With more than 60 years of experience, a name that is truly iconic in the world of music and a reputation among players of all stripes for innovative, great-sounding instruments, it is fair to say that, when Fender speaks, the world listens. And, when Fender goes to NAMM announcing a product series it describes as being “select instruments for select individuals,” you know that the landscape has shifted. We are talking, of course, about the Fender Select Series—composed of Strats, Teles, a Precision Bass and a Jazz Bass—whose hallmark is the kind of outstanding quality one would expect from the Fender Custom Shop but with an affordable price more in line with production line models. The Retailer spoke to Justin Norvell, Vice President, Marketing, to get the scoop.
“Since Larry Thomas has come on as CEO, he’s instilled an innovation initiative and is driving every part of the company to strive for that next tier,” explained Norvell. “This line of products comes out of some of the things that he was challenging the different parts of the factory to do.” He elaborated on this, saying, “We’re doing hand-staining on these. We’re working with woods nicer than we ever have. And, we’re getting lighter instruments. You won’t get one of these guitars that’s over eight pounds or a bass that’s over nine pounds.” And, referring to the U.S.-made Select Series’ place between the production line and Fender Custom Shop, Norvell drew an analogy to the BMW 7 Series: One might not be able to select each component inside its engine, but one knows the product is the top of the line.
The Fender Select Stratocaster features a Dark Cherry Burst gloss-lacquer finish and a flame maple-top body. Its modern “C” shaped flame maple neck has a contoured heel, Bi-Flex truss rod system for stability, a satin lacquer back finish and rear-headstock “Fender Select” medallion. The compound radius flame maple fretboard (9.5”-14”) has 22 medium jumbo frets, black pearloid position inlays and a gloss lacquer finish. The signature sound comes from new Fender Select Stratocaster single-coil neck, middle and bridge pickups with five-way switching and a no-load tone control that delivers the natural uncolored sound of the bridge pickup when dimed.
The Fender Select Stratocaster HSS shares the same features, with several exceptions. It takes its triple-single-coil brother and amps it up with the extra power of a Fender Select Stratocaster humbucking bridge pickup, and the added appeal of an Antique Burst gloss-lacquer finish, modern “C” shaped birdseye maple neck and compound radius rosewood fretboard (9.5”-14”) with white pearloid position inlays.
The Fender Select Telecaster delivers a Violin Burst gloss-lacquer finish and natural binding on a resonant honeycomb-chambered ash body with a solid flame maple top. Its modern “C” shaped birdseye maple neck has a contoured heel, Bi-Flex truss rod system, a satin lacquer back finish and rear-headstock “Fender Select” medallion. The signature sound comes from new Fender Select Telecaster single-coil neck and bridge pickups with three-way switching and a no-load tone control that delivers the natural uncolored sound of the bridge pickup when dimed.
The Fender Select Carved Koa Top Telecaster features a Sienna Edge Burst gloss-lacquer finish on a lightweight empress body with a carved koa top. Other features include knurled chrome knobs, American Telecaster bridge with new American Standard bent steel saddles and stamped brass plate, staggered cast/sealed locking tuners and nickel-chrome hardware. The Fender Select Carved Maple Top Telecaster shares the same features, with the exceptions of an Amber gloss-lacquer finish, carved flame maple top and black pearloid position inlays.
The Fender Select Precision Bass is a new take on the bass guitar that started it all. It features a Two-Color Sunburst gloss-lacquer finish and flame maple top. Its modern “C” shaped quartersawn maple neck has Posiflex graphite support rods, a satin lacquer back finish and rear-headstock “Fender Select” medallion. The compound radius flame maple fretboard (9.5”-14”) has 20 medium jumbo frets, black pearloid position inlays and a gloss lacquer finish. Loud, clear and deeply resounding tone issues from the new single Fender Select Precision Bass split-coil pickup.
Finally, the Fender Select Jazz Bass boasts an Amber Burst gloss-lacquer finish and flame maple top. Two single-coil Fender Select Jazz Bass pickups pump warm and full low end, snarling midrange and ringing highs. It features a three-ply pickguard (parchment-black-parchment), High-Mass Vintage bridge (top-loading or strings-through-body) and Fender/Hipshot vintage-style tuners with tapered shafts.
But, one of the cool things is, the preceding information is only applicable for a limited time, because Fender retires its Select Series models at the end of each year and returns to the drawing board. “We want to keep things moving forward and we want to keep innovating,” stressed Norvell. “Next year, these will be gone and there will be a completely new line of Fender Selects.” He continued, “So, if we luck into an architectural salvage from some old building that’s old pine or something, we might build instruments out of that.” He dubbed it Fender’s “high-end playground,” in which any advancements Fender makes might be put to use.
Select Series models, which come right from Fender’s Corona CA factory, were the buzz of the NAMM show this past January and, already, notable artists have been snapping them up. For the ad campaign, the company has deployed Albert Hammond, Jr. of The Strokes. Chris Chaney, of Jane’s Addiction, is playing them, as well. Plus, when a new band called Young the Giant was on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” they all played Fender Selects. However, Norvell emphasized that, although there have been numerous artist inquiries, Fender’s principal focus is stocking dealers and ensuring growing demand among players is met.
All Fender Select series models come with a Custom G&G Fender Select case and accessories, including a strap, cable and polishing cloth. The MAP range is from $1,999 to $2,499. “We’re just super excited about it,” Norvell concluded. “The Select Series is an exclamation point on the brand, our history and our legacy. We continue to be restless, and look to offer exciting new tools and paintbrushes with which musicians can create.”