SG vs Telecaster: Which Electric Guitar is Best for You?


The SG by Gibson and Epiphone, and the Telecaster by Squier and Fender are two very popular electric guitar models, but what are the differences between them? In this article, I’ll be comparing the design differences, tone differences, the look and feel of each guitar, and take an in-depth look at the full ranges produced by each brand so you can choose the best option based on your budget.

The Quick Answer

The SG sounds louder and fuller than the Telecaster which sounds bright and twangy. Telecasters have lower output single coil pickups compared to the humbucker pickups on the SG. The SG has a double cutaway, thin mahogany body, and the Telecaster has a thick single cutaway body made from ash or alder.

Comparing Models

First, lets take a look at the specifications of the SG and Telecaster. The Fender and Gibson lines are more premium, whilst the Squier and Epiphone lines are made to mimic the classic Fender and Gibson models, but at a more affordable price.

Fender Telecaster vs Gibson SG

Here is a table comparing the Fender American Professional Telecaster and Gibson SG Standard electric guitar models. Remember that these are just two models in the range that are a similar price, the specifications will vary slightly for some models (more on that later).  

FeatureFender TelecasterGibson SG
Body ShapeSingle CutawayDouble Cutaway
Body WoodAlderMahogany
PickupsTwo Single-CoilsTwo Humbuckers
Neck ShapeDeep-CRounded
Neck WoodMapleMahogany
Neck ConstructionBolt-OnSet-Neck
Frets2222
Fretboard WoodMapleRosewood
Scale Length25.5”24.75”
BridgeFixedFixed
Number of Tone Knobs12
Number of Volume Knobs12
Pickup Selector3-way3-way
Weight8 pounds (3.6 kg)6 pounds (2.7 kg)
Gibson SG vs Fender Telecaster.

Squier Telecaster vs Epiphone SG

Here is a table comparing the Squier Telecaster and Epiphone SG. Epiphone and Squier make more affordable version of the original Gibson and Fender models respectively. This table compares the Squier ’50s Classic Vibe Telecaster and Epiphone Standard SG. I’ll talk more about the lower-end models in the range later in the article.

FeatureSquier TelecasterEpiphone SG
Body ShapeSingle CutawayDouble Cutaway
Body WoodPineMahogany
PickupsTwo Single-CoilsTwo Humbuckers
Neck ShapeSlim C-shape60’s Slim Taper
Neck WoodMapleMahogany
Neck ConstructionBolt-OnSet-Neck
Frets2122
Fretboard WoodMapleIndian Laurel
Scale Length25.5”24.75”
BridgeFixedFixed
Number of Tone Knobs12
Number of Volume Knobs12
Pickup Selector3-way3-way
Weight8 pounds (3.6 kg)6.3 pounds (2.9 kg)
Squier Telecaster vs Epiphone SG.

Tone Differences

The SG has a heavier and more biting and full tone compared to the Telecaster which sounds more bright and twangy, and a bit thinner. The SG is commonly associated with heavy and classic rock music, whilst the Telecaster is very versatile and is commonly used for blues, jazz and rock music.

The Telecaster is a very versatile guitar since the two single coil pickups sound pretty different from one another. The bridge pickup is mounted on the metal bridge housing, giving it a very bright and twangy tone, but also plenty of bite and sustain when using gain. The neck pickup is much warmer and more mellow by comparison. The wide difference in tone between the two pickups is one reason why the Telecaster is so popular, as it works for a range of music styles.

The SG sounds warmer and more mellow, but also louder than the Telecaster, primarily due to the humbucker pickups, but also the mahogany body and shorter scale length. The bridge and neck pickups contrast less than the pickups on the Telecaster, but you can still produce reasonably biting and warm tones when switching between the neck and bridge.

More Differences:

  • The set-neck construction on the SG facilitates tonal transfer between the neck and body more easily than the Telecaster’s bolt-on neck. This makes the SG sound more resonant, warmer and fuller.
  • The SG has a shorter scale length, contributing to its warmer tone.
  • The mahogany body of the SG produces a darker and warmer sound than the alder body on the Tele.

Here is a video where you can listen to the two guitars being played back-to-back, so you can really understand the different tones.

Look and Feel

As well as deciding which tone you prefer, you should also consider how easy these guitars feel to play, and which look you prefer.

