Way back in the early ‘70s during the peak of Fender’s creativity, this unique little one-off bass found its way to the real world sporting one single coil pickup, a short scale (30” to be exact) and a nice flashy racing stripe to round it out. Now thanks to the Pawn Shop series, it’s back. For those of you unaware of Fender’s highly touted Pawn Shop series of electrics, think of them of dream mash-ups that take classic yet rare models and combine them with features from others in order to make guitars that are uniquely their own. Want a Stratocaster with Telecaster neck along with a double set of humbuckers? What about a Jaguar WITHOUT the confusing control layout? They’ve got you covered – and those two are pretty simple compared to some of the more daring combinations the Pawn Shop line has available. Fender themselves describe the line as “guitars that never were but should have been,” taking some of “most audacious” guitar concepts from the mid ‘60s through mid ‘70s to create sometime completely new, albeit with enough modern sensibility and technology to rock out with the best of them. And from my own experience with the brand, they aren’t kidding!
Those of you familiar with the original ‘70s Mustang Bass should notice that this Pawn Shop model pretty much retains most of the original’s look and feel. The racing stripe is back (on one of the three models, anyways) and so is the short scale, but this model is far from untouched. The Mustang bass has always benefited from having strings that pass through the body, as here, but now the original mini split-coil pickup has been replaced with a robust Fender humbucker, the same used in the ’68 Telecaster Bass (but placed halfway rather than near the handle), giving this instrument a welcomed kick in the tone department, but more on that later.
The four-ply pearloid pickguard is back and just as … sparkly and busy, which stands out all the more when placed on such a small bodied bass. Although I’m not a huge fan of the pearloid, it definitely screams vintage and seems to work good as a whole with the Mustang Bass, giving it a nice look that’s not too distracting. This bass also comes with a separate chromed control plate, large base plate on the bridge and a black finger rest. Other features include an alder body, "C"-shaped maple neck, 9.5"-radius rosewood fingerboard with 19 medium jumbo frets, two Jazz Bass control knobs (volume, tone) and as mentioned earlier, a strings-through-body bridge with four adjustable saddles
While you only have one pickup, one volume and one tone knob to work with, there are still plenty of tones you can ring up thanks mainly to the humbucker upgrade which offers a thicker, boosted sound as its root. The original mini split-coil always looked and sounded a bit dull compared with this larger and more dynamic version. You can still get pretty close to the original sound (albeit still distinctly brighter) by easing off the volume but chances most of you out there will prefer the fuller, warmer growl this bass can unleash when taken to its peak – sounds that aren’t usually associated with a Mustang! Upgrading the single coil with a humbucker might seem like a small detail but this fairly simple change should make the Mustang Bass appeal to a wider group of players. Fender knew exactly what it was doing. Still though, this Mustang seems built for pop and rock so all you metal heads out there might want to stick with an active bass and EMGs for now.
And while a short scale neck might not appeal to some, it makes the playability of this Mustang much easier for those not blessed with absurdly long fingers, especially for beginning/student bassists or guitarists looking to transition – but that’s not all the short scale brings to the table. The harmonics your bass guitar generates are spaced along the frets and are based on the length of the strings; shorter strings mean the harmonics are packed in tighter, giving any note you play more harmonic richness than a longer scale would. Just plug the Pawn Shop Mustang Bass into your bass amp and you'll hear what I mean; the notes will cut through the mix without becoming overbearing.
All in all, this isn’t your typical Mustang – and that’s definitely not a bad thing! While its small body, short scale and tones that seem best suited for pop and rock won’t fit every player’s needs, those looking for a great looking bass with an easy as they come control scheme and plenty of warm, thick growl, the Pawn Shop Mustang Bass is definitely worthy!