Saturday, January 15, 2011


This picture is from and is owned by Amanda and has some surface blems but this is what my Bronco will look like as far as knobs and thumb rest and pickup cover. This 1975 Musicmaster Bass features the two saddle bridge used then as well. A four saddle bridge just makes tuning and intonation SO much easier.

This is the Squier Bronco, as you can see on the exterior almost identical to the Musicmaster Bass.

I work very hard at my career and am doing well in that area and am caught up and indeed, a bit ahead of where I thought I'd be this week.

Personally, I got some small projects done around the home but had a lot of family stuff going on that all fortunately turned out well but the restful week by the proverbial fire in the easy chair never really came until this long weekend.

I thought I'd discuss some of my varied projects that have carried over from several past years, sitting in limbo in some cases, and this post will deal with the...


My first bass was a Fender Musicmaster, a short scale beginner model also marketed to guitarists wanting to double on bass with a short scale neck. I stupidly and ultimately sold that guitar, and about 20 years later got one when vintage shops were selling them for $300 or so. That one, red in color and identical to the first bass I owned, to me sounded better and had a better pickup.

As I do with all my basses, I take them to Woody Oakes, my longtime Houston bandmate and noted bassist. He's also quite the guitar tech and can set up a bass like nobody's business. I took the Musicmaster to him and he did the near impossible and actually was able to achieve proper intonation via adding shims to the neck and bridge, curing the two saddle bridge problem that Musicmasters suffer from.

Woody fell in love with that bass. He mostly played a Dan Armstrong Plexi model, a short scale itself, or a 70's natural Jazz in long scale. Woody often requested when we were gigging together that I bring the bass, and it ultimately became Woody's. Woody is and was a close personal friend as well as a longtime bandmate in numerous bands of all types.

The last time I played with Woody, several years ago, he was playing that Red Fender Musicmaster Bass.

I have my Musicmaster Bass amp and have used it for both guitar playing and bass practicing. I had it gone over earlier in the decade at the fabulous Rockin' Robin Guitars in Houston, Texas, and refurbished to stock-new by their ace ampman. The corners have a teeny bit of tarnish but nothing to get excited about. The amp otherwise is in 90% at least.

So still hankering for a Musicmaster of my own, I quickly found out that examples of the quality I would want were now going for $750 bucks and often more. The current manufacture Squier Bronco bass is a near duplicate twin of the Musicmaster, albeit with a crappier pickup.

Since I'm no pro level bassist, my bass playing is done mostly self recording with (now) garageband and formerly a variety of six track cassette and low end eight track dedicated Fostex digital recorder that was too complex for me to use.

I picked up a Red Squier Bronco for less than $100 new some time ago, at a Guitar Center sale I walked in on. I put some NOS Fender Musicmaster Short Scale bass strings on it that I had left over from a long time ago and it plays very nicely. The pickup does sucketh badly, and that's the only real issue with the Bronco.

The pickup is in line for replacement at the top of the list. I've been trying to find a decent 70's salvage, and have tried several seventies Fender single coil pickups of a similar type to the six pole guitar pickup used in the Musicmaster Bass Guitar by Fender. That's right, not a bass pickup but a guitar pickup. Hence the strange spacing, I think.

That's the sound I'm after, the old warmer sound I used to get out of my '74 Red Musicmaster bass. I have the Musicmaster Amplifier, and it is now set with the original reconed yet another time. If the original goes again, I'll be getting a Weber VST Ceramic 12B for $50 smackers direct from Weber. But as for now, the guitar speaker that was in the Fender Musicmaster Bass Amp is back in a storage box and the Amp is sounding great and is not bottoming out at practice levels, which is what it is, a warm cool practice amp.

But back to the Bronco modifications I'll be doing.

I've gotten a 3 ply pickguard to replace the cheap 1 ply the Bronco comes with. I've gotten the new pots (vol and tone controls), wiring, copper shielding tape for the control cavity. I have plastic jazz bass knobs to replace the cheap metal ones and a Fender finger rest to install above the strings on the pickguard like my old one.

I have an aftermarket four saddle bridge that will require two holes and inserts to be placed but well worth the effort. You have to make sure you have a bridge with the proper spacing of the strings for this unique bass. I'll post the numbers later in a subsequent post.

