After years of losing Allen wrenches on my locking nut, I finally replaced them with thumb screws. If anyone else wants a set, I can put a package together, shipped and everything for 15 dollars total.
Category Archives: Fender
Thus begins the task of writing about what is probably the most purchased guitar in the last 10 years. Ever since Fender got their Mexico factory, allowing them to charge a lot less for what is almost the same instrument as its American cousin, people have been jumping at the chance to own one. It’s the closest you can get to playing the same guitar as Hendrix, Clapton, Gilmour and Beck(the Jeff one) without spending more than 500 dollars. And the price has gone up, mind you. I remember about 6 years ago when I wanted one that it was 299 new at Guitar Center. I probably have one of their leaflets that showed a picture of a dark blue Made in Mexico strat which costs 299.99. But I’ll get to the price trend later, lets get to it!
The Specs: 21 Medium Jumbo frets on a Maple or a Rosewood board. Most people get maple, and I would too. If you’re going to buy something called a Strat, you might as well keep it a strat with a maple board. The Body is made out of Alder, a tonewood that many companies are using for their lower end guitars or guitars they know will not have a transparent finish. Fender uses alder on their American strats too, but I have a feeling that they come from better stock. I’m making an assumption, so it could be completely false. Alder isn’t exactly the prettiest of woods, but it’s similar to higher ones so they might as well use it if they got it. I have no idea about the state of Alder trees, so if you’re interested in that, go do some research and send it my way too. Satin poly finish on the neck, so it’ll last awhile. Vintage trem, 3 single coils. I’m trying to limit myself here considering there isn’t much about the strat people don’t know. I’m trying to point out the minor differences between one of these and the expensive ones. A few of the obvious ones are the size of the fretwire, the truss rod access being in the headstock, and the type of Alder.
The Neck: When I pick up a guitar, this is the first thing I go for. I wrap my left hand around the neck and feel the profile. This is a modern C, which means it’s a nice C shaped curve which is thinner. Reading Dan Erlewine’s book explaining the differences in neck profiles was a very informative thing. Through the 80’s and 90’s necks got REALLY thin, and even the standard Strat got pulled into the trend. I’ve heard thin necks promote fatigue, but the Fender modern C shape isn’t that thin, so it still fills the hand. As I said, poly satin finish so that will stay on for a good amount of time. On the other hand, it probably hinders the resonance of the guitar in comparison to a thin coat of Nitrocellulose. Then again, I could just be falling into the tribe of purists who claim Nitro is a better finish. Judge for yourself, I think satin feels great play wise, but there is a certain feeling you get on a tinted poly finish.
The Body: The Alder thing is an interesting subject. Most of Fender’s guitars are made out of Alder with a few exceptions. They make special strats out of Ash, a wood near and dear to my heart, having spent time working with it. It’s a spectacular looking wood, and is a lighter colored, but more dense version of mahogany. Looks great with maple. Anyway, Alder is just another tonewood which people will try to describe with words like “poppy” or “warm” when in reality it doesn’t matter for the MIM strat. The polyurethane finish is so thick and there’s probably filler in some bad spots on the guitar, so the resonating properties one could associate with a thin finished Alder body are probably hindered by all of the coating. Personally, I can’t hear it, but i’m drawing conclusions from what I read and assume. It looks like a strat, and that’s probably why you bought one or are reading this. It’s made on a machine, every one of them is cut identically, but has different wood stocks. Minute differences which most people who would buy a MIM strat wouldn’t notice.
Electronics: If every strat guitar used the same electronics as the Eric Johnson signature strat, this would be a different paragraph and a different toned article. But since they use what they use, it’s merely a situation of “It sounds fine” and move on. 3 Single coils, volume and 2 tone knobs. I still dislike the wiring of the tone, to the middle and neck. I use middle pickups so infrequently, I would just rather have it wired to the bridge. I was going to say have a master tone knob, but once you find the joys of different tone settings, you never want to return. Maybe they treble change when doing a switch from Bridge to Mid to Neck is so annoying they’d rather keep it gradual? I don’t know why. Actually, come to think of it, a tone knob for the neck and mid, and one just for the bridge would be better. Or one for Mid and Bridge, and one for the neck. I’ve heard a lot of players modding their tone to just Neck and Bridge, so it’s something to think about when you want an easy modification for different sounds.
