Weaknesses of...


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What are the "weaknesses" of the "weird" Fenders like Mustang, Jaguar, and Jazzmaster?  Did they just not catch on like the strat?  Or was it strictly the funky bridges and whammy systems?  Everyone I've played has been very comfy - just wanting to know if there are any unforeseen downsides to a Mustang (I want to do it without the weird switching, and with a hardtail or strat tremolo).
Not sure, my friend. I feel like a jazzmaster with simpler switching and a tunomatic would be killer.
If I got my facts straight (big "if"): The Jazzmaster was more expensive than the Strat. That bridge is a huge liability, too, and the switches/thumbwheels were a conceit to the fashions of the day (check out Hagstrom, Vox, EKO, Supro, and Gibson adding lots of switches to their guitars in the 60's.)

I think what kept the Jaguar and Mustang on the bench was the 24" scale; at least that was the reason given to me. People say short scale guitars have lousy sustain, but I say people solo too much. Lap steels are usually shorter scale than guitar, and they sing just fine.

Not that the Strat and Tele don't have their shortcomings. It's just that, for whatever reason, those were the shortcomings people were willing to contend with.
Mustangs were a low-end, lower priced "student guitar" and marketed that way, replaced the MusicMaster/Duo-Sonic in that segment and I don't think were ever popular with musicians, really... 3/4 or 24": scale neck and cheap components/build were issues

The JazzMaster was introduced to be an "upscale" model to the Strat, but wasn't ever embraced by it's intended market segment; bridge sucked donkey meat; never saw many Jaguars "in the wild" think they were supposed to be a lower cost "surf guitar" after some surf bands started playing the Jazzmasters to that effect.

All three original models you mentioned basically sucked IMHO; but not to say you can't update the major problems with the originals by using different scale lengths/bridges/PUs/etc.; check out WillyK's excellent builds in the misc. guitar section in the gallery on this site
Having been there, lived it...1970 onward

The general line up was -

Musicmaster and Duosonic as the low end student, entry level instruments.
Mustang was the mid level low end guitar 
Jaguar was the higher level, but still considered lower end guitar

Telecaster was the basic high end (full scale) guitar

The price difference between a Strat and Jazzmaster was piddly - something on the order of $15 list price in about 1970.

Keep in mind that there were other models.  There was the Coronado.  There was the Bass VI.  There was the Telecaster Thinline.  There was the Electric XII, and as I recall, there was another semi hollow besides the Coronado.

There is a well known "collectors" website that claims the Jaguar was "top of the line" for Fender, and this is not so.  The Jazzmaster was.  However, the Jaguar was well appointed in some years, and its price was not much different from either the Strat or Jazzmaster.  Consider that all the Fenders "better" guitars were very close in price.  That is -

My 72 Tele was $310 LIST while the Thinline was about $360 and the Strat about $375 LIST.  Yes in those days - Teles and Strats were priced differently (not today though).

The normal going rate and ANY music store was 40 percent off list as the street price.  This is the day where dealers got list minus 50 and 5 or minus 50 and 5 and 3 as the dealer discount on the whole line...and before the days of EXPENSIVE catalogs that reduced the discounts.  Anyway, you could walk out the door with a spankin new Tele for $186, plus about $35 for the case.  Cases were not part of the list price back then.  Funny today they are, but Guitar Center "takes em out".
Nobody has mentioned the dropped (offset?) waist on these models. They are really comfortable to hold and play, standing or sitting. But I think that is where the appeal ends for me. I think the Mustang, in stock specifications, looks cheap and nasty and while I really like the Jag/Jazzmaster body I too think the bridge sucks canal water and the control layouts were over complex crap. I've built two Jazzmaster shaped guitars so far. Both do away with the previously mentioned shortcomings. I haven't finished with the Jazzmaster yet, I have another incarnation or two in mind. They really are a great body to base your own design on.