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You don’t need to spend much money to experience a Telecaster’s classic twangy tone and versatile, smooth playability.
Known for its signature twangy tone, lightweight design, and undeniable versatility, the Fender Telecaster is an icon amongst solidbody electric guitars. The unprecedented success of this guitar has led many manufacturers to imitate the design.
Guitarists on a tight budget may feel disheartened by the considerable cost of most Fender-made Telecasters, but the good news is that there are many budget Teles available.
Whether you’re a beginner and want to improve your skills on cheap Telecaster style guitars, or you simply want to improve your tone without spending a lot of money, you’ll find an option to suit your needs in our guide.
In a Rush Roundup
How We Tested
The testing process of these affordable Telecasters and Tele copies first involved assessing the build quality of the guitar. We analyzed the materials and components to judge aspects such as intonation, tuning stability, and longevity.
Next, we tested the sound of each cheap Tele style guitar through a variety of amplifier types, effects pedals, and using different recording techniques. This allowed us to get a clear picture of the tonal and dynamic qualities of these axes.
Best Budget Telecaster Reviews
If you’re looking for the cheapest Fender Telecaster, the Player Series model is the guitar for you. It’s considerably cheaper than the other Teles that Fender manufacturers, but it still feels and sounds amazing.
With the classic fast-playing modern “C” shaped neck which is made from maple, this guitar allows you to switch between chords, melodies, riffs and licks effortlessly.
When designing the Player Series guitars, Fender tweaked its designs and reverted to many of the features found on its vintage models. This can be seen with the retro body shape and style of this Telecaster.
Fender chose to combine these vintage aspects with some more modern features, which include having 22 frets on the neck, a bridge that encourages maximum note to sustain, and of course, a pair of Alnico V single-coil pickups.
- Alder body
- Modern “C” profile maple neck
- 2 x Fender Player Series Alnico V single-coil pickups
- Classic Fender feel and sound
- Exceptional intonation and tuning stability
- Well rounded frequency range, with singing highs
- The neck pickup sounds fairly aggressive
In recent years, Fender has invested more time into its sibling company, Squier’s guitars, and basses. This has resulted in a significant improvement in the quality of guitars offered by this affordable brand.
The Affinity Series Telecaster boasts a wide range of features and components you’d expect to find on a more expensive guitar. For example, it has a pair of Fender-designed Ceramic humbucker pickups.
These pickups give the Telecaster Deluxe a thick, smooth tone, that can be transformed by combining the guitar with a distortion pedal or overdriven tube amp.
Moreover, the tonewood blend used to construct this guitar is also impressive for such an affordable Tele. With a responsive laurel fingerboard that houses 21 frets and a “C” profile maple neck, this guitar plays exceptionally well.
Squire’s Telecasters provide guitarists with a great way to enjoy the classic Fender feel without having to spend a small fortune. This Affinity Series model is excellent for the price.
- Poplar Body
- “C” profile maple neck
- 2 x Fender Ceramic humbuckers
- Thick, creamy tone
- Great for switching between rhythm and lead parts
- Particularly warm and prominent midrange
- Four-pot design can seem a little overcomplicated
When designing the PT Pro, Schecter chose to use alder for the body material. This is an interesting choice, as it increases the resonance of the guitar, making it better suited for ringing out chords.
Combined with the quilted maple veneer top, the alder body delivers a modified Tele-style tone that is captivating and slightly unusual – in a good way!
The Schecter PT Pro is ideal for fast-playing guitarists who like to utilize the full scope of the fingerboard. Its thin “C” profile neck is made from roasted maple, as is the fingerboard which contains 22 extra-jumbo frets.
With a pair of Schecter USA Z-Plus humbucker pickups installed, you can achieve everything from smooth-sounding chords to energetic lead playing with this cheap Tele-style guitar.
It also has coil-splitting capabilities, which allow you to enjoy both single-coil and humbucker tones by simply flicking a switch. If you’re looking for versatility, this guitar is a great choice.
