Friday, March 3, 2017

The Fender Musicmaster and Duo-Sonic

1951 Fender Esquire
Fender introduced their solid body electric guitar, the Esquire, as early as 1950. This "Spanish-style" electric guitar was made in the style of Leo Fender’s lap steel guitars, with a single slanted pickup placed right next to the bridge and saddles.

'50 Broadcaster
In the fall of that year Fender added an additional pickup and called that guitar the Broadcaster, which didn’t last long as Gretsch had trademarked that name for their drum sets. So the word "Broadcaster" was cut off of subsequent headstock decals.

1951 Fender Telecaster
By the summer of 1951 the guitar was renamed the Telecaster.



1954 Fender Stratocaster

Moving forward to 1954, Fender introduced the Stratocaster. The introduction of this guitar coincided with the year Elvis Presley became popular, which caused an increased interest in the guitar.


By 1956 Leo Fender thought it might be a good idea to introduce a student model to the Fender line up, which would have a shorter scale for small hands and also had a reduced price point.

1956 Fender Musicmaster and Duo-Sonic Guitars
The 3/4 sized Fender Musicmaster and Duo-Sonic guitar guitars were both offered in the spring of 1956. Both guitars featured a 22 1/2” scale bolt on, soft V style maple neck with a maple fret board. The tuning machines came with less costly plastic buttons instead of metal ones found on the strat and tele. The guitars double cutaway slab body was made of either an ash or alder and featured shorter horns than those on a Stratocaster. Both instruments came with a single volume and tone control.

1956 Fender Musicmaster



The Musicmaster featured just one single-coil slanted pickup in the neck position.







'56 Duo-Sonic



The Duo-Sonic added an additional pickup, without a slant, in the bridge position and a 3-way selector switch on the lower horn. The middle position on the Duo-Sonic placed the single coil pickups in series, thus acting like a humbucking pickup.





Bridge for 1956 Duo-Sonic


Both guitars had adjustable bridges which had 3 sections, much like the older Telecaster bridges, with each section doing duty for two strings. This bridge was fastened directly to the body and it came with a bridge cover, which generally was taken off the guitar.



1956 Duo-Sonic

The initial models of each instrument came with an anodized aluminum pickguard done in a gold colour. This provided shielding. The serial number was stamped on the chrome neck plate.

The original run of these guitars came in only one color that Fender called Desert Sand. The suggested retail price at the time for the Duo-Sonic was $149.50.

1959 Musicmaster


This model went unchanged until later in 1959 when a rosewood slab fret board was added to the maple neck. Within a year Fender changed this to the veneer style rosewood fret board. The anodized aluminum pickguard was changed to a plastic one with shielding under the potentiometers.





1959 Musicmaster



1959 was also the year that the Musicmaster and Duo-Sonic came in Sunburst which replaced Desert Sand.







1963 Musicmaster



In 1963 the sunburst finish was discontinued and the guitars were available in white with brown plastic pick guards.







1966 Fender Duo-Sonic II


Big changes occurred in late 1964 when the Duo-Sonic and Musicmaster were redesigned. That year the guitars were renamed the Duo-Sonic II and the Musicmaster II.


1964 Fender Duo-Sonic II
Fender had released the Mustang in that same year and this guitar featured a larger offset body. The headstock on the Mustang was larger. These features were added to the Duro-Sonic, which became essentially a Mustang without the vibrato. The 3-way switch was also gone, and replaced with two 3 position slider switches, similar to those on the Mustang.

1965 Fender Duo-sonic II
Both pickups were slanted and available with black or white covers. The pickguard was now a 3 ply style and offered in white or red pearloid material. Just like the Mustang, the volume and tone controls and the jack were mounted on a separate metal plate.

1964 Musicmaster II

Similar treatment was done to the Musicmaster, but it had no slider switches.

The bridge/saddle on both guitars were redesigned to have a raised lip on the end to attach the strings. The neck was still available with the 22 1/2” scale, but the guitars were also offered the same 24” scale neck found on the Mustang.




1964 Musicmaster II and Duo-Sonic II

Both guitars were available in Dakota red, white, or Daphne blue finishes.

The Duo-Sonic II lasted until 1969, when Fender determined that the popularity of Mustang sales did not warrant maintaining the “hard-tailed” Duo-Sonic.


1971 Musicmaster



However the single pickup Musicmaster was still kept in the line up.  However the designation Musicmaster II was dropped in favor of just Musicmaster. The Musicmaster was offered by Fender through 1982.





