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Modern Classics | Fender Player II Series

Modern Classics | Fender Player II Series

Leo Fender and his crew got everything so near perfect right off the bat, that it’s almost more phenomenal the company continues to innovate and refine its decades-old instruments. The challenge, of course, is fiercely honoring the elements that made the originals legendary, while simultaneously adapting features to evolutions in guitar culture and musical styles, the ergonomic preferences of today’s players and that all-important quest for tone.

The Fender Player II series does all of that, and makes it happen for everyday guitarists and bassists who desire an outstanding instrument that delivers great value. The Fender team really dug in to offer premium enhancements in a series that comes in at comfortable prices for emerging musicians, casual giggers, home-studio creators and even experienced pros seeking a second stage guitar. Player II models include rosewood (previously pau ferro) and maple fretboards with rolled edges, upgraded hardware, vintage-looking plastic parts and retro colors never seen before on production-model Fenders. The new lineup features all the classic Fender designs you’d expect, but with a big surprise—chambered ash Stratocasters and Telecasters, and chambered mahogany Strats and Teles.

We’re fortunate to have Allen Abbassi, Fender Director of Product Management for electric guitars and basses, onboard to give you a deeper look at the nearly 80 models the company is bringing to the re-energized Player II series.

What was the design ethos for the Player II series?

Abbassi: One of the through-lines when designing the Player II series was making the instruments classic Fender packages in as many ways as possible—materials, colors, pickups, hardware, etc.—while also retaining the core modern feature set that made the original Player series so successful.

What made it possible to offer rosewood fretboards on Player II instruments?

As you may recall, rosewood fretboards were removed from many of our products a few years back when rosewood was classified as “endangered” by CITES. [Editor’s Note: CITES is a global treaty to ensure international trade in wild plants and animals is biologically sustainable, as well as legal and traceable.] Since then, rosewood has been exempted for musical instruments, and we have been able to bring it back into core series such as Vintera II and Player II.

The 2018 Player series launched with pau ferro fretboards. What are the main differences between pau ferro and rosewood?

Rosewood is a traditional Fender fretboard option. Compared to pau ferro—which looks and sounds great—rosewood provides the classic look, feel and sound that players have come to expect from Fender guitars since the late ’50s.

Was there any reason other than comfort to offer a modern-C neck shape for the Player II models.

That is the reason. The modern-C neck shape has been a core feature of the Player series since its launch in 2018. It’s also the Goldilocks of neck shapes—it’s not too thin and not too thick. For most players, it’s the perfect middle ground. 

Fender Player II SSS Stratocaster Rolled Fingerboard Edges

Pictured: Fender Player II Stratocaster with Maple Neck in Aquatone Blue

What about the rolled fretboard edges? Those were not offered on the original series.

The rolled edges are a significant upgrade. It takes much more time and care to properly roll the edges of the fingerboard to achieve a broken-in feel.

Upgraded hardware is another feature of Player II models. How much was upgraded and why, and what are the benefits of the improved hardware as compared to original Player series guitars and basses?

We were very specific about which hardware we wanted to improve in the series, as there were already a lot of great options in the original run—such as two-point tremolos on the Stratocasters and six-saddle bridges on the Telecasters. One major upgrade for Player II guitars is the ClassicGear tuners. These are vintage-looking modern tuners that combine old-school safety posts for quick and easy string changes with an 18:1 gear ratio for precise tuning. In addition, the Jazzmaster and Jaguar now feature pre-radiused Mustang saddles, which provide more consistent action, deliver purer string tone with no rattle and keep the strings securely in the saddles.

Given that the original Player series launched six years ago, did the team seek to revoice the pickups for Player II? 

Many Player II guitars and basses come with the classic Player pickups featured on the original series. After countless rounds of listening and comparing, we kept coming back to the original voicings for most models—a classic single-coil sound with a little extra heat.

However, there are two models with new pickups—the Jazzmaster and Jaguar. We wanted the Player II versions of those guitars to have pickup configurations traditionally associated with those instruments. The original Player versions had two humbuckers on the Jazzmaster, and a humbucker and a single-coil on the Jaguar. So, we swapped out the non-traditional pickup configurations with newly designed Jazzmaster and Jaguar single-coils voiced with the same design concept as the rest of the series—classic tones with some extra bite.

What was the design concept in play for the new “vintage-inspired” finishes?

We scoured our paint supplier’s extensive library of car catalogs—which contain every paint color used by major auto manufacturers for each year since the early 1920s. We were looking for colors that evoke the golden era of Fender. We wanted colors that wouldn’t have looked out of place on guitars produced in the ’50s and ’60s, but that were also different enough from our classic custom colors to really grab players’ attention. We discovered four colors that did exactly that—vintage car colors from the '50s, '60s and '70s that were never used on Fender production guitars.

Considering the wide range of players and skill levels, how did you focus the features that would be most appealing and useful for those interested in Player II models? 

For a series like Player II, it’s all about making instruments that sound great and play even better. Simple as that. Choices such as upgrading the bridges have the benefit of both improving functionality and playability at the same time. The addition of rolled edges is another choice that epitomizes this thinking. If it’s more comfortable to play the guitar, you’ll play more. ClassicGear tuners make tuning the guitar a breeze. Rosewood fingerboards sound warm and feel smooth to the touch. It’s about identifying features that are meaningful to today’s player.

The Player II series also features chambered Stratocasters and Telecasters. As both guitars are light and comfortable without chambers, what was the thinking behind chambering these instruments?

We really wanted to infuse the series with some premium tonewood options. Ash and mahogany are both wonderful body woods that possess widely revered tonal qualities, as well as beautiful and distinctive grain patterns. They also offer some unique tonal characteristics relative to alder. Chambered ash provides more pleasing high end and chambered mahogany produces more warmth.

Fender Player II Stratocaster in 3-Color Sunburst

Pictured: Fender Player II Stratocaster with Rosewood Fingerboard in 3-Color Sunburst

What criteria goes into determining when it is time to refresh, revise, or perhaps even redesign a particular series?

It’s a complex decision that takes into account changing trends in the market, player preferences and advancing design, among many other factors. Every time we launch a new product, we learn more about our customers and what they truly want. We’re constantly challenging our own assumptions and changing our approach to keep things fresh, unique and exciting for both lifelong customers and players just starting on their musical journey.

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