In this build guide we're going to do a theoretical upgrade for a Fender Player Telecaster, which is a mid-range guitar with stock parts, a decent price tag, and some room for improvement.
When upgrading a guitar we need to start with something that's decent in quality, but where the manufacturer cut enough corners to make an upgrade sensible.
For example, we probably wouldn't want to mod an American Ultra Telecaster.
Those are fine out of the box.
However, a mid-range guitar like the Player Tele is a good compromise because of a decently low price tag and plenty of opportunities for improvement.
Here's the Player Telecaster's Sweetwater entry:
At $750 that gives us some room to work and still keeps the guitar at or near the $1000 price point.
We'll start by replacing the bridge, then the pickups, and then a couple more optional mods. In this build guide, the bridge is the primary focus.
Bridge Upgrade and Other Parts
Here we've listed all the parts for this upgrade in a table for easy browsing.
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Fender Player Telecaster
Fender 3-Saddle American Vintage Telecaster Bridge
Fender Pure Vintage '64 Telecaster Pickup Set
Dunlop Super Pots (2x)
Fender Locking Tuning Machines for Strat or Tele
The Guitar Base: Fender Player Telecaster
The Player series Telecaster uses a modern six-saddle bridge, which we'll swap out for the vintage three-saddle design. We'll also switch the "Alnico 5 Player Series" pickups for something a little more customized and professional, the Fender Pure Vintage '64 set.
For this particular guitar, we're going to switch out all of the following:
- Bridge hardware
- Both pickups
- Volume and tone pots (potentiometers)
- Tuning machines/heads
These are the four elements of the Player Telecaster that are stock or simply un-customized. Upgrading them will give our guitar more value and uniqueness, helping it to take on a voice of its own.
Fender American Vintage 3-Saddle Bridge
Most Fender Telecaster bridges are about four inches high and 3.14 inches wide. You'll also likely have four screws at the base of the bridge and three surrounding the bridge pickup.
Here's a blueprint for the dimensions and structure of the Gotoh Telecaster bridge which is similar to the stock bridge hardware on the Player Tele:
You can see that this lines up nicely with the Fender Vintage bridge pictured below, with the same screw pattern.
Since the screw pattern matches, and these bridges are made to fit nearly all Telecasters built from the '90s on up, this bridge should be sized for an easy swap with the existing six-saddle bridge on the Player Tele.
Also from a user-submitted Sweetwater image, here's what the finished product might look like:
Fender Pure Vintage '64 Telecaster Pickup Set
While we're on our bridge project, we'll also recommend a pickup upgrade for the Fender Player Telecaster.
To get away from the stock alnico set, we're going with the Fender Pure Vintage '64 Telecaster set, pictured below.
For those wanting to plan ahead, here's a quick look at the wiring coming out of the backs of these two pickups:
And here's a wiring diagram for a Standard Telecaster that we pulled from Seymour Duncan's website:
Super Pots (500k)
We almost always recommend changing potentiometers if you're also changing pickups. For Telecasters (and Strats), we recommend the Jim Dunlop Super Pots for both the tone and volume controls.
These can just be re-wired the same way the old pots are wired, so make sure to take a picture before you pull off the original pots and wiring.
We'd recommend going with the 500k-ohm split shaft for Telecasters.
To top off the build project, swap out the existing tuning heads with this locking Fender Set. It's a pretty simple swap, and certainly optional - though it does pair well with the new bridge and should help improve tuning stability.
That concludes our Fender Player Telecaster bridge upgrade.
Though in addition to the bridge we've also improved the pickups, interior electronics and tuning stability.
Overall, your guitar is much nicer and more valuable than it was out of the box.
Keep in mind, you don't need to do all these mods at once. You can put it together one or two at a time and make the upgrades as you go. It's a good way to improve a guitar you already like and still cheaper than buying a completely new instrument.
If you have questions about this Telecaster bridge upgrade, drop us a line in the comments section below and we'll chat about it.
- Guitar: Fender Player Telecaster
- Pickup Configuration: SS (Tele)
- Bridge Single Coil: Fender Pure Vintage '64 Tele
- Neck Single Coil: Fender Pure Vintage '64 Tele
- Pots: Dunlop Super pots (500k)
- Bridge hardware: Fender Vintage 3-saddle Telecaster bridge
- Tuning machines: Fender Locking Tuner Heads
500 k pots for single coils? Split shaft pots for metal knobs with a screw? Hmkay.
Thanks Bobby! Very helpful
I am a newbie to Tele (to Electric guitar) 40 years acoustic Martins and a vintage f hole Gibson arch top
Awesome! Glad you found it helpful. Best of luck with the Teles.