Fender Mustang Bass – Experimenting With Strings

Fender Mustang Bass

Fender Mustang BassRecently 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.IMG_1388

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.

Giddy Up!

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.


Review: Nordstrand NM4 Mustang Bass Pickups

Nordstrand NM4 Mustang Bass Pickup

About a year ago I pickup up a Fender Mustang Bass and for the most part have been very happy with it.  It has a great vintage sound, but can be a bit limiting.  I recently saw that Nordstrand has made a replacement pickup for the Mustang so I decided to get a set and give it a try in hopes of making my Mustang a bit more versatile.  Installation is fairly easy, if you know how to use a soldering iron.  You do need to use the stock pickup covers and screws as Nordstrand does not provide these.  Before I installed the pickups I made a couple of recordings of the stock pickups with my new iPhone iRig that my wife got me for Christmas.  I recorded a “Clean” version with the iRig set to bypass mode and an “Amped” version with the iRig set to Bass Amp with all of the controls set flat, gain set at 4, and a 1×15 cab simulator mic’d with a simulated SM57.  It was super simple to record the tracks with the iRig’s built in recorder and then transfer them to my computer.  Once I had installed the Nordstrand pickups I recorded again, creating both “Clean” and “Amped” versions.  Here’s how they sound:





Unfortunately, from these recordings the pickups sound only slightly different.  Overall I feel the Nordstrand pickups have a fatter more articulate tone, while the stock pickups can sound a bit muddy at times.  When plugged the into my GK MB200/Avatar 210 rig it has a nice clean tone with plenty of punch, much more than I feel it did with the stock pickups.  The tone knob seems to have a wider range of usable setting now as well, which certainly adds to the versatility.  Some folks have said that the Mustang bass almost sounds like a P-Bass, which I agree with, and these Nordstrand pickups get you a little closer to that sound.

