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Telecasters with Humbuckers Guide

Telecasters with Humbuckers Guide
Latest posts by Gustavo Pereira (see all)

Telecasters – A Brief History and Overview of the Classic Design

The Telecaster is undoubtedly one of the most legendary guitars in the world. It was the first one that was successfully produced in large numbers, alongside the Esquire, a similar model. It did not have this name since its release in 1950. Initially, it was known as the Fender Broadcaster, but legal issues with Gretsch over a drum set with an identical name made them change to Telecaster in 1951.

Its design is one of the simplest in the electric guitar industry, but it works superbly well. It consists of a body made from ash, and a maple neck. The earliest ones had a maple fretboard, but nowadays you can find several different options in the market.

It was not until 1968 that Fender decided to try incorporating humbuckers into their Telecasters. They did it first with the Thinline model, a semi-hollow design in which the traditional single coils had been replaced with Fender’s first humbucking pickups ever, the Fender Wide Range humbuckers.

Telecasters are mainly known for their twangy, jangly sound, a lot of brightness, and a cutting tone in the bridge pickup. They are also able to deliver warm, round, and mellow tones with the classic lipstick tube pickup in the neck position, especially if you roll off some of the highs with the tone control.

However, when humbuckers were first released as an option with Telecasters, it changed the whole scenario. Now, you could obtain fatter, chunkier tones out of the same guitar, which still retains properties that make it sound like tele. Humbuckers do not have the humming noise that single coils are known for, and any player will appreciate noise reduction under any circumstances.

This guide will go over the main features of Telecasters with humbuckers, show you some of the most interesting models by Fender, Squier, and other brands that also develop T-Style guitars featuring humbucking pickups as an option.

Bottom Line Upfront

In summary, you should try a Telecaster with humbuckers if you already enjoy its traditional sound, but feel like you would benefit from having a more solid and denser tone. You can also look for models that feature a coil tap switch that allows you to get single-coil tones out of the humbuckers, adding to the overall versatility of the instrument.

The Main Types of Pickups: Single Coils, Humbuckers, and P90s

Just in case you are a bit unsure regarding the properties of the different kinds of pickups that you may find on electric guitars, we are going to take a quick look at the most common ones, which are single coils, humbuckers, and P90s. There are more types of pickups such as gold foils and other variations of the ones mentioned before, but you don’t see them very frequently.

Single CoilsSingle Coils

Single coils are the simplest of all pickups. They are commonly found on guitars such as the Stratocaster, Telecaster, Jaguar, or Mustang. They consist of a magnet with a copper wire wrapping. These pickups generally have a lower output in comparison to the other types that will be discussed next.

However, they sound bright, crisp, and snappy. These tonal properties make them excel in genres such as blues and country, which is why you see some of the guitars mentioned before so often in the hands of guitarists who play these styles.

However, single-coils have one big disadvantage in comparison to a humbucker, which is the higher noise and humming sound that you hear when you run your guitar through gain stages such as overdrive, distortion, or fuzz pedals. The distortion channel on your amplifier will also sound significantly noisier. In any case, these guitars are still widely used by rock guitarists such as Keith Richards.

Since they tend to sound a bit quieter or weaker than other pickups, you might want to try boosting your guitar signal with something such as a clean boost or a low gain overdrive with the volume up and the gain down for a nice kick that will fatten up your tone.


Humbuckers differ from single coils in one key aspect. They consist of a pair of coils that are wound and magnetized opposite from each other. This makes it so that the humming sound typically associated with single coils is canceled. Humbuckers are far quieter for this reason. However, it has other properties that will appeal to many players other than the reduced noise levels.

These pickups sound denser, fatter, and louder than single coils, and they handle distorted signals with ease too. This is the reason why you mainly see humbuckers on guitars marketed to rock and metal guitarists. If you want to use a heavily distorted and compressed signal, this is the type of pickup you should look for.

Many guitars with humbuckers have a coil tap switch installed, which allows you to split the coils and get a tone that is closer to a single coil. This adds a whole new level of versatility to an instrument, making it a reliable choice both for the studio and the stage.


You can think of P90 pickups as a beefed-up single-coil because it is essentially what they are. Standing somewhere in the middle between regular single coils and humbuckers, the P90 pickups have more volume than single coils but are not as loud as the average humbucker.

