Fender Unveils Line of Acoustic Guitars Electric Players Will Love

  • Fender recently launched a new line of outgoing acoustic guitars.
  • Lately, the company has rolled out new products in areas where it has traditionally not been very competitive.
  • I checked out the range at an event in New York.

Fender is arguably the most successful brand of electric guitars on the planet. His Stratocaster and Telecaster designs have been played by everyone from Jimi Hendrix to Lucinda Williams in every musical genre imaginable. Most of the time, these guitars are plugged into Fender amplifiers.

CEO Andy Mooney told me that when he first got the job and went out on the festival circuit to see how many artists were using Fender gear, it was something like 90% .

So Fender, a company founded in 1946, does electric. But as Mooney also pointed out to me, there’s been a noticeable growth in acoustic guitar sales lately, mostly thanks to women getting into the instrument, inspired by artists like Taylor Swift.

Fender hasn’t always been strong on the unplugged side. It’s been the domain of competitors like Gibson, Taylor, and especially Martin, a 185-year-old Pennsylvania company that makes the acoustics that nearly every observant musician wants to own.

Under Mooney — who took over as CEO of Fender in 2015, after working at Nike and Disney — Fender is in full product rollout. In 2017 he introduced Fender Play, an online learning system.

Earlier this year the company launched a new line of effects pedals for electric players (another category where Fender has spent a lot of time competing in the past), and this month the company officially unveiled a new range of acoustic guitars.

Enter the California Series

Fender California Series New

Matthieu DeBord/BI

Called “California Series”, they will not be for everyone. The quick conclusion here is that this is an acoustic for electric players – and very much meant to pack a visual punch when played live.

The colors are bold and while the guitar body designs aren’t radical, the necks are a little off and the headstocks could have been borrowed from a Stratocaster. (Fender has done this before – and currently has an acoustic, the Sonoran, in its lineup that evokes the look of the company’s electrics.)

Fender held an event in New York to showcase the line, and I attended and got to sample some of the new guitars. These are Chinese-made instruments, but the quality is quite good (as is the case with Fender’s more traditional Paramount acoustic line, which I’ve also played with) and there’s no doubting how good it is fun to get your hands on such an expressive instrument. axes.

But really, what you notice right away, whether it’s grabbing basic chords or working riffs and single-note passages on the fretboard, is how fast these guitars play.

This is due to what Fender calls a “slim-taper” C-shaped neck, made from mahogany and borrowed from the company’s electric line. I’m no shredder, but what I can play fast is rev up considerably when I sat down with a $700 matte black Redondo Special, one of the great dreadnought-style guitars in the line.

Chords sound rich, but there’s also something about the overall California Series vibe that makes you want to pick notes, strum hard and overdrive the tone. That said, the guitars seem versatile and dynamic, and the little fingerstyle play I did went over well.

Intended for young players

Fender California Series

Matthieu DeBord/BI

Fender seems to be offering the lineup to younger players who may not yearn to sit alone on a stool in a coffeeshop on an open-mic night, ripping off sweet ballads.

The best word to describe the California series might be “extroverted.” At the event, Fender convened a panel to discuss the state of the guitar, moderated by Matt Sweeney (he of recent band Iggy Pop-Josh Homme and YouTube’s delicious “Guitar Moves” fame) with Mooney, several music writers and executives, and artist-producer Doc Mckinney alongside Gina Gleason, who plays lead guitar for the band Baroness.

The discussion highlighted a relatively new trend, with the aim of exploring the current relevance of acoustic guitars: performers who would not normally be associated with guitars could bring them to the stage. Rap and hip-hop artists’ fascination with guitar-based alternative music of the 1990s was a prime example. The upshot is that it can be good to have a guitar in your hands that doesn’t sound like it aspires to be Willie Nelson’s legendary Trigger or Father John Misty’s Martin D-28.

Before you say this isn’t serious music, consider that flashy acoustics aren’t new.

For every old-school Spanish shape in a basic natural finish, there have also been sunburst jumbos with exotic pickguards and mother-of-pearl fretboard inlays.

I should know because I own one, a 10 year old Epiphone Hummingbird based on Gibson’s famous dreadnought design. This is the type of guitar you want to carry over your shoulders and step out for a rabid street party. It’s weird to play it sitting on the couch.

Affordable price and good quality

Fender California Series

Matthieu DeBord/BI

The California range is priced from $400 to $800, with a wide variety of sizes and shapes. The Player is the cheapest, the Special is next and the Classic is the top of the bunch.

It’s worth pointing out that with an all-wood construction (Sitka spruce top and natural mahogany back and sides) and bone nut and saddle, the Classic is a pretty impressive affair.

All guitars come with Fishman electronics on board and basically require you to plug them in (I haven’t, but will later when I get a chance to check these guitars out in depth).

“We’ve never really had the same commitment to pedals and acoustic guitars as we have to electric guitars and amps,” Mooney told me, describing the new California line as a fork in the road that will redefine the product mission. from Fender in the future. .

“Electric guitars have been a 70-year journey for us,” he said. “I always like to think of these things as the first step in another 70-year journey.”


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