Hola, muchachos! This week I’m going to tell you about my new favorite toy: the Fender Baja Telecaster! This week’s blog even comes with color-coded diagrams because I’m trying really hard to look smart and organized this year. See? See how organized I am?!!
Like I said, I’ve found a new friend in the Baja Tele and would like to do a little piece on it; basically, to cover why it’s cool and what actually makes it inherently different from a standard or a thinline or whatever the heck else kind of tele that’s out there. First, let’s dive into the tech end of the pool and talk about the Baja’s special features…
Baja Tele Wiring: Series, Parallel, & Phase Reversal Options
Now, a typical tele has two single-coil pickups, one in the bridge and one in the neck position. These pickups can be selected in different combinations with a traditional 3-way switch and are wired up in parallel. Now, if you’re unfamiliar with that concept, I’m going to give you the quickest version of what it means (as far as guitar pickups are concerned). When talking about two single-coil pickups in their simplest form, you can wire them together in either one of two ways: in parallel, or in series. To wire them up in parallel is to wire them up positive-to-positive and negative-to-negative, sending the positive signal to the output and the negative signal to ground…
…You’ll find that this is the stock way most single-coil guitars like strats and teles are wired up. However, a very common modification (and something that is now becoming more readily available in stock instruments) is to have your pickups wired up in series, which is essentially to straight on daisy-chain them positive-to-negative/positive-to-negative…
…Why would you want to bother with this? Well, the tonal results can be quite interesting for your guitar. As far as setting up a tele in series as opposed to in parallel, the result can be quite substantial: a standard telecaster (wired up in parallel) is the tone we’re all familiar with: bright, twangy, not a lot of mid-range punch, a tone most commonly associated with single-coils in general. Now, should you wire up a telecaster in series, you’ll find a significant difference; mainly, a much punchier mid-range, a fuller frequency response, and a more noticeable amount of output from your pickups…almost (but not quite) a humbucker sound!
The Baja Tele not only has incorporated series wiring, but is set-up in order to allow you to switch between both series and parallel configurations. Instead of the typical 3-way switch configuration, the Baja adds a fourth blade position allowing you to suddenly flip your pickups into series, giving you a more robust sounding tele just like that:
So, pretty cool, right? Not only do you get your traditional telecaster tone, you can also beef up your sound if the need arises, making the already quite versatile tele into a nearly do-it-all instrument. But it actually doesn’t even stop there: the Baja tele also allows you to reverse phase on one of your pickups in positions 2 and 4:
The result is a change in tone, but almost in the opposite direction. Say you want a thinner, trebly-er sound than the traditional tele sound. A push button on your volume knob allows you to access gentler, spankier tones when you flip your switches again. So you can take your traditional sounding tele and go either one of three routes:
- Traditional twang and bluesy tones
- Punchy, beefy rock
- Gentler, spankier ambient funk
…All at the flip of your switch or the press of a button, all in one guitar, thanks to some clever wiring. The thing is pretty cool to muck around with and explore all the different combinations.
Now to get to the simpler, more practical stuff about the guitar itself. The thing plays like a classic telecaster, and if you’re anything like me, that’s a good thing! It’s got a good, fast neck and feels great in your hands and plays without having to fight it. Aesthetically, it’s a great, simple guitar. Pretty much everything you want from a telecaster plus all your secret new tricks.
- Custom Shop Single-coil Broadcaster in bridge, "Twisted" tele single-coil in neck
- Soft "v" maple neck, maple fingerboard
- Ash body with polyester finish
- Available in either blonde, black, or 2-tone sunburst (Our's is blonde)
So hopefully you learned something today and I have also succeeded in inspiring you to come on down to the shop and give the Baja a test-drive. If you’re a fan of telecasters and are interested in making your rig even that more versatile, or if you’re just looking for an all-around awesome instrument, this may be your holy-grail. Only one way to know for sure!
(And, if you have more questions about parallel/series mods or phase reversal, feel free to bug us about it. We’re happy to inform the curious!)
Stay excellent and have a good week!