Fender Jaguar vs Mustang: What’s the Difference?

Fender Jaguar and Mustang share the same brand and background, but are subtly different guitars. While each model gets the job done, they each have unique features that make them worth considering.

The main differences between Fender Jaguar and Mustang lie in their tonal quality, weight, controls, and price range. The Jaguar has a slightly warmer tone than the Fender Mustang, which sounds brighter and thinner. The Mustang is also lighter, and features angled pickups, while, the Jaguar has more controls but is more expensive. 

Let’s take a closer look at some subtle differences between the Fender Jaguar and Mustang that you should know about before deciding which one is right for you.

Fender Jaguar Vs Mustang

History of Fender Jaguar and Mustang Guitars

Fender launched Jaguar as its top-of-the-line model in 1962. The Jaguar design was highly similar to its predecessor, the Fender Jazzmaster. However, the Jaguar had a thinner, shorter neck and some circuitry upgrades.

Fender came out with a new offset design called Mustang two years later to address Jaguar’s issues. Aside from being influenced by both the Jaguar and the Jazzmaster series, the Mustang was also part of a redesign of Fender’s student guitar line, the MusicMaster and Duo-Sonic. 

Even though both models had a large following among guitarists at the time, it was not enough to save the guitar line. As a result, the Fender Jaguar was phased out in 1975, while the Mustang ceased production in 1982.

Fender Jaguar resurfaced in the 1990s after being used by guitarists such as Scott Hill, John Squire, Kurt Cobain, and Johnny Marr. Fender Mustang also gained cult status around the same time after alternative rock bands, particularly grunge bands, started using them, including Nirvana.

After their revival, numerous other rock bands began using offset guitar models, so Fender decided to keep manufacturing them. Today, Jaguar and Mustang models are still being produced by Fender at various price ranges.

Check out our comparison of Fender vs Epiphone guitars here.

Differences Between Fender Jaguar and Mustang

While Jaguar and Mustang have similar backgrounds, both are distinctly different and have their own pros and cons. Here are the differences between the Jaguar and the Fender Mustang that you should know about.

Sound and Tone

The Fender Jaguar is slightly warmer and mellower than the Mustang. The Mustang has a brighter, thinner tone with less bass response.

The Jaguar and Mustang both feature two single-coil pickups that give them a bright sound with lots of bite, while also producing an edge perfect for rock music. Aside from their similar pickups, both models also have bodies made of alder that contribute to their resembling sound. 

Body

Although both models feature a double-cutaway shape and alder bodies, the Fender Mustang is much lighter than the Jaguar. The Fender Mustang weighs only 7 pounds, while the Jaguar weighs 8 pounds.

Both the guitars feature offset waists, but the Jaguar is more evident. When playing the guitar seated, the offset waist gives it a more balanced feel.

Pickups

Fender Jaguars, particularly the Player models, come both with single coils and humbuckers. Mustangs have two angled single-coil pickups. For the Vintera 60s models, both Jaguar and Mustang feature two single-coil pickups.

The angling of pickups on the Mustang is also one of the most noticeable differences between the two guitars. When pickups are angled, the higher strings tend to have brighter tones, while the lower ones tend to sound warmer. This is because angled pickups emphasize the treble and bass frequencies of the higher and lower strings.

Neck

Both Jaguar and Mustang guitars have neck woods made of maple. The neck shape of the Jaguar is modern C, while Mustang has the vintage C shape. The main difference is in the size of the carving. It’s known as a “modern” C because of its slimmer design, whereas C-shaped necks are found on most electric guitars.

The Fender Jaguar’s fingerboard is made of pau ferro, while the Mustang is made of maple. For tonewoods, maple sounds brighter than pau ferro, which is warmer. Maple also has a lighter color, whereas pau ferro is darker and has a reddish hue comparable to rosewood.

Both Jaguar and Mustang have 22 frets with a 24-inch scale length. Jaguars and Mustangs have a shorter scale length than other guitars, making them incredibly easy to play, especially if you have small hands. Both variants are suitable for students because of this feature.

String tension is also reduced thanks to the 24-inch scale length. The shorter scales have a different feel and tone flavor than the longer scales, which tend to be brighter.

Don’t forget to check out our Stratocaster vs Jaguar comparison here!

Tremolo

The Fender Jaguar features a floating tremolo tailpiece, while the Mustang has a hard tail with bent steel saddles.

Hard tails, generally known as fixed bridges, are fastened into the guitar’s body and hold the strings in place on saddles. Fixed bridges make restringing simple for even the most novice players. They can’t go wrong with passing a string through a hole and up to the tuner.

On the other hand, floating bridges allow players to achieve vibrato without bending the strings with their fingers. The floating vibrato mechanism also has a built-in lock that helps the musician keep the guitar in tune in the case of a string breaking, while also making the vibrato arm removal easier.

Because they are less popular and a little more challenging to set up than a regular Stratocaster trem, the Jaguar and Mustang trems and bridges have earned a poor image.

Controls

The Jaguar’s other distinguishing characteristic is its unique pickup switching system. It features two lead and rhythm circuits with separate controls for each. This allows the guitarist to quickly select between two preset tone and volume levels.

The Mustang, on the other hand, includes a master volume and tone knob, as well as two DP3T switches for each pickup (on-off-on). However, getting used to the switches may take some time as they are situated above the low E string.

Aesthetics and Feel

Both the Fender Jaguar and the Mustang have a similar appearance. However, the Mustang has a smaller body. It’s also a lot lighter than the Jaguar, making it more comfortable for some guitarists to play.

Others, however, find the Jaguar far more comfortable to play. Some think the Mustang is a little more cramped than the Jaguar due to its smaller body. The Mustang tailpiece is also higher than the bridge, limiting players from resting their palms on the guitar’s body.

Price Range

The Fender Jaguar is more expensive than the Mustang because it has more features. At just $800, the Fender Player Mustang is slightly cheaper than its Jaguar counterpart, which costs $880. The Fender Mustang is also much more affordable, even in models such as the Vintera ’60s. For example, Fender Vintera ’60s Mustang is only $1,020 compared with Vintera ’60s Jaguar, which is $1,250.

Which is Better: Fender Jaguar vs Mustang?

If you’re a beginner, the Fender Mustang is better because it has simpler features and is less expensive. However, if you need more tone palette, then the Jaguar is more suitable for you because it offers a lot more versatility. You’ll find it easy to get the right tone in Fender Jaguars for any style of music you’re trying to play.

In any case, both guitars can do pretty much anything a player needs them to do. Choosing which is best for you will generally come down to feel and tonal preferences. 

Check out our comparison of Fender vs PRS guitars here.

Conclusion

Fender Jaguar vs Mustang, which one of the two is better? There are subtle differences between these two guitars, and there is no right or wrong answer. It will largely depend on what you’re looking for in an electric guitar.

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Don East

My name is Don East, I'm the editor for Killer Rig. I've been playing guitar for over 20 years and have designed and manufactured products like guitar amps, effects pedals, and more. Over the years I have played in many bands and have a deep love for quality gear. I am an electrical engineer and have a passion for music gear, and now want to share what I know with the community!