The G&L Comanche: A Single-Coil Encyclopedia

Is there such a thing as the ‘Everything Guitar’ or one electric guitar to rule them all? I know, I know, perish the thought....but humor me. One guitar: you’d want something that not only sounded great but that was vastly flexible, right? Personally, I’d pick something from the Strat Family because you can ‘do more’ with a trio of single-coils compared to, say, the twin humbuckers of a Les Paul style guitar. But I’d want hum-canceling transducers as well as the ability to cop a fatter, hotter tone than a standard Strat that also, paradoxically, accessed those old 50s and 60s sounds. I’d also want the ability to combine the bridge and neck pickups (a la the Tele) and while we’re at it let’s throw in a vibrato bridge that actually stays in tune and a modern neck radius for bends that don’t fret out. Luckily, there are a few guitars being produced today that can deliver all this but few can claim the pedigree and the classic vibe of a G&L Comanche.

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The Comanche is a Leo Fender original: a Strat on steroids that enables a player to explore a veritable encyclopedia of single-coil sounds in one guitar.

The heart of any Comanche is the combination of (a) the three Z-coil, hum-canceling transducers; (b) an expander switch that enables any combination of the three pickups; and (c) the PTB tone circuit (PTB = Passive Treble and Bass roll-off); and (d) the G&L vibrato bridge that represents a vast improvement over Fender's original designs of the 50s and 60s.

Here's mine: a pre-CNC era Comanche in rare Mary Kaye blonde and gold hardware (so rare, in fact, I've never seen another like it). For more info on this rare 2003 NAMM centerpiece Comanche step right this way!

Like most G&L models, the Comanche rewards the player who likes to use the volume and tone pots. If you’re the plug in a go type that is satisfied with a couple of sounds then the run of the mill Fender will get the job done. However, seasoned players appreciate a guitar that delivers a spectrum of killer tones. Most world-class guitarists are constantly adjusting their volume and tone controls during a song, working every shade and nuance available. To put it simply: the Comanche enables a more dynamic performance. 

Those of us who grew up playing Fenders et al are used to volume and tone pots that function as tone sucks but G&L uses high quality parts which means that when you start spinning knobs you are met with not tone suck but controls that actually work and sound fantastic across their entire range of operation. (I wrote a mini guide to the PTB if you’re interested).

With everything ‘on ten’ you get a hot signal with deep lows and high highs – in this mode the Comanche gives you more of everything.  Here, the natural compression produced by plugging into a low-wattage, tube rectified amp will keep you smiling for hours, or, you can plug into your high-gain favorite and create some heavier tones. Roll the volume down a touch and the guitar transforms into sweetness and spice; roll the treble down a hair and you’re now in ‘velvet’ mode; select to the neck pickup and roll off a bit of the bass and a bit more volume and you’ve accessed a woody chime that you cannot get on a plain vanilla Strat. In short, you could play for hours with every possible combination of settings and not hit the bottom of the well – and it’s difficult to concoct a bad sound from this guitar. 

Overall, the G&L Comanche very much lives up to the notion of an encyclopedia of single-coil sounds, kind of like a tonal laboratory for the person looking to simplify their live performance rig or the studio experimenter who wants to add hundreds of new sounds to his or her arsenal. On top of the rainbow of new colors you’ll be conjuring up, the Comanche, like all G&L guitars, offers custom shop quality at garden-variety production prices.