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Thread: Journey to the perfect electric guitar

  1. #1
    Craftsman CamCG's Avatar
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    Journey to the perfect electric guitar

    (Bare with me, we do get there...)

    I studied contemporary music for two years in between GCSEs and A Levels.

    At that time I had a Gibson Les Paul Standard in honeyburst (I don't miss it at all), a 1970s hard tail Stratocaster (I do miss it a bit) and a nice Crafter dreadnought acoustic (which I still have).

    I also had a George Dennis tube amp which was so big and weighed so much, my little Rover Metro struggled to cope!

    After I finished my music studies, I sold both of the electrics and the amp and stuck to the acoustic for a long time, playing mainly fingerstyle.

    However, a couple of years ago I started to feel a pull once more towards getting an electric.

    I'm equally into Jazz and the Blues. Whilst I'm big enough to get my body around a dreadnought acoustic to improvise, it's not ideal. It's also somewhat tonally limited!

    Over the next 12 months or so, I tried everything from entry level G&L guitars (excellent) to a full fat PRS Custom (nicely built, but strangely sterile in tone).

    I had a very clear idea of what I wanted. Warm enough to handle Jazz, but also able to produce a clean, accurate tone for David Gilmour-esque lead, as well as handle moderate overdrive for Blues.

    It would have made sense to buy two guitars to cover the above, but that's not really my style. It had to be one.

    The one guitar I never gave much thought to was the Fender Telecaster. I'd always had a bit of an aversion to them. Too "twangy" and too "country", I always thought.

    That changed, though, firstly when I tried out a friend's US Telecaster and secondly when I tried out a Mexican, P90-equiped Telecaster at a vintage guitar shop in Bath.

    I felt like I was getting closer to the tone I had in my head. Close, but not quite there.

    More research followed, until I happened upon a few articles about a limited edition US Telecaster. It was made with a rare top wood (Malaysian Blackwood). More importantly, though, it came with P90 pickups (very unusual with US-built Telecasters).

    I listened to very few samples online. 'Yes, this is it!', I thought. 'This is the tone I have in my head!'. Warm, but clear.

    However, given only around 300 were ever made and they'd been released a couple of years previously, I didn't hold out much hope of finding one.

    Cut forward a couple of months and I found myself in hospital with my wife and our sixth month old daughter.

    My daughter had a bad reaction to her first set of jabs at three months old, so she was having the second lot under observation. Thankfully, she took then like a trooper and, after she settled down, I went off to find some lunch from outside the hospital.

    As I walked I "happened upon"(!) a guitar shop. I decided to take a few moments to pop inside and, as I shot the breeze with one of the sales people, I asked whether they had any of the rare, P90 Malaysian Blackwood Telecasters in stock. "No, I don't believe we do" came the unsurprising response.

    After we finished our chat I walked across to the expansive wall of electric guitars. This must have included at least 50 or 60 Fenders, many of which were Telecasters.

    Lackadaisically passing my eyes over this cornucopia of guitars, what was I to see nestled in one corner at the very top of the wall? THE GUITAR!

    Here was my chance. Excitedly, I asked the sales person to retrieve it for me.

    Over the next 10 minutes, my fingers glided over the fretboard as though I'd be playing the guitar for years, so effortless was it.

    The tone? Exactly what I'd hoped for. Warm, yet clear.

    I'd happily have spent the whole afternoon playing the guitar. More important things to worry about that day, though. More important than even guitars!

    Upon my return to the hospital, I explained to my (uniquely understanding) wife that I'd happened across THE GUITAR!

    Admittedly her excitement was somewhat less than mine, but she did agree that it would be nice to pay the store a visit to see it, hear it and compare it to the others I'd made her listen to as I tried out guitar after guitar on various shopping trips.

    We did go a week or so later. Just like me, her reaction was pretty much instant. "Yep, that's the best by far. It seems to gel with you".

    The guitar had been found then. Hurrah!

    And yet... and yet.

    It was priced at RRP, but that RRP happened to be well towards £2,000. Although I could afford it, the fact was we had a young baby, our first child. Somehow, spending nearly £2,000 on a guitar didn't seem the "right thing" to do.

    Cut forward 6 months or so.

    I'd tried out a few "wallet sparing" options, but nothing that had captured what I'd found with the Malaysian Blackwood Telecaster. I'd even recently revisted the shop. It was still there. I played it again. It was still perfect.