Hardware: The tuners are decent tuners. They work pretty well. I would like the ones with a center post just because they look coolers and have better string locking ability, but they are probably a little complicated for changing strings if you’re just a casual player. The current tuners however, are standard ones which are easy to tune with. The output jack is fine, but there needs to be a standard solution for those things loosening and weakening. It’s a 5 dollar solution, and i’d pay that much to never have to open up that cavity for any reason. The bridge, same deal. There needs to be some type of thread locking mechanism. Small set screws so the height of the saddles doesn’t change over time. A bigger sustain block on the bridge would be nice too. Just a little extra sustain isn’t too much to ask for?
The Whole She-bang: You’re spending 400 dollars on a guitar which is outsourced for labor purposes. You’re going to get what you pay for. It will play, it will sound like a strat, and you’ll tell people you have a Fender strat. It’s true, you have one. But the guitar as an entity runs on pedigree, not on quality. You’re getting the name, the look and the label, not the playability. The frets and nut are created for all of the guitars, not just yours, so variation is common. The neck pocket is done on a machine, but it doesn’t account for the thickness that the painter applies finish or color, so the pocket isn’t really exact. It’s good, but it’s not amazing. The neck will shift in that pocket with the right force. The action is going to be alright, but you’ll never get it as low as you really want it. Playing a guitar which can have mind bogglingly low action is something few guitarists experience. That book I referenced before, he sets his high E string to be .009 inches off of the first fret. That’s ALMOST enough room to fit another high E under that. You could blow on that string and the note would go sharp. You won’t find that on the strat. Everything will be fine. It’s something that will work. The Fender MIM strat is like the Ikea furniture of guitars. You get it because it looks good and works, but it’s never going to be monetarily worth more than what you bought it for unless you become the next Stevie Ray Vaughn or it’s signed by a celebrity. We live in a mass production world, and there are a LOT of MIM strats out there. They are gifts, beginner guitars, backups, projects, parts, and played until the strings dissolve.
Also, from a perspective of upgrades, it’s THE guitar. It’s the standard, and there are more parts for it than any other guitar. Broken neck? Get a new one. Want to replace the pickups? Do it. Some guitars out there, you’re stuck with what you got unless you do some major repairs. Every single part on the strat has ten to hundreds of options for replacement. Warmoth, Allparts, Dimarzio, Seymour Duncan, Planet Waves, Schaller. All companies that make new parts for the guitar you want to upgrade. Also, it’s the guitar that repair people have the most experience with, so chances are if you want a fret recrown, the repair guy is going to be able to do it quickly, cheaply, and well.
Thinking about it, the Fender Standard Made in Mexico strat is not a great guitar. Looking at it from a workmans perspective, it’s fine. The ones on the shelf are fine guitars, and even sitting on the shelves I’m not a big fan. But for something to work on, it’s amazing. I’m thinking about getting one just to Frankenstein it. And looking at it for what it symbolizes, it’s absolute perfection. It’s what gets people to start playing guitar. Priced just low enough to tempt people, and named perfectly so people will want one. Someone will as, “What kind of Guitar do you have?” “A Fender strat”, they say. It’s a guitar people want and are proud to talk about. And for that, it’s perfect.
Never played guitar? Buy one. Screw the value and the depreciation, it’s your first guitar, and it’s a Fender Strat.
Have a bunch of expensive guitars? Buy one. Tear it to bits, learn about guitar, mod it, paint it, crank it.
I usually grade guitars on the guitar itself, but you can’t do it to this. Someday, I’ll rate an American strat like every other one i’ve reviewed, but this one is special and I don’t even own one.
The Pros: It’s a Fender strat. It’s just fine. It’ll work and play.
The Cons: That it’s just fine. Machinery is so fast and advanced now that even the lowest models of companies should be able to play as good or better than the cheap guitars of yesteryear.
These are the pictures of things I found important.
Dick Dale playing a Blackbird carbon fiber guitar. He soon talked about the “Tsunami of Sound”. Impressive words.
Extreme metal from ESP’s Custom Shop.
More extreme metal.
A nice green on an ESP, an LTD, no less.