They sound spanky, a tad less bright than single coils, and they also have lower noise levels. Humbuckers still excel in noise reduction, though. Its pronounced mid-range makes them sound thick and vocal, and they easily cut well in a mix.P90

P90 pickups aren’t seen as commonly as single coils or humbuckers, but you can still find them in guitars such as the Gibson Les Paul Special and the Gibson SG Special. Both of these features only one pickup, but Les Pauls with a double P90 configuration are also very popular. Many people like to have a pickup configuration that includes a P90 and a humbucker, or a P90 and a single coil, for a wider sound palette in the same instrument.

What are the Advantages of Playing a Telecaster with Humbuckers?

When you play a Telecaster with humbuckers, you have a few more things to take into account that might work in your favor. For instance, one of the biggest advantages over single coils is that you have less noise while playing. Having reduced noise is always appreciated by any guitarist, and it comes in handy if you are planning to play with overdrive, distortion, or fuzz.

These kinds of pedals can easily push a guitar into feedback, and the noise levels are always higher with single coils. On Stratocasters, positions 2 and 4 are always less noisy because the two pickups being used are reverse wounded, which achieves the same canceling effect in humbuckers.

So, right off the bat, a Telecaster with humbuckers is probably going to be a more useful tool in the hands of a guitarist who tends to play with distortion, fuzz, and high gain in general. In any case, many musicians still do this with more traditional Telecasters that have single coils because they prefer the overall tone, even with the higher noise that comes with them.

Humbuckers have more output (they are louder), sound fatter, chunkier, and mellower when compared to single-coils. Because of this, jazz, rock, and metal guitarists tend to prefer guitars that have this kind of pickup. If you like the Telecaster sound, but you would rather have it slightly tweaked to incorporate some of these tonal properties, then you should try a model that features humbuckers.

Additionally, there are some very interesting options such as the Fender Telecaster Thinline, which has humbuckers and also features a hollow body design. Fans of legendary jazz guitars that were mostly hollow bodies will fall in love with the sound of this contrasting variant of the classic Telecaster.

In short, you will make the most out of this kind of guitar if you are into the design and the sound of the classic version, but feel like it is a little lacking in the departments that humbuckers tend to deal better with especially high gain.

What Brands Manufacture Telecasters with Humbuckers?


Fender invented the Telecaster in the early 50s, and it quickly became the world’s first mass-produced electric guitar. Leo Fender got it right with an extremely simple formula that has barely changed in over 70 years.

If you want the authenticity of the real thing, this is the guitar for you. In Fender’s catalog, the most famous examples of Telecasters with humbuckers are the Telecaster Deluxe and the Telecaster Thinline. The last one is particularly interesting due to its hollow body design that you don’t see on the Deluxe models. However, there are also other variations with distinct features.

Here are a couple of examples that might be interesting to check out:


Squier is Fender’s subsidiary brand, and it is an excellent option if you are not planning to spend a lot of money. Many of the Mexican-made guitars offer a great value for their prices and can become excellent guitars if you upgrade some of their components and have them set up properly. Apart from Fender and Squier, every other brand that manufactures a similar guitar will have its take on the Telecaster’s classic design.

Here are a couple of options from Squier that caught our attention:


Ibanez has been around for decades and it has earned an excellent reputation with amazing guitars from different kinds in all price ranges, and while it might not have a large number of guitars inspired by the Telecaster, it has some interesting options that could potentially find their place in your guitar arsenal. Check below for two examples of T-Style guitars made by Ibanez featuring a humbucker/single-coil configuration:


SuhrSuhr is arguably one of the best guitar brands in the scene nowadays. Their guitars start at a high price range, but each of their instruments leaves the factory in perfect playing conditions. They have some of the best luthiers in the business and use only premium materials that ultimately result in some of the finest instruments that you can buy today.
They have several different guitar shapes, including one based on the Telecaster. Here are a couple of examples featuring humbucking pickups that you will surely enjoy:


G&L Guitars was founded by Leo Fender after closing the deal in which he sold Fender to CBS in 1965. However, he only founded G&L in 1979. Since then, he’s committed to improving on his original designs, which resulted in the incorporation of new components and mechanisms that increased the comfort, playability, and tonal properties of the instruments.

