Fender components are largely interchangable within models (Strats or Teles). I buy the individual components I like and assemble what’s known as a “Partsocaster”. There’s a guy on Ebay that buys lots of brand new Fenders and parts them out. It bothers some purists but you can build exactly the guitar you want.
I just geeked out describing a Parts-o-Tele I put together. You buy from Stratosphere on eBay, eh? I got my Tele body there…and yeah, having everything just how I like it is wonderful. I’d be interested in hearing what you’ve built…
You’ll see in that thread that I am looking to build a new one later this year and was thinking about starting a thread on the SDMB in case folks wanted to follow a long. Sounds like you could do the same or chime in on the one I start - well, if I start it; which means I have to clear it with WordWife and sell one of my guitars to generate a little working fund…
So, in sum: the Fender lineup really does have little rhyme or reason. The only way to tell anything about them is playing them and looking at the origin stamp, and hopefully your guitar-foo is strong that day and you don’t get a lemon. Otherwise, its all insanity and marketing and shameless model proliferation. I guess I’ll look at an Ibanez or similar. Screw Fender.
And if I’d actually read Argent Tower’s link, I would have already known that answer. Oops.
The thing that really gets me about the Fender discussion is that they’re one of the two big name guitar brands on the planet. And they sell substandard instruments – thousands and thousands of substandard instruments, using Wordman’s ratio argument above. And they know that. And their marketing and model line is intentionally designed to obscure which of several levels of quality you’re looking at – its designed to sell people crap product, as many as possible. (It also seems designed, on another level, to push a buyer toward the nose-bleed models to feel at all comfortable that they’re getting a decent guitar.)
Arguably this is not uncommon in the free market, but its especially egregious here, when someone is paying for a “name” guitar because they think its a trustworthy brand, and they get a lame knockoff. Or maybe not even that good, there are some great knockoffs out there.
I recall the whole fallout when CBS bought Fender, and how there were entire model years of Fender guitars that people avoided because the instruments were crap. The current situation seems much worse to me, and I’m struggling to understand how this is less forgivable, or just part of the process.
If I head over to (say) a BMW dealer, its debatable but I feel like I can buy pretty much any (new) car on that lot and know I’m getting a quality product, though of greater or lesser performance or more or less pretty depending on the model. If I buy a Fender, God only knows what the hell I’m getting. I find this very discouraging, though maybe I’m just being too emo about it.
Some of my frustration is being “new born” again after a long hiatus from guitar playing. I don’t feel that comfortable yet judging that I’m playing a quality instrument when I guitar-shop – they all feel more than a bit alien to me so far, because I haven’t played a breadth of instruments in a very long time. I was hoping sticking to a brand would bring its own comfort that I could trust the brand, but it seems like the reverse is true right now.
Carol Kaye, a legendary session bassist who made her name playing Fender Precision Basses on thousands of records (mostly in the 1960s), calls Fenders “boards with strings on them”. She played Fenders simply because they were the best available at the time. And she didn’t get attached to them; she considered them to simply be tools to do the job, and when the strings wore out she didn’t waste time changing them - she stopped by the music store and traded in her current bass on a new one. Today, she says Fender is more interested in reissuing “vintage” models than in producing a good, off-the-rack instrument. She plays an Ibanez now.
Funny, I’ve played lots of other basses (including Warwicks, which I think are overrated) and I’ve never played anything that felt as comfortable and sounded as good to me as my Fender J-Bass that I bought when I was 13 in 1999. Maybe it’s just because I’ve been playing that bass forever, but nothing else ever feels “right” to me.
If you like the sound of old Fenders, you might test drive a G&L or two. Admittedly, I’m biased (since I own one) but my friend’s parents growing up had a music store and we got to play everything in there and the G&L’s were consistently very good. Very good sounding, extremely good fit and finish. It’s the company Leo Fender made after he sold Fender. I’ve never tried their ‘Tribute’ series (it’s like their own Squire series, I understand) but their model lineup (at least used to be) easy to follow.
**squeegee ** - unfortunately, that is about the size of it. Between the inherent variability of the materials used and the manufacturing processes/quality - coupled with constant marketing blitz moves to keep you off balance and think you need the new New Thing - it can get very confusing.
Take a friend who you trust who knows guitars. I do this pretty regularly for friends in my town.
Do a bit of research online. Go to a place like The Gear Page http://www.thegearpage.net/board/forumdisplay.php?f=20 and read up on specific models you think you might be interested in. You know how it works on line - you won’t get a definitive answer, but you can pick out the posters who sound like they make sense and get a feel for the vibe of the instrument and - just as importantly - it’s variability/consistency. If the reviews are all over the map and folks comment on how many they had to try to find a good one, stay away from that model. Some Gibsons suffer from this - Guitar message boards roil with threads declaiming Gibson’s lack of quality control, but there are as many adherents (me included) who, upon finding “their” Gibson, declare undying love.
KEEP IT SIMPLE - jeez, can I emphasize that enough? Fancy crap on a guitar is just that. There should be a rule: start with a Telecaster (two pickups, a volume, a tone and a pickup selector - it ain’t called The Plank for nothing) - you are not allowed, oh, 2 more pieces of fancy crap above that. Whammy bar? That’s one. Push-pull pot to split a humbucking pickup? That’s two. Tele’s rock - and without a floating trem like a Strat, they are infinitely easier to keep in tune (avoid a whammy - esp. a locking one - at all costs if you are just starting out…).
I would recommend a Tele - either a Fender or a G&L or one of the other makes that have Tele-types (sigh). I really like the $600 or so Baja Tele from Fender. I have also played G&L Bluesboys and ASAT I have loved - but their price point is higher. But the market in used G&L’s on eBay is good and the values in a used one is much better vs. Fender. And they are very consistent in build quality. A used ASAT (I prefer the Bluesboy since it has a humbucker at the neck) could be a great value…
When I bought my Strat Plus in 1994, I was on the verge of building a Strat-style guitar using parts from Warmouth . I happened to be in a music store and noticed the Strat Plus, about which I knew nothing. It had several of the features that had drawn me to the idea of building my own ( flatter radius fingerboard, quiet pickups, locking tuners, roller nut), it came with a warranty, and it felt great in my hands and sounded good to me. So I bought it.
If I were in the market for a Strat-style guitar today, I would be very unlikely to buy a Fender, although I did look into the V-Strat when it was first introduced. I would be more likely to buy a G & L or build my own.