The Famous and iconic Telecaster! Renowned for its Country and Rock heritage.
With that said, players commonly ask whether a Telecaster can be utilized as a ‘metal guitar?’
In this post, I will reveal the Telecaster’s worthiness as a chugging metal guitar. Including tone, suitability, and much more.
Also, I will present to you the best metal Telecasters that cover the metal guitar essentials. let’s go…
Can you play metal on a Telecaster?
Standard Telecasters with single coils are not typically used for Metal due to their thin, bright, and articulate sound; also, they are prone to feedback. However, a Telecaster with humbucking pickups is best for Metal to fatten up the tone and eliminate hum and feedback.
As mentioned above, the iconic Telecaster can make for a metal guitar workhorse. However, that’s if it comes with a set of humbucker pickups.
With a suitable set of high-output pickups installed. The Telecaster comes with the ideal attributes of a suitable metal guitar. These include:
- Fast and comfortable neck – for playing technical lead lines, solos, and sweep picking
- Comfort – a slim body for a snug and comfortable fit
- Good high fret access – for easily reaching and bending high registry notes
- Light – comfortable for long hours and playing live
- 25.5″ scale length – more space in between frets for accurately hitting notes
(I will go into more detail about these later in the post)
These reasons alone are why modern metal players have shifted to humbucker Telecasters. The most notable is Metal heavy-weights Jim Root from Slipknot and John 5.
Why Humbuckers for a ‘Metal Tele?’
1. Fatter Sound
Whether passive or active humbuckers, the double-coil design naturally sounds warm and thick, creating a beefier guitar tone.
Unfortunately, Telecasters with their 25.5″ scale length naturally promote a ‘crisp’ and ‘snappier’ tone due to the increased tension of the 25.5″ scale length.
Hence, a set of humbucker pickups adds thickness and warmth to the signal. Which is ideal for heavy metal rhythms that require an excellent ‘bass response’ and ultimately avoid a thin and brittle sounding tone.
2. High-Output Pickups = More Gain
Of course, there are 2 main types of humbuckers: passive and active pickups. Either type of pickup will do perfectly fine. To give a quick recap…
Active pickups are high-output humbuckers. They are usually favored for Metal because they naturally distort quicker due to the onboard pre-amp powered by a 9V battery.
They also have a tighter bass response and are virtually silent with minor feedback issues. The only problem is that players complain that they can sound a little too ‘sterile,’ especially for clean tones.
Passive pickups have a more comprehensive frequency response, meaning they have more ‘color’ and ‘personality’ than active pickups. They also tend to sound richer for clean tones than active pickups.
Hence, passive pickups are the most versatile humbucker to stretch into other guitar tone genres. Just remember, you will want to equip your Tele with pickups with mid to high output with passive humbuckers.
In summary, active or passive pickups would be ideal for players who want to stretch into the metal genres with a Telecaster.
Your choice depends on which pickup you like the sound of the most and what other genres you like to play.
3. Humbuckers Reduce Hum And Feedback
The last point is a biggie. Humbuckers (active or passive) are excellent at taming unwanted amp noise, hum, feedback, and nastiness.
Metal guitar tones are drenched in distortion. Therefore, players need a lot of noise cancellation ability from the guitar. Hence why single coils were never up to the task for metal players.
Dual coil pickups are excellent at canceling out electronic interference. After all, humbuckers were designed with this intention in mind to “buck the hum.”
They are essentially two single-coil pickups armed side by side. Each magnet is placed at the opposite polarity and is wired ‘out of phase.’
This gives two advantages, it delivers a beefier and fatter guitar tone. also, It is much better at canceling out electronic interference (60-cycle hum.)
It allows you to have a tighter and less noisy guitar tone, whether on stage or recording for any metal performance.
Why Choose a Telecaster for Metal?
Obviously, when you picture a standard Telecaster. It doesn’t exactly strike you as a ‘metal guitar.’
Maybe due to its innocent looks and heritage within the genres of Country, Rock, Jazz, and Blues.
However, here are a few reasons why a Telecaster actually is why metal players have been turning to this guitar during modern times.
1. Ideal for Technical Playing
Fender has always produced instruments with necks that play fast and effortlessly.
Hence, many technical virtuosos guitarists are associated with Fender (Eddie Van Halen, Yngwie Malmsteen, Eric Johnson, etc.)
The reason is that Fender/Squier guitars have the signature tapered “C” shaped neck. Hence, a Telecaster for Metal is an excellent choice as Fender necks are among the most comfortable necks in the business.
This is perfect for technical metal techniques such as shredding, string skipping, solos, sweep picking, tapping, etc.
2. Comfortable Guitar
Telecasters are undoubtedly super comfortable guitars. Why?
