Let’s use much loved ‘90s cartoon series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as an analogy for a moment. Imagine Leo Fender’s famed Stratocaster is Leonardo, a wise leader, the oldest of the crew and ready, willing and able to take any situation in stride. That would make his Telecaster the equivalent to Raphael—an emotionally raw, younger upstart with as much anti-authoritarian angst as it has a tendency towards its softer side. Leo himself then becomes Master Splinter and a certain other rival builder with evil robotic attachments, The Shredder, but I digress. Since their inception, the two at the top of every Fender catalogue have always had that hand-in-hand yet push/pull relationship. Even as individual as they are, you rarely think of one without thinking of the other.
As I have explored elsewhere in this issue, Fender has taken aim at its entry point as the next in line for the continuing spring clean of its entire line up. Replacing the old Standard models, the Player Series makes a blind comparison of American and Mexican builds next to impossible. The Player’s Telecaster bolts a 22-fret neck and either maple or Pau Ferro fretboard into a choice alder body with a newly ‘F’ stamped neck plate.
The particular beast that I held purring in my hands was as butterscotch blonde as the cover of a Springsteen record, just as I’d hoped, and with its three-ply black pickguard it is just as classic. I have had the distinct fortune of taking in just about every colour in this new branch of the family tree and I must admit that choosing between this and its black-on-black brother is the kind of thing that keeps a kid up at night.
As with the Strat, and indeed the entire line, the pickups are voiced much closer to their northern counterpart. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the unmistakable chiming nature of the lipstick pickups in the neck position. It is incredibly responsive to the nuances you conjure with your pick hand, almost to the point of leaning back with you in your more delicate moments. Back at the bridge and there is just about enough punch and raucousness to wake up Joe Strummer without the harsh, ice pick sharpness that fader jockeys love to dial out. That amount of characteristic tonality coupled with the minor yet imperative adjustments to the spec sheet make the thing feel bigger and more alive in your hands. It might be psychosomatic, but the impact on the personality of the guitar has a direct connection to the way you approach playing it. Both you and your guitar will play up to each other in a new and inspiring way.
Much like its Stratocaster counterpart, the Player Series Telecaster is more of what you deserve from that name without the limitations you’d expect from the price point. It has all the personality and tonality of an American build and is just as full of songs. All I need to do now is figure out which one is Donatello and which is Michelangelo.
Hits and Misses
More Tele than the price point would have you believe