- Alder body
- Maple neck and fingerboard
- 2 x Schecter USA Z-Plus humbucking pickups with coil-splitting
- Tele style guitar that is great for metal and heavy rock
- Good note definition
- Twangy low-end cuts through the mix
- Coil splitting deviates from traditional Tele design
In 1972, Fender released one of its most ambitious electric guitar models to date. The Thinline Telecaster was designed to cater to the needs of the heavy rock and metal guitarists that had emerged around that time.
Squire has paid homage to that instrument by recreating an affordable version of it with the Classic Vibe ‘70s Tele Thinline. This guitar looks incredibly similar to the original, with the eye-catching F-hole carved into the maple body.
The three main parts of this Tele – the body, neck, and fingerboard, are all made from maple. This increases the clarity and warmth of the guitar’s tone and causes the low-end to be more focused than most Telecasters.
In the neck and bridge positions, there are identical Fender-designed Wide Range humbucker pickups. This is consistent with the pickups used in the original Thinline Tele.
It’s surprising how many musicians don’t know that Fender has produced several semi-hollowbody versions of the Telecaster, but this Squire copy will help to change that in the coming years.
- Maple body, neck, and fingerboard
- Unique F-hole design
- 2 x Fender Wide Range Humbuckers
- Good access to the highest frets
- The resonant tone is great for rhythm guitar
- Makes forming chord shapes easier
- F-hole design may not suit all tastes
After leaving the company that he started many decades ago, guitar pioneer and icon of the music world, Leo Fender felt that he wasn’t quite finished yet. G&L provided him with the platform to release more guitars, with one being this Tribute Asat Classic.
When you analyze the design of the G&L Tribute ASAT Classic guitar, it’s clear that it shares many attributes with the Fender Telecaster. The single-cutaway body style, with the bolt-on neck and “C” profile neck, are all present.
There are, however, some key differences between this G&L guitar and Fender’s Telecasters. Firstly, by using sassafras for the body, G&L has significantly changed the tone that the guitar produces.
Compared to more common tonewoods like maple and alder, sassafras is slightly more unpredictable. It produces thick midrange frequencies, a tight bass, and most noticeably, singing highs.
Not only did Leo Fender design the bulk of the guitar, but he also designed the pickups. Opting for a pair of high-output single coils, he has created a similar tone to the modern telecaster, with slightly more aggression.
- Sassafras body
- Maple neck and fingerboard
- 2 x G&L ASAT Classic MFD single-coil pickups
- Designed by Leo Fender
- Great for country, rock-n-roll, and blues guitar
- Sounds incredible through a tube amp
- The strong attack may not suit all styles
The fact that the Fender Telecaster hasn’t changed too much over the past 70 years speaks volumes about the quality of the original designs. The models made in the 1950s are simply legendary, both in terms of their tone and their stunning designs.
Squire’s Classic Vibe ‘50s Telecaster is an affordable option for vintage guitar lovers. It features some recognizable components from the real model, from the vintage tuners to the black pickguard.
Tonally, this cheap Tele is tailor-made for country twang. Combined with some tremolo through a Fender tube amp, it sounds incredibly good when you consider the price.
Fender’s Alnico single-coil pickups are installed in the bridge and neck positions, providing the authentic, original Tele tone. The warm midrange is perfect for chords and rock n’ roll riffs.
- Pine body
- Maple neck and fingerboard
- 2 x Fender Alnico single-coil pickups
- Realistic recreation of the original 1950s Telecasters
- Warm, vintage tone
- Increased fingerboard radius for easier string bending
- Lacks the high output required for heavy rock or metal
Cheap Telecasters and Tele Copies Buyer's Guide
The legacy of the Telecaster is evident in every style of popular music. It has continued to be one of the most popular guitar models for over 60 years since it was first released to the masses.
Although most modern affordable Tele style guitars stay true to the original design, manufacturers may include some unique components to make their models stand out amongst the other options.
Cheap Telecasters and guitars based on the Tele design are a great choice for beginner guitarists who want to improve their skills on a highly playable instrument.
In the following sections of our guide, we will highlight some of the key aspects of affordable Telecasters that you should look out for when deciding which model is right for you.
