Fender introduced the short scale Mustang Bass in 1966. The original concept was to offer a smaller scale instrument for students and young bassists of shorter stature. However, it gained popularity among many pro bassists.
The Fender Mustang Bass was the last bass that Leo
Featuring a 30″ scale (compared to the 34″ scale of the Precision and Jazz Bass) and a staggered split pickup design, similar to that on a Precision Bass, the Mustang proved to be a fairly popular model for many years. String-through-body construction was a standard feature, and the simple electronics offered one volume and one tone control.
Some of the most sought after versions are the 1969-72 Mustang models that were issued with “competition stripes” on the body. Most of these basses also featured matching headstocks. The Mustang was made by Fender until 1981 when it was finally discontinued. Fender Japan offers a reissue series of the Mustang that is still available today.
Though easier to play for most people, short scale basses like the Mustang tend to have a more rubbery tone and feel than full-scale models. They are also more susceptible to intonation problems (harder to keep in tune). I have played a few Mustang Basses, and I actually kind of like the tone and playability of these instruments. Being a Fender fanatic, I can honestly say the Mustang has the classic Fender feel that will be familiar to all Precision and Jazz players.
To me, the Mustang sounds very similar to a Precision Bass although with less definition and not as much of a mid-range presence. One thing I have to admit is that they certainly are fun to play, and the smaller scale and lighter weight can really help for long sets or for smaller bassists with shorter arms.
The one thing that keeps me from buying a Mustang is that short-scale basses tend to lack a certain punch and clarity that full-scale basses have, especially when recording. Many people, however, would argue that point and some even prefer that short scale rubbery sound.
Several well-known bassists have used the Mustang, including Tina Weymouth (The Talking Heads), Bill Wyman (Rolling Stones), and Trevor Bolder (David Bowie).
If you get a chance, check out the Fender Mustang Bass. If you like light, easy to play basses that sound good, the Mustang may just be your ideal bass.