Since its first introduction in 1964, Fender Mustang has been an alternative rock guitar and used by notable musicians like Kurt Cobain, John Frusciante, Matthew Healey, and more. As the most popular student-model guitar made by Fender, it was reintroduced in 1990 to give new players the classic guitar with modern electronics for an ultimate guitar experience they never have.
Today, I’m going to reveal some of the reasons why the Mustang has been around the alt-rock scene for years. From the construction, sound, and performance, I’ll tell you everything I know, including what I “like less” about this guitar.
All photos provided by FMIC
- Short scale length is very comfortable, even for those with larger hands
- The guitar is lightweight and has a very smooth finish
- The bridge pickup is reliable to produce clear sounds
- Still get that alternative rock tone Mustang is known for
- Jumbo frets might be problematic, especially for players with less experience
- Action is a bit high but can be easily lowered down
- Pickups are a bit noisy but tolerable
- There are sharper edges towards the upper frets
Design & Construction
This solid-body electric guitar is made of Alder with slab style popular with the older Fender Mustang guitars. It’s extremely compact with the distinctive curvy offset double-cutaway that is very comfortable regardless of your playing style. My choice is the Olive color with a Gloss Polyester finish. Other colors are Olympic White and Black.
The C-shape neck profile is made of Maple, as well as the fretboard. It’s rounder with a 9.5-inch radius, 22 medium jumbo-sized frets with black dot inlays, and a 24-inch scale length. The older model has 21 frets and a 22.5-inch neck, while the newer version has one more fret and still got a shorter scale length.
I prefer the shorter scale length since it’s very easy for me to access the upper frets. It accommodates expressive string bending perfectly. This configuration also adds stability and smoothness when doing a fast play. However, those who are accustomed to longer scale length like the Fender Tele will find it challenging to play the guitar that reaches the neck too soon.
Nothing much has changed in terms of the design. The new Mustang still has the big ol’ headstock and chrome-plated tuners. You’ll find the six-saddle string-through-body hardtail bridge that keeps the strings stable and in tune. Additionally, the hardtail bridge also provides better resonance to the guitar
I think it came with real hardware and electronics. The tuners and the tailpiece bridge are quite reliable. If in case the guitar isn’t playable, you can easily upgrade the bridge and the string, which doesn’t require much of an effort.
What works magic in Mustang apart from the hardware are the single-coil pickups. Proprietary of Fender, the single-coil pickups at the neck and bridge invoke the classic alternative tone of the original Mustangs. These are slanted in position, just like the original Mustangs.
Each pickup offers various sound options you’ll really enjoy, through the three-way pickup selector switch. To give you more control over the sound you produce, the guitar includes a volume and a tone control you can easily access. The metal plate and pickguard sit on the top well and serve their purpose. Overall, the guitar looks neat and straightforward, yet very appealing.
Playability & Performance
Since it has a shorter scale than other Strat and Tele, I expected it to be lighter. And, indeed, it only weighs around 7lbs, lighter than the older models that weigh 10lbs. Additionally, the slab body shape also provides more comfort for its narrower body size.
The neck feels comfortable to play, even when playing quite fast. I tend to be very fast and aggressive if I’m in the mood to play. Yet, the neck is still very comfortable cause it has a swift satin finish.
Fender has been using the 9.5-inch fretboard radius because they’ve proven it to be the most comfortable measurement whether chording, bending or single-note playing. And, I’m really surprised about how stable and playable this guitar is. It’s great for those with smaller hands, but even larger players can still find this guitar fun to play with.
The biggest upgrade of the new Mustang is the toggle switch. It’s very responsive, together with the controls. They are reliable and easily adjustable, even on the fly.
The action though is a bit higher during the first time I played it, which isn’t a problem. Lowering the bridge a bit — just a half turn on each mounting post — is enough to achieve a more comfortable string action. The intonation was spot-on, so, you can play the guitar well once you’ve adjusted the action.
Both the tuners and the tailpiece/bridge combo are reliable enough to keep the length and tension of the strings. Therefore, the guitar stays in tune so well, even when playing for several hours. Even the strings are perfectly strung out of the box and there’s no need to upgrade them unless you feel the need to.
The sound? Like a Mustang! I mean, it really sounds like the old Mustang even though it has a few upgrades to it already. Just like the original Mustang, it still produces a unique sound that makes it very popular in the alternative rock scene.
While the playability is at par with other Fender models, I didn’t expect the sound to be this fabulous. Although there’s no tremolo, the single-coil pickups onboard still produce the wonderful Fender tone. The pickups provide a clean and wide variety of tone styles.
The single-coil pickups are great for country and funk, blues, and alt-rock. You can use the three-way selector switch to access even more tonal capacity of the guitar. If you know how to use the volume and tone controls to your advantage, you’ll achieve more versatility, you never had before.
One known problem with single-coil pickups is that they tend to be noisy when you crack up the volume. So, it’s up to you to upgrade to Fender Noiseless pickups or more reliable pickups.
Since this isn’t my only guitar, I just keep the Mustang pickups since they are perfect for my needs.
Value for Money
For its price, this guitar is a good deal. Yet, this isn’t a premium Mustang, so, you can’t expect this to be perfect. Out of the box, you got everything you need to play the guitar. The tuners and tailpiece are good at keeping the stings stable; the pickups are good at delivering clean tones.
The overall construction and finish are enough to aid the playability of the guitar. Although there are sharper fret edges on the upper frets, you can easily polish them. Maybe, the thing that you should look into is the pickups. Though they are good, they still have room for improvement.
It’s a good guitar, offered at a good price. However, if you want to level up your skills, you should also bring this guitar to a whole new level. Whether the guitar is a worthy investment for you, it’s your call.
Ideal for smaller players, the modern Fender Mustang Electric guitar has all the features you need to achieve the classic alternative rock tone. This is all thanks to the single-coil pickups onboard. It has very reliable tuners that keep the strings in perfect tune even when using this for a long time.
Everything works fine, but not really the best. You can upgrade the pickups to more reliable ones or you can set it up well for better performance. In totality, it’s a fairly good electric guitar that helps you reminisce the good old days with its alternative rock sounds.