Prince’s Telecaster, Explained.

I solved the mystery of Prince’s guitar.

Not the mystery of the one shaped like the symbol that was his name for a while or the one he plays at the end of Purple Rain.

The telecaster.

Throughout his career, Prince has returned again and again to the tele. It’s an odd choice for an electro funk genius, as it’s the twangiest guitar there is. I’ve played them and they always sounded at least a little bit country or really sharp (watch the girl in the beginning of this video for its country-ness). They have a distinctive bright and thin quality to them. Keith Richards has played them pretty much exclusively since the mid ‘70s. Bruce Springsteen plays one. Andy Summers from the Police and the great Joe Strummer of the Clash played them.

If funk dudes play Fenders brand guitars, they usually stick to strats. Strats are more versatile and don’t twang the way teles do. This fun little video from Nile Rodgers, the guitar player from Chic and about half the disco tunes of the ’70s, showing off his guitar techniques on his well-worn strat, illustrates its a perfect funk  instrument.

So how did Prince end up playing a Telecaster almost exclusively?

Well, technically he doesn’t. As I recently learned, Prince actually plays a Telecaster knock-off made by Hohner.

The model’s name is Prinz. And it is funky.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Prince’s Telecaster, Explained.

  1. Jack32

    So what if it is a different brand – It’s a Telecaster for all tonal purposes. And as pro musicians who’ve been around the block know, Tele’s are actually more versatile than Strats, as they provide 3 very different, very useful tones (the bridge pickup has gigantic attack that gets fatter than any other single coil guitar with just a little overdrive (hello…the solo for Stairway to Heaven is a Tele on the bridge pickup!), clear & chimey mid-position for arpeggios and strumming (think REM’s Reckoning…not a Rickenbacker, but a Telecaster), and round, smooth, soft-attack neck pickup position that is the best solid body guitar sound ever for jazz – almost always fools people into thinking it’s an archtop…check out Ed Bickert, Bill Frisell, and Mike Stern for examples).
    In contrast, Strats sound like 5 positions of the same sound, with the weakest, thinnest, unusable bridge sound of all electric guitars (no attack & punch like the Tele bridge at all).

  2. Kenneth H. Kofler

    I and many of my “funk dude” friends play tele’s almost exclusively. It’s a much more tonally balanced instrument than the strat (even the 3-p/u Nashville models). I play every style from soft jazz to honky-tonk, fusion, blues and searing rock and all I need are those 2 p/u’s and that big piece of ash plugged into a Vibrolux. Also; Prince’s guitar is a Hohner Madcat. not a Prinz. The Prinz was a short lived reproduction of the Madcat, which was originally produced by the Japanese Morris factory under the made up brand name H.S. Anderson.

  3. John

    Damn, you know absolutely nothing about guitars. As the other commentators have explained, the Telecaster is much more useable and tonally diverse than a Stratocaster. I play funk and r&b in a band. I’m the lead guitarist. I use my Telecaster exclusively. I have a Strat that I think is pretty but it doesn’t compare to my Telecaster. Whenever I play my Strat, it doesn’t last long, because I always end up putting git down and picking up my Tele. I’ve been playing the guitar now for 20 years. I’ve been through many guitars. Ultimately the Telecaster is the best in my opinion. It can cover any style of music perfectly. I find that on the middle pickup position, I can conjure the best funky 16th note scratching sound possible. Add a compressor and an overdrive and it’s a true funk machine capable of anything. A Strat doesn’t even come close.

    Also it was a Hohner Madcat Telecaster copy. There was no mystery for the true Prince fans. We knew this for a very long time.

    Some people just show their ignorance by speaking too quickly without really knowing anything. Do your research, learn how to play the guitar, play a Telecaster and a Stratocaster, then talk to us.

  4. Billkwando

    Also, since nobody pointed it out, Prince’s Hohner and the Anderson ad well both have strat pickups, so the guitar is essentially a hard tail strat in a tele shape.

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