The SG has a more aggressive look compared to the Telecaster which looks a bit more vintage and classic. Here are the main differences:

  • The SG has a double cutaway design to improve upper fret access compared to the single cutaway Telecaster.
  • The Telecaster has a bolt-on neck construction which means the there is a slight heel where the neck and body join, compared to the SG’s set neck construction which is a bit more low-profile. This again makes upper fret access on the SG easier.
  • More expensive Fender and Gibson versions of the SG and Telecaster have quite different necks. The Telecaster has a thicker and rounder neck compared to the SG, which may be more or less comfy to you, depending on your hand size.
  • The SG tends to come in darker colours with a darker rosewood fretboard compared to the Telecaster which often looks a bit brighter due to the maple fretboard seen on many models.
  • The Telecaster has a longer scale length compared to the SG. The scale length is the distance between the nut and the bridge.
  • The SG has a lighter design, mainly due to the thinner body. This can mean the SG is a bit “neck-heavy” so tilts down more at the headstock when playing stood up.

Here is a diagram comparing the two guitars. The differences are in black text on the outside of the image, and the similarities are in green text in the centre.

I’ve written a complete buyer’s guide for electric guitars which takes you through all the things you need to consider and a step-by-step method to narrowing down your selection and choosing the best option. Here is a link to the article.

The Full Range

I also wanted to take a more in-depth look into the ranges of each guitar model, before jumping into the classic design comparisons. I’ve made a table comparing pretty much every standard model in the Squier/ Fender Telecaster, and Epiphone/ Gibson SG ranges. The tables are split into price brackets and are all ordered from the lowest to the highest price so you can easily identify which models are available under your budget.

Entry-Level and Low-End (under $500)

GuitarOriginBody WoodConstructionNeck ShapePrice
Squier Bullet TelecasterIndonesiaBasswoodBolt-OnC-shape$180
Epiphone SG Special Satin E1ChinaPoplarBolt-On60s SlimTaper D$180
Squier Affinity TelecasterChinaAlderBolt-OnModern-C$230
Epiphone SG Classic Worn P90’sChinaMahoganySet-Neck60s SlimTaper$380
Squier Contemporary TelecasterChinaPoplarBolt-OnC-shape$400
Epiphone SG Special P-90ChinaMahoganySet-Neck60s SlimTaper$400
Epiphone SG MuseChinaMahoganySet-NeckC-shape$429
Squier Classic Vibe TelecasterIndonesiaPineBolt-OnC/ Slim-C $430
Epiphone SG Traditional ProChinaMahoganySet-NeckSlimTaper$450
Epiphone SG StandardChinaMahoganySet-Neck60s SlimTaper$450
Affordable Squier Telecasters vs Epiphone SG guitars.

Mid-Range ($500-$1200)

Note: there is no column for neck construction in the mid-range table as all the Telecaster have a bolt-on neck, and all SGs have a set-neck in this price brackets.

GuitarOriginBody WoodNeck ShapePrice
Epiphone SG ModernChinaMahoganyAsymmetrical SlimTaper$550
Epiphone SG CustomChinaMahoganySlimTaper$580
Fender Player TelecasterMexicoAlderModern C$750
Epiphone SG ProphecyChinaMahoganyAsymmetric$900
Fender Deluxe TelecasterMexicoAlderModern C$950
Fender Vintera TelecasterMexicoAlder‘50s U-Shape$950
Gibson SG TributeAmericaMahoganyRounded$1100
Fender Road Worn ‘50s TelecasterMexicoAlderU-Shape$1150
Mid-Range SG vs Telecaster models.

High-End (over $1200)

Note: there is no column for neck construction in the high-end table, as all the Telecasters have a bolt-on neck, and all SGs have a set-neck in this price bracket. All these guitars are made in America.

GuitarBody WoodNeckPrice
Fender American Performer TelecasterAlderModern C$1300
Gibson SG Junior P90MahoganySlimTaper$1400
Fender American Performer II TelecasterAlder/AshDeep C$1450
Gibson SG SpecialMahoganySlimTaper$1500
Gibson SG StandardMahoganyRounded$1500
Fender American Showcase TelecasterAlderCompound$1750
Gibson SG Standard ‘61MahoganySlimTaper$1800
Fender American Ultra TelecasterAlder/ AshD-Shape$2000
Gibson SG ModernMahoganySlimTaper Asymmetric$2000
Fender American Original TelecasterAshU-shape$2050
High-End Fender Telecasters vs Gibson SG guitars.

