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New Fender American Performer guitars and basses



Fender American Performer
Dylan Mattheisen of Tiny
Moving Parts demonstrates the new American Performer

Screenshot via

  • Fender
    has substantially updated its American Performer lineup,
    formerly known as American Special.
  • The new line is the entry point to Fender made-in-USA
    instruments and now includes basses in addition to guitars.
  • The American Performer line was developed with significant
    input from performing artists.

A Fender guitar can be obtained for a very reasonable price, but
for many players, it’s the American-made instruments that are the
beginning of their serious journey into the 72-year-old

That journey used to commence with the American Special lineup,
but now Fender has updated that offering for the first time in a
decade and rechristened it “American Performer” to highlight a
combination of value and excellence intended to appeal to gigging

Fender American Performer
updated Stratocaster HSS.


“The American Performer Series blends traditional Fender design
with new elements for modern tone and performance,” Fender said
in a statement. “Together, the updates deliver sonic versatility,
tonal flexibility and ease of use for performers, helping them
create the perfect sound for every musical genre.”

Fender upped its game for the new instruments.

“We put a lot more into these than in prior iterations,” Justin
Norvell, executive vice-president of product, said.

As with any update to Fender’s iconic designs, there were
challenges. “A Stratocaster from ten paces looks like a
Stratocaster,” Norvell said.

Input from performing artists was imperative, and Fender spent
two years both refining stalwarts such as the Stratocaster and
Telecaster while refining the Jazzmaster and the Mustang and
introducing a Jazz, Precision, and Mustang bass. What Norvell
described as “quirks” were addressed, such as the Mustang’s
notorious tremolo arm.

Plenty of input from performers

The range of advice that Fender received was thanks to location:
with an office in Hollywood, near numerous recording studios, the
company could rely on a steady stream of musicians providing
opinions. According to Norvell, their preferences in Fender
instruments ranged from “super modern to super vintage.”

Pickups were of particular interest. New “Yosemite” units are
intended to combine muscle and finesse in a single instrument. A
double-tap humbucking pickup enables a player to switch between
the single-coil cut that Fenders are known for, yet also access
humbucking beef, without have to compromise volume.

Tuners also got an update, with a modest, vintage look, but more
precise and stable tuning.

Fender American Performer
new Jazzmaster.


Overall, the revamped American Performer range seeks to continue
Fender’s process of improving its classics for musicians who
aren’t as indebted to styles of the past and might want to treat
the six-string (as well as the bass) as a sort of synthesizer,
creating sonic textures through the use of effects pedals and a
wide variety of amplifiers (both of which Fender also makes).

When it came to personal favorites from the new range, Norvell
highlighted the Stratocaster HSS, which replaces the traditional
single-coil bridge pickup with a humbucking unit, solving the
problem of Stratocaster players avoiding the bridge and favoring
the guitars legendary neck pickup. The new Performer Strat HSS is
about $1,000.

He also enthused over the Jazzmaster, a  guitar that was a
failure for Fender when introduced decades ago, but a massive
success much later when cheap axes were taken up by punk-rock
musicians in the 1980s. A new trem system borrowed from the Strat
provides a simpler way to whammy. The new Jazzmaster is priced at
about $1,200.

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