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Guitar of the week #81 - Fender Mustang 90

Fender Mustang 90

Less fancy and overall better this time around.

Let's talk about the "Little Fender That Could", the Fender Mustang. There is a model that a lot of guitar players will very much like, the Fender Mustang 90.

This guitar is a very basic axe. We have two "MP-90" pickups (more on that in a moment) and 22 medium jumbo frets on a short scale 24-inch neck. Controls are just one volume, one tone and a pickup selector. There is absolutely no vibrato system. The strings are Telecaster-like thru-body mount.

This is a really different Mustang compared to how they're traditionally supposed to be.

What's a traditional Mustang? Strangely, only Squier makes one at the moment. If you want the "phase slider" switches above the pickups and the vibrato system, you have to go Squier.

The production run Fender on the other hand is really, really simplified. But as I said above, some players will really like this guitar.

What makes the Mustang 90 a winner are two things. The neck and the pickups.

The neck has a smooth, silky satin urethane finish on it. If you thought a short scale neck was easy-to-play, this is even easier.

Then there are the MP-90 pickups.

"MP" means "Modern Player". Now for those of you that remember, there was the China-made Fender Modern Player Mustang which is now out-of-production:

Fender Modern Player Mustang

I have heard the MP-90 pickups before. Not in the Mustang but in the Fender Modern Player Jaguar (also out-of-production). It is a good pickup. You will hear good response and a raspy tone, which is typical of the P90 pickup.

To be blunt, I really didn't care for the look of the Modern Player Mustang. It was a fine guitar, but when I saw it in person, I just didn't care for it. It didn't matter whether it was in Sonic Blue or Honey Burst, it just didn't work.

The Mustang 90 on the other hand gets it right.

On the headstock, the "transition" Fender logo (which is different than the "spaghetti" logo) really works here. The pearloid pick guard works nicely. The black-cover pickups are a much better choice instead of white.

Basically, what I'm saying is that the Mustang 90 ticks all the right boxes in the looks department and is a straight-up good guitar for pretty much any style of music.

It is the suits-any-music-style thing that makes the Mustang 90 good.

If you liked the Fender Jaguar but found yourself fighting with the vibrato system and considered the sound too trebly, I can absolutely say with 100% confidence that you will like this guitar better. If short scale is your thing, the Mustang 90 is one of the best things going. It is totally a plug-in-and-go guitar.

If you are not sure if the Mustang is for you, try out a Fender or Squier Jaguar first. Don't even bother plugging it in. Just noodle around on the neck and see how it feels. If it feels good, you'll like the Mustang. If it doesn't, consider an Epiphone ES-339 P90 instead (a Les Paul-sized version of the ES-335 with P90 pickups in it at a nice price).

Bonus: Makes for an EXCELLENT first guitar

The Mustang 90 is one of the very few Fender-branded guitars that I can say works amazingly well as a first guitar. Because it has no vibrato system, regular sealed tuners (which makes for easier string changes) and a smaller body, oh yeah, this is absolutely a fantastic starter axe.

Ordinarily I would never recommend a Fender as a beginner guitar and suggest Squier instead. However, Squier does not make a guitar like the Mustang 90. There is no guitar in the Squier lineup that has a short scale neck without a vibrato system, and that's where the Fender really shines through. Furthermore, the only way to get the simplicity of the Mustang 90 in a Squier (as in the one volume/one tone setup) is with a Telecaster.

Purists may knock the Mustang 90 as being too simplified, but I think it totally works. There are 3 colors available, all good (although I like the red one best).

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