Fender Mustang Bass Review
  My first Fender bass was a used 1966 Mustang that I got in 1970. I liked it back then and was wishing that I had never traded it. I have been looking on ebay but only seen a few blue 1966 Mustangs but lost the bid. Was going to buy one from Ishibashi Music until I saw that Fender started offering them here.

So here we go. The bass lists for $699.99 and I paid $490.00. The bass is Fiesta Red with a 3 ply pearl guard. The pearl in the pickguard tends take on a reddish orange color from the body. A parchment color looks good next to the red. I might change out later. The Fiesta Red is different than the Fiesta Red I’ve seen on a ’62 RI P that was in their store. It is more orange than the Ps. It weighs 7 lbs on a bathroom scale.

The body is plywood with an alder veneer although Fender specs just say Alder. You can see this the picture of the control cavity in the link below. This explains the basses light weight. I remember my 66 being heavier.

6 to 8 weeks ago I bought a ‘60s Classic Jazz and commented on another thread that there was buffing compound in the control and pickup cavities. Not with the Mustang. Finish is nice. Hardware doesn’t look cheap. But I guess that’s the difference between Mexican and Japanese manufacturing.

The neck is proportionally smaller than a jazz bass. Which make sense as the Mustang is a short scale bass. The dimensions are 1 ½” at the nut, 2” at the 12th fret and 2 ¼” at 19th and last fret. The neck length measures 20 5/8” from the heal to the nut and 29 1/2 “overall. The logo is under the finish on the headstock. The fretwork is very good, better than on the 60s Classic. Somebody went a little much when filing the nut. The E and A strings touch the rosewood behind the nut on the tuner side. I’ll have to replace the nut and file the slots to the string sizes once I settle on which strings I like. There are NO noticeable dead spots.

The tuners seem loose and sloppy when no strings are installed but tighten up as the strings are tuned. The tuners are not what I remember on the older Mustangs but more like the later ones. They appear to be like Schaller BML Bass Tuners. The worm gear is larger than on the ’62 RI basses. But all and all they function well.

The specs on the Fender site said the strings are Super 5250XL pn# 073-5250-002 (Short Scale, .040, .060, .075, .095). The strings that came on the bass aren't that bad, but I like flats. I tried a new set of GHS Brite Flats that I had laying around. Sorry these don't cut it. The D and G sound good but the E and A just thud. Also, I found that playing near the bridge makes it sound nasally. The best place to play is anywhere between the neck heal and the pickup. I’ll have to experiment with other strings here to get that sound I remember years ago.

Fender states on their web site that the pickup is a ‘Special Design Split Single-Coil Mustang Bass Pickup’. The Ishibashi site says it’s a Seymour Duncan. You can see by the picture in the link that the pickup has a single pole magnet.

The pots are smaller than the US CTS types. The band name on the pots is Alpha and the part number is A250K ohm and has a split shaft. The cap is .1 mf. There is plenty of room in the control cavity to use CTS pots. Control cavity dimensions 1 1/4” deep, 4” long and 1 ¼” in width at volume control and tapers to ¾” at the jack. The knobs look like jazz knobs but a little smaller. I was thinking of put in a Raven labs P preamp in it but it won’t fit. The distance between the volume and tone control is about 1 ¾ “ on the Mustang and about 2 ¼” on a P. A P-Retro might fit but I’m not sure.

Pickup wiring is different than on a P-Bass. The pickup wire goes as follows. The white wire is connected to one end of the volume control and the black wire is connected to the other end. A wire is connected from the center terminal of the volume to the tip end of the jack. On the tone control the .1 mf cap is connected from the center terminal to the terminal on the volume control where the white wire is connected. One end of the tone control is grounded and the other end has no connection. I might experiment with the wiring and wire it as a P and change the cap to a .05 mf.

All-and-all the Mustang bass is a fun bass to play. I found no problem switching between it and my jazz. I thought that because of the short scale, that I might miss note or play the wrong ones. It does not have the tone of a P or J but has its own voice. I’ve played along with some recorded music that sounds good with some and others it doesn’t. This of course can be said of the P and J. I recommend this bass for a young or petite person or for someone who likes to play short scale basses. I probably won’t gig with bass but might jam with it. I would probably let my son who plays guitar play it but I got a feeling it’s going to be a closet classic.

Text & Photos By Scott Anderson

Editors Note: A few readers have asked about the wood used for the body of this bass.
Although the reviewer feels the wood is plywood, an email to Fender from a reader revelead the comments below:

"Fender® branded instruments have not and will never be made of PLYWOOD! The routing in the body cavity that he is referring to that shows “layers” of wood is simply that. The body routers in the factory cannot route a cavity that deep in one pass. It takes several passes of the router to create a control cavity that deep. As each layer is routed deeper, the residual wood shows the different layers of alder but there is no plywood, it is solid alder just like we have always said that it is. Also, those striations happen as the bits age and get a little dull. A brand new fresh bit doesn't do it as much."

I don't want to change the original review so I hope this comment puts any fears of owners of this instrument at rest !