LTD continuing to impress me on looks. I have to say I was never an ESP fan, and except for the hundreds of businessmen ruining my panting in front of a guitar, they had one of the best sections.
ESP trying not to lose all their money on the short-lived Dave Mustaine Signature.
Carbon fiber mandolin. Really now?
The local newspaper had a picture of Kerry King and Marshall on the front…wow. Slayer on a newspaper front? Surprise…
I am a big fan of Charvel San Dimas without the Stratstyle headstock, but this looked pretty sweet.
Any of you who have watched Roland’s guitar gear videos has seen Johnny Demarco, the most over the top spokesman for any company ever.
True innovation, no exaggeration. This was the one thing that seriously caught my eye, and that’s what matters. The V-accordion. Very good player too.
Dream Lineup. Hughes and Kettner tone lines. Best amps i’ve ever played.
The long haired blond guy is Seymour Duncan.
Nice guitars. Very washburnesque with a little Carvin.
A BC rich your mother could love, and afford! Only like 600 for that thing.
Finally saw some Hagstroms. I wasn’t as impressed as i’d hoped, but still nice.
Oof. Warrior guitars. Thems is crazy. They are expensive, and would make you look infinitely cooler than a PRS.
Composite necks, anyone?
The bald-headed man with the space glasses is none other than Tony Levin!
Excuse me whilst I faint. John Petrucci Ernie Balls.
Ibanez Singlecut everyone! NEW!
Decent looking budget hollowbody Ibanez.
Odd looking Ibanez, but I liked it.
What you’ve all been (just me) waiting for, the new 24 Fret S-series Ibanez. It was one of the main reasons I went to the show, but that prestige neck just didn’t have the same electricity as my RG1570 had.
Those are pretty Wechters. Damn.
Finally saw some Zemaitis. 4000 dollars for metal work? Nope.
The reason this show is such a letdown. I’ve never heard about this before, but it’s the ridiculous factor. So many cheap pieces of shit overseas import companies. All making trashy knockoffs and pieces of junk. There were a LOT of them, and they had nice booths, were dressed impeccably, and made me want to smash them all.
The unique award!
I am going back tomorrow, and maybe I’ll get more pictures.
I met Thomas Nordegg. One of the, if not the most famous Tech guy ever. He will never remember, I will.
Also, I jammed with Dean Markley.
Chances are, if at any point in your life you’ve ever considered purchasing an electric guitar, you’ve picked one of these little things up. It’s Fender’s attempt to make sure that every human being on the planet can own something with their name on it. Fender bought a factory in Mexico, slapped their name on it, and now they kick out versions of their most popular guitars, the Telecaster and the Stratocaster faster than Hostess kicks out Twinkies and Cupcakes. Moving past my comparison of the most famous guitars to cream-filled snack foods, most of these Fender Mexico guitars, aren’t really discussed on the Internet. For the most part, if you see someone talking about a Fender, it’s worth more than $1000, it’s custom, or it has someone’s fingerprints on it that make it worth more than its weight in gold. And I must admit that I am also guilty of such a crime; almost all of my reviews are guitars that cost more than a thousand, but there’s no better time to rectify my mistakes. So, to fill the void that exists due to reviewers penchant for trying to keep guitars like expensive jewelry instead of something like a toaster oven, I will write about this guitar in detail, so you can read it before you go to a Music store or a music website. I’m not going to deny the power of a music website’s comment section, but for the most part, if you read those you will read only one of two types of reviews: the person who is so happy about their instrument that they can’t be quiet about it, or the person who is so angry at their instrument that they too, can’t be quiet about it. There aren’t many contemplatory posts in the comment sections, just 30 words, more or less, explaining 1 of the 2 aforementioned categories. So, now that that’s out of the way, lets get to it.
The Telecaster being the first mass-produced, solid body electric guitar already gives it some well-deserved pride in the realm of guitars. And since it is the first solid body, it sets the bar for conservative looks in solid body guitars. A plain finish, 2 single coil pickups, and a basic neck set the definition for the minimalist electric guitar. Oddly enough, it became one of the most iconic items in amplified music. Known to break out blues, rock, rockabilly, country, jazz, punk, and – Courtesy of John 5 of Marilyn Manson – even metal. The telecaster will be around forever, but the question this entry asks is, is the Made in Mexico Telecaster doing a good job to continue the legacy?
