When you think of a Telecaster, the first genres that come to mind are probably jazz, country, blues, and light rock. Metal would probably be the last genre anyone associates with a Tele.
But why is that? There are no rules that say you can’t play metal on a Telecaster. And you are absolutely right. You can play metal on them. In fact, here are a few of the best Teles and Tele style guitars specifically for playing metal.
Best Telecasters for Metal - Powerful Axes
Table of Contents
- Best Telecasters for Metal - Powerful Axes
- What Makes a Tele Great for Metal?
- Important Things to Look for in a Metal Tele
1. Fender Jim Root Signature
Fender guitars aren’t normally associated with metal. But Jim Root of Slipknot has proven that Fenders are more than capable of playing heavy music.
Root’s signature Telecaster is not just a great Fender, but a fantastic guitar for metal. All while being familiar for anyone who has played a Tele.
Yes, this guitar is pretty much your standard Tele with some different pickups. The EMG 60 and 81 turn it into a completely different guitar, though.
These pickups give the guitar a very thick, heavy distorted sound. But they are also quite tight to keep that distorted sound clean. Notes don’t bleed into each other, and chords sound full and clear.
I even like the clean tone of these pickups, something I can’t always say about EMGs. The cleans are crisp, clear, and vibrant. Perfect for the odd Slipknot acoustic song like Snuff.
There isn’t a tone control, unfortunately. That means you are limited to the guitar’s fairly midrange focused tone.
I appreciate that Fender has put locking tuners on this guitar. This helps to keep your strings in tune during aggressive playing. Locking tuners aren’t usually standard on Fenders, but are needed on a metal focused guitar.
2. Charvel Pro-Mod So-Cal Style 2
Charvel makes some really outstanding Tele style guitars. The Pro-Mod So-Cal Style 2 might just be their best.
I think this guitar really lives up to the ‘Pro-Mod’ in its name. You can shape the tone almost any way you want through the 3-way pickup selector and three different voicings. These voicings are selected with the switch that sits between the tone and volume knobs, and the push/pull tone knob.
This gives you a wide variety of different tones to choose from. You can set up the perfect tone for fat, chunky metal riffs, then switch to a blistering lead tone with the flick of a switch.
The tones themselves are also fantastic. Fat, warm, and aggressive distortion is accompanied by crisp, sweet cleans.
The Pro-Mod is a very comfortable guitar to play. The body has all the right contours to make the guitar sit snug against your body, your arm rest while picking, and make reaching the high notes a breeze.
Charvel has also added a few conveniences to the guitar that I like. The batteries for the active pickups are easily swapped out at the back without the need to unscrew anything.
They have also put the cable jack at the back of the guitar. This helps to keep your cable completely out of the way.
3. Schecter PT Pro
Schecter has been making some exceptional guitars the last few years. So, a Tele style guitar from them should be great, right?
The PT Pro is nothing short of fantastic. This is one of Schecter’s best, and one of the best Tele style guitars in general.
The build quality of the guitar is incredible. It actually feels like a guitar twice the price. Everything from the wood, to the finish, to the hardware is just top notch. It doesn’t feel like Schecter has cut any corners here.
The sound is just as incredible as the build quality. This is a guitar with quite a lot of attitude. The tone is mean and dirty.
I do think the tone of the PT Pro leans a bit more to the hard rock side of things. You can definitely get some fat, metal tones out of it. But it isn’t quite as heavy as some of the other guitars on this list.
One cool feature, that I actually discovered by accident, is that the fret markers on the side of the neck glow in the dark. This is obviously to help you keep track of where you are on the fretboard on a dark stage.
4. ESP LTD TE-1000
If you are looking for a guitar that can do metal, then ESP is one of the best brands around. And if you are looking for a Tele style metal guitar, look no further than the LTD TE-1000.
This is an incredibly well made and comfortable guitar to play. The body sits comfortably and the neck is smooth and fast.
The Extra Jumbo frets and near flat radius make the neck very easy to play. But I like that ESP has gone a bit further and made the frets from 17 and up scalloped. This makes play the higher frets, especially bending, much easier.
The TE-1000 has a fairly dark tone. It is also quite tight and snappy. This makes it perfect for modern metalcore that has a fairly tight sound.
There is more than enough crunch on offer here to give you nice and heavy riffs. The tone is just much more controlled to make notes sound cleaner.
The clean tone is also quite dark. There isn’t any of that Tele sparkle really present on this guitar. The coil tap does add some brightness. I also found that switching to the single coil mode made riffs and chords a bit crunchier as well.
5. Squier Contemporary Telecaster RH
Squier has always been the go-to for budget Strats and Teles. Now, they also seem to be a great option for budget metal guitars with the Contemporary Telecaster RH.
Right off the bat, this guitar doesn’t feel quite like an ordinary Squier. It is a bit heavier, but also just feels more high quality.
That doesn’t mean everything is high quality, though. I would certainly consider replacing the tuning machines and the nut with some more high quality ones. The tone is nothing but great on the other hand. This is one of the best sounding Squiers I have played on in a while.
The cleans are nice and bright, with enough character to make them sound lively. It has a very crunchy gain sound, and can go very heavy for a great metal sound.
