In this in-depth guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about both the Thinline Telecaster and the solid body Telecaster. As a player, understanding the differences can help you pick out the guitar that is right for you.
You may know that if you’re familiar with the regular Telecaster, it’s famous for its bright and twangy sound.
So what’s the difference between a Thinline Telecaster and a solid body telecaster? The main differences between the two guitars are their weight, variances in tone, styling, and price point.
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Fender Telecaster: Some Background Information
In 1950, the Fender Telecaster was first introduced and became the first commercially successful solid body electric guitar. Also known as “Tele,” it is a versatile guitar that can be used to play most genres such as rock, pop, soul, blues, jazz, punk, metal, alternative, indie, country, reggae, folk, and R&B.
Leo Fender, the creator of Telecaster, took a few of the features from the Hawaiian steel guitars. These included the knurled chrome knobs, ashtray bridge cover, kluson tuners, and a mixture of bridge and bridge pickup into one unit. Unlike previous guitars made during this era, the Telecaster has an amazingly clean, bright and cutting sound with a thick midrange and bass and piercing high notes.
Some of the most iconic musicians have strapped on the Telecaster such as Jonny Greenwood, Steve Howe, Roy Watkins, Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Joe Strummer, Albert Lee, Jimmy Page and many more.
What is a Thinline Telecaster?
The Thinline Telecaster is a semi-hollow electric guitar made with body cavities and developed by Fender. This guitar was first designed by Roger Rossmeisl and launched in 1969. The Thinline became an alternate guitar to the standard solid body Telecasters. New features included a pair of Wide Range Fender humbucking pickups, 3-bolt neck and bullet truss-rod.
Thinline Telecaster Vs Solid Body Telecaster: Major Differences
So, now that you know what a Thinline Telecaster is, what is the difference between a Thinline Telecaster and a normal solid body Fender Telecaster.
Here are the key factors that differentiate a Thinline Telecaster from a Solid Body Telecaster that you’ll need to consider if you’re on the fence between the two.
In 1969, the goal of creating the Thinline was to decrease the weight of the guitar and develop a new semi-hollow design compared to the solid body version. During this time, there had been a shortage of light ashwood, which Fender frequently used. Fender also reshaped the pickguard and redesigned the F hole. The F-hole helps to improve the acoustic projection for the Thinline. This reduced weight helps make the guitar more comfortable to play.
The Thinline typically weighs around 6.5 lbs compared to the solid body, which weighs 8 lbs. A 1.5-pound difference is quite significant, considering you’ll spend hours wearing it.
Sound is a significant component when it comes to comparing the Thinline to the Solid Body Telecaster. The Thinline has a significantly rounder and warmer tone compared to the Solid Body, which has a twangy and brighter sound. By taking wood out of the instrument, you get a longer sustain and lose some of the brightness that a solid body has.
In comparison, the solid body Tele produces a crispier sound and brighter tone with more twang and punch than the Thinline. Due to its guitar construction, it also produces a tighter sound and less woody tone.
The sound of a Thinline has a lot more depth and a beefier bass to it. Players who enjoy the Thinline typically praise the warmer and hollow sounds paired with enough punch for most types of jazz or rock music.
When it comes to the aesthetics of the guitar, there are a few differences between the two. The Thinline looks slightly more vintage because of the F-hole and reshaped pickguard. The humbucker pickups just add to the overall classic vintage appeal that many guitarists are fascinated with.
With the solid body, this electric guitar has a flat symmetric single-cutaway body that has a more modern finish. The body is front-routed with electronics where a bridge pickup sits on top of a metal plate attached to the guitar’s bridge. The solid body has a single volume control, single tone control, and two single-coil pickups. In contrast, the Thinline has two volumes, two-tone controls, and two Duncan Designed single-coil pickups.
One of the main differences in look is the type of wood that each guitar uses. For example, the Classic Vibe Thinline features a mahogany body, while most solid body telecasters use ash or alder wood. Many of the classical or vintage guitars use a mahogany type of wood.
Fender Thinline Telecaster Vs. Solid Body Telecaster: Available Options
Squire Vintage Modified 72 Thinline
If you’re looking for a Telecaster with an edge, the modified is the way to go. The Squire Vintage Modified is their rendition of the 72 Fender Classic. This guitar has a beautiful white pearloid pick-guard with a semi-hollow body that is made from ash. It also includes a slim maple neck with a modern C-shape topped with a gloss polyurethane finish to easily glide along the neck and comfortable fretting.
