So the Stratocaster is gone. I don’t miss the guitar really since I didn’t enjoy playing it, but certain parts of its design I do miss. I liked the belly cut and forearm cut. It had a nice neck with a nice rosewood board. And I loved that vintage white colour with the 3 ply pickguard. But because of that one volume knob it’s gone. Well not really just because of that knob. I wasn’t a fan of a few things on that guitar; you can read my “Why I Don’t Like the Stratocaster” post for the reasons if you’re
interested in my ramblings.
I did some looking around and some researching and narrowed it down a bit. I Tooke one last look on Kijiji and saw a Squier Vintage Modified Tele Custom II for $250 with a hard case. I decided to go look at it and ended up picking it up. It’s black with the big black pickguard and a maple neck and maple fretboard. I’d never had a maple board guitar, so thought it would be something to try.
This is a good guitar. Like I said it has the maple neck and board, black probably basswood body with that big-ass pickguard. It is a string through body which some say isn’t technically a hardtail, but I like the bridge on this guitar. Nice and smooth to rest your palm on and muting is really easy. It has the same control layout as an LP, a pretty high quality switch on the upper bout and 2 tone and 2 volume knobs for the pickups. The neck on this guitar is good and straight, some wear on the back, a few dings and stuff. one scratch on the back of the body but otherwise looks great. The tuners seem good. The Strat had vintage tuners, where you put the string in the hole in the middle of the tuner and wrap it, this just has regular tuners. As with all of my guitars I’d like to change them out for locking tuners and it will always be something I will do in the future and never actually get around to.
The pickups in this guitar are really good. The reason I wanted the Custom II is it has Duncan Designed P90’s…and I love P90’s. These are quieter and sound clearer than the P90’s in my Epiphone Les Paul Special. The Epi sounds a big grittier but this one breaks up nicely and is way quieter when it comes to hum.
On a sidenote, I’ve always wondered what the hell Duncan Designed meant. Does someone from Seymour Duncan call the Squier plant in Indonesia and say “Hey, take a magnet and wrap some wire around it.” There you go, Duncan Designed. Anyway.
I had gone out and played a Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster, everyone raves about this guitar. The fit and finish were great on it, the sound was great and price was crazy. Why am I going to pay $600 for a Squier when I can pay $680 for a Fender Modern Player, or $500 or less for a used Fender MIM? One of those things I don’t understand and I have wandered off topic as usual.
Bottom line is I really like this guitar. I took off all the strings, contrary to many people’s advice and cleaned it up significantly. It was dusty and dirty and had obviously been played quite a bit. But the frets are in good shape and it looks great now. I thought the switch needed to be replaced, but I took it apart and cleaned it up and it works great. Good metal switch that feels solid. It’s a small thing but many cheaper guitars have a switch that feels like its spring loaded and always wants to return to middle. This switch has 3 distinct positions and is very solid. I might switch out the knobs, but that’s just an aesthetic thing. The ones on there are fine, the plastic kind of thin tall knobs that I think they say are Fender amp knobs. Like I said fine but I might switch ‘em out for chrome knobs. Also the input jack is really good, not cheap like most I’ve encountered. The nut hasn’t come loose, seems like all parts are metal. It just feels solid.
Most importantly the guitar sounds great. Even though it’s P90 pickups the bridge has that clear Tele sound. I’ve gone from hating bridge pickups to staying mostly on a tele bridge pickup, which is a very bright sounding pickup. It is an easy player with good action. Even though I’m not a big fan of 25.5” scale length this guitar feels comfortable to play. In my unscientific and questionable experience I think it’s because of the hardtail bridge, you can hold the guitar a little further back so the neck doesn’t feel as far away. I’d still like to pick up a 24” Mustang or Jag though…one day.
This guitar is definitely a keeper for the time being. My biggest complaint is the black colour, which of course is not a real issue. And I’ve decided I prefer a rosewood fretboard to maple. People say rosewood vs. maple produce different tone, or that maple is better because the wood is sealed so the upkeep is easier. All I know is I think rosewood looks better and it’s what I’m used to. If I played 2 guitars, 1 maple and 1 rosewood without looking I’m sure I couldn’t tell the difference which is why I’m counting this as an aesthetic preference. Please feel free to tell me why I’m wrong about this.
I do want to say here that I have played a lot of Squier’s and a lot of Epiphone’s. It seems to me like Epiphone’s are almost always pretty good to great and that Squier almost always knocks them out of the park. I went through a lot of phases during this process. I had a limited budget and went from saving up for a ‘real’ Fender to buying a new Squier or even a Yamaha I’ve considered to buying a used Squier so I could get a bass as well. Having played the Fenders and Squier’s a lot I just don’t see the quality difference. I know there are differences, but for a hobbyist like me the Squier’s are great playing guitars. And lots of people gig with Squier’s and Epi’s so they don’t have to risk their expensive guitars getting stolen or damaged. Like I mentioned above I think the problem Fender will run into is with the high-end Squier’s. When the cost of a high-end Squier is comparable to a low end Fender I know which way I’d go and there is no rational reason for it…it’s just having that Fender on the headstock.