because it has sounds you can't get on ANY other guitar and with the right controls even the bridge pup can get pretty useable. The Nashville Tele is more versatile than any other tele, and it's basically just a hardtail strat with tele pickups in the bridge and neck, but similar in-between sounds courtesy of the strat middle pup and the strat five way switching. THAT tele is particularly versatile - a typical tele is awesome, excellent, and wonderful, but not all that versatile. Hell, a great player can play anything on any guitar and the tele is one of those guitars, but that would be the versatility of the player more than the guitar.
    zammie, mrmousey, Owenmoney and 3 others like this.
  18. 3-Chord-Genius

    3-Chord-Genius Poster Extraordinaire

    Apr 3, 2015
    Winchester, VA
    The most versatile guitar I ever owned was an Ibanez RG-750 super-strat type. It did everything. Dual humbuckers, single coil in the center. I could get any tone out of it I wanted.

    Right now I have a telecaster and I would not say that it's versatile in the sense that the Ibanez was, but the tone that it does produce I prefer over those of that Ibanez. The RG-750 sounded great, but was not distinctive. My telecaster is.

    Somebody earlier mentioned the stratocaster middle pickup being awkwardly placed, and I was always hitting it when strumming, but that pickup is probably the best tone you can get from a strat.
    Last edited: May 7, 2019
  19. MilwMark

    MilwMark Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Apr 29, 2013
    near Arnold's
    It's something that gets repeated on Tele-centric sites out of some odd desire to "empirically" justify love for the Tele.

    It's also complete bunk. But benign bunk, unless someone takes it for empirical fact.

    (I have two Teles. I love them.)
    Skydog1010, Gene O., Greg_L and 3 others like this.
  20. dougstrum

    dougstrum Tele-Afflicted

    Oct 6, 2015
    blu ridge mtn cabin
    Not sure how you would gauge the "most versatile guitar"?
    I certainly find the tele works for any style I want to play.
    It's the most comfortable guitar I've ever played.
    There's an elegance to it's rugged simplicity.
    It has plenty of sounds available with
    2 pickups, 2 knobs, and 3 way switch.

    If it's not the most versatile guitar, it's close and sure works for me:)
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