The great Telecaster pain in the neck?

Discussion in 'Just Pickups' started by PaddyPaul, Nov 4, 2019.

  1. PaddyPaul

    PaddyPaul TDPRI Member

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    Please forgive me if this topic has been addressed previously - but I cannot find a thread unique to its core issue. In a nutshell, the Telecaster's much-maligned neck pickup. Before I pose a few questions let me explain. While reading the latest issue of the excellent UK magazine Guitarist, I was shocked to hear Paul Waller, one of Fender Custom Shop's high-profile master builders call the Tele neck pick-up "the weakest link in the Tele electronics". He says it's always been "predominantly weak" and suggests it's an obvious target for replacement (see attached).

    * Is this not an embarrassing admission from a Fender heavyweight? Why the hell don't they do something about it?

    * Is it not Fender's duty to address this self-proclaimed clanger and upgrade the pickup to the required standard?

    * Does this "weakest link" (Waller's words) extent across all Fenders - American, Mexican and Japanese?

    PS: I had an old CIJ Tele left dormant for years because of a dead neck pup. Earlier this year I got it refretted, professionally set-up and - encouraged by the tsunami of praise for Cavalier pickups - installed a Huge Lion bridge and a Fat Lion King neck. Fantastic. So the Great Pain in the Neck debate bypassed me unnoticed!

    Thanks all. Some top-notch pickup brains out there among you.

    Tele pickup.jpeg
     
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  2. uriah1

    uriah1 Telefied Ad Free Member

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    True.
    I actually played a non-covered neck tele last week, and it was pretty good sound,
    loads better than the covered.
     
  3. Dismalhead

    Dismalhead Poster Extraordinaire

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    The stock neck pickup on my '06 American Series is one of my favorite pickups out of all my guitars, and I probably spend 50% of my time on it and another 25% with both neck and bridge. Either he's been buying Teles with lousy pickups, or he doesn't get it. At least for me, the neck pickup is what it's all about - just like the hokey pokey.
     
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  4. jvin248

    jvin248 Poster Extraordinaire

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    .

    Remember that one player's "too dark" is another player's "warm and not ice pick".

    If it's too dark then put a series cap on the hot lead, start with 0.047uF. This will brighten the output up.

    500k volume pot can help the neck pickup, but a trade with the bridge pickup sometimes.

    The reason for the design of the pickup is the cover protects against noise. The Tele bridge pickup is supposed to have a cover to protect it against noise too. Just like covered humbuckers. People take the covers off because they like the more 'airy' tones, because the sound is filled with extraneous noise, lol.

    Some just drop a Strat pickup in there. Best part of a Tele is the bridge pickup, best part of a Strat is the neck pickup. So a Strat neck pickup in a Tele is a great option.

    .
     
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  5. FenderGuy53

    FenderGuy53 Poster Extraordinaire

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    I think it all boils down to personal preferences. When it comes to strings and pickups, every buyer has his own personal preferences, so why would a guitar maker spin wheels over how to load a Tele? Give 'em something that works, and let 'em figure it out themselves!
     
  6. etype

    etype Tele-Afflicted

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    Is the cover the only difference between a strat and tele neck pickup? Both are wire wrapped around slugs, right? So if you just take the cover off, does that get you a strat pickup?

    There was a guy at TDPRI who once described how you could get a Tele pickup to sound coverless by cutting the cover (see below), but I have never seen anyone who sells such covers.

    [​IMG]
     
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  7. mkdaws32

    mkdaws32 Tele-Meister Ad Free Member

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    I agree completely. In general I have a hard time finding a tele neck pickup that isn’t dark and muddy to me - and I don’t like to muck with the stock pot and cap values if I like the bridge pickup (which in Tele’s, I do more often than not). But I have played a few stock, covered Tele neck pickups that have been throaty, but articulate and with a healthy amount of bite - most recently on the newer Squire Affinities! I think the cover material has an impact.
     
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  8. Ronkirn

    Ronkirn Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    I love it when "authorities" make sweeping statements like, "The weakest link in Tele Electronics is the. . ."

    Like their opinion translates to every tele guitarist on the planet... Sorry Charlie, you aren't ever gonna be playing MY guitar, you don't have my ears, gear, talent, etc etc… and you should be knowledgeable enough to know that.. If it is a known FACT that it's the weakest link , ya think Fender would have addressed it? And if it's known fact.. he wouldn't have to tell us would he?

    to me the weakest link in a guitar, any guitar that isn't mine, is, it's not mine... dadgummit...

    "YOU" .. should NEVER allow a guitarist, and I don't care who it is, tell "you" what you must like...

    My Mentor when I was a "kid" was a Classically trained Classical guitarists, he was taught by Segovia.. and in his adult years owned the American Music Store here in Jacksonville... He was so very good Segovia had him work on his personal guitars…

    He would say the guitar is a unique possession, it’s one of the few things that’s your’s alone. They “evolve” into your personal configuration. You should allow that to happen naturally.


    Rk
     
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  9. mkdaws32

    mkdaws32 Tele-Meister Ad Free Member

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    No - taking the cover off Tele neck pickup wont make it a Strat pickup. Traditionally, tele neck pickups are wound with a lighter gauge wire and more winds. This makes a difference. Removing the cover will get it closer, but not identical. Having said that, you can get both Strat and tele pickups underwound or overwound or with different wire gauges.

    That cover mod should get closer to the sound without a cover, as it defeats the changes in eddy currents caused by a full cover, connected all the way around the pickup. But I have never seen one either.

    An interesting fact is that the Strat neck and tele neck positions are in the identical positions along the 25.5 scale of the guitar. As such, a Strat neck pickup should make a tele neck position sound exactly like a Strat. But in my practical experience, this is usually not the case (I use a Strat neck pickup in one of my Teles right now - and I like it, but it’s not completely stratty).

