Mustang vs Stratocaster: Which Guitar is Best for You?


The Stratocaster and Mustang are both iconic guitars produced by Fender and Stratocaster, with the Strat being by far the most popular option, but which is best for you? In this article, I’ll compare the features of the two guitars, the tones, appearance, feel and look into pretty much every guitar in the Stratocaster and Mustang ranges so you can see what’s available within your budget.

The Quick Answer

Stratocasters differ from Mustangs primarily due to their extra single coil pickup, more regular shaped body and longer scale length. Mustangs tend to sound a bit warmer than Stratocasters which sound quite bright. Both models have 22 frets, single coil pickups and a similar C-shape neck.

Comparing Models

First, let’s take a look at the key features and specifications of Squier and Fender versions of the Stratocaster and Mustang electric guitars. Fender produce the most premium versions of each guitar, whilst Squier who are owned by Fender, make the more affordable versions.

Fender Mustang and Stratocaster

Here is a table comparing the Fender American Performer versions of the Stratocaster and Mustang. I’ve chosen these models as they are similarly priced, and this is the only American Mustang model in the range. The Stratocaster comes in more expensive versions where the specification will vary.

FeatureFender StratocasterFender Mustang
Body ShapeDouble CutawayDouble Cutaway
Body WoodAlderAlder
PickupsThree Single-CoilsTwo Single-Coils
Neck ShapeModern-CModern-C
Neck WoodMapleMaple
Neck ConstructionBolt-OnBolt-On
Frets2222
Fretboard WoodRosewoodRosewood
Scale Length25.5”24”
BridgeSynchronised TremoloDynamic Tremolo
Number of Tone Knobs21
Number of Volume Knobs11
Pickup Selector5-way3-way
Weight8 pounds (3.6 kg)7 pounds (3.2 kg)
Fender American Performer Stratocaster vs Mustang.

Squier Mustang and Stratocaster

Here is a comparison of the Squier Classic Vibe ’60s versions of the Mustang and Stratocaster. These are both the most expensive models in the Squier range and are designed to replicate the classic Fender versions of each guitar, but at a more affordable price point. The Stratocaster also comes in a 50’s and 70’s version, but the Mustang only comes in the 60’s version, hence why I’ve chosen these models to compare.

FeatureSquier StratocasterSquier Mustang
Body ShapeDouble CutawayDouble Cutaway
Body WoodNatoPoplar
PickupsThree Single-CoilsTwo Single-Coils
Neck ShapeSlim C-shapeC-shape
Neck WoodMapleMaple
Neck ConstructionBolt-OnBolt-On
Frets2122
Fretboard WoodIndian Laurel or MapleIndian Laurel
Scale Length25.5”24”
BridgeSynchronised TremoloDynamic Tremolo
Number of Tone Knobs21
Number of Volume Knobs11
Phase SwitchNoYes
Pickup Selector5-way3-way
Weight7.3 pounds (3.3 kg)6-pounds (2.7 kg)
Squier Classic Vibe ’60s Stratocaster vs Mustang.

Sound Differences

The Stratocaster sounds brighter compared to the Mustang, particularly when using the bridge pickup. The Mustang sounds a bit warmer and darker, and has more bite, and this is particularly evident when using the neck pickup, and higher gain amp settings.

Both guitars have single coil pickups, meaning the tone is reasonably similar, or at least when compared to other models. Both models are considered pretty versatile and able to play a large range of music styles, however they are rarely used for metal as the pickups tend to suffer from humming when using high gain.

Some Stratocasters have two humbuckers, such as the Fender Boxer and Squier Contemporary models, but most just have single coils. The most common variation is a H-S-S Strat which has a bridge humbucker pickup, and two single coils. Some Mustangs will have two humbucker pickups instead of the two single coils.

Check out my guide to pickup types to learn more about how this affects the tone of the guitar.

The best way to demonstrate the difference in tone between the two guitars is of course by actually being able to hear them, so here is a video when you can hear them being played back to back.

Look and Feel

The main differences between the look and feel of the Mustang and Stratocaster are the body shapes, and scale length. The Mustang has a shorter scale length than the Stratocaster by 1.5″ which makes it easier to handle for some guitarists. The offset body on the Mustang means that the neck tilts upwards more towards the player when stood up, whereas the Stratocaster lies flatter due to its more regular shape.

Both guitars are reasonably light, particularly compared to something like a Les Paul, however the Mustang is around 1 pound lighter than the Stratocaster as it has a smaller body and scale length, sometimes making it a bit more comfortable to play when standing up for longer periods.

The C-shape neck on both models makes them comfortable models to play for most guitarists, and the double cutaway design makes upper fret access much easier.

Both guitars have plastic pick guards and come in different colours, but the Stratocaster is available in a lot more finishes and has a more classic look compared to the quirky offset design of the Mustang.

Main Similarities:

  • C-shape neck
  • 22 frets
  • Double cutaway body
  • Bolt-on neck construction

Main Differences:

  • Offset body on the Mustang
  • Longer scale length on the Strat
  • The Mustang is slightly lighter
  • The Stratocaster is available in more colours

Squier Stratocaster (image links to Amazon)

Squier Mustang (image links to Amazon)

I’ve written a complete buyer’s guide for electric guitars which takes you through all the things you need to consider and a step-by-step method to narrowing down your selection and choosing the best option. Here is a link to the article.

