Fender guitars are a titan in the music industry; their unique sound and shape set the standard for guitars for decades. However, within their catalog of instruments, Fender Mustangs stand out for their totally unique shape and sound.
Fender Mustangs are unlike Fender Jaguars, Stratocasters and sound unique from the Telecaster too. Mustangs are playing in a league all their own, and musicians turn to the Mustang for that reason.
Fender Mustang History
To understand what makes the Mustang so great, we have to dive back into Fender’s history a bit. The company started in California in the 1940s, initially producing “woodie” amps. Those amps, made of hardwood cabinets, curated a unique and loud sound for musicians and paved the way for amps and electric guitar sounds.
The Fender Mustang came into power in the 1960s. Fender initially built the guitar to help round out its “student” series; these were instruments explicitly made to help shop owners teach new players how to handle and play guitars.
Fender stood out from other music manufacturers at the time because they created instruments with the working American in mind. It was essentially a blue-collar guitar with significantly more accessible prices than the expensive products on the market. Fender wanted musicians from all walks of life to use their guitars, and the prices helped make that possible.
The Mustang Legacy
The original Mustang had a medium scale, clocking in at 24 inches, with 22 frets and a dual-pickup. The guitar featured a vibrato system, allowing for a whole spectrum of pitch changes and sounds. You’ll find that today’s Mustang largely resembles its original electric guitar model.
Its price in the 60s rang in under $200. While Fender initially intended to create an affordable student guitar, the Mustang later took on a life of its own in the music industry. In the 90s, the instrument gained notoriety; grunge bands opted for the Fender Mustang, and throughout the decade, countless other indie rock and country musicians reached for the ‘stang.
Arguably, the most well-known Mustang player was Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain. When guitarists think of the Fender Mustang, many immediately associate it with Cobain and his playing style.
The list doesn’t end with Cobain, though. The Pixies’ Frank Black, Talking Heads’ David Byrne, and Red Hot Chili Peppers’ John Frusciante are some of the many wickedly talented musicians to strum the Fender Mustang.
Today, the guitar is still used by artists like Matthew Healy from The 1975 and Brendon Urie from Panic at the Disco.
Things to Consider Before Buying
The Fender Mustang is a unique instrument. It’s a reliable and beautiful guitar, but there are several features you should consider before jumping in to make this investment. Check to see if this instrument matches you, your playing level, and what you want out of a guitar.
Currently, there are four different Fender Mustang models available on Fender’s site. You’ve got the Player series, the Player 90 series, the Vintera 60s Mustang, and the American Performer model.
The Player and Player 90 Mustangs will cost you about the same. Beyond that, the Vintera’s price is several hundred dollars more, and the American Performer is several hundred more than even that. If you’re looking for a standout electric guitar and budget isn’t an issue, steer toward the American Performer. For the rockers on a budget, check out the Player and Player 90.
These four guitars are just the four Fender Mustangs currently in production. Over the years, there have been several different variations of Mustang created by the company. You could potentially find a genuine 1960s era Fender Mustang online with a careful eye and some patience.
Most notably, the Fender Mustang has a shorter scale than many of its electric guitar competitors. Industry professionals technically label the guitar as a “medium” scale, but players will notice the shorter neck. Today’s Mustang generally has a 24-inch scale with 22 frets. It’s comparable to the Fender Jaguar in size, which also has a shorter-than-average scale at around 24 inches.
The average Fender guitar typically has about a 25.5-inch scale. Both the Stratocaster and Telecaster have scales at least 25 inches long. Fender Mustang’s medium-size neck affects the guitar’s sound quality— players will find the guitar’s tone is much brighter than other electric guitars.
This shorter neck makes for a great starter electric guitar. While it’s got an excellent sound and will serve any professional guitarist well, its shorter scale means smaller fret spacing and less tension in the Mustang’s strings.
For beginners, this could help be a helpful feature. The guitar strings won’t be as rough on their fingers, and they won’t have to stretch their hands as far to reach the different frets.
Its size takes getting used to, but once you’ve got it down, you’ll find it’s an excellent instrument for picking, chords, and other strumming techniques because the neck is skinnier and smaller.
Fender does have two models of guitars with even shorter scales than the Mustang. The Musicmaster and the Dual-Sonic were both only 22.5 inches long and the start of Fender’s “student” guitar series.
Fender also produced several 22.5-inch Mustangs in the 60s, but those short-scale guitars are tough to find. After the 90s, every Fender Mustang was made with a 24-inch scale.
Any guitarist would agree- the body of a guitar is essential for creating excellent sound. The instrument’s body affects its playability and the deepness of the sound and tone.
For the Fender Mustang, the body is pretty compact. It’s easy to maneuver and slim in your hands. It won’t feel cumbersome and isn’t clunky to hold.
The guitar’s neck is predominantly C-shaped. This shape doesn’t influence how the guitar sounds necessarily, but it will impact how you play your Fender Mustang. The C-shape is one of the most common guitar neck shapes on the market. It’s comfortable, solid, and condensed.
The body of a guitar is essential for playability, but it also significantly impacts your instrument’s look. The Fender Mustang is, objectively, a cool looking guitar.
While the body shape varies slightly between the different Fender Mustang models— the American Performer has a unique Alder body type, for example— the guitar’s color ranges significantly.
Today, you have several options for colors and wood type for each model of the Fender Mustang. I’m partial to the Satin Sonic Blue on the American Performer, but if you want a more classic vibe, the sunburst options are pretty fantastic looking.
Guitarist’s opinions tend to split down the middle on their preferred pickups. It’s a vital part of the instrument because it significantly influences its style, sound, and tone. People tend to lean toward either a single-coil or humbucker pickup.
The modern Fender Mustangs have two single-coil pickups, which create a bit of a bite in your guitar’s sound. They’re bright and not as smooth or deep sounding as their humbucker pickup challengers. With single-coil pickups, you can expect a punchier, twangy sound in your electric guitar.
Today’s current Fender Mustangs either have a hardtail Strat bridge or the classic Mustang bridge. If you’re buying a Mustang with vintage or vintage-style bridges, it likely will also come with the Mustang tremolo.
The bridge-style impacts how you physically re-string your electric guitar, but it can also affect your sound’s clarity. If you notice significant ringing while you’re playing, your bridge-type could be the source of your problem.
The tremolo arm on your guitar influences the tone of your guitar pretty noticeably. Most Fender Mustangs already have a brighter tone to start with, and a tremolo could allow you to really play around with different sound effects and variations.
Your Playing Level
A final, crucial thing to consider before buying any instrument is how playable it is, compared to your current playing level. If you have goals to become the next Jimi Hendrix, that’s wonderful. But if you’ve never picked up a guitar before, and don't know how to play electric guitar, it can feel pretty complicated to start with a master-level instrument.
Fortunately, the Fender Mustang is useful for any playing level. Professionals frequently use it during live performances, but Fender first created it to complete its “student” series.
We want to note; its size takes some getting used to— its frets are spaced closer together, and the neck itself is smaller than the average guitar. If you have little hands, this could be an excellent guitar for you. It’s easier to reach the frets, and the body isn’t particularly large or heavy. If you’ve got large fingers and hands, you may find that it’s not easy at first to fit your fingers in the right positions quickly.
Whether you’re new to electric guitars or the guitarist in a budding indie rock band, you’ll find the Fender Mustang will bring you a unique sound, a classic look, and a tone that is brighter than most guitars you’ll come across.