They are light at about 7lb and are notably well-balanced in weight and body construction. Not to mention the comfortable neck profile, as discussed before.
Also, Teles have a slim body with contours for a snug fit for extended playing sessions. I think that you agree that guitars designed to play ‘metal guitars’ include comfort as a high priority.
3. Wide Frets
As discussed before, Telecasters are constructed with a 25.5″ scale length.
This means that the spaces in-between the frets are wider in length. Therefore, if you have big chunky hands and fingers? The wider frets offer more room to fret accurately and efficiently.
Interestingly, most’ metal guitars’ from brands such as Ibanez, Schecter, Jackson, ESP, etc., are constructed with a 25.5″ scale length. Hence, the Telecaster shares some metal characteristics from today’s typical ‘metal guitars.’
Can You Play Metal on a Tele with Single-Coil Pickups?
Technically, you can play metal on any guitar as tone is a personal choice after all.
In truth, you can get a useable metal tone on a Tele with single-coils with a few EQ tricks (I will offer my step by step soon.)
However, it may not be optimal if you are after the best metal sounds if you are a metal tone purist.
Why Single-Coils are not Ideal for Metal
keep in mind, a standard Telecaster with single-coil pickups is not geared up for Metal. Mainly due to one problem…the single-coil pickups.
Why? well, Single-coil pickups naturally sound bright, thin, and crisp, not to mention they are ‘low-output pickups.’ Which is a big no-no. Why?
Well, if you listen to a typical metal guitar tone. It sounds ‘fat,’ ‘thick,’ and ‘boomy’ to offer massive chugging open notes or thick lead lines. This is something a Telecaster with single-coil pickups can not provide.
A Tele with single coils is armed for thin, spanky, and twangy sounds. Hence why historically country players have loved them for their bright and ‘twangy tones.’
Furthermore, single-coils loaded with a ton of saturated gain sounds ‘brittle’ and ‘compressed,’ especially with chords and open notes. Basically the opposite of a suitable metal tone.
Not to mention, single-coils resistance against feedback is virtually non-existent. Which is a problem for a typical metal tone loaded with saturated gain and distortion.
This would cause horrendous ‘hum’ and ‘buzz’ especially cranked through a loud tube amplifier.
How to Dial in a Metal Tone on a Single-Coil Telecaster
To get a useable metal tone with a single-coil Telecaster can be done (and here’s how.)
The key is to fatten up the tone and reduce the feedback potential.
I would suggest playing around with these settings and implementing these tips…
Use The Neck or Middle Pickup
The neck position is the warmest and fattest sounding pickup to get a fuller and bassy sound.
In contrast, the bridge position sounds the thinnest and most articulate so avoid using that position. This gives you a good starting point.
Roll-off ‘Highs’ With the Guitar Tone Knob
Doing so removes the ‘high frequencies’ and typical Telecaster ‘twang’ from the single-coil pickups to warm the tone and add thickness.
Play around with this so that you remove some of the ‘spanky’ highs from the signal.
Avoid Excessive Distortion
Adding more distortion compresses the signal and further enhances the high frequencies you want to avoid.
It also enhances the feedback potential, so be frugal with the level of saturation with your distortion source.
I suggest adding just enough distortion until you reach the typical ‘metal saturation level. Try not to add too much distortion as it will sound very ‘fuzzy’ and ‘tinny’ with a bright-sounding guitar such as a Tele.
Use ‘Fat-Sounding’ Distortion
Use a distortion source that sounds warm and fat. Avoid using aggressive distortion pedals that enhance the high-end frequencies.
Remember, you are trying to fatten up the tone so avoid brittle-sounding distortion. Even better, if your distortion has its separate EQ, add bass and remove treble.
Correct use of EQ
First, I suggest rolling down the treble knob to reduce the high frequencies.
Secondly, I would increase the bass to add thickness and a solid-bass response for the open notes and chugging. As for mids, play around with that to your tastes.
Use a Noise Gate Pedal
A noise gate pedal will dampen the signal and terminate the pesky hum and buzz, commonly problematic with single-coil pickups. This will make your guitar quieter when idle, clearing the feedback problem.
Recommended Telecasters for Metal
Over the years, multiple guitar brands have stolen the ‘Telecaster blueprint’ offering a similar body shape but creating ‘hot-rodded versions’ designed for high-gain destruction.
These supercharged Teles offer the same blueprint. The thing that makes them ideal is that they offer high output pickups, additional contours, faster slim tapered necks, sprinkled with a dark menacing paint job.
Fender Jim Root Signature Telecaster
Jim Root needs no introduction. The iconic Slipknot and Stoned Sour guitarist is virtually flying the flag for the ‘metal-inspired Telecaster.’