Comparing the Ranges

Before I jump into an in-depth comparison of the designs of these two guitars, I also wanted to compare the different models available in the Squier and Fender ranges.

I’ve made these tables to show the key features and price (according to Guitar Center at the time of writing) of pretty much every standard model in the range, but keep in mind that the price can very depending on the colour and availability of limited editions. The tables are all ordered from the lowest to the highest price.

Entry-Level and Low-End (Under $500)

GuitarOriginBody WoodBridgePrice
Squier Bullet StratocasterIndonesiaBasswoodFixed$180
Squier Bullet Mustang HHIndonesiaBasswoodFixed$190
Squier Affinity StratocasterChinaAlder6-saddle tremolo$230
Squier Contemporary StratocasterChinaPoplarFloyd Rose$400
Squier Classic Vibe StratocasterIndonesiaPoplar/ Pine/ Nato6-saddle tremolo$430
Squier Classic Vibe MustangIndonesiaPoplarDynamic tremolo$450
Squier Mustang and Stratocaster range.

Mid-Range ($500-$1000)

GuitarOriginBody WoodBridgePrice
Fender Player MustangMexicoAlderFixed$700
Fender Player StratocasterMexicoAlder2-point tremolo$750
Fender Deluxe StratocasterMexicoAlder2-point tremolo$950
Fender Vintera StratocasterMexicoAlder6-saddle tremolo$950
Fender Vintera ‘60s MustangMexicoAlderVintage tremolo$1000
Mid-range Fender Mustang and Stratocasters compared.

High-End (Over $1200)

GuitarOriginBody WoodBridgePrice
Fender American Performer MustangAmericaAlderDynamic Tremolo$1150
Fender Boxer StratocasterJapanBasswoodFloyd Rose$1200
Fender American Performer StratocasterAmericaAlder2-point tremolo$1200
Fender American Professional StratAmericaAlder2-point tremolo$1500
Fender American Showcase StratAmericaAlder2-point tremolo$1700
Fender American Ultra StratAmericaAlderTremolo$1900
Fender American Original StratAmericaAlderTremolo$2000
High-end Fender Mustang and Stratocasters compared.

Specific Design Comparisons

Now we’ve been through the basics between these two guitars, I wanted to take a more in-depth look at the designs of each model and how this affects the tone, look, feel and playability of each instrument.

Pickups

The Stratocaster and Mustang both traditionally have single coil pickups, however the Strat has three pickups and the Mustang only has a bridge and neck pickup. The Mustang’s pickups are both in a slanted position, whereas only the bridge pickup on the Stratocaster is angled.

The idea behind the angling is to emphasise the treble frequencies of the higher strings, and the bass frequencies of the lower strings, causing the higher strings to sound bright and the lower strings to sound warmer. You can find out more about this in my article on pickup angling.

Controls

The Stratocaster has a 5-way pickup selector and the Mustang has a 3-way pickup selector on most models, or an on/off switch for each pickup on the Fender Vintera model to produce the same effect as the 3-way selector. The Mustang has single tone and volume controls, and the Stratocaster has two tone controls and a volume control.

  • The 5-way pickup selector on the Strat allows you to activate either the bridge, middle or neck pickup in isolation, or the middle pickup in combination with either the neck or bridge pickup. Here is my guide to the Stratocasters controls if you want to learn more.
  • The 3-way pickup selector on the Mustang allows you to activate either the bridge or neck pickup alone, or both together.

Body

Both the Stratocaster and Mustang traditionally have alder bodies, however the shape of them is what differs. The Stratocaster has a fairly regular shaped design compared to the Mustang which has an offset body. The offset body of the Mustang causes the centre of gravity to be shifted so the neck tilts upwards more when playing stood up, which some players find more comfortable.

Neck and Fretboard

The neck on a Stratocaster and Mustang is usually similar. Most models have a C or slim-C shape neck, made of maple. They also have a 22 fret neck. The Stratocaster fretboard is usually made of either rosewood or maple, whereas the Mustang is generally made from maple. The main difference, is that the Mustang has a shorter scale length. This makes the Mustang easier to play for some guitarists, but also makes it sound a bit warmer by comparison to the Strat.

Which Should You Choose?

The best way to figure out if a Stratocaster or a Mustang is the best guitar for you is to give them both a try. You can do this even if you’re a complete beginner, just sit and stand with the guitar to see which feels comfier and ask the store assistant to play both models so you can see which tone you prefer.

For Beginners?

For beginner guitarists, a Stratocaster is usually recommended over a Mustang because they are more widely available, come in more colour options, are are very versatile sounding. However, both guitars are fairly lightweight and have a reasonably slim neck, making them a comfortable option for most players.

I’ve written a complete buyer’s guide for electric guitars which takes you through all the things you need to consider and a step-by-step method to narrowing down your selection and choosing the best option. Here is a link to the article.

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Heather

Hey, I'm Heather. I started playing an electric guitar when I was given a Squier Strat for my birthday around 15 years ago. I now own an acoustic guitar and several electric guitars including my personal favourite, a PRS SE Custom 24.

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