Posted: Jan 23, 2010 8:31 pm
When you play an electric guitar through an amplifier, the sound is produced in part by plastic capacitors and resistors in the amplifier - the pickguard is not part of the signal chain. If you can hear the difference between a wood guard and a plastic one, you have magical elf ears.
Body wood is just as important to tone as pickups are IMO. But the thickness of the neck is maybe a bigger factor for tone than the body wood OR the pickups. Telecasters (and some Les Pauls) in the 50's had big fat baseball bat necks and I think that's a big reason they sound so good. Allparts makes fat replacement necks for Teles and that's what I have on mine. It makes a big difference in tone from the standard size necks. I'm certain of that, because I've put a fat neck on and then put the standard back on 5 minutes later, and then back again - trust me, you can hear the difference.
Unfortunately, you can't change the neck on a Rick, but then again, to me, Ricks have a certain sound that only a Rick will get and if you want that sound, you get a Rick. For me, a Telecaster will do anything any guitar will do and unlike a lot of others, it will stay in tune while it does it. It won't sound exactly like a Rick or a Les Paul, but it will get close enough, with just a slight change in the volume or tone knob. Close enough for a beer bar, anyway. Plus you can use it as a weapon. A Rickenbacker or Gibson, not so much. Brian Venable mounted a bottle opener to his Tele.
As far as Fender being a soul-sucking corporation...Yes, they market their stuff to wealthy baby-boomers with ridiculous gimmicks, but so does Gibson and every other electric guitar company that was around back then. But you can also go to Guitar Center right now and buy a $100 Squier and it will sound fine and you can start writing songs on it and playing shows and making music on it. That's a wonderful thing and I'm glad Fender and these other companies make that possible.