Fender Guitars: The Most Iconic Models


Mar 10, 2023

Fender guitars have been one of the leading manufacturers in electric guitars for over the past 70 years. Throughout music history, the company has been famous for their electric guitars, bass guitars, amps, and other instruments. The company was founded by Leo Fender during the 1950s in Fullerton, California. Leo started out as a radio repairman during the 1940s but eventually gained an interest in making lap steel guitars and amps. Later during the late 1940s, he started making them under the brand name “Fender.” In 1950, Fender introduced the first solid body electric guitar which was called the Fender Esquire, then later the Broadcaster. It was eventually renamed to the Telecaster due to Gretsch producing drums of the same name.

Fender Telecaster:

Upon the Telecaster’s first release and appearance during the 1950 Namm show, many people criticized the look of the guitar, calling it a fly swatter. As we continued into the 1950s, many musicians picked up the Tele and it can be heard on countless classic records from the era including Stax and Motown. Some of the notable players who have played Telecasters include Roy Buchanan, Steve Cropper, Jimmy Page, George Harrison, Pete Townshend, Walter Becker, Bruce Springsteen, Johnny Marr, Andy Summers, Jonny Greenwood, and more.

Telecasters are known for their clarity and brightness. Its distinctive single-coil pickups create a crisp and sharp tone that can cut through a band or a recording mix. The Telecaster twang is also one of the most recognizable characteristics of the instrument. The sound comes from a blend between the bridge pickup, bridge design, and the ash or alder body construction. The twang has long been associated with the chicken-pickin country players out of Nashville to the surf sounds of Southern California. Despite it being associated with these genres, the Tele is incredibly versatile in multiple genres including rock, pop, jazz, r&b, and indie.

Fender Precision Bass:

The Precision was the first solid-body electric bass released in 1950. The design had more similarities to the Telecaster guitar as the headstock was similar to the guitar and the body design. Eventually in the late 1950s, the design changed to the stratocaster design that we all know and love today. The P bass has long been an industry standard for many musicians as it can be heard on many recordings from Motown to Stax. The instrument can also be heard in many genres including rock, blues, r&b, metal, and jazz. Some of the notable P bass players include James Jamerson, Carol Kaye, Duck Dunn, Bob Babbitt, John Entwistle, Paul Jackson, Roger Waters, John Deacon, Steve Harris, and Pino Palladino.

Precision basses are known for their deep and rich low-end response. The split-coil design, positioned near the middle of the bass, captures the resonance of the strings and brings a powerful bass presence. The P bass sound is also characterized by its punchy midrange frequencies, which gives the notes clarity and definition. The sustain of the P bass allows basslines to ring out and blend smoothly with the rest of the instruments in a mix. This makes it suitable for both melodic playing and supportive rhythm playing.

Fender Stratocaster:

In 1952, the Fender Statocaster was introduced, which featured a contour body, three single-coil pickups, and a tremolo system. From the surf rock scene to the psych rock era, the Strat had been a staple across multiple genres of music. With the popularity of Jimi Hendrix in the 1960s, he made the Stratocaster an iconic and influential guitar. Some other notable Strat players include Buddy Holly, Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Rory Gallagher, David Gilmour, Jeff Beck, Mark Knopfler, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Johnson, Yngwie Malmsteen, John Frusciante, and John Mayer.

The three single-coil pickups and five-way selector switch make the Strat one of the most versatile instruments out there. Guitar players can get bright and chimney in the bridge position, balanced and dynamic sounds in the middle position, and warm and mellow tones in the neck position. The Strat is known for its bell-like chime and sparkling high-end frequencies. The combination of the alder or ash body, maple or rosewood fingerboard, and single-coil pickups contribute to the bright tone. The guitar’s synchronized tremolo system allows for subtle vibrato effects and pitch modulation, which added a unique character to the sound.

Fender Jazzmaster:

Released in 1958, the Fender Jazzmaster came out as the company’s top-of-the-line guitar to compete against the archtop jazz guitars of Gibson. Instead of being a hollowbody, it was a solid body guitar that had an offset body with a floating tremolo system. Although the guitar was marketed towards jazz players, the instrument never caught on with those musicians. Eventually when it came to the 60s, surf musicians got a hold of Jazzmasters and it had become an iconic sound for that scene. The guitar had disappeared from the minds of everyday guitar players throughout the 70s and 80s, until the 1990s. During that time, alternative rock became part of the mainstream, and players such as J Mascis, Kevin Shields, Adam Franklin, and Gavin Rossdale. Today the Jazzmaster is now considered a classic within Fender’s guitar line with guitarists such as Troy Van Leeuwen and Adam Granduciel playing them regularly live.

The Jazzmaster is known for their warm and clear tones. The wide and fat single-coil pickups of the guitar contributes to a balanced frequency response that captures the full spectrum of the guitar's natural sound. The Jazzmaster's pickups and 25.5-inch scale length create the guitar’s signature jangly and sparkly tone. These tones make it a popular choice for players who want to achieve chimey and bright sounds.

Fender Jazz Bass:

The Fender Jazz bass (or J bass) was released in 1960 as a complement to the popular Precision bass. It was designed as a response to bassists who wanted a different tone and a sleeker, more comfortable body shape. Throughout the 60s, the Jazz bass gained popularity among bassists across many genres, including jazz, soul, funk, and rock. It’s brighter and more articulate tone became a favored choice for many bass players who wanted a distinctive sound. Some of the notable players of the Jazz bass include Bootsy Collins, Noel Redding, Larry Graham, John Paul Jones, Herbie Flowers, Jaco Pastorious, Geddy Lee, Marcus Miller, and Flea.

The Jazz bass are known for their two single-coil pickups, one positioned close to the bridge and one near the neck. This allows for tonal versatility, as you can solo either the neck and bridge pickups or blend the sounds together. You can get more defined low end sounds, scooped midrange, or bright and punchy sounds that can be great for slapping and popping. The slim-body had an offset body allowing for more comfortability when playing.