For more info on the Nordstrand MN 4 Pickups visit www.nordstrandpickups.com

My Basses

Seeing as I have already gushed about my Fender Mustang Bass in an earlier post, I thought that it was only fair to write a post about all of my basses. My wife can’t understand why I need 8 basses, but the way I look at it each has it’s own significance. 1984 Squire P-Bass: I have had many different basses over the years but this one has been with me almost the entire time. My first bass was a very cheap Cort bass. This was well before Cort was a quality brand. From there I got a HEAVY Vantage Bass, which was actually a fairly decent instrument. Finally after playing and saving for about a year purchased this Squire P-Bass. Made in Japan, it is actually a very fine bass. I have used and abused this bass and it has never let me down. I still play it today. At one point I put Alembic Pickups in it and even routed out an area under the pick guard for a 9v battery. I have since filled in the route with wood putty and installed Seymour Duncan Bass Lines, which sound great. I also put a Bad Ass bridge on it as well as replaced to pots. 1999 Fender USA P-Bass: I came across this bass online, at Musician’s Friend I believe, and could not pass it up. I’m not sure why but it was priced incredibly low. Perhaps they were blowing out the previous year’s model or just the fact that the color is Metallic Purple, I couldn’t say. Definitely a rare color, I have seen a couple of Made in Mexico Fenders that were Metallic Purple but not any other USA basses. I put a Bad Ass bridge on this one as well as that I am not a fan of the standard Fender bridge. I replaced the stock pickups with Fender Original 62 Pickup’s making this one fine bass. I love the tone and playability of this one, which is why it is main gigging bass. 2004 Lakland Skyline 55-01: I got this one in a straight trade for a Carvin Fretless I had. The Carvin was a nice bass that I had custom made to my specific’s but I just wasn’t playing it anymore. I almost passed up on this deal as that I was unfamiliar with Lakland at the time. After doing a little research I quickly jumped at the deal and could not have been happier. I love the tone and playability of this bass. I’m still not quite sure what to do with the extra string, but it sure sounds good. 2006 Lakland Skyline 44-01: I liked my 5-String Lakland so much that I went onto ebay and found a great deal on a 4-String. This is my only bass with a Maple neck. Again, the tone on this bass is amazing, although I don’t enjoy playing it as much as I do the 5-String. I go back and forth on keeping this one and am currently considering selling it to fund a Fender Jazz. Fender BG-29 Acoustic: This one I picked up in a music store on a whim just to check it out and ended up buying it. This was back in the early 90’s when “Unplugged” was all the rage. Once I started playing it I couldn’t put it down, it was one of those basses that just felt right. It has okay volume acoustically, and sounds pretty decent plugged in. Feedback is an issue when plugged in so I bought one of those sound hole covers, which works like a charm. It is a short scale bass, not much bigger than an acoustic guitar actually. A great bass to have around the house at the ready to be picked up and played. Rogue VB-100 Violin Bass: I got this one from Musician’s Friend. It was on sale at the time and I thought what the heck it’s cheap enough. First ting I did was put flat wound strings on it, which made a huge difference in sound. This bass looks beautiful. For a cheap instrument it is made fairly well and has a nice even tone. It is really a one trick pony, but does a good job at doing that one trick. I have actually recorded with this bass and was very impressed with the end results. Another short scale bass, this one is just fun to play and has the cool vintage look. Carvin Fretless LB70 Active Fretless: A friend actually gave this bass to me. He had too many instruments and felt that this one wasn’t worth selling as that he wouldn’t get what it was worth anyway. First off let me say, Carvin Basses are awesome! Highly underrated if you ask me. Anyway, this is my one Fretless bass and is a pleasure to play. It’s active electronics and pickup combination let you dal in almost any tone you want. This one has flat wounds on it as well which really helps to give it that fretless sound. Fender Mustang Bass: Instead of rehashing on this bass you can read my previous post here: Fender Mustang Bass As you can imagine I struggle with acquiring more basses all time, I mean you can only play one at a time and some of these tend to get neglected for long periods. I currently have a minor itch for an Upright Bass, but really don’t have the room to keep one and worry that my kids would knock it over anyway so I keep talking myself out of one. My major itch right now if for a Fender Jazz but I have told myself that if I want one something else has to go. I envision myself sitting in music store in the near future trying out various Jazz basses and agonizing over which bass I will need to let go to fund a new one. At least I can say that I have come a long way from saving for a year to buy a Squire P-Bass 😉

Review: Fender Mustang Bass

Alright, I received my Fender Mustang Bass and here is my review:

First Impressions:
Wow!  This thing looks sexy.  It looks shorter than I thought it would.  Damn the neck is fast, and it sounds good unamplified.  First I plugged it into my Bass POD which was set to the Eden amp,  Sounds good.  Next I dialed it to the Ampeg SVT setting and man what a fat tone I got, I’m loving it.  Alright, a little reality check, I plugged it into my Behringer Thunderbird practice amp (8″ speaker).  This thing even sounds good through my crappy little practice amp, nice warm tone.  So far I am impressed!  Fit and finish look great, I got it used so there is some pick scratched on the pick guard and a lacquer chip on the very top of the headstock, but otherwise this thing looks fantastic.  I got the Vintage White one.

Okay, so now I’ve played it constantly for about two weeks now and I still love this bass!  I put a set of D’Addario super light strings on it, not sure what was on it when I got it but the strings were obviously a heavier gauge.  After the string change I had much fret buzz so a truss rod adjustment was needed.  Well it turns out you have to completely remove the neck to get to the truss rod adjustment, what a major bummer.  Anyway, new strings and adjustment and she still plays like a dream.  Never really used strings this light and am still not sure if I like them or not but I am getting a decent tone with them so figure I’ll keep for a while.

The ultimate test, I took it to a jam session this past weekend and was pleasantly surprised at how well it sounded in the mix.  The combination of short scale and light strings makes for super fast action and playability.  Sorry P-Bass, the Mustang is my new favorite.  Just writing about makes me want to play her, I think I will!