Gear Review: The Legendary Fender Guitars
Producer Essentials

Gear Review: The Legendary Fender Guitars

8 min

Fender guitars embody a legacy of sound and innovation cherished by musicians worldwide. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned player, this article unpacks the history, highlights the iconic models like the Stratocaster and Telecaster, and offers insights on selecting your perfect Fender — the instrument that may just define your musical voice.

Key Takeaways

  • Leo Fender’s innovations like the Telecaster and Stratocaster revolutionized both the guitar world and the music industry, driving the creation of new music genres and playing styles.
  • The modular design, choice of wood, and custom features like neck shapes and fret sizes in Fender guitars allow musicians to personalize their instruments for both longevity and distinct sound profiles.
  • Fender guitars have been pivotal in music history with iconic artists such as Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton utilizing their unique tones, and remain widely accessible today for players of all levels.

The Legacy of Leo Fender

Navigating through the annals of music history, one name resonates with a unique echo - Leo Fender. In 1938, Fullerton, California, became the birthplace of Fender, giving rise to an enduring legacy that began with servicing radios and eventually redefined the music industry. With an electronics background, Leo Fender ventured into creating his own amplifiers, eventually releasing a Hawaiian lap steel guitar in 1945, marking the beginning of the Fender Electric Instrument Company.

The company’s journey into guitar manufacturing began with the launch of its first model, the Esquire, in spring 1950. This pioneering model would evolve into iconic models like the Broadcaster and later the Telecaster, a favorite among guitarists worldwide. The innovation didn’t stop there. Fender introduced groundbreaking designs like the Precision Bass and the Stratocaster, ushering in a new era of music with the world’s first electric bass and a spring tension vibrato system.

Fast-forward to 1964, Fender solidified its classic lineup with the introductions of the American Vintage II series, featuring:

  • the Jazzmaster
  • Jazz Bass
  • Jaguar
  • Mustang

This further expanded Fender’s reach into the realm of acoustic guitars. Fender’s journey took a significant turn after being sold to CBS in 1965. This led to pivotal design and quality modifications that defined the ‘CBS era’, influencing musicians’ preference for pre-CBS instruments. However, the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation reemerged stronger in 1985 with a renewed focus on U.S. production and the introduction of the American Standard series.

Leo Fender’s influence extended beyond the creation of iconic guitar models. His innovative designs and amplifiers became hallmarks of the music industry, shaping music genres and artists worldwide. Each strum on a Fender guitar is a testament to Leo Fender’s enduring legacy that continues to resonate in every corner of the music world.

Anatomy of Fender Electric Guitars

Fender’s electric guitars, with their distinctive designs and technical features, have been captivating musicians and listeners alike for decades. Take, for instance, the Telecaster, which stands out with a single cutaway body, granting access to higher frets. On the other hand, the Stratocaster boasts a third pickup for a broader tone range and a spring-loaded tremolo system for pitch adjustment. Each guitar, with its unique features, offers a different musical experience, catering to the diverse needs of players around the globe.

A standout feature of Fender guitars is their modular construction, like the limited edition Telecaster with its interchangeable neck and body. This design allows easy replacement of parts, contributing to the instruments’ longevity. Imagine being able to keep your beloved guitar alive and kicking for decades, simply by swapping out parts as needed. It’s an instrumentalist’s dream come true! With Fenders, you can ensure your guitar’s longevity and maintain its unique sound.

But the magic doesn’t stop at the design. The choice of wood used in their construction also plays an integral role in defining the tonal qualities of Fender guitars. Whether it’s the resonant highs and strong lows of swamp ash or the balanced tone and sharp attack provided by alder, Fender’s choice of wood ensures that each strum resonates with perfection. Additionally, the string tree plays a crucial role in maintaining the guitar’s overall performance.

The Sound of Innovation: Fender's Impact on Music

The advent of Fender’s electric guitars ushered in a new era in the music industry. When the Telecaster, the first mass-produced solid-body electric guitar, hit the market, it resolved feedback issues common with hollow-bodied guitars. This revolutionary design allowed musicians to:

  • Amplify their sound more effectively during live performances and recordings
  • Experiment with fast, clean fretwork
  • Shape the genre’s acoustic and narrative style

The Telecaster’s crisp twang sound found its true home in country music, forever changing the landscape of music.

The 1950s saw the introduction of the Fender Stratocaster, which quickly became a rock ‘n’ roll icon. From the electrifying solos of Jimi Hendrix to the soulful melodies of Eric Clapton, the Stratocaster’s distinctive tone and versatile playability have left an indelible mark on popular music genres. But the Strat’s influence extends beyond music. It’s recognized as a cultural symbol, reflecting the optimism and innovation of post-war American society and the art scene.

Fender’s electric guitars are celebrated for their distinctive tonal qualities. Their clean and bright sound has made them a preferred choice among diverse musicians, underscoring the brand’s pervasive impact on the music industry. Whether you’re a jazz enthusiast or a rock and roll fanatic, a Fender guitar has the power to deliver the sound that resonates with your musical soul.

Choosing Your Fender: A Buyer's Guide

Embarking on the journey to purchase a Fender guitar is an exciting adventure. It’s not just about choosing an instrument; it’s about finding a musical companion that matches your playing style, preferences, and personality. The good news is, Fender’s extensive catalog offers a wide range of options to cater to every musician’s needs.

