What Is The Telecaster Sound?

Discussion in 'Telecaster Discussion Forum' started by Digiplay, May 19, 2019.

  1. Chino

    Chino Tele-Meister

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    I don’t know, but I had a Tele way back in the 70s. I played lots of funk and r&b back then. Tele got destroyed and I needed a replacement guitar fast and the one that came along was an SG. I was amazed at how funky and spanky an SG could sound. Different from a Tele, but oh so funky. Wouldn’t mind having one again.
     
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  2. Verzila

    Verzila Tele-Meister

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    The tele sound - awful. Harsh, thin, shrill, prickly, tinny, plinky: like fingernails on a blackboard for me.
    The tele vibe - amazing. Straight ahead, no nonsense, no frills, plug it in, strap it on and just play - but that's what Les Paul Jnrs are for ;)
     
  3. Chino

    Chino Tele-Meister

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    My AVRI sounds nothing like that. I prefer the neck and middle positions most of the time, but the bridge is not shrill at all.
     
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  4. Ree Fungorio

    Ree Fungorio TDPRI Member

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    Kind of piggybacking on your question, do y'all think this is a tele?



    I have a bunch of guitars but can't make any of them sound like this...heavenly.
     
  5. LJGood

    LJGood TDPRI Member

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    the answer to your question will be answered once you have owned a Telecaster with the sound. I’ve owned many, currently a black Kieth Richards .... original single coil on the neck and the humbucker at the bridge. It’s on my Reverb site, ie GoodMark Guitars, it’s the bomb!!! I have some very expensive guitars, but they remain in their cases. Check it out!!!
     
  6. Digiplay

    Digiplay Tele-Meister

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    From all the different replies, it seems there is no definitive "Telecaster Sound" that everyone will agree on, so the beauty is in the ear of the beholder :)
     
  7. Digiplay

    Digiplay Tele-Meister

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    It's funny you say that, because on the gearslutz site, I tell other members that no matter what mic I use, regardless of price, I still always sound like me

    And that statement ALWAYS starts a fight :)
     
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  8. RadioFM74

    RadioFM74 Tele-Afflicted

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    I think part of the problem is the way you put your question.

    A tele is an electric guitar and the sound it makes will depend to a large extent from the circuit you put it thru … you can make it sound like a sitar or like a violin if you like. Or remaining in more familiar territory, it can make a clean, crunchy, or full out saturated sound (with all possible EQ combinations). So like all electric guitars, it can sound all sorts of things.

    Second: as you said teles now come in many pickup configurations. A humbucker sounds very different from a single coil, and an overwound single coil sounds very different from a low-wind single coil. So depending on the pickups, teles can sound very different.

    Now, if we limit our discussion to classic 50s and 60s recipe, and to “normal” guitar-through-amp sounds, teles DO have a few distinctive sounds – likely the result of the peculiar combination of pickup specs, scale lenght, and bridge assembly (no, I don’t believe that wood, paint or the type of caps you use make a big difference for sound).

    Now those sounds are difficult to describe because “talking about sound is like dancing about architecture”. But here’s my best try, seasoned with examples from different genres of music and very different sets of hands so you can see the commonalities which can be chalked back to the tele itself.

    The bridge pickup is to many the definitive “twangy” tele sound. Clean it is a cutting tone, but (especially on 50s styled pickups) it has more girth than say a strat would have. You’ve heard Don Rich above, as well as Roy Nichols. Here are two of my very favorite examples:





    The same basic sound is preserved as you add a bit of dirt and breakup (think Keef) But if you add quite a lot of gain for a lead tone, it ends up having a very characteristic edge or snarl that no other guitar has to my knowledge. “Jesus just left Chicago” above is a great example. “Old brown shoe” as well (some say it’s a strat, to me it’s 100% a tele). Gilmour’s solo in “Dogs” too. If we stay with Robben, this is it for me … and I can get it anytime I want with a tele, a good amp and a good Dumble-esque pedal:



    The traditional tele neck pickup is a very round, jazzy sound. Dig this:



    And this



    Add some gain and you get a nice “angrier” version of the same sound. Add a lot of gain, and it gets muddy pretty quick (which is why it’s not a sound you hear much).

    Middle position – scooped “soul” and “funk” sound. Steve Cropper used this a lot reportedly but I have more trouble pointing you to specific examples. Other will likely chime in at this point.

    Hope this helps ;)
     
    Last edited: May 24, 2019
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  9. drmmrr55

    drmmrr55 Tele-Holic

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    To me, the "Tele sound" comes from bright sound brought on by single coil pickups…(bridge especially), the old style brass 3 saddle bridge, and string through the body. That combination gives (me at least), that bright classic "Tele twang".
     