'93 Duo-Sonic

In 1993 Fender decided to reissue the Duo-Sonic. This time it was made in Mexico. The scale was still short, however this time it was 22.7” instead the of 22.5’ length. The neck was now back to maple with a maple fretboard. The twin slider switches were replaced with the 3-way toggle selector on the guitars upper horn. The bridge still had the raised lip. These models were available in black, Torino red and Arctic white. These guitar remained in the line up through 1997. The pickguard was made of one piece of plastic, with no chrome control panel.



1998 Squier Affinity Duo-Sonic
In 1998 the Duo-Sonic was produced as a Chinese made Squier Affinity model. The biggest changes on this version was the the pickups, which looked more like strat pickups with the pole pieces showing. The two knobs were plastic strat-style versions instead of Mustang or Tele style knobs. This guitar was dropped from the line up in 1999.



2008 Squier Classic Vibe Duo Sonic
In 2008 the Duo-Sonic resurfaced under the company’s Squier brand as part of their Classic Vibe series. This time the guitar attempted to be a recreation of the 1956 version, including the Desert Sand finish, the gold anodized pickguard and the maple neck/maple fret board.

There were a few changes. The body was made of basswood and the neck was a 24” scale with a C-shape. The frets were updated to medium jumbo ones and the bridge pickup was moved 3/4’s of an inch further from the bridge compared to the original. This model was discontinued in 2011.

2016 Fender Duo-Sonics



In 2016 Fender offered two updated versions of the Duo-Sonic under the Fender brand name. Both guitars came with 24” scale necks.






2016 MN


The Duo-Sonic MN featured 2 single coil pickups with a slanted neck pickup and a bridge pickup that was parallel to the bridge/saddle. This guitar appears to be fairly close to the original model, but for the scale and the six-section adjustable bridge with the strings going through the body and anchored in the back of the guitar.





2016 HS


The other model was the Duo-Sonic HS, which featured a single coil slanted pickup in the neck position and a humbucking pickup in the bridge position that featured coil tapping. The bodies are made of alder wood, while the necks are maple and offered with either a maple or rosewood fretboard. Both instruments are manufactured in Mexico and remain in the Fender line up at present.




Bronco Set

A close cousin to the Musicmaster and Duo-Sonic was the Fender Bronco. This was another student guitar that was initially sold as a student package along with the Fender Bronco amp, which was actually a very nice Fender silverface Vibro-Champ amplifier. The only difference in the amplifiers was the colour of the logo. This amplifier came with red lettering that stated Bronco, instead of blue lettering stating Vibro-Champ.



1967 Fender Bronco
The Bronco guitar was introduced in 1967. The guitars body was the same as the Mustang and Duo-Sonic of that era. The C-shaped neck had a scale of 24” and included a large headstock, similar to the one on the Mustang.

The fretboard was of the Fender laminated rosewood variety with dot position markers. Like the Musicmaster, the Fender Bronco has only one pickup, but it was placed In the bridge position. This was a slanted single coil pickup with no exposed pole pieces.

1967 Fender Bronco amplifier
The 3 ply pickguard was was white or black plastic and included a section for the volume and tone controls and jack. The Bronco came with an unusual vibrato system that Fender never used on any other guitars.

The Bronco stayed in the Fender line up until 1981. It was then replaced by the Fender Bullet 1.

1981 Fender Bullet 1
The Fender Bullet 1 was another unique Fender instrument marketed to students or players looking for a low cost Fender guitar.

This first version of the Bullet included an anodized pickguard with controls for tone and volume.. The distal end of the metal pickguard had a lip that held the six adjustable bridge saddles.

The guitars body had a shape more like a Telecaster than a Mustang. The twin single coil pickups were done in the same manner as the original Duo-Sonic; the neck pickup slanted downward and the bridge pickup was parallel to the bridge saddles. The bolt-on maple neck was topped with a laminated rosewood fretboard and a Telecaster style headstock. The 3 position blade switch was very similar to the one used on early Stratocasters.

'81 Bullet Deluxe


Later models, known as the Fender Bullet Deluxe, were produced with a plastic pickguard and a metal plate that housed the bridge/saddle unit. By 1982 the Bullet was redesigned and this version bore no similarity to the Duo-Sonic.

Fender Swinger





One other very interesting Fender student guitar worth mentioning;The Fender Swinger.






Babe Simoni
Vigiliio “Babe” Simoni was hired at Fender when he was a 16 year old kid. He rose up the ranks and became the product manager. Simoni stayed on with Fender after CBS purchased the company.

