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Fender Mustang in Vintage White with an aftermarket bridge pickup.
|Scale||24 or 22.5 in (610 or 572 mm)|
|Bridge||Fender "Dynamic" Vibrato|
|Pickup(s)||2 proprietary single coils|
|Daphne Blue, Dakota Red, Olympic White, Competition Red, Competition Blue, Competition Orange, Sunburst, Walnut|
The Fender Mustang is a solid body electric guitar produced by the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation. It was introduced in 1964 as the basis of a major redesign of Fender's student models, the Musicmaster and Duo-Sonic. It was produced until 1982 and reissued in 1990.
In the 1990s, the Mustang attained cult status largely as a result of its use by a number of alternative rock bands. Early examples are generally seen as the most collectible of all the short-scale Fender guitars.
The Mustang has an offset waist, reminiscent of the Jazzmaster, but its overall styling closely followed the existing student models the Musicmaster and Duo-Sonic, the slight waist offset being the main change. After the release of the Mustang, the Musicmaster and Duo-Sonic were redesigned using the Mustang body; These were branded the Musicmaster II and Duo-Sonic II, but the decals were not consistently applied.
All three Mustang-bodied models (Mustang, Musicmaster II and Duo-Sonic II) were offered with optionally the 21 fret 22.5-inch (or 3/4 scale) neck, or a 22 fret 24-inch neck, but the 24-inch was overwhelmingly more popular and 3/4 scale examples are rare. A 24-inch scale is still relatively short, the same as the Fender Jaguar but a full inch and a half shorter than the Stratocaster and three-quarters of an inch shorter than the Gibson Les Paul. The short scale may improve ease of use for people with small hands, and also enhances the ability to use the tremolo arm for upbends.
This short scale, combined with a unique and extremely direct tremolo arm would make the Mustang a cult guitar in the 1990s. Before that, its relatively low cost and marketing as a student guitar made it an obvious candidate for aftermarket upgrades, particularly pickup changes and also amateur finishes. Its wiring with the original pickups also lent itself to custom modifications.
In 1966 Fender issued the Fender Mustang Bass. A new bass body was designed for this with a similar offset body style to the Mustang guitar, and a short (30-inch) scale was used.
In 1969 Fender released the "Competition" Mustang with a "racing stripe" paint job and painted headstocks. Body contours were also added at this time. The Competition Mustangs came in Competition Red (known as Competition Burgundy in the Fender catalog), Competition Blue, and Competition Orange. This paint scheme was heavily influenced by the Shelby Mustang cars of the late 1960s.
In 1982 Fender discontinued both the Mustang and the Musicmaster II. These were the last of the offset student models to be made. Fender replaced the Mustang line with the short-lived Fender Bullet line of guitars and basses before relegating production of their student guitars to their Squier division.
In 2016, Fender released the "Offset Series" lineup which included reissues of both the Duo-Sonic and the Mustang, the latter of which was redesigned to include a six-saddle hardtail bridge similar to that of the Stratocaster and eliminating the usual switching array for a simplified two-pickup, three-position pickup selector. The pickups are out of phase with each other, so the middle both-pickup position has the twanginess of the out-of-phase position of the original instruments. In the following year, Squier would re-release the classic design as the Vintage Modified Mustang and a simplified, HH (Humbucker-Humbucker) version of the Offset Series instrument as the Bullet Mustang.
Re-issues since the 1990s
In 1990 Fender re-issued the Mustang, largely as a result of the vintage movement prevalent at the time. Among grunge and punk rock guitarists, Fender's discontinued models (budget models such as the Duo-Sonic and high-end models such as the Jazzmaster and Jaguar) had become extremely popular. Such models had Fender quality, but were less expensive secondhand than vintage Stratocasters and Telecasters.
The reissued Mustang is made in Japan and available in only the 24-inch scale. While the original Mustangs used mostly poplar wood for the body (with some rarely documented cases of mahogany), MG-72 Mustang reissues are made of the similar basswood, the newer MG-65 reissues revert to the original poplar. The natural-finished MG-77 reissue is made of ash.
In 2011 Fender released a new Mustang model in the Pawn Shop series, called the Mustang Special. The model features an offset Mustang body shape and a 24-inch scale neck, but with humbucking pickups and a hard-tail Stratocaster bridge.
