The Fender Telecaster and Stratocaster are two of the most famous electric guitar models of all time. They sound and look great, and are played by loads of professionals. But which is the best option if you want the most versatile electric guitar?
In this post I’ll discuss the different features of the Strat and Tele to determine which is the best guitar for versatility. So let’s get started!
A Quick Comparison
If you’re just interested in the specs, then check out the table below to compare all the key features between the standard versions of the Fender Telecaster and Stratocaster .
|Body Shape||Double Cutaway, Contoured||Single Cutaway, Flat|
|Body Wood||Ash or Alder||Ash or Alder|
|Pickups||Three Single-Coils||Two Single-Coils|
|Neck Shape||C-Shape||Deep-C or U-Shape|
|Fretboard Wood||Rosewood or Maple||Rosewood or Maple|
|Number of Tone Knobs||2||1|
|Weight||8 pounds (3.6 kg)||8 pounds (3.6 kg)|
Which is the Most Versatile?
Both the Stratocaster and Telecaster are versatile guitars, that are suitable for a range of different music styles. In terms of versatility, it really depends what you’re after, as each guitar has certain strengths and weaknesses. Here’s a quick rundown.
- Strats have 3 pickups, compared to 2 on the Tele.
- The Strat has 2 tone controls, and the Tele only has 1.
- One of the Tele’s pickups is located in the metal part of the bridge and one is located on the body.
When you consider points 1 and 2, the Strat sounds the more versatile.
But when you consider point 3, the Telecaster is more versatile. This is because the location of the bridge pickup on the metal of the bridge itself, gives it more power. Hence, it’s more suitable for metal and rock than the Strat which only has the pickups located on the actual body. You still get a pickup located on the body of the Tele as well, giving you a bit more variety.
So if you stick to cleaner tones, and rock ‘n’ roll style music, and don’t want to play heavier genres, but just want more options when it comes to dialing in the perfect tone, then the Strat will be better for you.
But if you want versatility when it comes to playing different music styles, then go with the Telecaster.
The Strat and Tele are made of similar materials, so their tones aren’t a million miles away. Both guitars use single coil pickups, which are well known for their bright and twangy tones that emphasise treble frequencies. They also use similar body woods (alder and ash) which also contribute to this bright tone.
There are some differences however, which impact the versatility of each guitar. The main difference, is the number of pickups. The Strat has 3 pickups, which gives you more possible tones, than the 2 pickups on the Tele. The Strat also has two tone controls, giving you more versatility compared to the Tele’s single tone control. You also get a tremolo bar on the Strat which gives you the ability to add a vibrato effect to your playing very easily.
The Strat and Tele are very different looking guitars, primarily due to their body shapes. The Strat has a double cutaway design and contoured body, whilst the Tele has a flatter single cutaway shape. There are a few similarities though, including the colour options and dot inlays on the fretboard.
Now we’ve been through an overview of the specs, and the differences in terms of sound, look and feel, I’ll move onto the more specific differences in terms of the anatomy of each electric guitar.
The body shape of each electric guitar is pretty different. The Strat has a double cutaway, contoured body whilst the Tele has a flatter shape and single cutaway design. The double cutaway design allows you to access the high frets more easily, but when it comes to which looks best, it’s all personal preference. In terms of the body wood, both guitars normally have either an ash or alder bod.
There are several things to consider when it comes to the necks of each guitar. The Strat usually has a C-shape neck, whilst the Tele has a deeper U-shape. This means the Tele feels a bit more substantial, whilst the Strat is probably better for most players with smaller hands.
There are also a lot of similarities though including:
- Both necks are usually made of maple
- Rosewood and maple fretboards are commonly seen on both guitars
- Bolt-on constructions are seen on most models
- You get 22 frets on each guitar
Both the Strat and Tele use single coil pickups. They’re best known for their bright and sharp tones that suit a wide variety of music, however they’re not normally used for metal because you can experience humming if you crank up the gain on your amp.
Despite using the same type of pickup, there are still some differences between the two guitars. Firstly, the number of pickups. The Strat has three pickups, equally spaced, whereas the Tele only has two, one located in the bridge and one towards the neck. You get a 5-way pickup selector on the Strat, and only a 3-way pickup selector on the Tele. This means you’ll get a greater number of possible tones on the Strat, making it a bit more versatile.
You also get two tone knobs on the Strat, compared to just the one on the Tele. This means you get a bit more control and added versatility when it comes to dialling in the perfect tone.
Although both guitars use single coil pickups, that doesn’t mean they sound the same. The Tele has one of it’s pickups located in the metal part of the bridge. This tends to give it a more powerful sound compared to the Strat. Hence, a lot of metal guitarists prefer the Telecaster. So in some respects, it can be seen as a bit more versatile than the Strat, despite having fewer pickups.
Another big difference between the Tele and Strat, is in the bridge type. The Telecaster has a fixed bridge, meaning it’s easy to maintain and change the strings. The Stratocaster has a floating bridge, which has an important addition, the tremolo arm.
You can push and pull on this tremolo arm to change the pitch of the strings. It adds a really unique effect, and some more versatility to your sound. However, it does make it a lot harder to change the strings, and decreases the tuning stability.
Not all Strats have a floating bridge though, there are plenty of hardtail (fixed) bridge style Strats out there if you’re not a fan of the tremolo style bridge.
Take a look at this post on the different bridge types to learn more about this topic.
Price and Options
Next, we’ll move onto the different options and prices for each guitar.
Both the Strat and Tele are produced by two manafacturers, Fender and Squier. Fender is the most premium option and produces all the high end options, and a lot of the mid-range models. Squier is owned by Fender, but offers a more affordable alternative.
- Squier models start at around $180 and go up to around $500. Fender models start from around $700 and go up to several thousand for a top of the range custom shop. The standard Fender models which costs roughly $1500.
Guitar Center are always the first place I look at when I’m interested in a new electric guitar because have a huge range of models for sale and always have some excellent deals on. Here’s a link to take you directly to Guitar Center’s electric guitar range so you can see all the offers available at the moment.
Frequently Asked Questions
Now you know all about each guitar, here are some FAQs that you may still have.
Which is best for a beginner?
Which is Best for metal or hard rock?
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.
Rounding Things Off
So hopefully now you feel like an expert when it comes to the differences and similarities between the Fender Stratocaster and Telecaster. If you’re still torn between the two, then go and try them both at a guitar store and see which one you lean towards. Check out this ultimate guide to testing a guitar to make the most of your trip!
Like I mentioned earlier though, don’t be afraid to purchase a guitar online. It’s what I tend to do as you can often get a better price. Check out Guitar Center to find some great deals.
Here’s a quick picture showing the pros and cons of each guitar to summarise everything I’ve talked about.
So there you go! There’s the in-depth comparison between the Fender Telecaster and Stratocaster! I hope you’ve found this article helpful, thanks for reading. Here are some other posts you might find useful: