Electric guitar

Jason Z. Schroeder Chopper TL “T-Pine” electric guitar review


No longer just a newcomer to the world of custom guitar, Jason Schroeder is a luthier whose instruments have found their place in the hands of players from Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham to Eric Gales, Tomo Fujita and Matt Schofield. And its wrap-around bridges are now sold through Stewart-MacDonald, proving that the Schroeder name likely stuck around for some time.

One of the latest creations from Jason’s Redding, Calif., The Chopper TL “T-Pine” – is also one of its more traditional. It’s a cousin of the Chopper, a Tele- / PRS-inspired 6-string that has found favor with blues and rock guitarists looking for a modern twist on a traditional rig. But the Chopper TL is a more classic mid-century riff on the Chopper concept that marries Schroeder’s aura of handcrafted beauty with semi-hollow tones. And, overall, this is an extraordinarily capable guitar.

Grace and power
The T-Pine achieves the cool trick of looking practical, stylish, luxurious and understated at the same time. The straight-grained natural pine body is adorned with ivoroid binding on the front and back, while a curvy ivoroid pickguard nods to traditional Fender Thinline pickguard shapes. The screw-down roasted bird’s eye maple neck is topped with a bone nut and topped with an Indian rosewood fingerboard and giant, high-gloss stainless steel frets. The visual sum of these pieces gives it a vaguely Western feel, much like a nice leather saddle or a pair of handmade boots. The hardware is traditional but, like everything else, a little whimsical: vintage-style locking tuners, Lollar Special T pickups, a Callaham bridge with wedge saddles and Schroeder’s signature S-shaped grip.

The craftsmanship of the T-Pine is excellent, and it’s especially evident when holding the neck: the rounded mid-weight C-shape has a comfortable Gibson feel from the late 1950s, with edges of fingerboard that have a broken feel and exquisite fretwork that is precise, ultra polished and glossy. As a result, playability is blazingly fast up to the 22nd fret, which is easy to access thanks to an intelligently sculpted heel. The 2-piece pine body is also lightweight, making the T-Pine very comfortable to hold whether you are standing or sitting.

Ride like you stole it
Even without an amp, the T-Pine’s lively resonance makes it easy to discern subtle sonic differences in the softer pine body. It has a bright, bubbling sound that is just a bit rounder in the midrange than a traditional Ash Tele, with slightly mellowed highs. The individual notes hold up beautifully, a likely result of the beefy Callaham bridge and robust neck articulation. Even in the upper parts of the neck, the chords have a surprising air and body.

Those same fundamental flavors come to life when plugged into a subdued Fender Champ. With the guitar volume turned down a bit, the sounds of the Lollar Special T were fat and funky, with noticeably more oomph than what you typically hear from a single coil bridge – almost a cross between T and D style sounds. ‘P-90 attack is perfect for rhythmic sounds. Turning up the volume on the guitar resulted in a clear, detailed sound that was slightly aggressive and bluesy. The Schroeder will delightfully drive a small tube amp in these situations, evoking sounds that are at once rich, airy and filled with harmonics. Really digging with a flatpick produced some of the grossest sounds I’ve ever heard with a single coil: percussive, visceral and gritty.

The shift to the middle position brings out the versatility of the T-Pine. With the volume wide open I got a flavorful, flavorful rind that was punchy and a bit more compressed than I expected. And I only had to turn the volume down with one key to achieve the crisp, brave smoothness you expect from the mid position on a T-style instrument.

Plugged into a Jackson Ampworks NewCastle, with its higher gain British-style tones, the T-Pine delivered midrange, rock-flavored country sounds (think Keith Urban) that bordered on the spectacular. And with a few tweaks, I got some convincing Marshall-type rock tones that highlighted the low-end power and high-end clarity of the Lollars. Fiery Billy Gibbons-style pinch overtones were easily released from the strings, and the pickups featured a cool compression that helped me maintain distorted turns and get a cool controlled feedback from the amp. But even in those more aggressive environments, it only took a pulling back of the volume knob to achieve a clean, Andy Summers-style sound with a sprinkle of crunch and a nice presence.

The verdict
While much of the T-Pine Chopper’s success can be attributed to Schroeder’s knack for making the most of proven rigs, his thoughtfully chosen settings, styling twists, and penchant for quality and tone make it the T-Pine a very special guitar. It’s an extremely versatile instrument – country guitarists will love its ability to nail traditional tones, and rock or blues players will appreciate the added midrange power and unruly attitude. The T-Pine is an instrument that would fit into almost any player’s arsenal and likely replace a lot of lesser instruments for good in the process.