In addition, the 72 Thinline features wide range humbuckers along the neck and bridge positions. The pickups are accessed through a three way selector switch with tone dials and a master volume. It’s topped off with an attractive vintage style chrome.
For a relatively low cost, the 72 Thinline Telecaster has an excellent acoustic tone that provides enough volume even when unplugged. If you use a bridge pickup, you can get a nice punchy and bright tone. But if you use a neck pickup, you’ll create beautiful rich and warm blues rock sounds. If you’re in need of a versatile guitar, the Vintage Modified has the capability of playing jazz, country, rock and rocks.
Squier Classic Vibe Thinline Telecaster
The Classic Vibe Thinline Telecaster has a similar layout in shape and electrics to the solid body Telecaster except with a semi-hollow body. With a Thinline guitar, you’re getting an increased resonance and replacing the bright tones with a rounder and warmer one. Instead of the usual ash or alder body, the Classic Vibe has a mahogany body. The guitar features an Alnico V single-coil pickups made to offer a blend of warmth, but also enough punch for rock, blues, country and jazz music.
In addition, it includes a gloss maple neck with 21 medium-jumbo sized frets along with a modern-c shape that makes the guitar very comfortable to play. Like many of the Thinline Telecasters, this guitar has a very vintage sound to it. For the cost of $449, you really can’t go wrong with this one. You get an easy to play guitar with jangly tons and classic Fender feel along with a warm Gibson type of sound.
Fender American Professional Telecaster – $1549
The Fender American Professional Telecaster is a solid body that encompasses the original design with a few modern upgrades. For example, the American Professional includes a redesigned ashtray bridge that is angled to increase playability for the guitarist’s picking hand.
The narrow frets, combined with the Deep C neck, which lies between the Modern C and U, provides additional control and hold. Compared to the original, it has an alnico two beneath the treble strings to add more clarity and warmth to its sound.
When it comes to the prices, the Thinline is the cheaper option. Most of the Thinline options, such as the Squier Classic Vibe and Squier Paranormal Cabronita Thinline, run between $400 to $500. However, there are a few more expensive options. For example, the Fender Classic Series ’72 and Fender Deluxe Thinline Telecaster costs a little over $900.
With the Solid Body guitars, the price range varies quite drastically because there is an array of options to choose from. There are low priced options such as the Squier Affinity Series Telecaster that runs at $229 and a Squire Paranormal Baritone Cabronita Telecaster that costs $400. But there are also many more expensive options, such as the Fender Player Telecaster at $700, Fender American Professional Telecaster, which costs $1,550, and the Fender Jimmy Page Telecaster costs $2,500!
Thinline Telecaster Vs Solid Body Telecaster: Which is Better?
If you’re unsure about whether to get a Thinline Telecaster or a solid body Telecaster, it comes down to your preference and type of sound you’re looking for. For instance, guitarists who play blues, jazz and blues-rock tend to choose the Thinline over the solid body tele. Often, they want the focus and tightness of a solid body electric but want a bit more hollow, round, and acoustic tone to their sound. Music icons such as Dave Grohl and B.B. King are examples of famous Thinline Telecaster players.
Many players who play hard rock, metal, rock, or pop prefer solid body telecasters due to the better sustain, brighter tone, and tighter and crispier notes. Some of the signature guitarists are Jimmy Page, David Gilmour, Pete Townshend, Jamie Cook, and Syd Barrett.
Pros and Cons of a Thinline Telecaster
Versatile: As with all Tele’s, the Thinline is extremely versatile with the genres of music it can play.
Warm and Rounder Tone: The main advantage of a Thinline compared to the solid body is it’s excellent balance of warmth and character, especially when playing chords. With the Thinline, there’s a beautiful blend with the overtone that the solid body doesn’t have. This is done through the strings resonating with the top and bottom chambers. The Thinline still has the twang and chime of the solid body Tele; however, it sounds more round and hollow.
Better Bass: The Thinline has an extra boost in the bottom notes and a pronounced twang with greater emphasis than the solid body.