Some of these innovations include the Dual-Fulcrum Tremolo, MFD Pickups, PTB Tone System, and the Saddle-Lock Bridge.

Below, you will find a couple of attractive options from G&L’s catalog of Telecaster-inspired guitars that also feature humbuckers.


Schecter was founded in 1976 and originally produced replacement parts for guitars from other brands like Gibson, but later started developing and manufacturing their instruments. They mainly focus on guitars that appeal more to metal and rock players, and most of their instruments have humbuckers and a more modern approach rather than traditional ones. Check out a couple of their Telecaster inspired guitars that have humbuckers in them:


Charvel is a brand mostly associated with rock and metal guitarists who favor blazing lead tones with lots of crunch and saturation. Many guitar legends such as Eddie Van Halen, Allan Holdsworth, and Randy Rhodes played Charvel throughout a substantial part of their careers. Their instruments are made in Fender facilities since they were bought by Fender in 2002. Their prices are not low at all, but their guitars look, sound, and feel amazing.

Check below for a couple of Telecaster-inspired guitars made by Charvel. Both of them feature humbucking pickups.

Some of our Favorite Telecasters with Humbuckers

This section of the guide is dedicated to providing you with some examples of the most interesting Telecasters and T-Style guitars that either feature dual humbuckers or a humbucker/single-coil pickup configuration. The term “Telecaster” refers only to Fender and Squier guitars since they are the only ones who can release guitars under that name. This is why the other guitars inspired by its design are referred to as “T-Style” guitars.

Some of these models are more faithful to the first Telecaster designs that featured humbuckers, while others are a modernized take on the classics, with different components such as a tremolo system. All of these guitars cover a very wide price range, so there should be something in here for everyone.

Fender Player Telecaster HH

The Fender Player Telecaster HH is one of the brand’s most interesting options for players who are looking for tele with humbuckers for under $1000. It also features a less common combination of woods, with an alder body (Telecasters traditionally have an ash body) and a Pau Ferro fretboard. The Dual Player Series alnico humbuckers should handle distortion easily, making this a great guitar choice if you play rock, metal, or any other genre that generally uses high gain.

One of its appealing features is the inclusion of a push/pull switch on the tone knob which splits the humbuckers to get a single coil-oriented sound.

Fender Player Telecaster HH

Main Features

  • Body: Alder
  • Neck: Maple
  • Neck Shape: C Modern III
  • Fretboard: Pau Ferro
  • Bridge: 6 saddle strings through the body
  • Fretboard Radius: 9.5″
  • Frets: 22
  • Pickups: Dual Player Series alnico humbuckers
  • Controls: Master volume, master tone, push/pull tone pot for coil split.

Pros and Cons


  • Coil split: The push/pull tone knob gives you another layer of versatility by allowing you to get humbucker and single-coil tones out of the same guitar.
  • Wood combination: The Pau Ferro fingerboard with a solid alder body makes for a more unique instrument that has its distinct tonal character.


  • No case: For its price tag, this guitar should come with at least a gig bag.


The Fender Player Telecaster HH is typically found for a price of around $880.

GuitarCenter – Fender Player Telecaster HH Pau Ferro Fingerboard Electric Guitar Silver

Fender Custom Shop 72 Telecaster Thinline Journeyman

Fender’s Custom Shop is known for producing some of the finest instruments in the world, with top-class luthiers with decades of experience and only the highest quality materials. This Telecaster is an absolute joy to play and has lots of premium features worth mentioning. For instance, its pickups are a recreation of the Seth Lover designed Wide-Range humbucker that was released in 1972.

This pickup requires materials that are hard to come by in substantial amounts, and their manufacturing involves a special building process that ultimately results in a pair of humbuckers with a strong, balanced and sweet tone that will blow you away each time you pick up the guitar.

The quartersawn AA grade flame maple neck is as strong as possible and feels just as good as it looks. This guitar also comes with a deluxe hardshell case, a strap, and a certificate of authenticity.

