The spirit of rock ‘n’ roll is the spirit of innovation. The boundary pushing that defined the genre during rock’s golden age between 1950 and 1970 created a sonic landscape that has withstood the test of time. And although we continue to re-create that same classic sound decades later, to simply mimic would betray the innovation that is the core of rock ‘n’ roll. Now, Fender has found a way to bridge the gap between nostalgia and new technology with its new American Original Series, inspired by Fender models through the decades.
This new line of American-made electric basses and guitars draw inspiration from some of the iconic guitar makers’ most successful and defining models from the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s. With the introduction of these 11 models, Fender seeks to satisfy a wide range of musicians and their tastes, combining the classicism of the original Fender with the modernity of 21st-century engineering. The American Original Series serves as a new standard bearer in the Fender family, as it replaces the American Vintage Series first introduced in 1982.
“Innovation is the lifeblood at the heart of Fender,” Justin Norvell, senior vice president of Fender Products, told our brother site, Digital Trends. “Over recent years, we have introduced guitars with onboard Digital Signal Processing capabilities, switchable ‘tone cards,’ and USB ports. But this series is more of a revolution via evolution, as it is more speaking to the midcentury origin story of Fender’s iconic platforms — the Stratocaster, the Telecaster, Jazzmaster, Jaguar, Precision Bass, and Jazz Bass.”
All American Original electric guitars and basses are both designed and handcrafted in Corona, California. And while the aesthetic may be entirely classic, the playability and performance of these instruments enjoy the benefits of modern technology, including new fingerboard radii and switching.
“We have evolved the inherent playability of the necks to align more with today’s player preferences and the way music is made,” Norvell told us. “Experienced guitarists can feel minute changes (to the thousandth of an inch) to the neck profile, fretboard radius and fret height — and these instruments optimize that for today’s player.”
The American Original ’50s Stratocaster, for example, boasts ’59 single-coil pickups that are as period-correct as possible, with Formvar-coated coil wire, cloth-covered output wires, fiber bobbins, and AlNiCo 5 magnets. But new to the Stratocaster is a “Soft V” neck profile for better chording, and a 9.5-inch-radius fingerboard for improved playability.
Then, there’s the American Original ’50s Telecaster, the guitar that laid the foundation for country and blues, with today’s twist. Fender has added modern feel and pickup switching to the classic guitar, but has kept vintage-tall frets, original-era body radii, and a lacquer finish that promises to let the wood “breathe” with resonant tone. Bass players, on the other hand, can enjoy a classic Precision Bass from the ‘50s or ‘70s, or a ‘60s Jazz Bass, with improved playability but with period-correct pickups and vintage-style hardware.
Ultimately, Norvell said, “An instrument is less like a list of specs, and more like a recipe, in that the craftsmanship — the way it all comes together is greater than the sum of its parts. We have been working for over 70 years to continuously refine that recipe to contemporary perfection.”
The American Original electric guitars and basses are priced from $1,800 to $2,100, and are available in 13 classic Fender colors.
An original version of this article ran on our brother site, Digital Trends.