Fender Mustang Bass
Recently I have rediscovered my love for my Fender Mustang Bass. You may remember a while back that I was having some minor shoulder issues and as a results I was tending to play my lighter weight basses, one of which is my Mustang. I seem to flip-flop a lot with this bass, either loving the playability of the 30″ scale and how effortless it feels to play, or feeling cramped and somewhat dissatisfied with the tone. As I am currently in a “The Mustang Bass is the best bass ever” sort of mood I have been trying out different sets of strings, paying close attention to my tone.
All of the sets I tried were D’Addario’s as that they are my string brand of choice and relatively inexpensive. One thing to keep in mind is that even though the Fender Mustang Bass is a short scale bass, short scale string sets typically are not long enough for it as that it has a string through bridge. Medium Scale strings seems to work the best, though I suppose a Long Scale set would work. Also, I put Nordstrand pickups in this bass which I find to be a little hotter and clearer than the stock pickups.
Super Light Round Wound
The first set of strings I tried was a set of EXL220M Nickel Super Light’s (.40-.95). I had never tried strings this light before and for some reason thought that they might work well with the Mustang. Right off the bat they just didn’t feel right to me. They sounded fine, although they have a bit more treble than I prefer, but I just could not get used to how light they were. I felt like I was playing a guitar.
Light Round Wound
From here I took the logical step and tried a set of EXL170M (.45-.100) Light strings. I have these on my Jazz bass and am happy with them there so figured these would be the ones. Indeed they do feel and sound good, but I felt the tone was just not as deep as I would like it to be.
Chrome Flat Wound
Naturally, at this point, as I was still seeking a deeper tone, I switched gears and put on a set of ECB81M Chrome Flat Wounds (.45-.100). Wow! What a difference. All the lows you could ever want with these. Running the Mustang through my headphone amp and when recording these sound deep and fat. I truly thought these were the strings for me. I started taking the bass out to band practice, running it through my GK MB200/115MBE rig and was quickly overwhelmed with the boominess of my bass. For the first time I actually turned down the Low’s on my amp and turned up the Hi’s. I was able to get a fairly decent tone but some of the boominess was still there. Not to be deterred I used this setup for a couple more rehearsals but in the end found that it just wasn’t for me.
Medium Round Wound
At this point I wasn’t sure where to go, so I decided to go with my old stand by, what I use on my P Bass. D’Addario EXL160M (.50-.105) Medium strings. I am well acquainted with these strings so of course they feel great to me. I also enjoy the fact that they have a slightly lower tension due to the short scale. These strings sound Fat and Strong and provide the Growl I was missing with the Chromes. When recording my bass sits nicely in the mix and at band rehearsal I find that I can get a nice deep fat tone out of them or a more aggressive growl just by adjusting my plucking technique. The EQ controls on my GK are mostly set back to the flat position and the boominess is gone. I suppose I should have just gone with these strings to start but for some reason thought that Mustang would require something different.
As I’ve mentioned before, the Fender Mustang is a fun little bass to play. I love playing it around the house, due to it’s smaller size it is a great little couch bass. Some people seem to think that short scale basses are more toy than bass but I can tell you that this bass is no toy. The build quality is just as good as my Fender American P Bass and it sounds great, especially with the upgraded Nordstrand pickups. I tend to be fickle with which bass I play at any given moment, switching instruments far to often, but for now I plan on riding out this Mustang phase for a while.