Editor’s Note: A lot of the folks who work at The Music Zoo are also players. We are always discussing and bench racing the newest gear, but our own Jordan Usatch took things further when he purchased a 2011 Fender Custom Shop Double Bound ’51 Nocaster and then wrote the following review. This is an unpaid testimonial. Well, we pay Jordan, of course… but not to do this. Thanks Jordan.
Zoo Review: Fender Custom Shop Double Bound ’51 Nocaster by Jordan Usatch
Lately, I feel as if my guitar playing has been completely rejuvenated. No, I haven’t been woodshedding my scales, modes, or theory. I haven’t bought any new effect pedals, or the latest gadget. In fact, its one of the oldest models of electric guitars that has made me feel like a born-again guitar player. An unbelievable Fender Custom Shop ’51 Nocaster has come into my hands. You all know how it goes; the classic Wayne’s World scene comes to mind…”She will be mine. Oh yes, she will be mine” And mine she is.
I grew up thinking Telecasters were for your dads’ music. Now, I’m not knocking the Boss, Keef, or any other classic players, but I didn’t think young guys like myself rocked a tele. As I educated myself further, I realized some of my favorite contemporary Rock players made the Tele one of their main axes: John Frusciante, D. Boon, and Jonny Greenwood, just to name a few. Now I know I’m in good company.
On to the actual Nocaster I took home. I’m a big fan of classics that don’t look like all the others, and this guitar is spec’d out differently than what you’d expect. It has a black finish with a black pickguard, double white binding and a rosewood board. This was unlike any Nocaster we ever saw at the Zoo before, and we all agreed that this was a good one. The pickups are a ‘51 Nocaster in the neck with a bright and twangy Texas Special in the bridge. The bridge pickup has a ton of twang to it that might have been too bright for my tastes, had it not been for the warmth of the rosewood board to dial it back a bit. This is a big recommendation I have for anyone looking for a Tele, but hesitant about it’s trebly tendencies- try one with a rosewood board and hear it for yourself.
My rig consists of an Orange AD-30 through an Emperor cabinet, and while I feel I could make anything sound like a million bucks through that setup, I’ve never heard it sound as crystal clear as when I first plugged the Nocaster in. I found my playing to be lighter to the touch; I didn’t have to dig in as much on the Tele as my other guitars, because I now heard every nuance of my playing. My clean tone became brighter, more articulated, and when I added in a bit of analog delay…heaven! When your drummer notices a change and improvement in your tone, you know you’ve got a winner.
This Nocaster also has a 4-way switch, another secret to getting some unorthodox tones out of this Tele. The switch in the second position puts the neck and bridge in series; this is the key to getting some real heavy tones out of the single coil pickups. The tone is much darker and thicker than the pickups in parallel, which is what you now get in the third position. Running it through my dirt pedal on top of the overdriven Orange channel almost made me think I was playing my Les Paul!
All in all, this isn’t a plug for Fender, Nocasters or Telecasters. I’d really like to encourage other guitar players, especially young ones like myself to explore out of their comfort zones and try a different instrument than they’d normally expect themselves to play. On top of adapting my playing style to fit the guitar, I’ve never filled in as much space with a 3-piece band as I have with this guitar. When the bass is heavy and the drums are loud, you need a guitar that cuts through the mix and sprinkles that extra something on top, and that’s the job for this guitar. You never know what kind of riffs and songs are locked up inside you, waiting for that right guitar to let them out.