The single-pickup Esquire pre-dated the Broadcaster, and most of the prototypes that survive have only bridge pickups. This seems to indicate that the neck pickup was added late in the design process. Other guitars of the era had two pickups, so maybe Fender felt compelled to do the same. Judging by the wide coil and the exposed slugs, the neck pickup on the famous red prototype looks more like a lap steel pickup than the unit Fender eventually designed for the Broadcaster.
It probably sounded pretty fantastic. Instead, Fender came up with a much smaller pickup with a narrower coil and a plated metal cover. Unlike the bridge pickup, Tele neck pickup specs remained fairly consistent. Since the dimensions were tight, Fender used thinner 43 AWG wire so it could get enough turns onto the bobbin. The magnets might have changed from alnico 3 to alnico 5, but they were always flat rather than staggered.
The change from wax potting to lacquer dipping occurred around Even hardcore Tele players occasionally express some ambivalence towards the tone upgrade, and many have felt compelled to replace them with other pickups. Judged by its cover Most of us will be aware of PAF lore, which holds that Gibson-style humbuckers sound different with their covers removed. The same is true for Tele neck pickups, where the cover also rolls back some of the treble response and perceived loudness.
Position one bypassed the tone control, position two re-engaged the tone control and position three activated a pre-set treble roll-off for a very dark sound. When the neck pickup was added, positions one and two selected the bridge and neck pickups respectively — both with the tone control engaged. In , it become even bassier when Fender swapped over to a 0. Once players started hearing how great Stratocaster neck pickups sounded, it would have been easy enough for Fender to upgrade the Tele neck pickup and re-configure the controls.
Although it would tinker around with minor stuff, Fender always seemed more focused on developing new models than optimising and upgrading old ones. Typically, a Tele bridge pickup is as bright as the neck is dark, so if you dial in your amp to sound good with your bridge pickup, the neck will inevitably sound muffled.
Set your amp for a clear and articulate neck pickup tone and the bridge pickup will almost certainly sound painfully bright. Stock solutions There are a couple of simple and free modifications that can bring out the best from a Tele neck pickup. Most people blame the cover for the lack of clarity, so you can improve things by snipping the little wire that connects the cover to ground.
The composition of the cover makes a difference, too. To really open out your tone, try removing the cover completely.
Modern pickups may have tape wrapped around the coil for protection, but vintage-style pickups are likely to have exposed coils. If you do decide to go topless, so to speak, have a pickup repairer wrap an exposed coil to prevent damage. The final thing to consider when ordering a new set of Tele pickups is combining alnico 5 slugs in the neck with alnico 3 in the bridge.
You could also request 43 AWG wire for the bridge pickup, along with flat slugs for an even frequency response with fuller bass.
Hang on… it seems Leo Fender did something right from the get-go after all. Sticking your neck out Players have always modified guitars, and swapping Tele neck pickups for something entirely different is perhaps the most common modification of all. In fact, it was such a popular mod that even Fender got in on the act.
There are even alternatives that are voiced to sound like Ps, Charlie Christans and so forth that will drop in without the need for routing the body.
The bottom line is that everything seems to work pretty well in the neck position of a Tele — including the original pickup. This scatterwound CC sound-alike has a blade polepiece and large magnet assembly, but it fits into a regular Tele body and pickguard.