Designing the Ben Gibbard Mustang Guitar
Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard has amassed a collection of ‘70s era Mustangs since falling in love with them years ago. Learn how we modded the Ben Gibbard Mustang to match his favorite guitars.
By Mike Duffy
A Melodic Masterpiece
Ben Gibbard started Death Cab for Cutie in the late 1990's as a solo project that gained moderate success amongst college radio stations and melomaniacs who searched the deep corners of music retailers like Sam Goody and FYE. Who would have thought he would change the face of indie rock for the next several decades?
That’s just what Gibbard did. After his cult-classic debut cassette, You Can Play These Songs with Chords, Gibbard brought together a group of talented musicians to make Death Cab a proper band and launched a rocket ship that included several high-charting albums and Grammy Award nominations.
In addition, Gibbard even doubled down in the mid 2000's by teaming with producer Jimmy Tamborello to create another aughts-defining outfit in the Postal Service. To put it simply, Gibbard’s knack for earworm rhythms, pop sensibilities and personal storytelling set the stage for generations of musicians to follow.
Treasure Found with an Iconic Sound
While Gibbard’s genius is still heard on mainstream airwaves, the main tool that helped craft the sound of smash albums like Kintsugi (2015) and Codes and Keys (2011), it’s important to note that his main tool in bringing those undeniable sounds to the masses was a 1970's-era Fender Mustang.
The road to a Mustang wasn’t too winding. Gibbard notes that when Death Cab began, he was very much into the short-scale Fender Bullet guitars, as their smaller necks felt more comfortable in his hands. But when a gear swap with a friend landing him a ‘70s Mustang about 10 years ago, he was quickly hooked.
“I don’t know if it’s a function of how I like to move around a guitar neck or the size of my hands in relation to a much wider neck, but I found that I could arpeggiate and acrobatically move around the guitar in a fashion that I did in the early days of the band,” Gibbard said. “Immediately, the Mustang became my go-to guitar, and I haven’t looked back.”
Modding His Mustang
And since then, Gibbard has amassed a collection of Mustangs from that time, after falling in love with the warm ‘70s-style pickups and simplicity of the revered workhorse, albeit with several personal modifications.
Each one of those mods is featured on the new Ben Gibbard Mustang®, a bold take on a classic model that includes a resonant chambered ash body, a 22-fret modern “C”-shaped maple neck and a 9.5” radius fingerboard. Gibbard also wanted to make his namesake guitar akin to the ones he plays on stage by simplifying the controls into a single master volume and a three-position rotary pickup selector.
“To have this guitar built exactly the way I want it is pretty phenomenal,” he said. “I wanted to make a guitar made for someone who is singing and playing guitar at the same time, because if you’re trying to do two things at once, I want as few distractions as possible. That means removing any impediments to having the guitar be completely playable and in tune as possible. It’s really a joy to play.”