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Originally conceived as an inexpensive student guitar, the Mustang® due to its manufacturing quality, affordability and the unique, quirky look became a fixture of the alternative music scene during the ’90s.
In this article, we'll take a closer look at:
The Fender Mustang®, originally produced in 1964 was first conceived as an additional/upgrade to the student electric guitar models offered by Fender® at the time, the Musicmaster® and Duo-sonic®.
Fender®, showcasing Leo Fender’s business acumen, had been producing student models almost from day one, as it was the company’s intention to provide a pathway for students and beginners to graduate, from Fender’s® less expensive student models through to their top line, and more expensive models as the time, the Telecaster® and Stratocaster®.
Both the Duo-sonic® and Musicmaster® were short-scale models (22.5" compared to Fender's standard 25.5"), featuring single-coil pickups and smaller body size. The Musicmaster® had one single-coil pickup, the Duo-sonic®, unsurprisingly featured two.
While aesthetically similar to Fender’s® original student models the Mustang featured an offset waist which was later introduced to the Duo-Sonic II ® before being discontinued in 1969 and the Musicmaster II® which remained in production until 1982.
The Mustang® was originally offered in two scale lengths, a 21 fret 22.5” option and a 22 fret 24.5” option. Considering Fender’s standard scale length has remained mostly a consistent 25.5” through their range it’s no great surprise that the 24” model fared far better with the public and nowadays 22.5” models are difficult to find.
The Mustang® with its two angled single-coil pickups also featured a unique pickup switching system. This system was unique in the fact that the guitar didn’t utilize a standard pickup selector switch, instead opting for independent on/off switches. This unique system allowed the pickups to run in parallel or in isolation, along with a single master tone and volume control.
The other distinguishing feature of the Mustang® was its floating tremolo system. Featuring (and introduced for the first time) a Fender Dynamic Vibrato tailpiece and floating bridge.
Student guitars, up to this point did not come with tremolo systems and it’s fair to say the response was mixed with some preferring the Mustang® tremolo system over the synchronized tremolo system seen on the Fender Stratocaster® while others claimed it was far too sensitive.
The original line of Mustangs® ceased production in 1982. But much like the Fender Jaguar®, due to its affordability and versatility soon became popular in alternative and independent music scene.
The cult-like following the Mustang® had provided Fender® the impetus to reintroduce the guitar in 1990 as the alternative music scene was just beginning to blur the lines between alternative music and mainstream music due to its increasing popularity.
The newer models, manufactured in Japan replaced the floating tremolo with a hardtail tremolo and were only available in 24” scale length. The body was also manufactured from basswood, a less expensive Asian timber often used in electric guitars. The newer model also featured a pickup selector switch, unlike previous models which utilized on/off switches for the pickups.
Due to the popularity and similarity of the Mustang® and Fender's 1958 Jaguar® the company introduced the Jag-stang®, a hybrid of both guitars designed by non-other than Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, who had a long association with Fender guitars throughout his life.
While Guitar Kit World has no association with Fender Music Instruments® the MU guitar kit is loosely based on the Fender Jaguar® and Mustang®, with the addition of an extra single-coil pickup.
Both guitars featuring a number of similar design features including an offset body and 24” scale length, with the Mustang® featuring a more aggressive top horn, while the Jaguar® utilizes a more rounded top horn.
The MU guitar kit has some additional benefits that will suit the first time or inexperienced guitar builders including Fender’s® standard 25.5” scale length, greatly simplified electronics, aligning more closely with the Squier Affinity Series Jazzmaster® resulting in a simple assembly and a standard synchronized tremolo system.
The guitar body is also less contoured than other models, making sanding the body and achieving a mirror-like flat finish achievable even for first-time builders compared to other models and due to the open cavity and loaded pickguard the electronics are amongst the simplest of all kit guitars available and will suit first time builders with limited experience with wiring and soldering.
Being a favorite of the alternative music scene of the ’90s, it’s no surprise that many of the artists featured below are from this time period. But, there’s another guitarist listed below from an earlier period who before switching to Stratocasters® also played Mustangs®.
The MU guitar kit is an ideal option for first-time builders and allows easy access to the pickup cavity making wiring a breeze. Those new to guitar assembly are advised to select a bolt-on neck and use a standard wiring configuration as seen below.
The surface of the guitar, being flatter than other more contoured body styles makes sanding the guitar to a smooth finish much simpler and helps prevent imperfections such as ‘orange peel’ which results in a more textured finish than the smooth mirror-like finish commonly sought after.
To further reduce your risk of ‘orange peel’ use a hardwood sanding block. Softer backed sanding blocks aren’t rigid enough and will generally not be as effective when reducing bumps and ridges in the finished timber.
Your choice of timber will be dependant on your choice of finish. If opting for a solid color finish, basswood being a less expensive option makes a good choice and is also used on the Mustang® reissue.
If you prefer a natural or stained finish, a more figured timber such as Mahogany or Alder, or option for a figured maple top can look extremely good.
If you are looking for a simple, easy to assembly guitar kit and your musical tastes run toward the indie and alternative rock scene, the MU guitar kit is an ideal option for you to build your first guitar.
Check out the customizable MU guitar kit today and choose in either left or right-handed configuration along with a range of body and neck timber options.Also Read: PRS® Style Guitar Kit Review