Old School: 1978 Fender Musicmaster Bass
Fender’s Musicmaster was first introduced in 1971, and in production through 1981. As with Fender’s guitar bearing the same name, the bass was a simpler version of Fender’s Mustang Bass.
The Musicmaster was Fender’s budget-priced bass at the time, made from surplus parts from other Fender models. The bodies were from the Mustang production line, and 6-pole guitar pickups were used instead of the standard 4-pole pickups used in basses. All of the electronics were mounted on a single piece of plastic. This was also a 30″ short-scale bass, the shortest production scale of any Fender bass.
The bass was introduced with three finishes: black, white and red, with a few early issues painted in daphne blue and sporting pearl pickguards. Fender later offered many of the finishes offered on their other instruments as well.
Fender’s line of budget instruments was discontinued in 1981, when the company introduced the Squier brand. Squier reintroduced the Musicmaster briefly in 1997, replacing it a year later with the Bronco bass.
Guitar technician and custom instrument builder Graham Drew shares his 1978 Fender Musicmaster Bass in this installment of Old School, and the story that goes with it.
How long have you owned the Musicmaster?
Approximately 12 years.
How did you come across it?
It was given to me by a friend who ran a studio in Orlando, Florida. The bass came to me as a box of parts which had to be reassembled.
Stock or customized? Give us all the specs!
All stock, with the exception of the pickguard and electronics. I obtained a new pickguard from a seller on eBay, the pickup is a custom handmade replacement made by Wizard Pickups in the UK, and the all-new electronics are two CTS 250k pots, a Switchcraft jack, vintage style cloth wire and a Sprague orange drop capacitor.
Any special characteristics?
The replacement pickup by Wizard Pickups is made specifically for these basses, and it makes this bass sound absolutely amazing.
What’s your favorite story about the gear?
The previous owner who dismantled it wasn’t able to figure out how to put it all back together again!!
Any notable bassists (other than yourself, of course) play the same instrument/use the same gear?
Colin Moulding of XTC, Jim O’Rourke and Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth, Dee Dee Ramone of The Ramones, Alan Lancaster of Status Quo.
Any special history or story behind this instrument or the company who made it?
The Musicmaster was originally introduced as a student model, but it is a very capable bass. The only downside was that Fender installed a six-pole Stratocaster pickup, which won’t give the correct string-to-string balance as a four-pole bass pickup.
Do you use it on gigs?
Yes, I use it every gig for at least a third of the set. I own a wide range of basses, but there’s something about my Musicmaster Bass that keeps me coming back for more. It can be a bit cranky at times and somewhat unforgiving, but the effort is always worth it.
1978 Fender Musicmaster Bass Photo Gallery:
What else do you want to share about your gear?
I’m a gear nut and I love cool and unusual basses, particularly lesser-known and lesser-used Fender and Fender-style models. I’ll have the greatest fun finding some cool old cheap Japanese made bass from the 1970’s, stripping it down, rebuilding it and making it playable again.
Any other vintage gear?
- 1977 Fender Precision Bass
- 1983 Fender USA Bullet Bass
- 1984 MIJ Fender Squier Bullet Bass
- 1971 Fender Musicmaster Bass amp
- 1974 Fender Bassman Ten amp
- Plus a ton of more modern basses and amps
Tell us a little about yourself.
By day I own and run a busy guitar repair shop in Northern Virginia (www.jadeguitars.org), where I am a luthier and certified guitar technician. I also build custom electric basses and guitars under the brand name Drew & Sebastian Custom Guitars (www.drewandsebastian.com). I play bass in a band called drumfish, which is based in Northern Virginia (www.drumfishmusic.com).
What did we miss?
I am originally from London, England. I have lived in the US since 1999, and also play guitar.
If you own any vintage gear you'd like us to spotlight in "Old School", we'd love to hear from you! Drop us a line at [email protected].