5 Cool Fender Telecaster Upgrades: DIY Guitar Mods

Telecaster Upgrades : DIY b bender Waterslide Guitars (2)

I love upgrading every single guitar I’ve ever owned. Finding Telecaster upgrades can be tricky, but totally worth it if it’s important enough to you. You can upgrade the telecaster bridge, and the telecaster pickguard (tortoise, mother of pearl, etc.) You can even get into more complicated guitar mods such as the diy b bender, or telecaster locking tuners.

The main goal of any telecaster upgrade is to improve playability, tone, and overall style so that it fits your personality. I think that’s why there are so many telecaster upgrades to choose from. Because guitarists love to make their axe match their personalities. I’m sure the “pursuit of tone” has a great deal to do with it as well. I mean, who doesn’t want better guitar tone, right?

So here we go, let’s dive into the wonderful world of telecaster upgrades!

1. Telecaster Upgrades: Telecaster Bridge

Let’s start with the Telecaster Bridge. There are a great many upgrades you can make to this area on the telecaster. We’ll look at telecaster bridge plates, telecaster bridge pickups, telecaster saddles, etc. 

Telecaster Upgrades : Telecaster Bridge
My Telecaster Upgrades: Bridge Pickup, Dimarzio Single Coil Sized Humbucker

Single Coil Sized Humbucker Telecaster Upgrades:

This is one of my favorite telecaster upgrades. Is your single coil telecaster bridge pickup sounding a little too thin and weak for your tastes? I answered yes to that question when I got my G&L ASAT. So how do you fix this? You just swap that single coil pup for humbucker in single coil form.

Obviously you aren’t the first person to feel that the telecaster single coil needs upgrading. Most of the major aftermarket pickup companies have their own version of the single coil sized humbucker for telecasters.

Seymour Duncan's Single Coil Sized Tele Humbuckers:

Dimarzio's Single Coil Sized Tele Humbuckers:

2. Telecaster Upgrades: New Telecaster Bridge Plate

Some telecaster players find the ash tray style bridge plate a nuissance. It certainly can be, and there are a few ways to fix this.

  1. New Telecaster Bridge Plate
  2. Transition to a Full Sized Humbucker

Option one is the easier option, and best if you are upgrading your telecaster. Here are some great replacement bridges for telecaster style guitars. Don’t make the mistake of only spending $10 or $20 on a new bridge plate. You need that metal to be high quality and thick. The cheap bridge plates are super thin, and will corrode quickly.

 

Option 2 is quite a bit more difficult, especially if your telecaster body hasn’t been routed for a full size humbucker. So keep that in mind. In order to complete this full sized humbucker telecaster upgrade, you’ll have to carve out a cavity big enough for it to set in.

If that sounds ok to you, then here are the best humbucker sized replacement replacement bridge plates.

Choices for a Telecaster Bridge:

3. Telecaster Pickguard Tortoise, Pearloid, Leather:

Here’s an easy yet dramatic fender telecaster upgrade. Install a new pickguard. I’m not a big fan of my white telecaster pickguard. I’d much rather go for a fancy telecaster pickguard tortoise or pearloid. Some guys really dig the leather telecaster pickguard. If you find the right leather worker, you can get some truly unique pickguard art right on your tele.

Some guys like to add a secret compartment under their telecaster pickguard, and use magnets to hold that pickguard down instead of screws, for easy access! Don’t believe me? I have proof.

Pretty much any style of custom telecaster pickguards are available. Even really cool custom graphics of old pinups, skulls, and even mirror, gold, and paisley patterns.

Telecaster Pickguard Tortoise Upgrades:

Good alternatives to the classic Telecaster Pickguard Turtoise.

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If you are into non-fender telecasters you should read my article on Best Fender Telecaster Alternatives 2020.

4. DIY B Bender Telecaster Upgrades:
Telecaster Upgrades : DIY b bender Waterslide Guitars (2)
DIY b bender Waterslide Guitars (1)

The diy b bender is one of the more extreme telecaster upgrades on this list. It requires total commitment, and is not an upgrade to take lightly. That being said, it’s absolutely the coolest telecaster upgrade you can do.

So, what the hell is a diy b bender?

Excellent question. A diy b bender is a device made of various levers and mechanisms that allow you to pull, push, or actuate a mechanism that “bends” the b string without using your left hand.

Some diy b benders work via the strap button, and you pull down on the guitar to actuate the device. Another style works via a rod sticking out of the back of the guitar which is activated by pulling the guitar forward or backward in relation to your body.

A less dramatic version of the diy b bender is the one made by hipshot, It allows you to activate the bender via your right hand, like you would with a floating tremolo. They also have the diy b bender with the lever option. If you want to get really crazy the multi string bender is the way to go.

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Make sure you research all the details because it may not be right for you. But I’m guessing if you are looking into the diy b bender, then you are pretty much invested in the idea already. Take a listen to the amazing tones you can pull off with a diy b bender!

