When Fender launched its offset guitars and basses over half a century ago, it couldn’t have anticipated its enormous impacts they would continue to have on music and music culture today. Read on to learn more about offsets, from their early days to the present.
1956: Fender introduces its first “student model” offset, the Duo-Sonic.
1958: Fender introduces its first professional offset, the Jazzmaster. The instrument was created as a solid body guitar for jazz guitarists, but it soon became enormously popular among rock musicians.
1960: Fender produces its first offset-bodied bass guitar. Like the Jazzmaster before it, the Jazz Bass was also designed for jazz players (particularly, upright bassists looking to electrify their sound) but also grew a following among rock musicians. A six-string offset bass, the Fender VI, was released the following year.
Early 1960s: Surf music springs off of California beaches into a national phenomenon. Due to their warm, clean tones and ease of playing at racing speeds, the Jazzmaster guitar and the Stratocaster guitar become the instruments of choice. The sounds from the whammy bar were thought to capture the vibe of ocean waves.
1962: Fender introduces the Jaguar, a new offset that featured stylish, space-agey chrome details. Built with an extra fret and a shorter scale (24”) than the Jazzmaster, it was designed to make playing even faster and easier.
1964: Offsets’ comfort factor and popularity with young musicians inspires Fender to create a short-scale model for student players, the Mustang. They also revamp the earlier student model guitars, the Duo-Sonic and Musicmaster, with new offset-style bodies.
1966: Why should guitar students have all the offset short scales? With a scale of 30” and offset body, Fender’s Mustang bass becomes the company’s first-ever student bass guitar.
1975: Due to changing music trends and declining sales, Fender begins to discontinue its offset models, finally halting production on the Mustang in 1982.
1975-1977: Youth culture once again has a surprise in store for the guitar industry; as punk emerges on both sides of the Atlantic, offsets’ ubiquity, ease of playing—and the fact that they could be found cheap—makes them a hit with a new set of musical rebels.
1980s: Fender Japan is opened for business, and launches a number of offset reissues as part of it’s instrument line.
Early-mid 1980s: Punk births new wave, post-punk, shoegaze, and other subgenres where individualism and experimentation are prized more than perfection. During the same period, there is a renewed interest in garage rock and surf music. Offsets become a gear cornerstone for yet another generation!
1990s: In response to the growing love of vintage instruments among grunge and alternative guitarists, Fender officially relaunches its offset models with updates to correct many of the perceived flaws of the original versions.
1992: In an interview with Guitar World Kurt Cobain names the Mustang as his favorite guitar in the world, listing its small size, price point, and its quirks and imperfections as his reasons for loving it.
1997: Courtney Love launches a new offset, the Squier Venus (or Fender Vista Venus), making her the second woman to have a signature line from Fender after Bonnie Raitt.
2003: Liz Phair poses with her trusty Duo-Sonic on the cover of her self-titled album.
2010s: Offsets continue to thrive in the indie music community. Their versatility and comfort makes them a perfect fit for a variety of music styles and players. They provide a dependable, cost-efficient staple for musicians who are more likely to buy a bunch of pedals than “trade up” for a more expensive guitar.
2016: Fender releases its Offset Series, featuring new models of Mustangs and Duo-Sonics. The instruments come in a variety of finishes; the Mustang comes in Arctic White, Capri Orange, and Torino Red, while the Duo-Sonic HS comes in Daphne Blue, Black, and Surf Green.
2017: The Fender Offset series releases a new set of vintage inspired colors for its revamped Mustang, Mustang90, Mustang Bass PJ and Duo-Sonic models including capri orange, surf green, shell pink, daphne blue, and canary diamond.