Design Comparisons

Now let’s look at the classic designs of each guitar in a bit more detail, so we can identify the similarities and differences, and how this impacts the tone, look and feel of the instruments.

Body

The Telecasters has a single cutaway body design usually made of alder, but sometimes ash, whereas the SG has a double cutaway body made from mahogany. The double cutaway design on the SG helps to aid upper fret access. The SG is also lighter due to its thinner body, by around 2 pounds.

Neck

The necks on SG and Telecaster guitars varies depending on the models in the range. The cheaper Squier Telecaster and Epiphone SG guitars usually have similar slim C-shaped necks. More expensive Fender Telecasters usually have a D or U-shape neck which is thicker than the rounded/ slim taper neck seen on most Gibson SG guitars.

Most SG and Telecaster guitars have 22 frets, with some exceptions such as the Fender American Original and Squier Classic Vibe Telecasters which have 21. Telecasters necks are usually made from maple and have maple or rosewood fretboards, whereas SG necks are made from mahogany and usually have rosewood fretboards.

The scale length of the SG is around 1.25″ shorter than the Telecaster. This makes the SG sound a bit warmer by comparison and easier to play for some players as they do not have to reach as far to the lower frets.

Pickups

The Telecaster classically has two single coil pickups, and the SG has two humbucker pickups. This causes the Telecaster to sound a bit brighter than the SG, but more susceptible to feedback when using high gain amp settings. This is typically why the SG is considered more suitable for music styles such as metal.

The SG’s humbuckers have a higher output compared to the Telecaster’s single coils, meaning the SG is a louder guitar.

The Telecaster bridge pickup can still produce a punchy and biting tone when using high gain, as it is mounted on metal, rather than the body, giving it a unique powerful sound that’s very popular amongst rock guitarists. The Telecasters single coil neck and bridge pickups sound very different from each other. The neck pickup sounds much warmer, and the bridge pickup is more twangy when played clean but sounds crunchier and has a lot of sustain when using gain.

Some Telecasters such as the Fender Boxer and Squier Contemporary models, have humbuckers instead of single coils, and some Squier SG models have P90 pickups which sound a bit brighter and thinner than humbuckers.

Check out my complete guide to pickup types to learn more about this topic.

Controls

Both the SG and Telecaster have 3-way pickup selectors, allowing you to active either the bridge and neck pickups alone, or both together. The SG has independent tone and volume controls for each pickup, whilst the Telecaster has a single master tone and volume control that adjusts both pickups.

The independent tone and volume controls on the SG allow you to either blend the two pickups when both are active to create a unique tone, or allow you to set up very different lead and rhythm tones using each pickup, and then use the pickup selector to switch between them. This arguably makes the SG a bit more versatile if you’re not using any pedals. However the Telecaster is very versatile if you consider the difference between the tone of its bridge and neck pickup.

Check out these articles you learn more about the controls on each guitar:

Which Should You Choose?

The best way to decide which guitar is best for you, is to head down to your local guitar store and give them both a try. Even if you’re a complete beginner, you can sit and stand with the guitar to get a feel for which is the most comfortable, and then ask the store assistants to play you a few riffs on each. With that said though, here are a couple of key points to help you make your decision:

  • Telecasters sound more bright and twangy, making them suit clean tones very well. They also have a good biting tone on the bridge pickup when using gain for rock music, but are still quite thin sounding and quiet compared to an SG.
  • SG guitars sound very full and warm, and are less susceptible to feedback when using high gain, making them better suited to metal and heavy rock.

For Beginners?

For beginner guitarists, SG and Telecaster guitars will both be suitable and they start at an affordable price. However, if you primarily want to play clean tones, the Telecaster will probably sound better, whereas if you want to play heavy rock and metal, the SG will usually be the better option.

I’ve written a complete buyer’s guide for electric guitars which takes you through all the things you need to consider and a step-by-step method to narrowing down your selection and choosing the best option. Here is a link to the article.

Here are some more articles you might find useful:

Heather

Hey, I'm Heather. I started playing an electric guitar when I was given a Squier Strat for my birthday around 15 years ago. I now own an acoustic guitar and several electric guitars including my personal favourite, a PRS SE Custom 24.

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