When you want to play a Fender Telecaster, you have two options available to consider. The guitar manufacturer provides a Thinline design or a solid body model.
Once you understand the differences between these two options, selecting the instrument that works for your needs is much easier.
If you look at the Thinline Telecaster vs. solid body Telecaster debate, you’ll find two instruments that deliver the twangy and bright sound people love with this guitar. That means you’ll want to compare tone variance, style, price, and weight when looking at these options for a new Tele.
Thinline Telecaster vs. Solid Body Telecaster
The Thinline Telecaster is a semi-hollow guitar design that Fender developed to reduce the instrument’s weight. It was launched in 1969 from the designs of Roger Rossmeisl. The solid body Telecaster is the standard instrument that you’ll find within the Tele series from the beginning.
It was 1950 when the Fender Telecaster was initially introduced to guitar players. The instrument was so popular at the time that it would become the first option that became commercially successful.
Most players called it a Tele for short right away. Guitarists found that the instrument worked well for almost any musical genre, allowing the solid body Telecaster to find a home almost anywhere.
Even today, you can still find musicians playing everything from rock and pop to alternative, jazz, and indie on the Fender Telecaster.
Leo Fender had an intuitive design on those early guitars that has stuck with the legendary instrument over six decades. The Hawaiian steel guitars inspired him to add an ashtray bridge cover, a mixture of different pickups, chrome knobs, and Kluson tuners to produce the instrument’s legendary sound.
Before the Tele came out, the electric guitars always had a somewhat muddy sound with poor sustain. With the cutting tones and bright attack, musicians could now hit big highs and lower lows while taking advantage of the thick midrange.
The Telecaster is easily one of the most popular electric guitars that professional musicians have used over the years. You can find numerous albums featuring the Tele by Steve Howe, B.B. King, Jimmy Page, Muddy Waters, and many others.
What Is a Thinline Telecaster?
The Thinline Telecaster is an updated version of the original guitar that Fender released in 1950. Instead of featuring the standard solid body design, it used a semi-hollow technique to create a different sound.
As the musician plays notes or chords, the hollow spots within the guitar’s body create different reverberation options. You still get the bright sound and fast attack that all Telecasters are known to produce, but it also gives you some extra warmth and harmonics that aren’t available in the original design.
When you look at the newest features on a Thinline Telecaster, you’ll receive a three-bolt neck, humbucking pickups, and a bullet truss rod to ensure a positive playing experience is available to everyone. These items were added to the guitar’s design during a 1972 update from the original Rossmeisl ideas.
You’ll find three essential differences to consider if you’re looking at Thinline vs. solid body Telecasters for your next guitar.
The overall goal of the Thinline Telecaster was to decrease the overall weight of the original design. When Rossmeisl designed the guitar for Fender in 1969, a shortage of ashwood impacted global guitar manufacturing.
Since it was the primary product the brand used for their instruments, they needed to find an alternative way to meet demands without compromising their sound.
The Thinline design created two specific changes to the original to achieve this goal. First, the guitar uses an F-hole along the side, similar to what you’ll find on violins, cellos, and other stringed instruments.
By adding the F-hole and creating a semi-hollow body for the guitar, Fender and Rossmeisl took 1.5 pounds off the instrument. That’s a significant change for a product that had nearly 20 years of success at the time.
When you listen to the Thinline Tele, you can hear the distinctive twang that has drawn musicians to Fender for so many years. Once the strum starts reverberating, you’ll notice a slightly warmer tone, with a rounder approach to the attack instead of seeking brightness and contrast immediately.
You’ll get more sustain from the instrument since it isn’t made from solid wood. It isn’t as crisp as the solid body Telecaster, which means there isn’t the same punch to those power chords that some musical genres require.
The solid body version is tighter and less woody, while the Thinline has more definition within the lower register.
The most notable difference with the Thinline Tele is the F-hole found on the guitar’s front. This design makes the instrument appear to be more vintage, especially when you add the pickguard changes that Fender and Rossmeisl added to the product.
You’ll see that the humbucker pickups contribute to this outcome in their own way, offering a positive first impression that makes people want to pick the instrument up to play it.
Whether you’re a professional musician or someone about to take their first guitar lesson, you’ll find that the Thinline delivers a consistent result with minimal fuss.
When you look at the solid body design, you’ll see front-routed electronic with a bridge pickup on a metal plate. It uses a single tone control, another for volume, and two single-coil pickups. With the Thinline, you get two tone controls and volume options, along with Duncan single-coil pickups.
The wood used for the guitar’s body also makes a difference in its overall appearance. While the solid body primarily uses alder or ash, the Thinline typically features mahogany. It’s the final ingredient that leads to the vintage sounds that come from this option.
Pros and Cons of Using a Thinline Telecaster
When you want to get an authentic Fender guitar on a budget, the Thinline Tele is your best option. If you shop with the Squier brand, you can sometimes find entry-level instruments priced around $500.
If you want the best out of the Thinline design, you’ll want either the Fender Deluxe or the Classic Series ’72. Both instruments retail for around $1,000.
Here are some of the pros and cons of using a Thinline Telecaster worth reviewing before putting down your hard-earned cash on this instrument.
|List of the Pros of a Thinline Telecaster||List of the Cons of a Thinline Telecaster|
|• The Thinline Telecaster is a versatile instrument that can play virtually any musical style or within any genre. |
• That makes it an essential investment for almost every musician.