Fender Custom Shop 72 Telecaster Thinline JourneymanMain Features

  • Body: 2 pieces select ash hollow body with one f-hole
  • Neck: Tinted flame quartersawn maple
  • Neck Shape: ’60s oval C shape
  • Fretboard: Maple
  • Bridge: 6 saddle hardtail bridge
  • Fretboard Radius: 9.5″
  • Frets: 21, narrow-tall
  • Pickups: Dual wide-range CuNiFe humbuckers
  • Controls: Master volume, master tone

Pros and Cons


  • Build quality: The guitars that come out of the Fender Custom Shop are amazing, and their huge attention to detail can be noticed through the instrument’s sound and playability.
  • Sound: This Telecaster features premium quality woods, some of the best pickups on Fender guitars, among other characteristics that set it apart from most guitars that you typically see.


  • Price: This is one of the most expensive guitars that you can buy from Fender. Custom Shop prices can dissuade some players from buying, even though the instrument is nearly perfect.


As expected, the Fender Custom Shop 72 Telecaster Thinline Journeyman comes with a hefty price tag, in the $4000 ballpark.

GuitarCenter – Fender Custom Shop 72 Telecaster Thinline Journeyman Relic Maple Fingeboard Limited Edition Electric Guitar Aged White Blonde

Squier Classic Vibe ’70s Telecaster Thinline

The Squier Classic Vibe ’70s Telecaster Thinline is a fantastic guitar for its price. The Classic Vibe Series in general offers great instruments at a very fair price. These are made in Mexico, but they still play very comfortably and they can sound even better if you upgrade a few of its components. Many pros play guitars like these regularly since they are reliable and can sound just as good as some more expensive instruments.

This model features a gorgeous hollow body design that suits Telecasters very well, both aesthetically and in terms of sound. You can get it in a 3 tone sunburst finish, or in a natural finish.

Squier Classic Vibe '70s Telecaster Thinline

Main Features

  • Body: Poplar
  • Neck: Maple
  • Neck Shape: C shape
  • Fretboard: Maple
  • Bridge: 6 saddle strings through the body
  • Fretboard Radius: 9.5″
  • Frets: 21, narrow-tall
  • Pickups: Dual Fender-designed wide range humbuckers
  • Controls: Master volume, master tone

Pros and Conssquirer classic vibe


  • Value: For the price that is usually asked for this guitar, you are getting a phenomenal instrument that can be substantially better by simply upgrading a few inexpensive components and having it set up by a professional.
  • Looks: The Thinline is one of the most appreciated designs of the Telecaster. The hollow body design looks amazing and it also gives the guitar a unique sound.


  • No case: Although it is probably to keep the price low, a gig bag would be a nice addition to this guitar.
  • No coil tap: a push/pull switch on the tone knob would be a great feature, which would allow players to get even more unique sounds from the hollow body design and the pickup configurations that would be possible.


You should be able to find the Squier Classic Vibe ’70s Telecaster Thinline for about $490.

GuitarCenter – Squier Classic Vibe ’70s Telecaster Thinline Maple Fingerboard Electric Guitar 3-Color Sunburst

Squier Classic Vibe ’70s Telecaster Deluxe

The Classic Vibe ’70s Telecaster Deluxe by Squier is the perfect guitar for lovers of Telecasters who would like to have hotter pickups, more options to shape their tone, all in an accessible instrument. This guitar features 4 control knobs: 2 volume and 2 tone knobs, which offer you a larger degree of control over your sound. By having this instead of the usual master volume and master tone, you can combine the two Fender Designed alnico humbuckers in a million different ways.

By having dual humbuckers and a solid body design, this guitar will handle distortion and fuzz with ease, and should not go into feedback as easily as a traditional Telecaster would.

Squier Classic Vibe '70s Telecaster Deluxe

Main Features

  • Body: Poplar
  • Neck: Maple
  • Neck Shape: C shape
  • Fretboard: Maple
  • Bridge: 6 saddle strings through the body
  • Fretboard Radius: 9.5″
  • Frets: 21, narrow-tall
  • Pickups: Dual Fender-designed wide range humbuckers
  • Controls: Dual volume and dual-tone knobs.

Pros and Cons

squirer vibe classicPros

  • Controls: With this guitar, you get the same kind of controls that you typically get on Gibson models such as the Les Paul and the SG. You have individual volume and tone knobs for each pickup, which allow you to control your tone even better than before.
  • Classic design: The ’70s Series main objective is to give players the possibility of having a guitar that is heavily inspired by the original models that took the market by surprise when they were first released.


