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Whether you're an older player looking for that surf rock twang, or a younger player wanting to rip some metal riffs, there is a Fender offset for you. From the ferocious Jaguar to the mighty Mustang, Fender offset models have managed to carve out their own special place in music history.
The story of Fender's offset models is a long and interesting one.
A pair of student models introduced in 1956, the Musicmaster and the Duo-Sonic, were the first Fender guitars to feature an offset waist design. Referred to as 3/4 size, these guitars each had 21 frets and a 22.5" scale length. These guitars were designed specifically for students, but over the years professional musicians would embrace both models and they would begin popping up on stages and recordings.
Then, in 1958, Fender introduces a professional solid body electric guitar intended for jazz players. It was, you guessed it, the Jazzmaster. This guitar featured a full 25.5" scale length and a very unique body shape, with a pair of custom designed pickups that would come to be referred to as simply "Jazzmaster pickups". Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, jazz players did not take to the Jazzmaster, though it did find an audience with surf and instrumental rock bands of the time. Following the Jazzmaster was the Fender Jazz Bass in 1960. Again, this was designed primarily for jazz players, but was also adopted by rockers as well. The Fender Jazz Bass would go on to become the most popular offset design Fender would ever produce.
As the popularity of the Jazzmaster and Jazz Bass grew, Fender followed them up with the Fender Jaguar in 1962. Based on the same body design as the Jazzmaster, the Jaguar features a 24" scale length, a more versatile yet more complex switching system, and chrome accents presumably inspired by the Jazz Bass. The pickups, which are designed to be punchier than Jazzmaster pickups, feature extra shielding to help bring down noise, and add to the already space-age vibe.
In 1964, upon seeing the increased popularity of offset models with young musicians, Fender decides to introduce a new student model, the Mustang, and reintroduce the Musicmaster and Duo-Sonic models using the Mustang body shape. Players had the option of ordering the original 22.5" scale length, or opting for a 24" scale length, like what was available on the Jaguar. There would also be a 30"-scale Mustang bass introduced in 1966.
As interest in these models declined, Fender discontinued production of their offset guitars in the mid-70s. This leads to the Fender offsets becoming increasingly available and very affordable. Moving into the 80s, a new generation of musicians embraced these quirky instruments. Punk, indie, shoegaze, and alternative bands start to favor Fender offsets, creating a resurgence in their popularity.
This renewed interest comes to head with the 90's grunge explosion, when a little band called Nirvana takes over the charts, and their leader, Kurt Cobain, is regularly seen playing Fender offset guitars, namely Mustangs and his prized Jaguar. Throughout the 90's, Fender began to resume production on its offsets.
Offset Models Today
Today, Fender offset models are more popular than ever, with Fender integrating modern appointments making them more practical for the modern player. Each series of Fender guitars and basses features offset models, from the aptly named Offset Series all the way up to the top-of-the-line American Original Series.
Fender offset models have found their way into the hands of a diverse list of artists, and can be used for various genres of music. Guitarists such as Jim Root of Slipknot and Troy Van Leeuwen of Queens of the Stone Age have signature Jazzmaster models, while Geddy Lee of Rush and Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers each have signature Jazz Basses. Fender has also been adding to the history of the offset by creating fresh takes on their designs such as the Jaguar Bass, Meteora, and Powercaster models.
Read The Onset Of Offset: Fender Offset Models on Sam Ash Spotlight
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