Thursday, October 7, 2010

Jazz On A Fender Telecaster With A Charlie Christian Pickup

Unusual shape of the LollarCharlie Christian neck pickup for Fender Telecaster . Fender Road-worn '50s Telecaster, before the Charlie Christian was installed
Ever since I heard jazz guitarist Ed Bickert play his Telecaster, and marveled at his tone, I have been obsessed with the idea of playing jazz on a Telecaster as opposed to a traditional jazz archtop. Ed uses a Tele with humbuckers, and although I have in the past tried the semi-hollow Tele Thinline with neck humbucker, the tone doesn't quite cut it. The tone was too airy. It's still possible to play jazz on the standard pickup of a Tele, and many have done it. But recently I heard about Jason Lollar's hand-wound neck pickup for the Tele based on the one used by Charlie Christian, the grand daddy of all jazz guitarists. Sound Alchemy in Singapore ordered one for me, and they also did the modifications for the installation of the pickup. The pickguard had to be cut due to the Charlie Christian's unusual shape, and it took about a week. I would describe the tone obtained as buttery yet with a bite, and with ringing sustain due to my Tele's brass bridge and wood. Being only 6.8 lb light when most Teles are between 7 to 7.5 lb, my Tele does have an intrinsically good tone as the Ash wood has probably dried out. Would I use this guitar as my main guitar for jazz? Well, not really.. Sometimes you still need the sound of a full hollow-bodied archtop like the Gibson ES-175, fat, mellow and full of overtones. That's what has been and will always be the quintessential tone for mainstream jazz. But for easy listening light jazz, a Tele neck pickup's tone does have a more comtemporary sound.
The first five songs on the SoundClick MP3 player that you see in the right-hand side bar of this web page are songs played with this Tele and it's neck pickup. All the songs were done impromptu, in one take and with no reference to chords or notes [I can't read music anyway]. Some off-notes are discernible and botched fingerings due to lack of practice. The recording volume was not fine-tuned, as a result the sound reproduction quality is poor with higher and louder notes breaking up. The other songs down the list were played using various other guitars including the Gibson ES-175, ES-335, Ibanez George Benson 200, Eastman 810, other Teles and a Maestro Acoustic.
Technical Notes:
Guitar: MIM Fender Road-Worn 50s Telecaster
Neck Pickup: Lollar Charlie Christian. See
Amplifier: Acoustic Image Coda. See
Speaker Cab: Raezer's Edge Nighhawk. See
Cable: Core-X2. See
Pick: V-Pick see
Backing Band: Band-In-A-Box:
Recorded with Edirol Roland R-09 hand-held MP3 recorder
One regret: No Thomastik-Infeld strings. I ran out of them and as nobody in Singapore sells them they need to be bought online. See

1 comment:

  1. A very sweet looking Telecaster indeed! Oh and all of a sudden I'm feeling all the GAS. Those strings look pretty thick though, what gauges are you using?
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