Swinger body routed for Bass V pickups

The new bosses gave him instructions to find something profitable to do with leftover parts. Simoni was not a designer, but he was skilled in shaping bodies, necks and routing.

He came up with two very unique guitars and one of them was the Fender Swinger, which was fashioned from leftover Musicmaster, short-scale necks, and Fender Bass V bodies.

Fender Swinger
Babe had workers saw a curve section into the bottom end of the body and then the sawed off a portion of the upper horn. He also had them cut the end of the headstock on the the 22 1/2” Musicmaster necks into a sharp point.

These guitars  utilized left over 1969 pick guards that had been cut out to allow space for the metal control panel. This guitar came with a single slanted neck pickup. The 3 section bridge/saddles were the same ones used on Musicmasters and Duo-Sonics that were made during the 1964-1969 era.

1969 Fender Swinger
Swinger bodies were offered in various colours, including Olympic White, Daphne Blue, Dakota Red, Black, Lake Placid Blue, and Candy Apple Red.

Logos on the Headstock


The tuning keys had white plastic buttons and the Fender logo decal (in black font) was put on the headstock. On some models to the right of this was “Swinger” in a similar black script. Most models deleted the guitars name.





Back of the Swinger body



Though the Swinger was an inexpensive 3/4 sized guitar at the time it was offered to the public, its scarcity has made this guitar very collectible and commanding thousands in today’s vintage market. 





Another variant of the Duo-Sonic and Musicmaster guitar was the Fender Musicmaster bass guitar.

1966 Fender Mustang Bass
Fender had launched the Mustang guitar in 1964. Two years later Fender produced the Mustang Bass. This was a short scale bass with a 30" neck, split single coil pickups, somewhat like the ones on a Precision Bass, but with rounded corners, and a body just like the one on the Fender Mustang guitar.

This bass came with a plastic pickguard and a metal control section similar to the one on the Mustang guitar. The bridge/saddle section consisted of a chrome plate with a raised lip at its end and 4 adjustable saddles.


1971 Musicmaster Bass
In 1971 Fender introduced a budget version of this bass and called it the Musicmaster bass. The body was similar. This instrument was made of surplus parts of other guitars.

The controls and pickup were mounted on the plastic pickguard, which was much smaller than the one on the Mustang bass. The bridge/saddle was different from the Mustang bass.



The strings attached to the lip of a chrome plate and passed over two adjustable sections, much like the saddles found on a Telecaster.

1972 Musicmaster Bass


This bass had one single coil pickup with a cover that did not expose the pole pieces. If you removed it, then you would find six pole pieces, as it was actually a Stratocaster pickup. This led to a common criticism that the Musicmaster bass sounded thinner than other bass guitars.




1971 Fender Musicmaster Bass

Most Musicmaster bass guitars came with a white or black pickguard, while some had a pearl design. The 30” scale maple neck was capped with a rosewood fretboard. The headstock was smaller than the Mustang bass. The tuning keys were triangular.

Original models came in black, red, or white. Later models were available in other Fender finish options.

The Fender Musicmaster bass was in the line up until 1981. It was reintroduced as the Squier Musicmaster bass in 1997.

1997 Squier Musicmaster Bass
There were several differences in this model, aside from being made off shore.  This version had four exposed pole pieces. The bridge was still mounted on a screw in chrome plate, but it had four adjustable saddles instead of just two.

The control knobs on the Fender Musicmaster bass were made of plastic, while the Squier version had metallic knobs.

Squier Bronco Bass


The Squier Musicmaster bass was produced for less than a year, when Fender introduced the Squier Bronco bass. This was a simlar bass, but utilized a covered pickup that had 4 pole pieces. The bridge/saddle reverted back to the two section type.




2002 Fender Mustang Bass MIJ

The Fender or Squier Musicmaster bass never resurfaced. The Fender Mustang bass was reissued in 2002. It remains in the Fender line up.



Squier Bronco
The Squier Bronco Bass is now part of the Squier Affinity series.

Unfortunately, the vintage Fender Musicmaster bass, though no longer available, is one of the least collectible Fender instruments.

The links under the pictures will take you to their source. The links in the text will take you to more interesting information.
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2 comments:

JFargus said...

Whenever I read about Duo-Sonics, I'm always reminded of that great iconic black-and-white photo on the inside cover of Steely Dan's Aja album (I think it was Aja) of Walter Becker playing a Duo-Sonic.

naveed naeem said...

nice