This issue: Bigsby alternatives, Gold Foil pickups & jacked up tones
I have a nice American Standard Telecaster and a PRS Santana SE but I’d really like to add a Strat…oh and maybe a 335. I’m fully aware of my limitations as a player and don’t subscribe to ‘all the gear but no idea’ attitude. I really do want a genuine Fender though. What’s puzzling me is there’s now a bewildering array of specification up and down the range. What I’d like to see is a simple grid layout of the available range, maybe for the major manufacturers, with average price, spec differences and a rating score. Any chance of that? Dino, via email You’re definitely not alone, Dino. It’d certainly be possible to make that grid as you suggest, but in truth we’re not sure how much it would help. We have some serious Strat fans in our staff and alumni and they all say that you have to play the guitar and decide if it works for you.
To help narrow it down, if you’re realistic about your budget and the basic spec (for example fingerboard material and radius, wiring and pickups, bridge type and finish) you’ll find that the choice narrows dramatically. Then stuff a few hundred quid in your pocket and head off to a big retailer with loads of choice. If you’re very undecided, the only solution is to spend a day or two playing some guitars. Trust your instincts and your heart: definitely not your head. You have to want to play that guitar every time you look at it.
Nevertheless, if we were going to pick just one archetypal Strat that offers the optimum blend of features and price, it’s the Classic Series Stratocasters from the Ensenada, Mexico factory. Vintage styling, appointments and tones, choice of colours with either maple or rosewood (pao ferro on the newest ones) boards.
As for 335s, you absolutely must play those as they vary quite a bit in weight and feel. Start with the Memphis made 58, 59 and 63 models. They’re the best new 335s they’ve made since the early days, in our opinion. Expensive, but absolutely the real deal.
ONE man band?
I’m heading towards my 70s, can’t handle modern computers and don’t have a mobile phone! I’ve been offered the chance to play in several pubs and restaurants as a solo guitarist playing my arrangements of popular tunes. I don’t sing but would like to have backing tracks so that I can play the melodies over the top. I have a Tom Anderson S type and Gibson 339 guitars, Fender Blues Junior and Fishman Loudbox Artist amps. I
also have a selection of pedals… and two questions.
What is the simplest way of obtaining the backing tracks and what would I play them on? What would be the best amp to use and how would I set them up? Martin Fennemore, via email Sounds great Martin! Not having a computer is going to be a significant disadvantage here because most of the stuff you need is available online. You buy and download the tracks, then play them straight from your computer or transfer them to a mobile phone or MP3 player. As you can see, not having a phone is also a problem.
You could turn to physical CDs. Guitar Techniques and Guitarist have an amazing catalogue of backing tracks down the years.Plenty of people use them in a live environment. It would involve acquiring them in physical form (we can’t sell them because the licensing fees are horrific) and playing them through a CD player plugged into your Fishman Loudbox. It’s a full-range amp that has all the frequencies you need for music playback. Then use your Blues Junior for the guitar and balance levels accordingly.
If it was us, we’d buy the computer or top-end smartphone and lean on some tech-minded friend or family member to set it up. You’re missing out on a colossal amount of awesome stuff by not engaging with what’s available online. Good luck!
nitro more Or less
I have a dilemma. I’m looking for a ‘blackguard’Telecaster with a chunky neck profile and nitrocellulose lacquer. However, finding a guitar that satisfies both criteria under £1.000 these days is proving a struggle. I am fortunate enough to own two guitars that have a nitro finish. It just seems to improve every element of guitar playing for me, so much so that I tend to find myself sanding down the guitars I have with poly finishes on them.
I also prefer a chunky neck profile over a slim one, but it seems the demand for a larger neck is quite small.
Is it possible to get a Telecaster with similar specs to the Fender American Vintage ‘52 reissue (nitro finish,‘U’ shaped neck) for under £1,000? Mark Huggins, via email No, is the simple answer, Mark. The closest thing to the AV ’52 at a lower price is the Fender Classic Series ’50s Telecaster Lacquer. It has a gloss nitrocellulose lacquer finish to neck and body; white blonde finish, white guard. The Road Worn ’50s Telecaster that has a polyurethane finish to the neck. They both have SRPs of over £1,000, however.
In this instance, we’d urge you strongly to look out for a used American Vintage ’52. They’re not uncommon so you should be able to pick one up below £1,000. Absolutely brilliant guitars – you won’t be sorry!
I am left-handed and I am leftfooted too. It’s a problem for me to have my wah-wah on the left of my pedalboard because of the ‘in’ and ‘out’ positions of the jacks. The only solution appears to be to have a little longer cable so I can put the wah on the left and my Polytune on the right, with the other pedals in the middle. Is there any other solution? Piero Rossi, via email We think the longer cable is the right solution, Piero. You won’t lose anything significant with such a short cable run, so just set the pedal positions up however feels right and cable accordingly. If you get some low profile/high-quality patch cables/jacks, (eg Evidence Audio SIS or Free The Tone Solderless), there will be no unnecessary bulk.
It’s possible to rewire the in and out jacks so that they swap position on an older/boutique type wah, but not on many modern wahs, because they have the jacks mounted directly to the PCB. The longer cable is the instant, easy solution.
How does Dino make sense of Fender’s current extensive Strat range?
Martin wants backing tracks – but how to play them back
The AM ’52 is above budget, so how about buying one used?