Reduced Weight: Since some wood is removed from the body of the guitar, it’s natural that the Thinline or Semi-hollow guitars will have a reduced weight. This means as a player; it’s much easier to play in long live performances for hours at a time.
Less Sustain: Since the guitar is semi-hollow, it means there is less wood. As a result, there is less resonation in sound for the strings to bounce off of. If you’re holding a single note longer, the resonation won’t last as long as a solid body guitar. Also, the Thinline notes may sound more muddied up or less defined than a solid body tele would.
Feedback: Because the Thinline has large cavities, it will be more susceptible to feedback than the solid body. This becomes noticeable when you play live through a distorted tube amp. However, you just need to turn down the gain on your amp. Also, the solid center block that runs through the center of the body does a good job of taming any feedback.
Pros and Cons of Solid Body Telecaster
Longer Sustain: Naturally, you can expect the solid body Telecaster to have greater sustain because of the way it’s built. This guitar type is built from solid wood throughout and not hollowed out. This means the sounds can resonate deeper through the dense wood in the body of the guitar.
Resistant to Feedback: Due to its dense wood, the solid body is less prone to feedback from pickups than the Thinline Telecaster. Overall, this means you can amplify your guitar much louder without receiving any feedback. This makes it great for live performances.
Brighter Tones: Most solid bodies are built with alder or ash wood, which is conducive to brighter tones. With the Ash tone, you receive a snappier side with a bright edge, but still a long sustain and warm bass. This is excellent for those screeching guitarists who love to play heavy metal and or hard rock.
Other guitarists who may enjoy the solid body are country guitarists. The solid body consists of pickups that provide the guitar with thin, bright and jangly feel conducive for country or even folk songs.
Tone is Less Warm and Round: With Semi and even fully hollow guitars, there is a warmer and rounder tone. The solid body doesn’t have the authentic acoustic tone that the Thinline Telecaster would have.
Which Telecaster Should You Buy?
Just like deciding on a Thinline versus Solid body, these two guitars come down to your preference and style.
For those that enjoy more modern tones, longer sustains, and extreme articulation, the Fender Player Telecaster is right for you. With the Fender Player, you get a 22nd Fret on the modern C-shaped neck for better playability and lets you bend the highest D up to an E. This gives you the ability to play four octaves! The Player is a workhorse guitar that can handle the rigor of live gigs.
With the ’72 Thinline Telecaster, you’ll get a full spectrum of tones with a much fuller sound due to the F-hole made of Ash. To ensure that the guitar has rock-solid intonation and tuning, it has a vintage style chrome hardtail bridge with Fender-stamped steel saddles. The ’72 Thinline Tele is just for you if you’re all about the vintage style and tone.
Fender Player Telecaster – Recommended Solid Body Telecaster
The Fender Player Telecaster has been a long-standing workhorse that has a great balanced bridge pickup and syncs beautifully with gain. There’s also a modern c-shaped neck and alder body with gloss finish.
The Player Series pickups give you the classic telecaster twang that you know and love. The pickups are versatile and sound excellent considering the price point.
This Player Tele is designed for all levels of play from beginner to advanced. It’s easy to play and provides a variety of classic tones. While this guitar is mainly suited to lower gain music, such as country or jazz, it can handle high gain tones surprisingly well. Overall, if you’re looking for a legitimate Fender Telecaster and don’t want to pay the hefty price tag of an American model, then the Made in Mexico Fender Player Telecaster is your best bet.
Squier by Fender Vintage Modified ’72 Thinline Telecaster – Recommended Thinline Telecaster
The Fender Vintage Modified ’72 Thinline Telecaster by Squier has beautifully made with exceptional attention to detail on the build and very expensive-sounding tones. For the price listed in the market, it’s a steal.
For those who are nostalgic about the classic vintage 1972 Thinline Telecaster, this version is made with upgrades including a white pearloid scratchplate; Fender embossed humbuckers, and finely carved F-hole. Although there are other modern C-neck with a glossed finish, you’ll be hard-pressed to find them within this price range, not to mention it’s warm and hollow tones.
One of the most common questions when choosing a Telecaster is the question of Thinline versus a solid body. We hope that this in-depth guide has helped you understand and choose between the two. When you’re ready to buy a guitar, make sure to review the differences, so you can buy the guitar that suits your playing style.