I’ve got kind of a thing for Rosewood. Personally, I think the most beautiful guitars in the world are the all-rosewood Fenders, and it seems like of the various models, the most famous has to be George Harrison’s Rosewood Telecaster.
Of course, it’s not cheap to get your hands on one of the original 60’s production run, and still almost prohibitively expensive to pick from the present day Custom shop offerings. But the Japanese Rosewood telecasters are pretty plentiful, and very reasonably priced in comparison to other Japanese Fenders.
Naturally, there are some ‘interesting’ design features which separate these models from the more upmarket models (and their pricepoints).
Firstly and most obviously, these guitars could never be produced at this cost with full rosewood bodies. So while the headstock face, fretboard and front and back of the body are covered with a rosewood veneer, the bulk of the neck and body wood is basswood.
The veneer seems to be bookmatched, and looks absolutely amazing. Ever since seeing George play his in the Let it Be movie, I’ve thought of these models as one of my dream guitars, and I lost my breath a little when I opened the gigbag on this one.
The model in the pictures is gloss finished, but they are also readily available in a matte finish (more like George’s) if the buyer is more that way inclined. The gloss finish also covers the fretboard, so if you like the feel of a vintage MAPLE fretboard (although this is clearly a VERY contentious issue), you’ll love this.
The full black paint on the rear of the neck and the body sides is also going to be a sore point for some people, but even if you hate it, it’s never going to be that noticeable in the dim lights of an ordinary stage setting.
So cosmetically, this is a fantastic guitar. But how does it hold up as a players instrument? Well to be honest, the answer IMHO is a resounding “Okay, I guess”.
Let me start by saying that on stage or on record, you’d be hard pressed to hear a difference between this or any other vintage Tele, and after all, these claim to come fitted with USA vintage Tele pickups. So sound wise, there’s no problem at all. But like a stereotypical starlet, gorgeous and seductive-sounding as she might be, a guitar is only capable of saying what you ask it to, and this is not the kind of guitar that makes that operation feel inspiring.
The tuners are the vintage-style Fender ‘F’ stamped tuners, and (although I can’t speak as to whether this is the case for all ‘F’ tuners, or just these Japanese reproductions) they don’t hold tune particularly well. I’ve gigged a few times with this guitar and I find it holds tune less well than any of my Strats, and I’m a heavy trem user.
But machine heads are easy to replace. Not so simple to remedy is the fact that while the basswood may sound great, it doesn’t feel good. This again may be a matter of personal taste, because the result of this is that the whole guitar is extremely lightweight (There is almost as much difference between my Rosewood Tele and any of my Strats as there is between those same Strats and my Les Paul). But to me, that makes the whole thing feel a little too cheap and lacking in resonance.
Try as I might to get over this issue, this guitar never inspires me to play it particularly. Despite the fact that it sits in pride of place in my music room, I almost always find myself walking past it to reach for something else.
Personally, I kind of regret selling my Squier Classic Vibe Tele to pay for the Rosewood, but I rarely play a Tele anyway owing to the fact that I miss having a trem arm, so the kind of “players inspiration” I am talking about isn’t necessarily the requirement it seems like it should be. If I ever have a part I want to play on a Telecaster, this one will deliver the sound in spades, and I have to admit that every time I pick it up, I smile a little at the fact that I’m holding one of my dream guitars.
You can make your own call on what that says about me, but I won’t be getting rid of this guitar any time soon. And I don’t think anything else is going to replace it on the wall. Just make sure you have your priorities in order before you buy one 😛
(Apologies for the high contrast on some of these pictures. It’s a 42 degree day in Adelaide and my phone isn’t the best camera in the world.)