For this upgrade and build guide we're using a Squier Vintage modified Telecaster with a basswood body. Some of the Squier electric guitars are made with a pine body, which I'm really not crazy about.
Pine is a very cheap wood and not at all ideal for producing a decent guitar tone or any kind of deep resonance.
Basswood is better (not great, but fairly average in terms of tonewood quality) so we're going use this Squier Telecaster as a base model for some pickup upgrades and a couple other mods.
Here's our inventory:
In addition to replacing the Squier bridge and saddle with a Fender American Vintage '62 custom version, we'll also use a combination of DiMarzio and Seymour Duncan pickups to change out the stock varieties that ship with this guitar.
The DiMarzio Tele pickup will help us maintain that Telecaster country twang, while the Seymour Duncan jazz humbucker at the neck position will give us an overall tone upgrade and some added warmth.
Approximate Base Total: $670
As I've already mentioned, we've avoided the pine body that comes with many Squier guitars in favor of the more decent basswood. The Vintage Modified Squier Telecaster also comes with a 21-fret maple neck, which I like, and a string-thru body design that will allow us to change out the bridge for the Fender American version.
The chrome tuners are fairly cheap, though they're probably not worth replacing since they don't have significant bearing on the guitar's tone.
The Bridge and Bridge Pickup
The Fender American custom bridge that I'm referring you to actually comes with a pickup, which is fine to use if you'd prefer not to invest in the DiMarzio. Though I would contend that the DiMarzio Twang King is well worth the 60 bucks, even if it is just for a Squier Telecaster mod.
Remove the original bridge and bridge pickup, then install the new DiMarzio Twang King and use the provided screws to install the Fender American custom Telecaster bridge.
The DiMarzio pickup should fit right underneath the new bridge lining up with the three screws.
You'll need a soldering kit to install the new pickup and wire everything in first, then place the new bridge over top of it and screw everything down into place.
Be sure to check that the new pickup and all the electronics are working before you install the new bridge.
The Neck Pickup
I've chosen the silver Seymour Duncan jazz humbucker partly to be in keeping with the style achieved by what is already installed on this particular Squier. The original look is actually pretty decent, so I didn't want to mess too much with a different humbucker aesthetic.
As I mentioned previously, the Seymour Duncan upgrade will add a considerable amount of warmth to your tone, which will mesh well with the brighter twang of the DiMarzio pickup and give you a more genuine, country-sounding Telecaster.
For a more vintage tone, or for anything I want to sound twangy, the Elixir Nanoweb strings always seem to work better. They're coated, so they'll last a lot longer and give you a brighter sound than non-coated strings.
As a general rule, I almost always recommend Elixir strings, for both acoustic and electric guitar upgrades, especially when you're starting out with what ships on a cheap Squier.
The Elixirs on their own are a significant improvement.
Your Questions and Ideas
Have a mod or part that you know would work particularly well with this Squier Telecaster pickup mod?
Maybe you disagree with the choices we've listed?
Let us know in the comments section below. If you have an idea that holds water, we'll add it to the list so others can benefit as well.
Likewise, if you have an idea for a guitar (electric or acoustic) build, you can drop it there as well and we'll take a look.
Feature image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons via Pacomexico