    It still didn't feel like the right time to spend all that money, though.

    Nearing Christmas, I went on the store's website to look at pictures of it again. "Why not torture myself a bit more? Or maybe I will finally just buy it".

    Only... "NOOOO!"

    Coming to the product page, the text spelt out in bold for all to see, 'Sold - No longer available'.

    With a heavy heart, I scanned the store's website to see if any other branches had one for sale. Nope. I checked Google. That didn't bring any joy either. I'd left it too late.

    Almost as if to taunt me, Eric Clapton then released a new music video for his cover of White Christmas. In the video, the clay animation central figure struggles to find their perfect guitar, except it's beyond his grasp. That is, at least, until Father Christmas and a jovial Blues maestro gift it to him right at the end.

    It's now Christmas morning.

    Waking next to my wife, we exchange our Christmas morning best wishes and then reach for our respective cards, a tranquil precursor to the rest of Christmas Day.

    Except my wife doesn't hand me a card.

    She produces her phone and begins to play the Eric Clapton video I'd shared with her a couple of weeks previously.

    Having a slight inkling of what was going on, but being far from sure, I watched the video as she brought out her card for me.

    In it? You might have guessed. An order form confirming the reservation of one Fender Malaysisn Blackwood Telecaster with P90 pickups. It was mine!

    Shortly thereafter we visited the store and finalised the purchase.

    Back home (complete with a Boss Katana Artist amp), the guitar was everything I'd hoped it would be.

    It still is, even though a house move, a young child and various other calls on my time have limited the amount I've spent playing it so far.

    Still, I'm completely satisfied with it. So much so, I feel no desire to own, or even try out, another electric guitar. I believe it truly is a guitar for life.

    As for a picture? Here you go...


    Sent from my SM-G965F using Tapatalk

  2. #2
    Master murkeywaters's Avatar
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    Journey to the perfect electric guitar

    Great story ending with a beautiful guitar, there was some lovely Telecasters at a recent auction I attended, when I walked in I had to take a picture as it was lots of rows of guitars from vintage to new, like a kid in a toy shop I was!!

    Edit, just realised you live near me, auction is not too far away if you want to go when it gets going again..

    Last edited by murkeywaters; 8th April 2020 at 11:42.

  3. #3
    Grand Master hogthrob's Avatar
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    Lovely bit of wood.


    This will obviously be of no interest to you, as you've found 'the one', but reverb.com is a good place to look for guitars. For example, there are currently five Malaysian Blackwood Telecasters listed. None in the UK though, and I's say yours is the best looking.

  4. #4
    Craftsman
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    Journey to the perfect electric guitar

    Lovely looking guitar

    Iíve had a few over the years but they have all gone with the exception of my American standard Tele. I donít play a lot anymore but will never part with this. It has the perfect neck in my opinion and whilst a Tele Ďonly does on thing,í it does it very well.

  5. #5
    Great story! I remember my dad doing a similar trick on my birthday for an olympic white, rosewood American Standard Strat.
    One of the best guitars I own is a fender 52 American vintage reissue telecaster. It's the Speedmaster of the guitar world!

  6. #6
    Master
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    Great story and beautiful guitar.
    If I went back to guitars a Telecaster is the only one I would want. It would have to be one of the cheaper options, I believe I would be wasting such a wonderfull instrument with my standard of playing, plus the financial cost of course.
    Here is my Fender, complete with a couple of extra strings.

    Sent from my SM-A105FN using Tapatalk

  7. #7
    Craftsman jeff's Avatar
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    Thanks for sharing a lovely story.

    You've got yourself a real gem there!

    Make sure you take good care of her.... and the guitar :)

  8. #8
    Grand Master Neil.C's Avatar
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    Lovely story - but wouldn't any P-90 guitar have done as well?

    They do come cheaper you know?
    Cheers,
    Neil.

    My Speedmaster website:

    http://www.freewebs.com/neil271052

  9. #9
    Craftsman
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    Thatís a lovely little read in these times of worry and bad news.

    Genuinely enjoyed reading it, and getting to the final bit.

    Enjoy the guitar - Iím sure itíll make you smile each time you pick it up!

  10. #10
    Master
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    Lovely story and lovely guitar to go with it. Happy playing.

  11. #11
    Grand Master hogthrob's Avatar
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    The wife's a keeper!