    Another big variable is how close to the bridge you pick/strum when you play a Tele vs. A Strat. This has a much bigger impact on tone than you might expect and it varies greatly from person to person.
     
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  10. esseff

    esseff Tele-Holic

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    If I play lead (or what passes for it :eek:) on my MiK Lite Ash Telecaster, it's almost always on the neck pick-up. Admittedly it's a Seymour Duncan. Same with the stock Mex Tele, which I no longer have. They sound just fine to me. I favour the neck pick-up for lead in any guitar though.
     
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  11. paulo6

    paulo6 Tele-Meister

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    My Twisted Tele neck pickup in my Baja is great
     
  12. Flaneur

    Flaneur Friend of Leo's

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    Ron nailed this. You could make the very same argument about Strat bridge pickups- the 'weak link in the chain'. If these were such egregious design faults, you'd think the 'problem' would have been 'solved', after all these years?
    For those of us who love to chase tones, modify and experiment, the guitar is a wonderfully malleable platform. Custom Shop employees make a happy living, meeting these consumer expectations. Once they stray into the realm of absolutes- and telling other players what's right and wrong- they've taken a step too far.
     
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  13. nojazzhere

    nojazzhere Poster Extraordinaire

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    I'm often "odd man out" when it comes to Tele pickup selection. Usually I play either neck/bridge or neck alone. I've never been much of a fan of bridge by itself.....although I recently put a Bootstrap Pickups' Pretzel set in a new build.....and that Pretzel bridge is amazing. I think the main trick is to "play with" the heights of the pickups to find the BEST balance between them.
     
  14. charlie chitlin

    charlie chitlin Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    Watch it, pal! :p;)
    I could never gig an Esquire.
    For me, a Tele is all about the neck pickup.
    I love mine.
    Although...I did just discover the Wide Range humbucker and dig it as well.
    I don't consider it an improvement, though; just another flavor.
     
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  15. El Marin

    El Marin Tele-Holic

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    [​IMG]

    None of my teles ( the right one is not mine) has a weak neck pickup
     
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  16. beninma

    beninma Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    This is also just one of those stock magazine articles they can churn out every so often to fill pages.

    Just low quality journalism. It’s not like everything about Teles and Strats hasn’t already been discussed from every angle already for 50+ years.

    No different from a fitness magazine rediscovering the exact same recipe for ripped abs every 7 months and reporting the same crap yet again.
     
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  17. Antigua Tele

    Antigua Tele Friend of Leo's

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    Article aside, there are common misconceptions about Tele neck pickups even in this thread. The original covers were brass, and they are still used on most imports (even MIJ's and MIM's and Seymour Duncans), but MIA Fender, DiMarzio and most of the expensive boutique pickups use nickel silver. Brass cuases a significant decrease in treble content (by way of a reduced Q factor) but nickel silver is almost transparent due to it's low conductivity. Tonerider and BYO import pickups also use nickel silver. BYO is rather high quality because, it seems, they use the same OEM as some domestic boutiques, and Tonerider made a conscious effort to create premium quality pickups.

    Even though the Tele neck pickup uses 43 AWG, the inductance figures for most Tele neck pickups is on par with a typical Strat pickup, anywhere from 2 to 3 henries. There are more simple explanations for why people would think they sound so distinct from a Strat, 1) they have flat pole pieces, there's no stagger causing the G and D strings to be disproportionately loud in the mix. 2) the cover causes the pole pieces to be set deeper into the pickup, so if you set a Tele and Strat pickup to be the same distance from the strings visually, in effect, the Tele pickup is further from the strings magnetically. In a similar way, the difference people think they hear between a Strat and Tele bridge pickup is mostly just the fact that a Tele bridge pickup is loaded down by a tone control and the Strat bridge isn't.

    I had an experience with this just last week; I brought an all-stock Tele out that I hadn't played for a few years, I was mistaking it for a different Tele that looks almost exactly the same which I play more often and had upgraded, and I was thinking, this guitar feels rusty, the selector switch is iffy, and neck pickup is reallly dark. It wasn't until I was putting it away that I realized it was the older Tele with the stock brass covered pickups. I usually swap out those brass pickups so fast that I forgot just how muddy that can be.
     
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2019
  18. joeford

    joeford Friend of Leo's

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    for clean tones, i don't think there's a sweeter sound on the planet than a tele neck pickup into a tube amp. it'll do all those vocal/bluesy/overdriven strat tones too... but the clean tones are unrivalled in my opinion
     
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  19. Peegoo

    Peegoo Tele-Meister

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    Your statement is unadulterated horse poo, Paul Waller.

    Consider the source: it's a magazine, and the replacement pickup business provides buckets of ad revenue to the publisher.

    Follow the money. It's that simple.
     
  20. Derek Kiernan

    Derek Kiernan Friend of Leo's

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    He was asked what Tele mods make a good starting place, not why Telecaster are bad. Saying something is the weakest link does not imply that it is bad.

    It makes perfect sense that Fender generally is not trying to defy expectations about what a Tele is when they claim it's "vintage reissue" or whatever, and on the other end, there's so many contemporary takes on the Tele set (whether the makers call them vintage or not) that it's really not worth portraying it as a problem Fender *has to solve*. Exactly as he said, it's a good place to look if you're interested in mods and want to change how your Tele works.

    PS -- I'm largely a fan of clean sounds, so if I'm presented with a 2H Tele neck pickup with a nickel silver cover, I'm personally going to be happier than whatever "overwound" solutions pickup makers try to cook up or with a 3H+ option from Fender.
     
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