1978 Fender Musicmaster

CRAVE Guitars says…

Thumbs up: Brilliantly addictive playability, simplicity and weight, minimalist looks, vintage value‑for‑money, oodles of mojo and vibe

Thumbs down: Some may not like the single pickup and short scale, plain looks, ‘student’ reputation and 1970s prejudice

Decree: Inexplicably overlooked by the vintage collectorati, this is a whole lot of genuine vintage tone for very little outlay

Model Description:

The original Fender Musicmaster was the first and simplest ‘student’ model introduced by the company in 1956. The model is a double cutaway offset slab solid body guitar with one single coil neck pickup. It originally had a 22½” short scale neck with a maple fingerboard and an anodized aluminium scratchplate. It went through several updates, first in 1959 when the metal scratchplate was replaced with a plastic one. The next major change in 1964 was part of a major rationalisation of the three ‘student’ models (Musicmaster, Duo‑Sonic and Mustang) into a coherent line. Necks were offered in 24” scale with rosewood fingerboards and the controls were moved to a separate chrome metal plate. After more than a decade with few changes, the humble Musicmaster was given another makeover around 1976, reverting to a much simpler one‑piece 3‑ply plastic scratchplate and colour options were limited to plain black or white, while retaining the rosewood fingerboard. The Musicmaster was finally withdrawn from Fender catalogues by 1982, to be replaced by the low cost Fender Bullet. To‑date, although the Duo‑Sonic and Mustang have been reintroduced, the single pickup Musicmaster has not been reissued. The main focus for collectors is on the earlier, more valuable Musicmasters from the pre‑CBS era, which means that the later ones, especially from the 1970s, remain a real bargain and an excellent low‑risk entry point for anyone wishing to dip their toes into vintage guitars from one of the major American manufacturers.

Guitar Description:

Acquisition of this white(‑ish) 1978 Fender Musicmaster was one of those opportunities to fill a gap in the ‘collection’. CRAVE Guitars already has two Musicmasters, one from the 1950s and one from the 1960s, so it was a chance to pick one from near the end of its original production period in the 1970s and to compare it with ones from previous decades. By 1978, the Musicmaster was a bit of a ‘plain Jane’ and one of the period’s so‑called ‘forgotten Fenders’, often overshadowed by its more ‘flashy’ siblings. This Musicmaster retains the light weight and 24” scale on a chunky neck, which makes for a lively, resonant guitar that, when combined with that funky single coil neck pickup makes for one of those addictive instruments that is easy to pick up and hard to put down. Such is the ‘student’ simplicity of the breed, just one pickup, no (dodgy) slide switches, one volume and one tone control, and a fixed bridge. That’s it; there is nothing to get in the way of making pure, sweet music. Form follows function as they say. Just plug it straight into a vintage valve amp and away you go, pure straightforward vintage tone. I adore the unpretentious approach to both the aesthetic and the sound. This example is in great condition for its age, all‑original, with enough nicks, dents and scratches to show that it’s been used to make some music along the way without it being spoiled or modified. No fake relic work here, just genuine, honest play wear. The finish on this example is sound and not affected by the issues experienced by Fender in the late 1970s, although it has faded to a lovely warm cream and a dull‑ish patina, ideally counterpointing the stark black plastic. It is still beyond me why these fantastic little offset Fenders don’t have a more credible reputation. Forget all the well‑worn waffle about woeful quality and one‑trick‑ponies and try one for yourself. The advantage of being overlooked is that there are still some bargains out there to be had if look hard enough and wait long enough… but for how long? P.S. Insider tip; the same goes for vintage Musicmaster basses and amps as well but shush, don’t tell anyone.


  • Made in Fullerton, California, U.S.A. in 1978
  • Offset double cutaway slab body in faded White finish
  • Maple bolt‑on neck
  • Original ‘F’‑branded tuners
  • 7¼” radius rosewood fingerboard with 22 medium frets and pearl dot markers
  • Nut width – 19/16” (41.6mm)
  • Scale length 24” (609mm)
  • Original chrome hardware
  • Original 3‑py black/white/black plastic scratchplate
  • Original covered single coil neck pickup
  • Original pots, knobs and jack socket
  • Very old ‘tweed’‑style non‑Fender hard shell case
  • Weight: 5¾lb (2.6Kg)


David Byrne (Talking Heads)


Along with some other models, some Fender Musicmasters produced between 1978 and 1980 had a tendency for the finish to react badly and flake off.

Read the relevant features on CRAVE Guitars’ other vintage Fender Musicmasters here (pages open a new browser tab)…

1959 Fender Musicmaster

1965 Fender Musicmaster II

Detail Gallery:

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