The Specs: The standard telecaster shape carved from a block of Alder, a maple neck, and your choice of a maple or rosewood fretboard. I’ll discuss the differences later, but for the sake of this post we’re going to be talking about the one with a maple fretboard. 21 Fret neck with Medium jumbo frets, fender Made in Mexico (MIM) telecaster pickups with a 3 way pickup selector, 1 volume and 1 tone knob. Unlike classic telecasters, the bridge on this has individual saddles instead of the 3, and this is another thing i’ll address later in a little bit more detail as I try to keep my opinions and judgement out of the specs section.
The Neck: I’ve been wrestling with the possibility of being able to call a neck “boring.” It might be a good thing because it gives you time to think about the other things on the guitar, but if being able to ignore the neck is what defines “boring”, then the neck on the MIM Telecaster is far from boring. It has Fender’s standard C neck profile (Still looking for exact measurements out there. If anyone has first fret and 12th fret measurements, send me an email or leave a comment) which has, to my knowledge, remained similar for a very long time.
Now I get to the maple vs. rosewood discussion (with myself, mind you) that I intended to come back to, and now here we are. There are a few pros and cons, each of which one should consider when purchasing a MIM Telecaster. On the maple pros side, the tone is brighter and classic Telecaster. On the rosewood pros side, it’s warmer, has a little softer feel to the fingers because it doesn’t get satin finished, and has the dark rosewood look, giving a very unique telecaster look. On the cons side of each, maple gets visually dirty quickly, you can see bad fretwork (Another issue I intend to come to in the neck section, guaranteed to be a long section) very easily, and the finish they use on the MIM Tele for the fretboard is pretty bad. On the rosewood side, you’re not getting a truly real telecaster, it gets dirtier and is a lot harder to clean than a satin finished maple fretboard.
The biggest issue on the neck is the fretwork. I dare say some of the poorest i’ve seen. What’s odd is that i’ve watched videos of the Made In Mexico factory, and they don’t look like incompetent workers. They look like people who know how to make a guitar, but when I see the fretwork on the maple necks of MIM Teles, I start to cringe. I think of how my finger is going to feel running over those sharp edges when I move up the neck too fast. Stewmac sells fret finishing files for pretty cheap, so I can’t imagine that they can’t round the edges like Ibanez does on their Prestige models. It would take a few passes, but would make a world of difference.
The Body: Alder accompanied with maple is a pretty bright combination for a guitar. The old telecasters were made out of Ash and the Fender American classics are made out of ash, but Alder is the choice for the MIM. And one thing that made the telecaster notorious, leading to the invention of the Strat was the lack of a beveled body and carved arm rest. Players sitting and playing guitar would get the same fatigue they get from sharp acoustic edges, but faster because the body was heavier and more compressed into certain areas. I’ve seen modifications on the idea through Peavey guitars. They make a tele-style guitar for Jerry Donahue, the guitarist for the Hellecasters, and they round the edges just enough to keep the telecaster look but take away some of the faults of a squared body.
The Electronics: The MIM uses slightly more powerful pickups to make sure that their reasonably priced guitar doesn’t have a sound too focused in one tonal direction. The lower output pickups being more aimed towards clean playing, and the hotter Highway One pickups aimed to be a little more rock oriented. These seem to land in the middle to be as versatile as 2 single coils in a bright body could possibly be.
The Hardware: The tuners are fine. Nothing out of the ordinary there. But what I did say was different was the use of a bridge with individual saddles for each string instead of a 3 saddle classic style bridge. Fanatics out there will say that it’s not a telecaster unless it’s got the classic brass 3 saddle bridge, and I completely agree. However, this is trying to be as real of a telecaster as possible to the guitarist on a limited budget. The thing about the 3 saddle bridges is that they aren’t that great for intonation, and just when you think you can angle one of those suckers, it moves. So for the sake of this guitar, I think a six saddle bridge is good. You can adjust each string’s action and intonation, a necessity on a guitar with a neck that probably isn’t as straight as it should be, and frets that aren’t as level as they should be.
