Fender Jim Root Telecaster
Fender Musical Instruments Corp., fender.com
Originally printed in Guitar World, October 2008
One of the most versatile guitars ever made, the Fender Telecaster is a great choice for playing blues, country, classic rock, punk, reggae, jazz…pretty much any style of music—except metal. The traditional Tele, with its twangy single-coil pickups and distinctly curved fretboard radius, may be fine for chicken-pickin’, bluesy bends and jangly roots rock, but trying to conquer the fire and fury of shred with a Tele can be like driving an AMC Pacer in the Daytona 500.
Recently, several hard rock and metal guitarists have helped develop customized versions of the Tele, making it a viable choice for a new generation of players. Fender’s two John5 signature models and the Custom Telecaster HH offer humbucking pickups, a flatter fretboard radius and other features that are geared toward heavy high-gain tones, jackhammer rhythms and precision soloing. But the ultimate Tele for metal players may be the new Jim Root Telecaster, a stripped-down, hot-rodded shred machine that’s built for comfort and speed.
The Jim Root Telecaster may have the same curvy single-cutaway body shape, one-ply pickguard and slim six-on-a-side headstock as the classic version, but the similarities pretty much stop there. The biggest difference is the slab mahogany body, which replaces the Tele’s traditional ash or alder tone woods. Mahogany delivers warmer, darker tone with pronounced midrange that’s better suited to distorted, high-gain sounds than the brighter, snappier tones of alder and ash. The upper bout is contoured Strat-style to make the guitar more comfortable to play, and the neck heel is contoured as well to provide better access to the upper frets.
Instead of wimpy single-coil pickups, the Jim Root Telecaster is equipped with a pair of EMG active humbuckers: a 60 in the neck position and an 81 at the bridge. With its 12-inch radius, flat modern C profile and 22 Dunlop 6100 jumbo frets, the rock-solid maple neck feels more like what you’d find on an Eighties Charvel superstrat. The scale is Fender’s traditional 25 1/2–inch length, which is perfect for maintaining string tension when you slap on heavier strings and tune way down.
Controls are stripped down to a single volume control and a three-position pickup selector switch. The volume control is mounted near the bridge ’bucker, where you can easily reach it to perform volume swells, while the pickup selector is positioned below, just out of the way but still within easy reach, at a Strat-style angle. All the metal hardware, including the locking Schaller Deluxe tuners, strap buttons and the six-saddle stringthrough hardtail bridge, are finished in flat black. Finish options include flat white with a contrasting black pickguard and ebony fretboard, and flat black with a contrasting white pickguard and maple fretboard. The guitar ships in a cool black-and-white tweed case with a blood-red velvet-plush interior.
The EMG humbuckers provide the first clue that this guitar won’t sound like a typical Tele. The EMG-60 in the neck position pumps out fat midrange and sparkling treble that’s like a cross between a P90 and a hot Strat neck pickup, but with the tight, beefy bass that only an active humbucker can deliver. With a clean setting on the amp, the neck pickup sounds punchy and assertive, almost like an ES-335, and when you switch to the distortion channel it begins to sing with thick sustain and excellent definition that solo shredders will love. The EMG-81 bridge humbucker, in conjunction with the mahogany body, delivers bonecrunching rhythm tones, with plenty of satisfying chunk when you palm mute, and its high output will drive even the meekest amp into overdrive.
If you’ve ever found a Tele’s neck too clunky and chunky, the Jim Root Telecaster’s neck will surprise you with its sleek, streamlined feel. The tall-and-wide jumbo frets give the fretboard a scalloped feel, but without that awkward “floating” sensation. The flat, rounded profile of the C-shaped neck provides exceptional comfort for players who often shift from anchoring their thumb on the center of the neck and at the top of the fretboard.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Jim Root Telecaster combines the best features of several instruments across the ages: the shape of the Telecaster, the body material of the Les Paul Special and SG, and the neck and electronics of a Charvel. As a result, it’s the perfect Telecaster for any metal or hard rock player who has always loved the look of a Tele but never jived with its tones or playability.
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