Duff McKagan, Mac Miller & Ty Dolla $ign Are Playing Reborn Iconic Fender Guitars

Courtesy of Fender
Duff McKagan

New versions of iconic instruments will be unveiled Thursday at the NAMM Show in Anaheim, California.

At The NAMM Show -- which willl draw legions of musical gear devotees to Anaheim, California, this week -- Fender will officially unveil striking new versions of iconic instruments that have shaped seven decades of pop music, from rock 'n' roll to hip-hop.

The renowned Stratocaster and Telecaster are among the classic electric guitars that get an upgrade in the American Professional Series from the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation. The series also includes new models of the Jaguar and Jazzmaster guitars, and the Jazz Bass and Precision Bass.

Artists including Ty Dolla $ign, Duff McKagan of Guns N' Roses, Mac Miller, Dhani Harrison and the indie rock group Local Natives have been recruited by Fender as among the first players of the new gear.

"We're honoring the past but pushing into the future," says Justin Norvell, VP, electric guitars and basses, during a recent preview of the new line, hosted by Fender in Manhattan's historic Meatpacking District. The setting contrasted with the cavernous Anaheim Convention Center, which is expected to draw some 100,000 NAMM attendees from more than 120 countries and territories this week. Fender's unveiling will take place Thursday at the show.

What's changed in the American Professional series?

The new instruments, retailing for $1,399 to $1,599, have a slightly thicker "deep C" neck profile, narrow-tall frets "for easier string bending," new pickups, new electronics and more. "Components have been refreshed, overhauled and optimized," says Norvell. The series launch includes 92 stock variations on 16 models available in 11 colors including three shades -- which Fender describes as "sonic gray, antique olive and mystic seafoam."

What hasn't changed?

Simply put, Fender's legacy. The brand is associated with many of music's greatest rock players -- Eric Clapton, David Gilmour, Nile Rodgers, Keith Richards, Bruce Springsteen -- and with styles ranging from country to punk, funk to hip-hop.

So why mess around with a classic?

"Our artist community is our sounding board," explains Norvell of the performers tapped to participate in Fender's product development. "We're always looking at how we can make [an instrument] better, as manufacturing gets better, as design tolerances get tighter, as we discover new technologies and new materials.

"Also, music changes," adds Norvell. "So as music changes and people record differently and play differently, as sound evolves, we re-voice our guitar pickups to work with that.

"We're always looking at making a better tool so the artists that use them can be more creative and have to think less about the tool that they're using -- the sonic paintbrush that is a guitar."


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