One of the big gripes about teles is the output jack. It’s one of the worst parts of teles, and uses some seriously bad ideas. In order to have it stay in, you need to tighten a screw on the inside that pushes out a bent metal piece and locks it in place. Warmoth creates a jack plate with 2 screw holes so you don’t have to blindly fiddle with the output jack to get it back into the guitar. It’s too bad Fender didn’t pick up on it or just switch to a recessed input jack like an ibanez or a standard flat jack plate. I’ve fussed with this thing for long times after some repair sessions, and this is definitely some bitter icing to put on a cake made with hours of guitar work.
The Whole She-bang: When you plug it in, you get something reminiscent of a telecaster tone, and reminiscent of a telecaster feel, but all in all this isn’t such a great guitar. The only true possibilities for it are as a base for some massive Frankenstein experimentation like pickups, sanding, paint and finish. When you get one, it’s poorly set up, it has bad fretwork, mediocre neck finishing, and the burdensome input jack plate that you know you’re going to have to worry about in the near future. If you walk into a guitar store and you look at it from afar, and it looks like a telecaster, but when you get closer you figure out really fast that it’s not a real Telecaster. There are some guitars that when you pick up, you feel like there’s a reason you’d spend the money on it, and i’m not going to lie, this isn’t one of them. I have yet to be slightly impressed, let alone blown away, by anything that has ever come out of Fender Mexico. I mean, at least Fender Japan created some good instruments and had some quality control, but Fender Mexico is about the same as a Squier, except the spelling is different on the headstock.
Do yourself a favor, if you’re planning on getting a Fender MIM Telecaster, have a game plan. Plan on re-crowning the frets, filing the edges, replacing the bland pickups with ones more suitable for whatever style, be they tele-sized humbuckers or classic Fender Pickups, and plan on setting this thing up from scratch. If you can work magic on a guitar, this might be right up your alley as a project guitar. In fact, I think it’s most redeeming quality are how much you can do to it to make a Tele unique. Say you get it at the start of your guitar career, you can update it to your preferences as you go along because it’s a Fender, and has more replacement part options than a Honda Civic. On that note, it might be a perfect beginners guitar after a little TLC from someone experienced, but if you plan to buy the Fender MIM Telecaster and hand it to someone straight from the box/store without someone looking at it, be sure to give them the receipt too.
The Pros: Tele styling, semi-tele tone, Fender name, Fender neck feel, easily upgradeable and changeable
The Cons: Poorly done frets, mediocre satin-finish, boring sound, output jack, and pretty much everything else I missed.
I know for a fact that almost everyone reading this title pictured a certain bassist when they read it, which is one of the reasons i’m writing this. The Fender Fretless jazz bass is one of the most famous types of electric instruments that ever was. It’s unescapable association with Jaco Pastorius is one of its main selling points, as Fender makes this lower priced model available to those of us not willing to shell out two grand on an similar instrument, just with strategic, American-made wear marks all over it. It’s familiar hybrid tone of an upright bass in electric clothing has attracted thousands of musicians to adopt the fretless bass as a red-headed stepchild to their ventures in recording, taking advantage of seamless slides, docile tones and the softer edges of notes that only an instrument without metal frets can provide. Well, that’s what you would hope, right? Alright, go to a guitar store, pick one of these up straight out of the box, and you’ll understand exactly why Fender Mexico will never be mentioned in the same sentences as Gibson, Rickenbacker, Jackson, or even Ibanez.
You may be asking why i’m reviewing this, and i’ll tell you why, I bought one a few months ago. As a guitarist first, I figured it couldn’t hurt to expand my instrument collections. I’ve got a drumset, harmonicas, keyboard, and now i’ve got a violin, so you can read this from a perspective of someone who realizes I am all for being a multi-instrumentalist. The bass was an impulse by in a state when I was a huge Jaco fan, and I was really digging the sound of a fretless jazz bass, so I felt it would be alright to drop around 500 dollars on a fretless bass. So, I went to my local guitar store…where else? Guitar Center.
The Specs: It’s got an alder body, maple neck, rosewood fretboard, and the standard hardware accompaniment you’d expect on all Fender Jazz bass. The only “difference” that Fender touts is that they put the American electronics into it to beef it up. There’s got to be some sort of profit reason behind it, because this is really a cut and dry bass. It’s the exact same electric bass they’ve been making for years, but for some reason it costs the same price as a normal bass, despite using a lot less labor and material to make. The fretboard doesn’t have frets in it, and instead uses little plastic lines which look like they just cut white plastic from a box and slid it into already made bass fretboards. So they save money on materials by not having to install frets, or fret markers on the front of the fretboard. All they need to do is run a 9.5 radius sanding block across the top, and call it a day. Hopefully you can see some sort of theme developing in my tone towards this bass. Don’t worry, it doesn’t end here.
