In 1956, two years after the Stratocaster hit the market, Fender released its first student model guitars, the Musicmaster and Duo-Sonic. Though they shared DNA with the Strat, they featured a shorter neck (roughly 3/4 the scale) and offset body with asymmetrical proportions. Eight years later, Fender followed them with the Fender Mustang, and the Fender Bronco in ’67.
“Many of the original offsets had a thinner sound and were not very sturdy,” said Justin Norvell, Fender’s vice president of Electric Guitars and Basses. “Yet they were full of vibe and character.” As such, the original offset Fenders have acquired a near-cultish status among specific musicians and genres — the most famous, perhaps, being Kurt Cobain.
“Instruments tend to rise and fall in somewhat cyclical waves as they go in and out of favor,” Norvell said. “From talking to bands, going to festivals, such as SXSW, we were seeing a huge rise in the use of these smaller body types of guitars, with artists and bands like Warpaint, Mac DeMarco, Ty Segall and Unknown Mortal Orchestra. We could feel a bit of a movement percolating, so we decided we wanted to make new offset models available and accessibly priced for people to enjoy.”
Two years later, Norvell and his team at Fender have released the brand’s new Offset collection, which was first unveiled earlier this year at the Summer NAMM 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee. It features five models based off the shape of Fender’s original student guitars. Included are the Mustang 90 (equipped with P90 pickups), Mustang bass and Duo Sonic (available in maple or rosewood fingerboards).
“The new offsets offer a variance in sounds, improved construction and overall simplified functionality,” Norvell said. “We wanted to make these new models more professional, solid and ‘tank-like,’ with some bigger, thicker sound options while keeping all the cool elements that make them so desirable.”
Though Fender has a track record for reissuing the Mustang model — for example, the 2013 American Special Mustang, the first production Mustang made in the United States since it was discontinued in the early ‘80s — the 2016 Offset collection features new colors inspired by those found in the Fender archives. “Competition Orange from the ’70s motivated the new Capri Orange,” said Norvell, “while some are totally new to us, like the Olive Green.”
“The hope is that these instruments are in it for the long haul,” he added. “These shapes and models have built up an artist roster and musical body of work that stands the test of time.” All guitars in the Offset collection are made in Mexico and retail for $500. The bass retails for $550.