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What are the correct length strings for a Fender Mustang Bass?

As one of the biggest guitar and bass makers in the world today, Fender has an illustrious history when it comes to their influence on modern music.  Their Precision (P-Bass) and Jazz Bass models often find their way into the hands of most bassists somewhere along their playing career.  

However, Fender also have another gem in their bass lineup in the form of the Mustang.

This diminutive low-end dynamo was first introduced by Fender back in 1966 and has garnered somewhat of a cult following over the years. 

The Mustang Bass is considered a "short scale" bass guitar meaning it’s scale length is 30”.... Around 4” shorter than it’s P-Bass and Jazz Bass big brothers.

Small in size, perhaps! But don’t let its diminutive size mislead you… the Mustang Bass certainly packs a punch in the low end.  It’s shorter scale delivers a warmer growl in comparison to the longer scale counterparts, which tend to be a little brighter tonally.

Because of its smaller size, the Mustang bass certainly appeals to a diverse demographic. It’s a great entry level bass for young players looking to take up the instrument and is lighter in weight too. Not to mention the shorter scale makes finger stretches a little less taxing so it's an ideal option for 6-string guitar players looking to dip their toe into the bass world.

So, the burning question is of course, "What length strings are best for a Fender Mustang Bass?"

In a previous blog post we discussed the possible pitfalls that could arise as a result of cutting down longer scale strings and fitting them to a shorter scale bass.  The issues that can arise can mean that our bass simply does not perform as well as it should.  Here at Strings Direct, we’re big advocates of using the correct strings for the job and with that in mind, we’re going to take a look at the Fender Mustang Bass and what length of strings will be just the ticket.

Scale Length

We should probably start out by saying that the scale length of the bass can be somewhat irrelevant here. Whilst it’s handy to know this measurement, it doesn’t give us the full story when it comes to knowing the exact length of strings that we need. 

Scale Length is defined as twice the distance from the fingerboard side of the nut (where the string takes off at the headstock) to the centre of the 12th fret. It is the length that is divided mathematically to set the position of the frets so that the guitar plays in equal temperament.

However, if we were to buy a set of strings purely based off of scale length, we run the risk of getting a set that's too short. For example, if you take a look at the image below you'll see that most short scale sets are in fact too short for our Mustang!! 

But why is that? The Fender Mustang is a considered a short scale bass after all!!

Very true! However, Mustangs have been designed in such a way that the strings are anchored several inches behind the bridge and therefore we need to consider the length of our strings from the ball end up to the rear side (headstock side) of our nut.

So why is the 'Ball End to Nut' measurement significant?

This measurement is really important as it tells us the minimum length of wound string we need in order for our strings to clear the nut before any silk winding or string tapering starts to take effect.

If our silk or taper starts too early, the silk will sit on our fretboard or on top of the nut (as in our image above)… a big no no we're sure you'll agree!

Back to our Mustang... We need to measure from the ball end of the string to the rear side of our nut but in trying to do this, we encounter a small stumbling block.

The ball ends of the strings aren’t easily accessible when the bass is strung up.  Fender Mustangs use what is known as 'through-body' stringing where the strings are threaded through the back of the bass and the ball end resides in the body so we can’t easily access them to measure.

Of course, we could just measure up to where the string disappears down the hole, but we can’t be 100% sure just how much of the string is sitting within the body.  We could take an educated guess and add on an inch or two to our measurement (not our favourite thing to do!) or we can adopt a little trick to help us be much more accurate (much better! :-).  Let’s take a look...

**NB** to avoid wasting a set of strings, it’s best to carry this process out the next time you are changing your strings.

Firstly, we made a mark on the string just behind the nut.  Then, after we unwound our string from our machinehead, we trimmed it (ensuring to trim it beyond this mark) so that we could pull the string out without all the windings getting tangled up in the body. 

Once the string was removed from the bass, we then measured from the ball end to our marked point which turned out to be just under 33" (we'll round up to 33" just to be safe here).

So this tells us that any set of strings that we buy to fit this Mustang needs to have the silk wrap start at least 33” from the ball end of the string.  Any shorter than this and the silk will start before our nut which is no good.

2nd Measurement

We can even go a step further and measure the distance between the back of the nut and our first machinehead too.

Whilst this is not absolutely imperative, it’s of greater importance if you are going to be using flatwound bass strings.  The windings on a flatwound string are wound seamlessly next to one another to create a flat surface.  Winding the wound portion of a flatwound string around a post means that these windings can become separated from one another.  This can expose the inner core of the string and lead to string breakage or the string can even start to unravel... neither a good thing!

With this in mind (for flatwound strings especially) we only want the silk winding of our string to be wrapped around our machinehead, not the wound portion of the string. Therefore, we need the silk to start after the nut but before it reaches the post of our first machinehead. 

In the case of the Mustang, the distance between the nut and first machinehead measured 1.25”.  If we add this on to our other measurement, we can see that in an ideal world the bass strings needed to fit our Mustang should have the silk winding begin somewhere between 33” and 34.25” from the ball end of the string. 

Great! But how do I know the length of each set on your site?

On our website we make every effort to measure the length of the bass strings we supply. We measure from the ball end to the start of any silk winding or any taper and then display this information at the top of the description of each set on our site (see below).

We also have a handy filter down the left hand side of the screen that shows all the 'Ball End to Silk' lengths available.  Just click on the one you need and you'll see all the strings with that measurement.

For our Mustang Bass set, we selected to see all of the strings that sit between 33" and 34.25". Interestingly enough, when you filter out the sets that are applicable, many are classified as ‘Medium Scale.’

"But the Mustang Bass is considered a Short Scale, right!?"

Yes it is, but as we mentioned earlier whilst the Mustang’s scale length of 30” suggests it's a short scale bass, when you take into consideration the extra string we need to account for the Mustang's strings being anchored within the body, you can see that more often than not (depending on brand) it’s a medium scale set that tends to be the better option. 

We hope that this blog post has helped give a broader understanding of which strings will be right for your Fender Mustang Bass. The steps we took to measure the required length can be used for any bass guitar so if you're unsure what strings you need, give it a try on yours.

As always if you have any questions, feel free to pop them in the comments box below of email us at guitartech@stringsdirect.co.uk where we'd be happy to help.

If there's a bass guitar you'd like us to focus on in future blogs, please also send us a message and we'd be happy to see what we can do.

See you next time.

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