  10. VAR1016

    VAR1016 TDPRI Member

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    John Hiatt "But right now I need a Telecaster through a Vibrolux turned up to ten."

    I believe that Albert Collins applied the same technique with his Quad reverb. Must have been shattering
    ...
     
  11. RadioFM74

    RadioFM74 Tele-Afflicted

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    You’ve made me discover someone who, I know, I will appreciate immensely. Thanks for that!
     
  12. RadioFM74

    RadioFM74 Tele-Afflicted

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    Sorry can’t help posting this. Another great example of how a tele on the bridge pickup sounds through a turned-up amp. Whether you like country or not, it’s a great sound



    And with all that B-bender action, the vid actually reminds me of just how akin the tele sound is to the sound of a steel guitar (after all, Leo derived the bridge pickup straight from the pickup of his late ‘40s steel guitar model).
     
  13. Old Deaf Roadie

    Old Deaf Roadie Tele-Holic

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    In my corner of paradise, I believe that Bill Kirchen embodies the "Telecaster sound", something that I could not describe with words, nor something I am currently able to duplicate to the same degree. I believe it is important to understand that that sound changes depending on who is doing the playing, as technique has a massive effect in the final aural product. But, as another said, it would be difficult for me to tell the difference in the blind, except in a few cases.

    A Tele, to me, shines more for overall versatility than for producing any specific sound. I play a Tele, not because of any particular sound, but because it seems like my hands were grown to fit a Tele neck, and I find it the most comfortable to play despite being a little imbalanced toward the neck (body to neck weight ratio, and maybe the player, somewhat, as well...)
     
  14. greasamizer

    greasamizer TDPRI Member

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  15. greasamizer

    greasamizer TDPRI Member

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  16. greasamizer

    greasamizer TDPRI Member

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    I think that 'the sound of a Tellie', like a good hearty stew, is a combination of things: If you listen to guys like Ray Flacke, Merle Haggard, Tim Lerch, Jerry Reed, Buddy Merrill, Roy Buchannan et al, there are certain nuances and uniqueness inherently different in each player. To me, the Fender Telecaster represents the fifties, the freshness of my teen years, the discovery of Rock, and country-but also jazz. The axe was truly a remarkable thing to behold! Agreed; no two Telecasters sound the same, but 'the sound' will pretty much always be the individual's own signature, and in that sense, they ALL sound the same way.
     
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  17. rze99

    rze99 Poster Extraordinaire

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    I like to think I know really well the sounds specific guitars make and then am of course surprised to find it's something else entirely!
     
  18. bblumentritt

    bblumentritt Tele-Afflicted Platinum Supporter

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    The "Telecaster sound" is the sound that defined country music - from Buck Owens to Merle Haggard to Waylon Jennings to Ricky Skaggs to Brad Paisley - without the sound of the Fender Telecaster as the driving force, country music would still be sad songs and waltzes, swing, and "the Nashville Sound".

    Buck Owens - My Heart Skips a Beat
    Merle Haggard - Mammy Tried
    Waylon Jennings - Only Daddy That'll Walk the Line
    Ricky Skaggs - Highway 40 Blues

    Then, blues/rhythm & blues/rock players picked it up, getting a more raw tone, sometimes driving their amps a bit harder - Robbie Robertson, Michael Bloomfield, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Muddy Waters, Albert Collins....

    Michael Bloomfield - Tombstone Blues by Bob Dylan
    Robbie Robertson - Leopard-Skin Pillbox Hat by Bob Dylan, Rock of Ages by The Band,
    Jimmy Page - Stairway to Heaven solo

    The Telecaster sound is a combination of things. Leo Fender was a problem-solver. He wanted to eliminate the feedback that guitarists were experiencing while trying to keep up with a band, and create a clean sound that would cut through. It was built like his "Hawaiian" guitars, but made to be played like a "Spanish" guitar.

    Country and Blues players liked the clean sound that cut through. That it could sound like a steel guitar was a bonus to country players. Rockers liked the drive of the lead pickup that didn't muddy up the sound.
     
  19. FenderGuy53

    FenderGuy53 Poster Extraordinaire

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    Twang... Quack, quack.. squawk. :D
     
  20. keng

    keng NEW MEMBER!

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    I read in GP Magazine years ago that Leo Fender described the Telecaster sound as like lemonade: Sweet on the bottom and tart on top.
     
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