Fender Mustang: A Comprehensive Review
As one of the most iconic guitar manufacturers in the world, Fender has been at the forefront of guitar innovation and design since its inception in 1946. One of their most unique and enduring models is the Fender Mustang, a short-scale electric guitar originally introduced in 1964. For over half a century, this guitar has earned a dedicated following among musicians for its distinctive sound, playability, and versatility. In this article, we will take an in-depth look at the Fender Mustang, examining its history, features, and why it remains a popular choice among guitarists.
A Brief History of the Fender Mustang
The Fender Mustang was created as a student model guitar, intended to be more affordable and accessible for beginner guitarists. It was designed by Leo Fender himself, who wanted to create a guitar that was both easy to play and visually appealing. The Mustang was originally released as a part of Fender’s “student line” alongside the Musicmaster and Duo-Sonic, which featured similar designs and construction.
Over the years, the Mustang has undergone various updates and revisions. However, its core design elements have remained relatively unchanged, making it instantly recognizable to fans of the instrument. The Mustang has been embraced by a diverse range of musicians, from punk rockers to indie artists, thanks to its unique sound and aesthetic.
Design and Construction
At first glance, the Fender Mustang stands out due to its offset body shape, which provides excellent balance and ergonomics. This design makes it comfortable to play both standing up and sitting down, especially for those who prefer a shorter scale length.
The Mustang typically features a 24-inch scale length, which is shorter than the more common 25.5-inch scale found on Fender’s Stratocasters and Telecasters. This short scale length contributes to the guitar’s unique sound and playability, making it easier to play chords and bend strings.
Another distinctive aspect of the Mustang is its pickup configuration. It comes equipped with two single-coil pickups, each with its own on/off slider switch, as well as a phase switch that allows you to combine the pickups in various ways. This setup provides a wide range of tonal possibilities, making the Mustang incredibly versatile for different styles of music.
The Fender Mustang also features a unique “Dynamic Vibrato” tailpiece, which is a floating bridge system that allows players to add subtle vibrato effects to their playing. This vibrato system is known for its smooth operation and stable tuning, making it a favorite among Mustang players.
Sound and Performance
The Fender Mustang’s short scale length and single-coil pickups give it a distinctive tonal character that sets it apart from other electric guitars. The sound is often described as bright and snappy, with a pronounced midrange and a tight low end. This makes the Mustang particularly well-suited for genres like punk, indie rock, and alternative music, where its unique voice can cut through the mix and add character to a recording or live performance.
One of the most appealing aspects of the Fender Mustang is its playability. The shorter scale length makes it easier to navigate the fretboard and perform complex chord shapes, while the slim neck profile and comfortable body shape make it a joy to play for extended periods.
In terms of versatility, the Mustang’s pickup configuration and switching system offer a wide range of tonal options. By combining the two single-coil pickups in different ways, players can achieve everything from warm, vintage-style tones to more aggressive, cutting sounds. This makes the Mustang a great choice for guitarists who play multiple styles of music and need an instrument that can adapt to different situations.
Notable Players and Popularity
The Fender Mustang has been embraced by a diverse range of musicians over the years, from iconic punk rockers like Kurt Cobain of Nirvana and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth to indie darlings like Annie Clark (St. Vincent) and Mac DeMarco. Its unique sound and playability have made it a popular choice among guitarists looking for something different from the standard Stratocaster or Telecaster.
In recent years, Fender has released several updated versions of the Mustang, including the American Performer Mustang and the Mustang 90. These models retain the core features of the original Mustang while incorporating modern improvements such as updated pickups, improved hardware, and new finishes.
The Fender Mustang is a truly unique and versatile instrument that has stood the test of time. Its distinctive design, comfortable playability, and wide range of tonal options make it an excellent choice for guitarists of all skill levels and musical styles. Whether you’re a beginner looking for your first electric guitar or a seasoned player in search of something different, the Fender Mustang is definitely worth considering.