His signature model is a collaboration with Fender-designed for deep low-tuned destruction. Boasting a set of active EMG humbucking pickups and a sinister-looking white paint job with black hardware.
This supercharged Tele contains all the requirements of a Fender ax designed for typical Metal and nu-metal tones.
The 12″ radius fretboard is flattened to promote faster and technical playing. Other features include locking tuners for better tuning stability. Not to mention an ebony fretboard for smooth performance and a dark menacing look.
Obviously, This Signature Tele is for the Slipknot fans out there. However, this ‘Friday the 13th Tele’ easily handles the vast spectrum of metal genres out there.
Squier Contemporary Telecaster RH
Squier, part-owned by Fender, provides affordable versions of their prized collection of Fender models.
The Contemporary Telecaster HR is a modern version of a hot-rodded Tele perfectly geared for the ‘modern player.’
This guitar screams value in so many departments. First, it features a roasted maple neck which you don’t find on most budget guitars.’
However, the most interesting feature is the Hot Rail Pickup in the bridge. This pickup is actually a humbucker squeezed into the size of a single-coil slot.
This pickup offers a ‘hot and high output signal ideal for blaring metal distortion for heavy detuned chords and blaring licks. The Hot-Rail also does a fine job of taming annoying hum and feedback issues. This pickup is highly versatile for a range of tones and genres.
This Twist on the standard Telecaster is designed for all the characteristics of a fast-playing instrument.
It has the usual 12″ radius for promoting shredding, stable bending, and technical wizardry.
It also has performance and comfort in mind, with the sculpted heel joint for excellent high fret access. All rolled into an affordable package for the average metal player.
ESP LTD TE-200
Surprise! It’s not a Fender!
ESP is undoubtedly a heavyweight within the depths of the Metal guitar scene. With that said, LTD is like the Squier of ESP. Who Produces solid budget guitars aimed at inspired rock and metal players.
Therefore, The LTD TE 200 is an affordably priced reincarnation of a modern metal Telecaster.
This is a budget Tele-style metal guitar with no frills but great value for money. It is essentially an accessible companion for a metalhead who’s bored of the typical Superstrat metal guitar.
The LTD TE 200 boasts a solid construction of a maple neck, mahogany body, 25.5″ scale length, and a set of LTD LH-150 pickups. Speaking of pickups, this set of passive humbuckers is high-output, ideal for blaring rock and metal tones.
Although they lack the premium tone of Seymore Duncans or EMG pickups, they certainly do the job. A good recommendation would be to swap them to something more suited to your tastes.
Chapman V2 ML3 Modern Standard
Chapman Guitars is the brainchild of popular Guitar YouTuber Rob Chapman. Founded in 2009 in Bristol, UK, these metal machines have made massive strides within the competitive guitar industry in recent times.
The Chapman V2 ML3 Modern Standard is a menacing but straightforward T-inspired metal monster.
It is essentially a classic Tele guitar with modern features and specs for rock and metal players. This entry is from the ‘Standard Series,’ a collection of affordably priced instruments that give a ton of bang for your buck.
For starters, the body is made from mahogany topped with a flame maple veneer finish. This combination offers a striking aesthetic but offers increased resonance. As for the neck, it is the typical “C-shape” for optimal fretting and performance.
As for the engine room (pickups), the ML3 Standard comes equipped with Chapman’s in-house pickups.
With premium magnets and a new wounding procedure for thumping lows with a crystal clear mid-range. The ML3 Modern is the perfect solution for a Tele on steroids.
Schecter PT Pro
Schecter is a US guitar-based company involved with birthing sublime metal guitars to the masses.
The Schecter PT series is a collection of T-style guitars with modern and classic twists. Fun fact, “PT” stands for Pete Townsend from ‘The Who’ that played Schecters back in the 80s.
The Schecter PT Pro appears like an expensive high-end end guitar. Still, it is pleasingly placed in the mid-tier bracket while offering many premium features.
First is the Alder body, which serves as a high-end tonewood for excellent resonance and overtones. Combined with the Quilted Maple Top that gives it a rather gorgeous aesthetic.
The Roasted Maple fretboard (as discussed before) is a premium material that all guitar nerds love. Also, the neck is slim tapered for comfort and performance for fast licks and technical solos.
Combine this with Schecter’s in-house high-output pickups. You have a premium Telecaster for Metal and Hard Rock with a beautiful and elegant look.
In summary, the Schecter PT Pro is for players with deeper pockets searching for a hot-rodded Telecaster that serves as a pro-level metal instrument.
Before You Go…
If you liked this post? Next, check out whether a Stratocaster can be used to play Metal. You can view this post right here.