So my only decision now is the pickup since the tuners work well and hold a tune. They are smooth and the bass stays in tune once tuned well, notwithstanding the standard intonation problems of a twin saddle bass bridge. The only reason to replace the tuners is if they are not working right or if there is extreme neck dive or rise (and you can add heavier or lighter tuners), and so far this bass seems to ride really well on a 3" thick Levy's Leather strap.

I'm doing these mods myself, without Woody's help, because I can always go crying to him to fix it if I can't get intonation correct throughout the instrument using a four saddle bridge. Besides, I have no idea about shimming necks and adjusting the truss. I've watched Woody do it, and he uses a strobotuner to insure proper intonation up and down the neck.

I've been soldering fixing guitars and minor electronics problems like jacks and such since junior high and working on electronic drums for 25 years, so rewiring the Bronco with a new pickup and pots and a plug won't be a big deal. Everything is a stock replacement except the bridge and since many of the holes do line up (2 don't) it should be a good alignment.

As for pickups, many use the Duncan Hotrails pickups and some use the higher priced Aero pickup specifically designed for the Musicmaster and Bronco. Like the bridge, it's difficult to find a pickup with the proper string spacing for these basses. The original Musicmaster used a guitar pickup from the mustang, thus getting it's unique bass sound.

There have been other pickups mentioned on this great bass playing (both acoustic and electric bass forums) called TALKBASS, and so I've got some suggestions and there was talk of a new one designed in the manner of the original Musicmaster going on.

I also plan to talk to Rio Grande Pickups to see what they would recommend. They make some RIGHTEOUS PICKUPS.

I'm not planning on hotrodding it at all, but if you're so inclined, Torres Engineering has everything you need.


  1. I have a 1971 Musicmaster bass I have been playing since 1973. The body was beat up when I got it. I didn't really care about the vintage look, so I bought a used Squire Bronco from my niece who decided she didn't want to learn how to play bass. This particular guitar was crude and never played well, so I put my Musicmaster neck to the red Bronco body which was beautiful, then bought the new age Jazz Bass Pickups and pots kit from Stewart McDonald and installed them by modifying the body to accommodate the second pickup near the bridge, wired in the new pots and it is a new animal, has all the bass and tone I ever wanted!

  2. Thanks for writing in, Randy. That sounds like a nice bass. I have contemplated buying a musicmaster neck off of ebay and I had heard that it was a good fit. Stew Mac has a bunch of cool stuff, don't they?

    El Fisho

  3. I also have a Squire Bronco Bass Project. I replaced the pickup with a Lace Red Sensor. I need a 4 saddle bridge to get it to strobe right. Any help on getting replacement parts. Thanks ~ Mark

  4. I got my bridge, which is a medium quality no name deal, off of ebay and the seller is no longer doing business there.

    Google string spacing bronco on the talk bass forum. There's a post there about bridges for these modifications, as well as some other posts and what folks did to put a new bridge on their Bronco. Just search TB for Bronco and you'll find lots of information and pics of other folks Bronco and Musicmasters.

    My Bronco project is just gathering dust. I now have a main bass that needs some electrical repair so there goes more potential Bronco money in another direction.

    Once you fund the string spacing specs, then you might try All Parts in Houston.

    Keep us posted and thanks for stopping by.

    And are you buying a new pickguard and if so, where?

  5. Looks like I'm going with the Fender Squier Musicmaster Bass Bridge and Ferrules from This bridge uses through the body for the strings. Also a new white pearl 3-layer pickguard from Dazbootman on ebay. I tested the new pickup and this 3/4 size bass is Rockin' Thanks ~ Mark

  6. I think a neck or bridge pickup from a Squier Duo_Sonic guitar would be very adequate and may sound great. It will sound very similar to the true vintage MM bass since it is a Mustang/DuoSonic guitar pickup. It's very cheap and easy to find.
    I have a Squier Duo-Sonic and the pickups sound very nice imo. Nice high end and lots of thump. That's why I think it may be a great alternative.
    I plan to buy a Bronco and mod it to be a white MM bass.
    fdi.recording at gmail