1978 Fender Musicmaster Bass

CRAVE Guitars says…

Pluses: Unusual configuration and specification. Fun to play and sounds like no other bass out there. Much lower weight than many basses of the period. Great condition and colour. Still good value vintage prices (just)

Minuses: Basic ‘student’ model not to everyone’s taste. Short‑scale neck won’t suit all. The thin, twangy sound if you take it on face value. Unjustified poor reputation. Non‑original case

Verdict: Great for a guitarist and part‑time bass player or as a second bass. Great for newbies to get into the world of bass. Great if you want something different to the norm

Model Description:

Fender made the Musicmaster Bass in the USA from 1970 to 1983 and the model couldn’t really get much simpler. The Musicmaster Bass used the same offset solid bodies as the Mustang Bass, a 4‑string 30” short‑scale neck and a single 6‑pole Mustang single coil guitar pickup. The unusual specification not only kept manufacturing costs down but also gives the Musicmaster a unique sound. There were no options and the bass also came in a limited range of standard colours, black, white, blue, red and, later, wine red. Early models had smaller headstocks and triangular tuning buttons, while later ones used larger headstocks and the more attractive Mustang Bass tuners. The Musicmaster Bass was basically a stripped down Mustang Bass aimed at both the guitarist and the young/novice bass player. By 1983, all Fender’s ‘student’ guitars and basses were replaced by the budget Bullet range. The Musicmaster was briefly reissued in 1997 under the Squier Vintera brand. Despite the market’s 21st Century obsession with all things ‘vintage’, the Musicmaster Bass hasn’t, at least to‑date, been reissued under the Fender name. These basses were widely disrespected (and underrated), as not being a ‘real’ bass guitar intended for serious musicians. Now, they are beginning to get a bit of a cult following, especially with alternative, garage, punk and indie bands, keen to explore non‑traditional bass sounds. The result is that vintage prices are beginning to creep up, despite volatile post‑Covid economic market conditions. About time if you ask me, it’s only taken 40 years! These no‑frills basses still represent a bargain buy for those interested in vintage basses but who aren’t hugely wealthy. Compare the prices of a Fender Precision or Jazz Bass (or even Mustang Bass) from the same period if you don’t believe me.

Bass Description:

Crave Guitars has three Fender Musicmaster guitars, one from each of the 1950s, the 1960s and the 1970s. Then there are the one Fender Duo‑Sonic, three Fender Mustangs, and one Fender Bronco guitars. So, it seems kinda obvious that I like these simple ‘student’ offset models. Time then, I thought, to get a Musicmaster Bass to go with the vintage Musicmaster Bass valve amp, also in the collection. By the time that this bass came out of Fender’s Fullerton factory in 1978, the Musicmaster Bass was as understated as it could be, available only in black, white and gorgeous translucent wine red, as here. All the key components are on the simple (and rather ungainly) plastic scratchplate. For years, the Musicmaster Bass had become one of the period’s ‘forgotten Fenders’, often overshadowed by its more luxuriously equipped premium models. It retains the relatively light weight and 30” scale which, combined by the guitar (rather than bass) pickup gives it a lively, treble‑oriented sound. With flatwound strings, it can give a punchy, old‑school bass sound with some solid thump, while roundwound strings give it a thinner, funkier feel with more attack. Many don’t like the tonal balance, describing it as too trebly with not enough bottom end, pointing an accusing finger at the pickup and the scale. Rather than complain about it, why not play to the instrument’s strengths and emphasise the characteristic? This lightweight baby (under 8lbs) turns out to be a fun, easy to play bass, especially with my relatively short fingers. Such is the ‘student’ simplicity of the breed, there is nothing to get in the way of getting down. When pumped directly into a vintage valve bass amp, pure unique vintage tone is the result. OK, so it may not be the best bass in the world but it’s certainly better than many. I reckon that both the aesthetic and the sound are there to be savoured. This example is in fantastic condition for its age, all‑original. NB. Since the photos were taken, the original 2‑saddle bridge has been restored to its rightful position. The only signs of use are really only visible on the back of the headstock, and some nitrocellulose finish crazing to the front. Some 1978‑1980 Fender body polyester finishes were flawed, resulting in paint flaking but this isn’t one of those. It is still beyond me why these fantastic little offset short‑scale Fender basses don’t have a better reputation. Don’t believe me? Set your preconceptions to one side and give one a test drive.


  • Made by Fender in Fullerton, California, U.S.A. in 1978
  • Offset double cutaway slab body in translucent wine red polyester finish
  • Maple bolt‑on 4‑string neck
  • Original Fender Mustang Bass tuners
  • Rosewood fingerboard with 19 medium frets and pearloid dot markers
  • Nut width: 15/8” (41.5mm)
  • Scale length: 30” (762mm)
  • Original chrome hardware
  • Original 2‑saddle bridge (restored, not shown in photos)
  • Original 3‑ply black/white/black plastic scratchplate
  • Original black plastic thumb rest
  • Original covered 6‑pole Mustang single coil guitar pickup
  • Original pots, knobs and jack socket
  • Vintage (and rare) non‑original Spaulding Russell moulded ABS hard shell case
  • Weight: 7lb 15oz (3.59kg)


  • Adam Yauch (Beastie Boys)
  • Alan Lancaster (Status Quo)
  • Colin Moulding (XTC)
  • Dee Dee Ramone (Ramones)
  • Jonny Greenwood (Radiohead)
  • Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth)
  • Lucas Skinner (King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard)
  • Mac DeMarco
  • Tina Weymouth (Talking Heads/Tom Tom Club)


Following the commercial success of the short scale Mustang Bass, introduced in 1966, Fender decided to introduce the even simpler and cheaper Musicmaster Bass in 1970.

The 1970 Fender catalogue introducing the Musicmaster Bass stated, “Fender’s lowest price bass offers ruggedness and high performance”.

See also:

Why not take a look at the vintage 12‑watt valve Musicmaster Bass amp? A great budget vintage combo:

1979 Musicmaster Bass amp

Also, why not take a look at CRAVE Guitars’ 6‑string Musicmaster guitars?:

1959 Fender Musicmaster

1965 Fender Musicmaster II

1978 Fender Musicmaster

Detail Gallery:

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