In 2012 Fender announced a Kurt Cobain Signature Mustang. This model is based on Kurt's modified Mustangs that he played during the In Utero tour. Instead of having 2 single coil pickups it has a Seymour Duncan JB humbucker in the bridge and a normal Mustang single coil in the neck. It also has an angled Fender adjusto-matic bridge instead of the standard Mustang bridge. Finish colors originally included Fiesta Red, Sonic Blue, and Dark Lake Placid Blue with Competition Stripe, though by 2015 the Kurt Cobain Mustang was only produced in Sonic Blue. It will also be the first Mustang model that will be sold in both right and left-handed versions in Europe.
In Summer 2012, Squier released a new Mustang in the Vintage Modified series, with similar specs to the original versions, but using more modern materials.
In mid-2013, Fender released the Modern Player Mustang; a newer take on the old student model. It featured two Fender-branded P-90 pickups (the MP-90), and a modern 9.5" neck radius, and was offered in Daphne Blue and Honeyburst.
In late 2013, Fender also introduced the American Special Mustang, the first production Mustang made in the United States since the original run was discontinued. The American Special Mustang was significantly different from vintage models, and eliminated many unconventional features of the original Mustang. It featured the traditional Mustang shape and scale length, but featured two Fender Atomic Humbuckers with conventional three-way wiring, a more conventional Adjust-o-matic bridge and a fixed tail piece.
2016 saw Fender re-introduce the Mustang in two forms: the Mustang (two single coil pickups - in Olympic White, Black and Olive) and the Mustang 90 (two MP90 pickups - in Olympic White, Torino Red and Silver), both in a 24" scale. They have a string-through-body hardtail 'Strat' bridge (no vibrato system as was found on previous Mustangs), with vintage-like bent-steel saddles. These guitars, and a re-introduced 'Duo-Sonic' range, form the 'Offset Series' and are made in Mexico. The bodies are alder and the necks maple, with maple or rosewood fretboards. The rosewood fretboards were then replaced by pau ferro in 2017, in response to new CITES restrictions on the trading of rosewood. Two new colors were also introduced: Shell Pink for the Mustang and 2-Color Sunburst for the Mustang 90.
The Mustang has two angled single-coil pickups, each with an adjacent on-off-on switch, and a master tone and volume control.
The Mustang is unusual in having neither a pickup selector nor a circuit selector switch, instead just using the two pickup switches to allow the pickups to be used either singly or in parallel. The second on position reverses the phase of the selected pickup, allowing the pickups to be either in or out of phase when in parallel. This phasing option was also unusual for 1964.
It also meant that, as both pickups were floating with respect to ground, it was possible to modify the wiring to put the pickups into series either in or out of phase without excessive noise. The unusual switching could also be replaced by a conventional pickup change switch using the unused body routing already provided for compatibility with the Duo-Sonic, requiring only modification of the pickguard, and freeing the two eight-terminal pickup switches for other uses. As with many student guitars, aftermarket pickup additions and changes are commonly found in many vintage examples.
The Mustang introduced the Fender Dynamic Vibrato tailpiece, which together with a floating bridge forms the Mustang vibrato system. The floating bridge concept is common to the Fender floating vibrato developed for the Jazzmaster, but on the Mustang the saddles have only a single string slot, while on other Fender guitars there are multiple slots to allow limited adjustment of the string spacing.
The tailpiece was unique when introduced and remains the most unusual feature of the Mustang; Only the Jag-Stang and Fender Custom (Maverick) share this particular mechanism. While not nearly so popular as the Stratocaster synchronized tremolo, some guitarists prefer it over all other vibrato mechanisms. However, some guitarists also claim that the vibrato is too sensitive. Most notably, Fender incorporated it in the custom design which became the Jag-Stang.
No previous Fender student guitar had a vibrato system at all, and the subsequent Fender Bronco used a completely different mechanism, without a floating bridge.
The Mustang was the last of the Fender floating bridge models to be withdrawn, and the first to be reissued. Mustangs have maintained a popular following in Japan.
The Fender Mustang was originally produced in Blue, White and Red from 1964–1968. In 1969, Fender switched to the "Competition Colors," consisting of Competition Burgundy (Red), Competition Blue, and Competition Orange. These Competition Mustangs are the only original Fender guitars to be produced with these "racing stripes" which make them very collectible. The competition Mustangs produced from 1969 to mid 1970 came with a matching headstock; from then until the retirement of competition color schemes, an unpainted headstock was standard. The matching headstock models seem to be more desirable with collectors than the non matching models.
