A user review of the Fender short-scale bass, after 3 months of ownership.
I know, I know, back in August 2021 I made the bold statement that I would not purchase my own bass guitar until the new year? But as the Sydney Covid19 lockdowns were lifted in October for fully vaccinated people, I couldn’t help but go out and buy myself a short-scale bass, and here is my user review after 3 months of use.
Bass sound with a guitar like body
The absolute benefit of the Mustang (Fender’s product line of short-scale basses) is its compact body +lightness, while still sounding 85% as Bassy as a proper bass ought to be. Granted, it is still not as bassy as a proper bass, but its close enough. The trade-off of comfort is worth the sacrifice in sound!
The Fender brand power
The ‘Fender Player series’ is the made in Mexico Fender line which is around a third of the price of a made in the USA Fender. Not having a point of reference to the Stars and Stripes made version, personally I think the South-of-the-border version is still high quality enough in my opinion. And you still get the Fender prestige which is important to us brand conscious Asians. *nods*.
Building on the point above, the Fender Player Mustang quality is top notch, the maple neck has a superb smooth finish; high quality chrome frets and vintage tuning pegs; and the iconic Fender guitar look makes you look the part (even if you’re still a so-so player).
With a single toggle switch you can flick between Precision or a Jazz sounding bass, in video recordings it’s difficult to hear the difference. But in person, there is a clear distinction between the two styles. When flicked to P-bass, the sound is clearer with less reverb, as the sounds of the strings are picked up by the pick-up near the bridge where there are less vibrations. While the J-bass option has a more rock feel with ample reverb, as the pick-up for the J-bass is a split pick-up near the neck where there are more vibrations. While if you want a mid-sound, toggle the switch to the middle and the sound which is amplified is taken from both the P and J-bass pick-ups. A sound to suit every mood and every song!
And because it is a short-scale bass, it is much easier to pick-up and play. The frets are closer together for those who have smaller hands, the strings are much closer to the fret bord thus less effort is required to hold down the strings. And because the weight is also less, it means the inevitable shoulder and back aches from playing a bass hits you much later, so you end up playing longer- which is the main thing!
The main downside of the Mustang is the short-scale set-up has resulted in one super annoying characteristic. That is, on the A-string, when playing a B-note (second fret), there is an annoying buzzing sound. It is due to the combination of the length of the string, the thickness of the string, and the closeness of the string to the fret board. So, with the presence of these 3 characteristics, plus you playing the B-note, these converging elements result in a string vibration where the actual string touches the frets near the base of the neck- resulting in this annoying buzz, which is heard by you the player but perhaps not heard through the amp. But I found it to be super annoying. But after mucking around for 2-3 months to understand the character of the Mustang bass, I’ve worked out the temperament- if you’re going to play the B–note on the A-string, then toggle to Jazz bass setting- as the reverb sound will mask the sound of the unwanted vibration. While if you still want the nice Precision tone, unfortunately you can only use this setting if the song is played on the higher notes closer to the middle of the neck- as a shortened string does not create the level of vibrations resulting in the string touching the frets.
Durability of the toggle switch
The toggle to select between P and J bass, that toggle switch is thin, an inch tall, and a bit on the cheap side. If taking your bass on the road, I’d be super careful when storing the guitar, making sure that I don’t have it lying face down when in its padded gig bag- as there will be a high risk of snapping off the toggle switch if too much weight is placed on-top of it.
The missing 15%
And as previously mentioned, the Mustang short-scale bass has 85% of the bassiness of a proper bass, however you do leave 15% of bass on the table. For example, I’ve heard many tracks and other bass players, and I must admit to myself, that my short-scale bass will never be able to replicate their same deep tones. But hey, that was the pay-off which I made when electing comfort over a true bass sound.
After owning the Fender Player Mustang Bass PJ for 3 months, I have enjoyed every moment of it! I’ve been able to play more, learn its intricacies, and now understanding its temperament and learning how to work-around its limitations-I have really enjoyed mastering (or ongoing process of mastery) of my instrument and the art of being a song’s bass presence. With the short-scale I now have an instrument which has a bassy enough sound to perform with a live band, while knowing it is user friendly enough to allow me to put in the required hours of practice to be stage-ready! So, Bass-Guitar Hero here I come! To read more about the Fender Player Mustang Bass PJ, click HERE!