  12. #12
    Journeyman
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    Nice story I have been playing my fat telecaster a lot the last few weeks, beautiful neck that just seems effortless to play.

  13. #13
    Craftsman CamCG's Avatar
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    Thank you very much for all the kind words. I'm glad you enjoyed reading about it!

    (And yes, I'm well aware I managed to find an amazing wife!).

    Quote Originally Posted by murkeywaters View Post
    ...there was some lovely Telecasters at a recent auction I attended...

    Is that near Devizes? A guitar playing friend has been once or twice to pick up a few pieces. Not sure it's for me or not. I've no desire to own another guitar... unless... hmmm... old Strat... hmmm!

    Quote Originally Posted by hogthrob View Post
    This will obviously be of no interest to you, as you've found 'the one', but reverb.com is a good place to look for guitars. For example, there are currently five Malaysian Blackwood Telecasters listed. None in the UK though, and I's say yours is the best looking.
    Yes, I've visited Reverb a few times. Quite a selection!

    I was happy to buy new as I was pretty certain this would be a guitar I wouldn't ever want to sell.

    Re the "look" of this guitar, the lighter marking in the middle of the body is not staining. I didn't realise at the time, but Malaysian Blackwood has a lighter grain naturally running through it - hence why each of the "300 models" has a different look in the middle of the body.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ruggertech View Post
    Here is my Fender, complete with a couple of extra strings.
    That looks beautiful - enjoy playing it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Neil.C View Post
    Lovely story - but wouldn't any P-90 guitar have done as well?

    They do come cheaper you know?
    It's logical to think along those lines, it's just that with guitars it doesn't seem to work like that.

    Small variations in wood choice, construction methods and electrics can add up to quite big differences in tone between a variety of guitars.

    That's without how the construction approach "fits" with your style of playing / improvising. This is especially true of the fretboard and how the radius, shape, fret height and wood choice suit your hand size and approach to playing.

    I tried a number of P90 guitars, including a Mexican Tele and a G&L. Whilst both were amongst my favourite of the guitars I tried, they were only 70% to 80% of the "way there" in terms of the tone I was looking for. The Malaysian Blackwood Tele is 100% of the way there, with a fretboard etc which suits me very well.

    Indeed, there is a chance that if I tried another Malaysian Blackwood Tele there would be small, but discernable differences in the tone produced as a result of being built by a different technician.

    This adds weight to an opinion I've heard that you should try out a guitar in store until you find the one that's "right".

  14. #14
    Grand Master hogthrob's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CamCG View Post
    Re the "look" of this guitar, the lighter marking in the middle of the body is not staining. I didn't realise at the time, but Malaysian Blackwood has a lighter grain naturally running through it - hence why each of the "300 models" has a different look in the middle of the body.
    I think that it is a two piece body, joined a bit like this:






    The lighter wood is normally the sap wood, from the outside of the tree.


  15. #15
    Craftsman CamCG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hogthrob View Post
    I think that it is a two piece body, joined a bit like this:






    The lighter wood is normally the sap wood, from the outside of the tree.

    Ah yes, I think that's what I meant.

    It's a very nice effect, either way.

  16. #16
    Master BEZELBOY's Avatar
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    Telecaster

    What a great story.
    As an ex-pro musician, (Classical/Big-Band Trumpet player) and having gone through similar experiences to find 'The One', I can fully appreciate your time and efforts to get to the end.
    Why don't you share some of the great tone of your new instrument with all interested members on here, just like a similar member -JWilliams has done with his piano and playing?
    Don't be shy-we would all love to hear your combo!

    Thanks

    Andy

  17. #17
    Grand Master hogthrob's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CamCG View Post
    It's a very nice effect, either way.
    No arguments with that. I hadn't seen Malaysian Blackwood before - it's a really lovely looking timber.

  18. #18
    Master
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    Very nice! I think Teles are something you grow into. I used to think of them as a sort of poor man's Stratocaster and only came to appreciate their character and personality in middle age. Sadly there will never be a perfect guitar for me. I had a beautiful guitar made by a luthier called Sid Poole in the '90s, and even that didn't stop me buying them. Like watches.

  19. #19
    Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by hogthrob View Post
    I think that it is a two piece body, joined a bit like this:






    The lighter wood is normally the sap wood, from the outside of the tree.

    Interesting, thanks. Fender have started using what they call "Pale Moon ebony" in some of their products; I guess that's what it is.


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