  • No coil tap: Again, having the possibility of getting single-coil sounds out of the guitar is always good, especially for players who do not own a Telecaster with the traditional pickup configuration.


The Squier Classic Vibe ’70s Telecaster Deluxe is usually priced around the $490 range.

GuitarCenter – Squier Classic Vibe ’70s Telecaster Deluxe Maple Fingerboard Electric Guitar Black

Charvel Pro-Mod So-Cal Style 2

Charvel makes some of the finest guitars for the rock and metal lovers of the community. They are all about modern, effective designs that ensure that their guitars feel as comfortable to play as possible while delivering gnarly screaming tones for blazing leads and powerful rhythm sections.

This model features a speed neck profile with a soft urethane finish that feels great to play, and it also has a Gotoh tremolo system, something that you do not see on T-Style guitars very often. Other interesting features include locking tuners, a Tusq nut, and a 12″-16″ compound neck radius.

Charvel Pro-Mod So-Cal Style 2

Main Features

  • Body: Ash
  • Neck: Maple
  • Neck Shape: Speed neck with rolled fingerboard edges
  • Fretboard: Caramelized maple
  • Bridge: Gotoh Custom 510 tremolo
  • Fretboard Radius: 12″-16″ compound radius
  • Frets: 24, jumbo
  • Pickups: Dual multi-voiced Fishman Fluence Open Core PRF-COC
  • Controls: Master volume, master tone with a coil tap switch

Pros and Conscharvel


  • Compound radius: The 12″-16″ compound radius fingerboard is meant to feel as comfortable as possible, regardless of the neck region you’re playing.
  • Tremolo: The Charvel Pro-Mod So-Cal comes equipped with a Gotoh Custom 510 tremolo bridge, a feature that you don’t usually see on T-Style guitars.


  • None: If you’re looking for a guitar to play fast shredding licks with a fast neck and easy upper fret access, then this guitar has got it all for you.


The Charvel Pro-Mod So-Cal Style is generally found for a price of around $1100.

GuitarCenter – Charvel Pro-Mod So-Cal Style 2 24 HH 2PT CM Ash Black Ash

G&L Tribute ASAT Deluxe

The G&L Tribute ASAT Deluxe is an affordable guitar that offers killer looks with its flamed maple top, and a modern approach to this timeless guitar design by Leo Fender. With G&L, he was able to incorporate some of his later improvements to the guitar’s hardware that we can also see on this model, such as the G&L Saddle Lock bridge. The pickups are designed by Paul Gagon and should have plenty of punch and sustain for any player who decides to take this guitar home.G&L Tribute ASAT Deluxe

Main Features

  • Body: Flamed maple top on mahogany body
  • Neck: Maple
  • Neck Shape: C shape
  • Fretboard: Rosewood
  • Bridge: G&L Saddle Lock bridge
  • Fretboard Radius: 12″
  • Frets: 22, medium-jumbo
  • Pickups: Dual Paul Gagon designed humbuckers
  • Controls: Master volume, master tone with a coil tap switch

Pros and Cons


  • Looks: If you are a fan of flamed maple tops, this guitar is an interesting option at an accessible price point.
  • Coil tap: This guitar can deliver a wide range of tones with its quality set of dual humbuckers that can also be split to get closer to a single-coil sound.


  • Frets: Some players report that the frets needed a little polishing, so there is a chance that you will want to take the guitar for a setup after getting it.


The G&L Tribute ASAT Deluxe guitar can be found for a price of around $500.

GuitarCenter – G&L Tribute ASAT Deluxe Carved Top Electric Guitar Transparent Red Rosewood Fretboard

G&L Tribute ASAT Classic Bluesboy

The G&L Tribute ASAT Classic Bluesboy will catch the attention of Fender Thinline fans since it is a T-Style guitar featuring a hollow body design. However, this one has a different pickup configuration from the Thinline model that was shown earlier in this section. The Classic Blueboy has a humbucker in the neck position and a single-coil in the bridge, just like Telecasters generally do.