The Neck: There’s not much to say. To me, all Fender bass necks feel the exact same. Nothing really astounding, and nothing to say it feels bad. The sad thing is that there is a lot of room between the end of the neck and the neck pickup, and for some reason they limit it to a 20 fret range. Not only that, but the fretboard was poorly done. The little plastic fretline fillers didn’t fit properly, and they were moving out of the fret slots. I had to sand the things down because I couldn’t play the 2-4th frets on the D and G strings without buzzing, and the only way to overcome it was to loosen the truss rod. Sorry, not about to sacrifice the action of the entire bass because the shop workers couldn’t run the sanding block a few times more. Not only was it poorly made, but they could’ve extended the fretboard over the pickguard, for petes sake. It’s not like there are frets or anything. It’s proof that Fender really doesn’t intend to reinvent the wheel. They feel they did a good enough job inventing the first wheel, so why improve/change it?
The Body: I’m glad they didn’t change this. It’s what makes a Fender bass look like a Fender bass. However, to my surprise, when i took off the pickguard, there was a 3/4 inch cylindrical hole under the pickguard, and it was filled with sawdust. For some reason, I had trouble contemplating how sawdust could get into a hole on a bass which was already finished. There should be no reason for an instrument to come in contact with a sawdust creating process after the instrument has already been painted, clearcoated, and buffed. Stretch your own imaginations, I could use some explanation.
The Electronics: To me, the pickups seem underpowered, but really, the bass sounds like a Fender Fretless jazz bass. I’ve got no complaints there. Roll off a little of the neck pickup and you’ve got that Jaco sound. The only thing is, i’m/you’re not Jaco, so whenever you butcher Portrait of Tracy, people know it. It doesn’t change anything that you’re playing a Fender Fretless.
The Hardware: It’s typical Fender hardware. Big club-shaped tuners, ultra generic, cheap volume knobs, vibration prone bridge saddles, and the same bridge they’ve been using forever. Again, not reinventing the wheel.
The Whole Shebang: I bought a Fender fretless jazz bass, and it’s what I got. I went against my own pillars of guitar religion and bought something that wasn’t very good. It was terribly set up, and when I mean terribly, I’m not exxagerating. It took me days to finally set it up to where poorly made fretlines weren’t buzzing, the bridge was properly adjusted and the truss rod wasn’t bent like a 400 foot flagpole in a Chicago afternoon. Literally, the sales person admitted you could “drive a truck under the strings” because the action was so high. The problem was, when most people think about a guitar’s action, they look to the bridge. But the bridge was alright, it was the truss rod which looked as though they had never set it up. They just slid it into the neck, put the bass into a box and sent it to the Guitar Center from where I bought it. It’s probably the reason they didn’t sell it to anyone and the same one had been there for years. If a person who’s new to an instrument can’t play it or adjust it, then they won’t buy it. I only used it’s poor condition as leverage to drop the price from 450+ tax down to 375 out the door.
For the most part, Guitars aren’t like cars. Honda can still call the same thing a Civic for 20+ years, but improve it as technology changes. Fender can – and will – call their jazz bass the same thing forever, and they won’t change a thing. They won’t attempt to make that giant bolt-on block any less wieldy, they won’t add more output to their pickups, and they won’t add more frets. The only way I turned it into a more tolerable instrument was with almost 50 hours of work to clean out pockets, clean up bad sanding jobs, tighten screws, adjust the bridge, tighten the truss rod and wait for hours for it to adjust. I basically paid 375 dollars to cause me stress, and to buy something that fills up my closet. The only good thing about is that when I want to play a Fender Made in Mexico Fretless Jazz bass, I can. Woo boy.
The Pros: It’s a Fender Fretless Jazz bass, so the Tone, and fretless sound. Comparable to buying a Chevy Bel Air if Chevrolet was still making it indentical to how they did in the 50’s.
The Cons: Just about everything else.