• It delivers a warmer tone that offers more expressiveness and character than most other guitars, creating a blended overtone that provides more playing options.
• You receive more consistency within the lower frequencies, keeping distortion to a minimum while delivering the punch you want to compliment the bass.
• With less wood in the body, the guitar feels lighter across the shoulder for those long gigs or extended practicing sessions.
|• The sustain with the Thinline can be somewhat questionable in some setups. |
• It depends on the wood density used for some models doesn’t ring out as well as some others.
• When you play in the lower end, some of the notes can have less definition, sounding muddy when you attempt to play them.
• The larger cavities in this guitar can lead to more feedback occurring while playing. This issue is especially problematic when dealing with distorted tube amps.
• The visual design of the Thinline doesn’t appeal to every musician.
• If you want a clean and modern look, the solid body is the better choice between the two.
Some of the potential negatives that the Thinline delivers can get mitigated with a few settings tweaks. If you turn the gain down on your amp, manage the volume controls, and don’t overwhelm your setup, you’ll find that the updated design delivers an excellent tone quality that works well on virtually any stage.
Pros and Cons of Using a Solid Body Telecaster
If you want to enjoy the traditional sound that a Telecaster produces, the solid body design will always be the first and best choice. You can find beginner guitars under the Squier brand that retail for around $250, but you’ll want to spend at least $700 to get a pro-quality instrument like the Player Tele.
Although you could buy the Jimmy Page Telecaster for around $2,500, the best deal is an American Professional series instrument. Those guitars retail for about $1,500, and you’ll get everything you want out of a Fender guitar with that investment.
Are you thinking about owning a solid body Telecaster today? If so, here are some of the crucial pros and cons to review before buying this instrument.
|List of the Pros of a Solid Body Telecaster||List of the Cons of a Solid Body Telecaster|
|• Most of the solid body Telecasters deliver a longer sustain because of the wood density found in the instrument. |
• You’ll experience a deeper tone as the notes and chords continue their hold.
• The denser wood with this design reduces the issues with pickup feedback, allowing you to amplify the sound for live performances without needing to take any extra steps or use special equipment.
• Ash and alder have a reputation for putting together a bright sound with lots of attack, creating something snappy from the Tele.
• If you’re in the rock genre, the versatility of this advantage lets you hit virtually any note you need.
• Since the Tele has a bit of a “jangle” to it, a few tweaks to the setup make it useful for folk and country.
|• The solid body design with the Tele causes it to lack tonal depth. |
• You’ll need to work with your pedals to create the harmonics you want instead of having them occur naturally.
• The neck design on the solid body instrument can be a little wide for some players. Although the Thinline also has this issue, this model’s extra weight turns it into a greater disadvantage.
• Some of the pickups on this instrument don’t carry distorted sounds well, leading to less definition for notes and chords.
• There can be issues with some solid body guitars where they don’t offer a pleasant sound when kicking them into overdrive.
When you select a solid body Telecaster, you’ll get the signature sounds you want while keeping everything within your budget. This design is well-suited for rhythm players who want something fantastic and unique straight from the box while also having some customization options to enjoy.
FAQ About Fender Telecasters
If you have some questions about Fender Telecasters that you need to be answered before finding the instrument you want, here is some additional information to consider.
■ Can I Change the Headstock on My Guitar?
What’s nice about a Fender guitar is that you can modify any part that you desire. It’s usually better to find the style you want first instead of investing in significant modifications to achieve your signature look and sound.
■ Can I Put Humbuckers on a Tele?
If you want to play with a distorted tone, humbuckers on a Tele make a lot of sense. The standard single coils deliver a bright performance that you and your listeners will appreciate, but the switch is worth considering.
If you’ve ever heard the Jim Root Telecaster play, those EMGs deliver the massive distortions needed for playing rhythm or shredding without hesitation.
■ What Is the Best Guitar of the Two for Beginners?
If you’re attracted to the Thinline or solid body design from Fender, it’s worth considering the Squier series in both categories. Most of these guitars come with a starter pack so that you get everything you need to get going. The best choices include an amp, a strap, some picks, and extra strings.
Another option to consider with Fender is the Stratocaster. The sound profile is different than that of the Tele, but the playing experience is remarkably similar.
One More Thought About Thinline vs. Solid Body Telecasters
My first guitar was a solid body Telecaster. I’d purchased it from a friend when I was 16 because he’d decided to move on from playing. It cost me $20.
Sure – I had some refinished work to do on the piece. The guy had scratched “TAZ” into the body, all of the way through the finish, and that required a complete sanding to get it out. No amount of wood fillers was going to restore that instrument’s sound!
It took about a year for me to finish all of the work. I did a complete restoration from top to bottom. With all of the costs considered, I probably saved $1,000 by doing everything myself.
Although I don’t play that Tele as often today, it still hangs on my wall to represent that first moment when I embraced the life of a guitarist.
I’ve been partial to the solid body design over the years because I find it to be more versatile for my playing style. I don’t need something vintage for my music. The guitar needs to be bright, fast, and a bit screechy to check all of the boxes for me.
I’m certain you’ll have people who feel the same way about the Thinline Tele.
To be clear, both guitars are an excellent representation of what Fender offers. The instruments play smoothly, deliver consistent results, and feel good when you’ve got them wrapped around your shoulder.
That means the price is the next priority over the sound. If you don’t want to spend $1,000 on an instrument, the Thinline is your best choice.