While both pickups are great, the real standout is the SQR Rail bridge pickup. This thing is absolutely incredible. I was just blown away by how well this pickup cuts. Chugging Drop D riffs sound just fantastic, and even more complex chords ring out beautifully.
Of course, don’t expect this guitar to sound quite like any of the others on this list. But if you want a budget chugger, this guitar is going to be a sure win.
6. G&L Tribute ASAT Deluxe
G&L guitars are probably the best Fender-like guitars around. That isn’t too surprising considering Leo Fender himself is one of the company’s founders. That makes the G&L Tribute ASAT Deluxe one of the best Tele-like guitars.
The Tribute is a gorgeous guitar. It reminds me quite a bit of a PRS in both looks and sound. That is actually the best way I can describe it. It is a mix of a Fender Tele and a PRS SE Standard.
The neck feels similar to a Tele, fast and smooth. While the body feels like that of a PRS, just in the shape of a Tele. Tone is the same. It has that Tele spank, but has a more aggressive, crunchy tone.
The tone is quite warm, but with a nice touch of brightness to it. It is also quite boomy, without sounding too bass heavy. Activating the coil tap gives it more of a midrange tone, but turns up the attitude to 11. This guitar really screams in single coil mode.
Just like the Schecter PT Pro, I think the Tribute falls more in the hard rock category. It doesn’t have quite the modern metal sound, but if you are looking for a great 80s metal tone, this is the guitar for you.
7. ESP LTD TE-200
The ESP LTD TE-200 is the little brother of the TE-1000. But it is a little brother that packs quite the punch.
The TE-200 is actually quite similar to the TE-1000. The body and neck feel almost identical, to me at least. The big difference is with the controls. The TE-200’s control layout resembles that of a traditional Tele.
The TE-200 features separate coil taps on both the volume and tone knobs. This means that the neck and bridge pickup are split separately. This gives you some added versatility, because you can configure your pickups however you want. Two single coils, a bridge humbucker and neck single coil, etc.
The TE-200 doesn’t have the dark tone of the TE-1000. It is much brighter, making it sound more like a Tele. Its distortion sound is also a bit dirtier. There is more chunkiness on the TE-200, and it isn’t as tight and controlled as the TE-1000.
It reminds me of that dirty distortion many metal bands were using in the mid 2000s, early 2010s. The TE-1000 has a cleaner, tighter late 2010s, 2020s sound.
The TE-200 is an excellent guitar for anyone who wants to start playing metal. But more advanced metal guitarists will get just as much of a kick out of it.
What Makes a Tele Great for Metal?
The way Telecasters are designed actually makes them quite ideal for playing metal. These features have been incorporated into many other metal guitar designs. They are also a big reason for why many metal guitarists have turned to Teles and Tele style guitars.
Because of their lightweight and fairly slim body, Teles are very comfortable guitars. They fit snugly against your body, and their weight makes them comfortable to play for long periods while standing.
Metal focused guitars are often quite heavy and bulky, making them less than ideal for playing while standing.
Ideal Neck for Technical Playing
Since metal is usually a very technical genre to play, you need a neck that allows you to play complex and fast parts. Tele necks have a tapered C shape. This makes them ideal for fast and smooth playing.
They also have a 12” radius, making them flat. A flat fretboard allows for more accurate playing, as well as making bends easier to do. Their scale length is also 25.5”. This puts them in the long scale length range.
Longer scale length necks have wider fret spaces. These wider fret spaces offer more accurate and efficient playing.
Teles also have quite a deep cutaway where the neck and body meet. This deep cutaway makes it easier to reach the high notes at the bottom of the neck.
Since metal solos often rely on playing these high notes, being able to reach them easily is very important. This is especially important if you want to reach the high notes on the low strings.
Important Things to Look for in a Metal Tele
Of course, just because Teles are ideal for metal playing, doesn’t mean they are going to sound good with a lot of distortion.
If you are going to buy a Tele for metal, you should consider the following things:
The most important thing is to get a Tele that has humbucker pickups.
Humbuckers are ideal for metal since they are much higher output than single coils. You need high output pickups to be able to handle all the distortion you are going to be using.
Humbuckers also cancel out 60 cycle hum. When you are playing with a lot of distortion, if you still have 60 cycle hum on top, you are going to be dealing with a very messy noise.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t use single coils. But don’t get a Tele that only has single coils.
The best option is to get a Tele with humbuckers, but also a coil tap. A coil tap basically ‘splits’ the humbucker, turning it into a single coil, but without the 60 cycle hum.
All of the guitars in this article have a coil tap. So, any of them will do. As for other Teles, make sure they have a coil tap if you want the option of using the pickups like single coils.
Since you are likely going to be playing very aggressively, you want your strings to stay in tune.
Locking tuners are pretty much a must have on any metal guitar. These help to keep your strings in tune after heavy strumming, picking, or bending.
This isn’t going to affect your tone or playing, but it is going to make life a bit easier. You don’t want to have to retune your strings after every song.
The Telecaster is no longer confined to genres like country and jazz. Many guitarists have shown that they are more than capable for metal. This has also lead to Teles and Tele style guitars to become more and more popular among metal guitarists.
I love Teles and metal. And having two of my favorite things join in such a great way is absolutely fantastic.