“One day you pick up the guitar and you feel like a great master, and the next day you feel like a fool. It’s because we’re different every day, but the guitar is always the same, beautiful.” – Tommy Emmanuel.

Every guitar player out there will tell you that their guitar is a beautiful thing, their true love, their best companion, even when the sounds that come out are not what they want to hear. A genius guitarist might make any guitar sound good, but a good guitar can make all the difference for those who are just learning how to play.

For beginners in the world of this instrument, as well as for those who set the standards, the Mustang has been the go-to choice for decades. Let’s learn more about the guitar Mustang design and its rich history.


History and Models

Fender duo sonic 60's guitar
source: reverb.com

First introduced in August 1964, the Fender Mustang had humble beginnings as a beginner and student guitar, following the release of the scaled-down, single-pickup Musicmaster and the two-pickup version Duo-Sonic of 1956.

The idea was to capture the business of young students interested in in-store instructions who would use this guitar until they were ready for the next level piece – the full-size Fender Telecaster or Stratocaster. However, the model quickly caught the eye and ear of the grown-up Fenders and proved to be way more than just a learning tool.

The Mustang guitars were essentially a Duo-Sonic with a Dynamic Fender Vibrato with a 22 ½ inch scale length, shorter than any Spanish-electric at the time. Its floating bridge and unorthodox dynamic vibrato tailpiece were similar to the Jazzmaster, but the bridge saddle was made with a single string slot.

The sprung tailpiece and separate rocking bridge mounted on the base plate distinguished the model from its predecessors. The electronics were new too. The pickups were similar to the Stratocaster’s but covered entirely with no visible pole pieces, each wired through a 3-way slider switch providing ‘on’ and ‘off’ positions as well as an out-of-phase setting.

The 1965/66 editions brought some changes, the biggest one being the enlargement of the headstock. The tuners were changed to ‘F-keys’ and the neck plate to ‘F-series’. Further changes and tweaks were done for the 1969 Mustang such as the forearm and back contour added to the body which marked the end of the slab-bodied designs.

The Competition designs were introduced in 1969 but were discontinued around 1973. Three-ply plastic pickguards came in place of the pearl ones, and a second string was added. In 1976 the three-ply black pickguards and the black tremolo arm tips became the norm for the Mustangs.

A New Era

Fender mustang 60's
source: fender.com

The production of this instrument was discontinued around 1982 and in 1984, the 20th Anniversary of Mustangs, Fender made one batch for Yamano Music Stores. It was reissued in 1990, but today you can find it in the form of the Classic Series ’65 Mustang.

New designs were released on the market in 2016, Mustang 90 and Mustang Bass PJ. The former has two MP-90 pick ups, and the latter features a C-shaped neck with 19 jumbo frets, a P Bass split single-coil and a J Bass single-coil bridge pickup.

The Colours and Build

Fender in Dakota red
source: haggertysmusic.com

The custom colours of Fender guitars were Dakota Red, Daphne Blue and Olympic White, but the namings for Mustang were just Red, Blue and White. The first two models had white pearl pickguards and black slider switches and the White ones had red tortoise-pearl pickguards and white slider switches.

The later model, Competition Mustang featured diagonal stripes and forearm and rib cage contours with matching and non-matching headstocks. In 1974 the guitar was available in Three-Colour Sunburst, black, white, walnut, natural and blonde. Antigua became a colour option in 1977 and the Mustang 90 comes in silver.

The guitar has a solid body with a 24-inch neck, a size that is perfect for players with bigger as well as smaller hands. The smooth finish lets the hands glide between frets producing top-quality sound. The newer models are lighter and extremely comfortable to play. Most of them were made from Poplar, Mahogany or Ash, and maple, but since they were painted with solid colour paint, it’s hard to tell if these were the only types of wood used in their making.

The Sound

This guitar has a short scale combined with a direct tremolo arm, producing a unique sound and exceptional craftsmanship, making its way to the alternative rock scene. The Mustangs, as one of the ‘genuine vintage Fender guitars’, were quite affordable in the 1980s and 1990s, so musicians who were looking for punchier sounds more powerful than the original single-coil pickups snapped them up.

Apart from rock music, the guitar found its place in punk, indie rock, alt-rock, and grunge, and its popularity surged. There’s an antihero vibe to the Mustang that appeals to the younger generations.

Final Word

The Fender Mustang guitar has been the choice of guitar players from all over the world, for those who are picking one up for the first time as well as for world-class performers such as Kurt Cobain, John Frusciante, David Byrne, Mathew Healey, Adrian Belew and many more.

The quality of the sound and tones are unmatched and on top of their cool look, they have excellent feel and great value. It’s an impressive instrument that has become a cult classic. With a retro feel and offset body shape, this guitar sparks creativity and gives a growl and grit to any guitarist.