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Recommended MIM Telecaster Upgrades: 2022 Edition

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If you’re interested in recommended MIM telecaster upgrades, check out this post to learn exactly what I recommend!

MIM Fender Guitars

We all know the huge impact that Fender had on music. And you may also know that, for the most part, Fenders aren’t the cheapest guitars on the market. However, the company has offered Mexican-made guitars for a while now.

We also know these as MIM, which is an acronym for Made In Mexico. For a very long time, we could see this written clearly on the headstock. However, the company rebranded the line in 2018. They introduced it as the Fender Player series.

In most of their features, they’re pretty much the same as old MIM guitars. There might be a few improvements here and there, but these are pretty much the same tier. They’re also noticeably cheaper. I would classify them as mid-priced guitars.

Nonetheless, these are actually pretty great guitars. From my experience, they’re even a great option for professional gigging players. You can look at them as an in-between option apart from US-made Fenders and Squier guitars.

There’s also the Player Plus series. They’re like hot-rodded variants of Fender Player guitars. The hot-rodded aspect can either be an additional pickup or a more expensive finish option.

Fender Player Telecasters

As far as Player series Telecasters go, there are two basic models. There’s the regular Player Telecaster and the Player Telecaster HH. The Player Plus series also has two Telecasters. One of the models is called Nashville Telecaster and comes with three pickups.

Regular Player Telecaster can come with either maple or rosewood fretboards. These are pretty common options. However, maple variants are more widespread.

These Teles also come with a C-shaped neck profile and a 9.5-inch fretboard radius. Overall, this gives them a pretty genuine old-school feel. However, they come with 22 frets, which is a noticeable difference.

The pickups are Player series ones. They’re decent although they’re not as good as Fender’s standard US-made stuff. And, as far as I know, they come with 250k pots.

Recommended MIM Telecaster Upgrades

Since MIM or Player Telecasters are cheaper, many consider them to be great platforms for hot-rodding. There’s a lot of experimentation that one can do on them. You can’t exactly turn them into modern-oriented shred machines. But there are a few things to consider.

Pickups and Electronics

Swapping the pickups is the most obvious thing to do. And it’s the simplest upgrade that can completely reinvent your instrument. Fender has plenty of great Telecaster single-coil sets. The Texas Special Telecaster set is my personal favorite.

There are also plenty of P.A.F.-style humbucker options for the Player HH Tele. But the choice is so vast and you first need to know what you’re looking for. What’s awesome, however, is that HH Tele comes with a coil-split option. So you can use pretty much any humbucker as a single-coil as well.

However, adding a pickup is tricky. It requires drilling into the body. If you want a humbucker on a regular Player Telecaster, I suggest that you use single-coil-sized humbuckers. Seymour Duncan Hot Rails are a pretty popular option.

What many players tend to overlook is the fact that you can swap pots and capacitors as well. It’s surprising how much this can change your tone. I suggest that you try and install 500k instead of stock 250k pots. This will do wonders. Seriously, it will feel like you swapped the pickups.

Hardware

Telecasters are pretty simple guitars in terms of hardware. It’s what many like about them. But it’s also a great area to work on if you want to hot-rod a Telecaster.

A classic Player Tele with two single-coils has that larger plate that also surrounds the bridge pickup. But you can still use a Fender-style tremolo bridge on it. However, this is another upgrade that will require you to do serious body modifications. And, in all honesty, I’m not sure if it’s worth it.

If you want that fully vintage feel, you can swap the bridge for a 3-saddle one. But these are only available for single-single Telecasters. Either way, I feel like 6-saddle ones are a better option as they give a much easier way for intonation and string action adjustments.

Player Telecasters come with standard sealed tuning machines. The only interesting upgrade here is to use some vintage-style tuners. In particular, I’d recommend Fender’s locking tuning machines for Strats and Teles.

Nut replacement is also a relatively simple adjustment. And it can change your guitar’s tone and sustain as well. By default, MIM Teles come with synthetic bone nuts. There are plenty of better options on the market. However, I advise you to have a professional replace the nut since it might get a bit tricky.

Finishes and Pickguards

Finally, you can also do some aesthetics-related adjustments. The simplest one is a pickguard swap. There are plenty of pretty affordable yet awesome pickguards for Telecasters.

However, finishes may be costly and tricky. But it’s not that much of an issue if you have a good luthier to do it. While there are some pretty awesome default options for Player Telecasters, the choice may not be that big. The HH Player Tele has only three options. The regular one has more, but it may still not be enough for everyone’s tastes.

Just remember that if you do decide to refinish your guitar, it’s not exactly a simple process. I’d always prefer to have a professional luthier do it rather than to try it myself.

Should I Just Buy a US-Made Telecaster?

Personally, I’m not much of a hot-rodding kind of guy. I find it much simpler to just purchase a guitar with features that I like. Adding all the cost, time, and effort, you can just purchase a more expensive US-made option.

But that doesn’t mean that hot-rodding your Telecaster is the wrong thing to do. After all, there are some features that you won’t be able to find with American Teles as well. At the end of the day, it all comes down to what you want to achieve and if you actually enjoy the tinkering process of hot-rodding.

Recommended MIM Telecaster Upgrades: Conclusion

I hope this article has helped you think through some of my recommended MIM Telecaster upgrades.

And if you questions about this topic that I didn’t answer above, feel free to leave a message in the comments below!

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