So, I hope everyone is staying safe and doing well during these unusual times. My family and I are doing fine and keeping busy. One of the things I decided during this COVID-19 outbreak/lockdown was to renew my passion for playing guitar.
When I was a teenager, I had a guitar and could noodle through a few things but I was never any good, really. I do remember fondly using my Dad's Realistic stereo to hook up my guitar and I turned up the gain to get some distortion - and then I would record my epic solos on audio cassette. The solos weren't really epic, but I certainly enjoyed playing them. I've always enjoyed playing guitar even if I was never really very good and I never took any lessons.
The guitar I had as a kid which I still have is a Sears "NOVA" branded Fender Stratocaster clone that is red with a rosewood fretboard and a black pick guard. I applied strategic pieces of electrical and masking tape to make my interpretation of Eddie Van Halen's "Frankenstrat". Over the years I've played my guitar off and on. I even have Rocksmith 2014 Remastered and have been working through the lessons on it.
Songs I can play parts of include "Stairway to Heaven" by Zeppelin (of course!), "Back In Black" by AC/DC, "Rock You Like a Hurricane" by the Scorpions, "Smoke On The Water" by Deep Purple, "Live Wire" by Mötley Crüe and "Am I Evil?" by Diamond Head/Metallica (plus a few more). The key to learning any skill is practice, practice, PRACTICE!
Getting back into playing seriously recently led me to the conclusion that my 37-year old guitar simply isn't cutting the mustard anymore. I initially wanted to buy a Fender Telecaster, but for the American-made version they are quite expensive. They have some more reasonably priced ones made in Mexico and used they are quite affordable ($500-$1000). Then I decided that maybe I'd buy one of those DIY guitar kits off Amazon. They start around $160 and once you sand it, paint it and assemble it, you have something that looks and plays quite like a Telecaster.
I watched some YouTube videos where people would buy these kits and compare them. I came to the conclusion that you do get what you pay for, and a decent kit was going to run me $250. Instead, I also noticed I could buy a Squier Telecaster (Squier is Fender's "bargain brand") for the same $250. I called up my local music store and bought it that same day!
MY NEW TELECASTER
So what I bought is a Squier Telecaster Bullet, which is their lowest-end guitar (they also have a Telecaster Affinity and a Telecaster Contemporary which are each a step up of about $125). The Bullet is made in Indonesia and has a 1 1/2 inch thick body (full Telecasters are 1 3/4 inches thick - but they also start at around $900 and go up to $2800). It's got two single-coil pickups - one at the neck and one at the bridge. There's a 3-way switch that lets me toggle one, the other or both. Finally there's a volume and a tone knob.
Overall the quality of this "cheap" guitar is quite impressive. It weighs quite a lot - about the same as my son's Fender Stratocaster clone (about 8 lbs). It has a quality feel about it and the finish on the body is fantastic. I could have come NOWHERE near this level if I had done the DIY kit. It plays really well and it's just a joy to use. I plan on doing a few mods to it (of course!) including:
- black pickup guard
- chrome covered neck humbucker pickup
- open bridge humbucker pickup
- 500K pots for Volume and Tone to support the bigger pickups
Those are pretty easy mods and will give me a more growly guitar (I like the darker, deeper sound of humbuckers over that of single coils) - not to mention less buzz (not that the stock pups are very buzzy - but still!).
Ultimately, this is how my Telecaster is going to look:
I'm already enjoying it, and I look forward to getting the mods done and really rocking out with my new guitar!
I got the parts and I upgraded my guitar. It has a Wilkinson M-Series PAF-style humbucker pickup in the neck position, and a Wilkinson M-Series open-style humbucker in the neck position. I replaced the pots with 500K CTS pots. The soldering went very well - it was actually harder to route out the body for the bigger pickups and trim the pickguard!
Here is what my guitar looks like now. The sonic changes I was looking for have definitely been realized: this guitar sounds a lot meaner than it did before. As Ola would say, this guitar will CHUG!