We won’t exactly call the Fender Telecaster a failure, far from it. In fact, it is the world’s first commercially successful solid body electric guitar, and is used to this day by many popular guitarists. However, compared to its sister, the Stratocaster, it is safe to say that the Telecaster is a bit underrated.
As for why the Tele is sometimes shunned in favor of the Strat, it is perhaps because the guitar is more closely associated with country music, which despite being a great genre of music with its own massive fanbase, is fairly seen as cheesy in many circles. Regardless of the appeal of country music,
the Telecaster itself is a great guitar that should be checked out by even the most hardcore rock guitarist, for a number of reasons:
Distinctive Twangy Sound
While there are of course variations, the definitive version of the telecaster only comes with two single coil pickups. This gives it a thinner tone that probably won’t gel well with heavy metal or rock music, but it provides a distinctive, “twangy” clean sound that is perfect for blues and country, but it’s got enough bite when run through distortion that it works for some types of rock music.
Rewards Skill Over Effects
With only a couple of pickups, a couple of knobs and six strings, the Telecaster can’t really rely much on tone tweaking wizardry and fx shenanigans, so its users must rely more on playing well and playing clean. For guitarists who want to challenge themselves and focus more on their skills, a telecaster is perfect.
Despite its association with clean, twangy, upper range tones, the telecaster actually has a number of voices that guitarists can master if they are willing to experiment over its three pickup positions, its tone knobs, and with varying levels of gain on its amp.
You Can’t Argue with The Greats
The reasons outlined above that make a tele different from a strat is also the reasons why it still deserves a place in your guitar rack even if you already have a more popular model like the les paul or a stratocaster. As proof, just think of guitar gods who are using the telecaster, such as the Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards or virtuosos Albert Lee and Albert Collins. Even Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page, who is more closely associated with a different guitar, has used a telecaster during his early years.