The bridge pickup is an MFD pickup designed by Leo Fender, included in many of G&L’s guitars. You can get this guitar with maple or a rosewood fretboard.G&L Tribute ASAT Classic Bluesboy

Main Features

  • Body: Swamp ash semi-hollow body with twin voice chambers and one f-hole
  • Neck: Maple
  • Neck Shape: Medium C
  • Fretboard: Maple
  • Bridge: Traditional boxed steel bridge with individual brass saddles
  • Fretboard Radius: 9″
  • Frets: 22, medium jumbo
  • Pickups: Paul Gagon designed AS4255C alnico humbucker in the neck, G&L MFD single coil in the bridge
  • Controls: Master volume, master tone

Pros and Consgl tribute


  • Versatility: Having a humbucker and single-coil pickup configuration makes this guitar an excellent addition to anyone’s collection, as it can produce a very wide range of sounds.
  • Volume: Even unplugged, this guitar has a considerable amount of volume, which is due to its resonant woods and hollow body construction.


  • Feedback: A hollow body design will naturally go into feedback more easily than solid body guitars, so take that into account if you usually play with high gain distortion.


The Tribute ASAT Classic Bluesboy by G&L is usually sold for a price of around $600.

GuitarCenter – G&L Tribute ASAT Classic Bluesboy Semi-Hollow Electric Guitar Blonde Rosewood Fretboard

FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions about Telecasters with Humbuckers

Question: Are Telecasters With Humbuckers Better than Traditional Style Telecasters?

Answer: In some cases, Telecasters with humbuckers might do a better job than their counterparts that sport single coils. The fuller sound of a humbucker is appealing to players of several genres, and they work much better with a very distorted signal. A great option is to find a guitar with both kinds of pickups in the configuration that suits you best, or one that features a coil tap switch so that you can still get the best of both worlds in one guitar.

The best thing you can do is to try both kinds of guitar side by side if you can. Then you will be able to see how they handle your usual sound settings and playing style, helping you decide whether it is a better choice to go with humbuckers or the traditional configuration.

Question: What are the Best Telecasters With Humbuckers?

Answer: It is difficult to point out what is the best Telecaster with humbuckers. Not only there are many T-Style guitars from other brands that you can consider, but you should also take other factors into account. For instance, some have hollow bodies, others have active pickups that might not cater to all tastes, and some come with a coil tap switch that allows you to go back to a single-coil sound.

Because of this, you should first think about what kind of sound you are looking to obtain with the guitar, and narrow down the search from there. As always, it is best to try out as many different guitars as you can in music stores, as spec sheets don’t always give you enough information to make a conscious purchase that will meet your expectations in every aspect.

Question: What are the Advantages of Having a Telecaster with Humbuckers?

Answer: There are several advantages to having a Telecaster with humbuckers instead of single coils. Also, you can get a model which features one of each. You can find some with a humbucker in the bridge and a single-coil in the neck, and the opposite too.

Two of the main advantages are the reduced noise in comparison to single coils, and the ability to handle a heavily distorted signal without going into feedback as easily. This will leave the hard rock and metal guitarists tempted to try a Telecaster with humbuckers.

Even if you don’t usually play with a lot of distortion, you might still prefer the tone of humbuckers in general. For instance, most jazz players use guitars with humbuckers due to their warmer, rounder sound. In any case, many players such as Ted Greene used Telecasters with a normal configuration, so it is up to each player to see what sounds best to them.

Closing Considerations About Telecasters with Humbuckers

In short, a Telecaster with humbuckers is a great option for guitarists who are into the guitar’s design but feel like the single coils aren’t their pickup of choice. Having humbuckers will result in having less noise in your signal, and you will be able to use distortion pedals without having to worry too much about feedback and constant humming.

For increased versatility, some players appreciate varied pickup configurations, such as a humbucker and a single-coil, or maybe even a P90 instead of one of the pickups mentioned before. Alternatively, if you want to have dual humbuckers on your guitar, you can still look for a model that features a coil tap switch or install one yourself.

See if any of your favorite guitarists ever played Fender Telecaster Deluxe or Thinline guitars to get a better idea of their overall tone, or check Jim Root’s tones in Slipknot records for an idea of how a Telecaster can sound in a metal context with active pickups.

As always, when buying a new instrument, doing your homework online is great, but ultimately, the best way to figure out the perfect choice for you is to try out several guitars side by side in person.