Telecaster Upgrades: DIY B Bender

DIY b bender Waterslide Guitars

For more info Waterslide Guitars in these videos check out my article on the 9 Best Custom Electric Guitar Brands You’ve Never Heard Of (2020)

Stratocaster Upgrades: DIY B Bender

DIY b bender Waterslide Guitars (3)
5. Telecaster Locking Tuners:
No More Tuning Hack
Telecaster Locking Tuners
G&L ASAT Classic Bluesboy Guitar AxeDr
Telecaster Locking Tuners

My Favorite Telecaster Upgrades:

Locking Tuners, or Locking Tuning Machines are great for upgrading the look and function of guitar. If you have a guitar that was less than $500 you’ve probably noticed that your tuning machines are less than ideal when it comes to keeping your guitar in tune. Most guitars in that price range come with stock generic tuners. For less than $75 you can get fantastically stable locking tuners.

What do locking tuners do?

Locking tuners come in many varieties, but the most common utilize the same basic mechanism. An adjustable pin inside the hole of the string post, connected to a thumb screw. You pull your guitar string through the post hole, holding the string tight while simultaneously tightening the thumb screw on the back of the tuner.

As you tighten the thumb screw, the pin tightens, and traps the string in place without ever having wrapped the string around the post. This is where most guitarists go wrong. Instead of pulling the string tight, and using a maximum of 3/4 of a string wrap, they wrap the string like they normally would, then put the string through the locking post. Don’t do that!

The reason locking tuners work on telecasters, or any other model of guitar, is the fact that they use between !/2 to 3/4 of a wrap around the string post. This means there is no excess string wrapped around the post that will slacken as the string tightens. That is the key! I repeat, for locking tuners to truly do their job, they must utilize a maximum of 3/4 of a string wrap around this post. 

For a detailed review on Hipshot Grip-Lock Locking Tuners read my No More Tuning Hack.

Check these details BEFORE you do this Telecaster Upgrade with locking tuners!

Staggered Post Height

When looking for telecaster locking tuners, be sure to check for staggered string post height. By doing this you can avoid string trees. It also makes the headstock look a bit more sleek.

Diameter of Tuner Holes:

The last thing you’ll want to do is drill into your headstock because the holes were to small for the telecaster locking tuners you ordered. Here are the measurements most guitars fall into

Guitar String Post Hole Measurements:

  • Gotoh/Grover (13/32″ 11/32″)
  • Planet Waves (13/32″)
  • Schaller (25/64″)
  • Sperzel (25/64″)
  • Vintage Style (11/32″)

String Post Hole Sizes by Brand:

Fender Vintage: 11/32″ (8.7mm)

Fender Die Cast: 13/32″ (10mm)

Squire Vintage: 11/32″ (8.7mm)

Squire Die Caster: 13/32″ (10mm)

G&L Tribute Series Legacy: 13/32″ (10mm)

G&L Tribute Series ASAT: 13/32″ (10mm)

Replacement tuner mounting pins:

Each guitar’s tuning machines mount to the headstock in a certain way. You need to check how your guitar’s tuners mount to your headstock. Some guitars use vintage mounting with 1 or 2 screws. Some new guitars use a single pin that makes the tuner stay straight.

You’ll need to make sure your new telecaster locking tuners will adapt properly without needing to drill extra holes. That’s not very fun. Especailly if you don’t like the new tuners you installed. Some Manufacturers like Hipshot have a universal mounting plate with their telecaster locking tuners, which I can attest to as being workable with minor modifications to the mounting plate.

Telecaster Locking Tuners That I Recommend:

Conclusion:

Telecaster Upgrades can be super fun, and can improve your guitar tone. Most of them don’t cost you much time or money. If you want your guitar to match your personality and sense of style, then try one of the above, and send me some pictures! Don’t forget to check the details either! You can email me or leave a comment below if you need any help.

 

Keep Rocking,

The Axe Dr.

  • Are there aftermarket upgrades for Telecasters?

    There are tons of upgrades you add to your telecaster.

    • New Telecaster Bridge Plate
    • New Telecaster Saddles
    • Single Coil or Humbucker Pickups
    • Telecaster Pickguard Upgrades
    • DIY B Benders
    • Locking Tuners

  • What are the best locking tuners for Telecasters?

    Some of the best Telecaster Locking Tuners are:

    • Hipshot Grip-Locks Open Back
    • Hipshot Grip-Locks Enclosed
    • Fender Locking Tuners
    • Gotoh Magnum Lock-Trad 6-In-Line
    • Kiesel Locking Tuners

  • What are the standard guitar string post hole sizes?

    • Gotoh/Grover (13/32" 11/32")
    • Planet Waves (13/32")
    • Schaller (25/64")
    • Sperzel (25/64")
    • Vintage Style (11/32")

  • What is a b bender?

    Excellent question. A "b bender" is a device made of various levers and mechanisms that allow you to pull, push, or actuate a mechanism that "bends" the b string without using your left hand.

    Some b benders work via the strap button, and you pull down on the guitar to actuate the "bender" device. Another style works via a rod sticking out of the back of the guitar which is activated by pulling the guitar forward or backward in relation to your body. (This kind can also work via a strap connected to your belt loop via a caribeaner.)

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