Things To Consider When Buying
Consider the pickups
The Fender Telecaster traditionally has a pair of single-coil pickups, but these Tele copies may have a different configuration. If you want to achieve the classic Tele tone, look for an SS pickup configuration, but if you want to mix things up, you can choose an alternative option.
Think about tonewoods and materials
Just because these Telecaster guitars are more affordable doesn’t mean the tonewoods used to construct them are always of a lesser quality than full-priced models. You can still get cheap Teles with rosewood fingerboards, maple necks, etc.
Identify the Tele tone you want to produce
Over the years, the Telecaster has been used for everything from indie rock to heavy blues. Having an idea of the tone you’d like to produce with an affordable Tele will allow you to look out for certain designs and features.
Consider the aesthetics
Telecaster-style guitars mostly share the same body shapes, neck profiles, and other features. However, they come in various colors, so considering the design that will blend with your existing gear is always a good idea.
Essential Qualities of a Tele-Style Guitar
As proven by the selection of brilliant guitars featured in this guide, you don’t need to spend all your savings to acquire a Telecaster or a guitar that uses the Tele design.
Traditionally, the Telecaster is associated with warm, twangy lead playing or energetic rhythm guitar playing. Its versatility is one of the reasons this guitar has remained so popular over the past six decades.
When choosing your Tele-style guitar, you should focus on whether it complements your playing style.
Fender produces some great cheap Teles, some released under its sibling company, Squier. These guitars come with different pickup configurations and are built using different materials.
If you’re looking for an authentic Tele playing experience, I’d recommend considering a model by Fender or Squier.
On the other hand, some guitars made by other manufacturers have a very similar physical design to the Telecaster, which can be a great alternative.
Fender-designed Telecasters commonly have pickups installed that are also made by the legendary American manufacturer. Likewise, Fender uses a lot of its pickups on Squier Teles.
Other brands that create Tele-style guitars, such as Schecter and G&L, also use their own pickups, which give the instruments a different sound than Fender-designed Telecasters.
One of the reasons that the Telecaster is renowned for being such a versatile guitar is that it can be used with various pickup configurations. Most commonly, Fender installs two single-coil pickups to create the signature Tele twang.
However, some Tele copies use two humbucking pickups instead. This alteration has a dramatic effect on the tonality of the solidbody guitar.
A Tele-style axe with two humbuckers sounds fatter than one with a pair of single coils, and the frequency output is likely to be more consistent with less emphasis on the upper midrange.
A pair of hot-sounding single-coil pickups with Alnico magnets will achieve the classic Tele tone that has graced many great songs over the years.
Tele Copy Neck Profiles
Traditionally, the Fender Telecaster has sported a medium “C” profile neck, but some variations have been tested over the years that have yielded interesting results.
The modern “C” profile is a highly playable option for guitarists who want to switch between different playing styles rather than focusing predominantly on playing lead or rhythm parts on their Tele.
A good option for guitarists who like to move up and down the frets quickly is the thin “C” profile neck, which promotes maximum dexterity and smooth transitions between hand shapes.
Cheap Telecasters and Tele Copies FAQs
Why do Telecasters Sound Twangy?
The tone of a Fender Telecaster is often described as “twangy” due to its distinctive country sound. Tele pickups are mounted onto a metal plate, which makes them sound more pronounced and with an enhanced midrange.
Another reason for the signatureTelecaster tone is because it has a naturally bright sound. When the strings are plucked or strummed with lots of attack, it produces a desirable twang.
Is it Easier to Play a Strat or Tele?
Fender’s two most popular solidbody guitars have been compared for many decades, but the Stratocaster comes out on top regarding playability. However, tonally, the Telecaster is the more versatile of the two electric guitars.
The Stratocaster’s design makes it extremely comfortable to hold, which is why it’s preferred by many blues guitarists who care mostly about feel. The Tele, on the other hand, is also highly playable and is a great all-rounder for different styles and genres.
What Style of Music is a Telecaster Good For?
The Fender Telecaster has been used for just about every genre of guitar music you can think of, from rock to indie, to jazz. It’s a highly versatile guitar that isn’t limited to one style, thanks to its diverse tonality and effortless playability.