When choosing a Stratocaster, consider the body material. Traditional Strat bodies are made from alder and ash. Alder provides a balanced tone, while ash is known for its articulation and presence. The neck shape and fret size are also crucial factors. Most Stratocasters feature a ‘C’ shaped neck and a 9.5’ radius, but Fender also offers different shapes and radius measurements to suit individual playing styles.

Your choice between a maple or rosewood fingerboard can impact the tone of your guitar, with maple offering a brighter sound and rosewood a warmer tone. The size of the Stratocaster headstock, the electronics, and the type of tremolo systems are also essential considerations as they can significantly affect the range of tones your Stratocaster can produce. And let’s not forget about the weight. A Stratocaster’s weight, generally between seven and nine pounds, should match your comfort and preference, considering your build and playing style.

For beginners, the Fender Player Series Stratocaster is a great start. For advanced players seeking premium features, models like the American Ultra HSS and American Acoustasonic are worth considering. Price is also a key factor, with the Player Series starting under $700, and advanced models with intricate features reaching upwards of $1,999.

Caring for Your Fender

Once you’ve chosen your Fender, caring for it is paramount to ensure it continues to deliver that legendary sound for years to come. Regular cleaning is essential. Wipe the strings, neck, and bridge often with a lint-free cloth to remove dirt, dust, and oils. Remember, a well-maintained guitar not only sounds better but also feels better in your hands.

However, cleaning your Fender requires caution. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Avoid using glass cleaners, products with ammonia, abrasives, or silicon-based cleaners on finished wood surfaces to prevent damage.
  • Similarly, lacquer finishes should not be exposed to plastics, synthetics, or surgical rubber tubing, as found in some guitar stands and straps, due to adverse chemical reactions.
  • For the metal parts, a soft, dry polishing cloth will do the trick without the need for additional sprays or cleaning agents.

Regular cleaning isn’t just about maintaining the aesthetics of your Fender; it’s about preserving its sound quality. Establishing a routine care schedule for your Fender guitar is key to ensuring its longevity and keeping it looking and sounding its best.

Where to Find Fender Guitars

Ready to start your Fender journey? A new Fender guitar can be purchased directly from the Fender official website, offering a variety of models to suit every musician’s needs. Buying from the official online store may even come with promotional offers such as discounts on an annual play plan and gear purchases.

If you’re looking for pre-owned Fender guitars, Guitar Center is a great place to start. They offer used Fender guitars online and at various retail store locations across the United States. The Guitar Center website provides financing options for used Fender guitars, with detailed condition ratings and availability at specific store locations.

Fender Artists and Their Signature Sounds

Fender guitars have graced the hands of numerous legendary artists, each of whom has left their unique mark on music history. Renowned artists like:

  • Jimi Hendrix
  • Eric Clapton
  • Stevie Ray Vaughan
  • Jeff Beck
  • David Gilmour

have all chosen the Stratocaster as their instrument of choice, contributing significantly to the Fender brand legacy. These artists, distinguished by their unique playing styles, from Hendrix’s emotive performances to Clapton’s blues-rich tones and Gilmour’s atmospheric sounds, have crafted signature sounds that continue to inspire musicians worldwide.

The Telecaster, too, has been the instrument of choice for iconic musicians like:

  • Keith Richards
  • Muddy Waters
  • Buck Owens
  • Brad Paisley
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • Joe Strummer

These musicians have played pivotal roles in defining the versatility and enduring popularity of the Telecaster, using it to craft everything from Richards’ rock riffs to Owens’ country twang and Springsteen’s anthemic rock sound.

Whether you’re a Stratocaster enthusiast or a Telecaster fan, playing a Fender guitar connects you with a rich lineage of musicians who’ve shaped our musical landscape with their unique tones and styles. Every time you pick up your Fender guitar, you’re joining a tradition of musical excellence and innovation that spans decades.


From exploring the legacy of Leo Fender to understanding the anatomy of Fender guitars and their impact on music, we’ve journeyed through the iconic world of Fender. We’ve looked at how to choose the perfect Fender to match your musical style and preferences and learned how to care for it to ensure its longevity. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced player, Fender offers a range of models to cater to every musician’s needs.

As you strum the strings of your Fender, remember that you’re not just playing an instrument; you’re becoming a part of a rich musical legacy. So, pick up that Fender, let the music flow, and create your own signature sound that resonates with your soul.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Fender a good brand of electric guitar?

Yes, Fender is considered a top pick for electric guitar brands due to its versatility of tone, high-quality materials, and various pricing options. It's a solid choice for guitar players looking for a reliable instrument.

Why are Fender guitars so popular?

Fender guitars are popular because they were well designed and have remained largely unchanged for 60 years, becoming ingrained in the minds of successive generations.

Is Fender or Gibson better?

It ultimately depends on your personal playing style and preferences. Both Fender and Gibson have loyal followings and have made significant contributions to music history.

When did Fender stop making guitars in the US?

Fender stopped making guitars in the US in 1985 and shifted production to Japan for a period of time.

What are some iconic Fender guitar models?

The iconic Fender guitar models include the Telecaster, Stratocaster, Jazzmaster, and Jaguar. They have played a significant role in shaping music history.