Mid-to-late 1970s US Mustangs were produced in sunburst and natural finishes as well as blonde, walnut, and black (with a standard black pickguard, updated from the earlier white pearloid or tortoise shell) and the unique Antigua burst scheme. Later Japanese reissues have been made available in a wide variety of color schemes, many with matching headstocks or in variations never seen in the US. These include competition Mustangs in Vintage White (with dark blue stripe), Capri Orange (with Fiesta Red stripe), and Ocean Turquoise Metallic (with light blue stripe), and non-stripe matching headstock Mustangs in Dakota Red, Fiesta Red and Old Lake Placid Blue. The 2012 Fender Mustang (Kurt Cobain Artist Edition) comes in Fiesta Red, Sonic Blue and Dark Lake Placid Blue with competition stripes. The 2016 Offset Series instruments come in Black, Olive, Olympic White, Torino Red and Silver, with Shell Pink and 2-Color Sunburst being released the following year.
Notable Mustang players
- Kurt Cobain (Nirvana)
- Liz Phair
- Dave Alvin (The Blasters, X)
- Theresa Wayman (Warpaint)
- Blixa Bargeld (Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds)
- Bilinda Butcher (My Bloody Valentine)
- Matty Healy (The 1975)
- Todd Rundgren (Utopia, solo, producer)
- Rory Gallagher
- Lydia Night (The Regrettes) 
- Mac DeMarco
- Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth)
- John Frusciante (Red Hot Chili Peppers)
- Omar Rodríguez-López (The Mars Volta, At the Drive-In)
- Daniel de Burca (Jejune) 
- Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie)
- Archy Marshall (King Krule)
- Amelia Murray (Fazerdaze)
- Laurie Vincent (Slaves)
- Dominik Nicolas (Indochine)
- Nakano Azusa (Ho-kago Teatime)
- Ross, Michael; James Nash (September 2011). "Fender Pawnshop Series and 60th Anniversary Telecaster". Guitar Player. pp. 108–14.
- http://www.fender.com/guitars/mustang/kurt-cobain-mustang/0251400572.html#start=1%7Cdate=Feb 2015
- Guitarist (Jan. 2017) issue 415, pp. 90-95, Future Publishing Ltd., Bath UK
- "Fender set to replace rosewood fretboards on Mexican-made and American Elite guitars and basses". MusicRadar. Retrieved 2017-09-30.
- "New Colours Available for Fender Offset 2017 Series!". GAK BLOG. 2017-09-26. Retrieved 2017-09-30.
- "Shop Fender | Electric Guitars, Acoustics, Bass, Amps & More". shop.fender.com. Retrieved 2017-10-03.
- Gill, Chris (20 February 2016). "The Definitive Kurt Cobain Gear Guide". Guitar World. Retrieved 20 April 2016.
- "6 Iconic Fender Offset Players | Fender Guitars". www.fender.com. Retrieved 2017-10-18.
- Fresh Air with Terry Gross. May 2, 2016. Interview with John Doe, Exene Cervenka, Dave Alvin. Re: Punk scene in 1970’s, 1980’s Los Angeles
- Inc., Equipboard. "Theresa Wayman's Fender Mustang (Duplicate)". Equipboard. Retrieved 2017-09-30.
- Inc., Equipboard. "Blixa Bargeld's Fender Mustang Electric Guitar". Equipboard. Retrieved 2017-09-30.
- Inc., Equipboard. "Bilinda Butcher's Fender Mustang Electric Guitar". Equipboard. Retrieved 2017-09-30.
- Inc., Equipboard. "Matty Healy's 1965 Fender Mustang Electric Guitar". Equipboard. Retrieved 2017-09-30.
- Inc., Equipboard. "Todd Rundgren's Fender Mustang Electric Guitar". Equipboard. Retrieved 2017-09-30.
- Inc., Equipboard. "Mac DeMarco's Fender Mustang Electric Guitar". Equipboard. Retrieved 2017-09-30.
- Inc., Equipboard. "Thurston Moore's Fender Mustang Electric Guitar". Equipboard. Retrieved 2017-09-30.
- Inc., Equipboard. "John Frusciante's Fender Mustang Electric Guitar". Equipboard. Retrieved 2017-09-30.
- Inc., Equipboard. "Omar Rodríguez-López's Fender Mustang Electric Guitar". Equipboard. Retrieved 2017-09-30.
- "Rig Rundown: Death Cab for Cutie".
- "She Will Rock You - Amelia Murray". Radio New Zealand. 2017-06-23. Retrieved 2018-07-29.
- Fender Mustang Story
- Fender Mustang on Kurt Cobain equipment website
- Fender Competition Mustang on Vintage Guitar
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