The story behind Fender's American Acoustasonic Telecaster, page 1

papawise Uploader on May 19th, 2019 / post 73505
Tim Shaw and Brian Swerdfeger detail the research and development that went into the hybrid acoustic/electric guitar

Just when you thought guitar design was irrevocably stuck in the past, along comes the Acoustasonic Telecaster. We chart its development with the designers behind the concept.

Unless you were on the inside, the first thing you’d have known about the new American Acoustasonic Series Telecaster was its appearance at the 2019 NAMM show or the subsequent (and substantial) exposure on social media. From nothing - to bang! But this wasn’t a simple refresh of Fender’s original solidbody electric guitar. It started with an idea and a blank sheet of paper.

“I had the idea three years ago and enlisted Tim Shaw and Larry Fishman to help bring it to life,” states Brian Swerdfeger, Fender’s VP of research and development.

Tim continues the story: “Brian flew out to me and [designer/engineer] Josh Hurst here in Nashville and we literally started work. Josh already had a slightly larger Tele design, but the three of us literally sat and figured out how the bracing was going to go.

“Over the course of three days, we actually made the ‘proof of concept’. It didn’t have the soundhole port or a bridge; it was basically a pretty good Telecaster-shaped cajón with a neck.

What you hear from the output jack is 55 per cent from the guitar and analogue circuit, and 45 per cent shaped by the electronics

“The next time Brian came out, we created the port and basically tuned the cajón,” continues Tim, referring to the patent-pending ‘Stringed Instrument Resonance System’ (SIRS), which involved not only refining the bracing of the acoustic-like top but effectively maximising the acoustic response of the relatively small body cavity.

The guitar’s bracing looks more like an archtop than a flat-top steel-string, we suggest.

“It’s not parallel bracing,” says Tim. “Basically, the braces lock into the head block, then they splay out a little and extend past the bridge, then trail off to nothing. They’re not very big; they don’t have to be. But you’re right, it’s a flat archtop-type bracing. I started with the braces that were initially a little bit big, tapped the top and planed them - actually, I used a belt sander. I did that until the top woke up.

“The port, which was referred to early on as the ‘doughnut’, is a block of mahogany and we had this top assembly that I was sticking into the guitar, whacking it with my finger and sanding off a little of the doughnut, and there was a point it went from click to boom. We ended up with something that got more acoustic volume out of the small hollow space.”

“The design, size, location and depth [of the port] all contribute to the voicing of the instrument,” reinforces Brian, “and give it a fuller voice on your lap. This voicing, in concert with the movement of the top, are major components of what you hear when the guitar is plugged in. What you hear from the output jack is 55 per cent from the guitar and analogue circuit, and 45 per cent shaped by the electronics.”

“Early on in the project we knew the electronics were going to be a bear,” says Tim.

“Brian had had this idea of absolutely minimal controls. I’ve been building what I called hybrids for a really long time and on all of these instruments you’re balancing how ‘acoustic’ or how ‘electric’ they are; it’s a continuum.

“At this point, things like the Taylor T5 leans towards the electric side; the Acoustasonic that Fender did in 2010, which I also worked on, slots closer to the centre line, so to speak. But on all these instruments you’re trading stuff off.”

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