What Guitar Did Kurt Cobain Play?

What Guitar Did Kurt Cobain Play

Everybody has their top list of rock stars, and everyone’s list is different. Some may say Ozzy Osborne. Others may say Jimi Hendrix. Some people would even consider Jon Bon Jovi.

If you were to ask a large portion of the population who they believed to be the biggest rock stars of all time, there would be a lot of names written down.

However, there is one name that we believe the majority of people would place somewhere on that list.

That person would be Kurt Donald Cobain.

Since Nirvana’s debut back in 1987, the band has been a constant presence on MTV and radio stations across the world.

The music of Nirvana is often described as alternative rock or grunge, and was partially responsible for the popularity of the Seattle sound.

While Nirvana was made up of three band members, there is no denying that Cobain was the driving force behind the group. He was the frontman, the songwriter, and the face of Nirvana.

He may not have been the greatest guitarist of all time, but he certainly had his own style.

His playing was unique, and it showed through in many of the songs he wrote. Cobain’s sound became iconic throughout the early to mid-nineties, and still remains influential today.

In this article, we are going to be looking at some of the instruments that Cobain played throughout his career.

More specifically, we will be looking at what guitars he played over the years.

So, let’s get into it.

1970s Univox Hi-Flier Phase 3

Although it cannot be proven for definite, it is thought that this is one of the earliest guitars that Cobain ever owned. 

While inspecting photographs that were taken of Cobain as a teen, in his childhood home, it was discovered that he was holding an Univox Hi-Flier in one of the pictures.

These photographs would have been dated back to the early to mid-eighties, when Cobain was still in high school.

The guitar itself looked like a fairly standard model from the 1970s: it has a single cutaway body with a rosewood fretboard and a chrome pickguard.

There are also two humbucking pickups located under the bridge saddle. 

Greco Mustang

According to reports, it is believed that Cobain purchased a Mustang from Guitar Maniacs, a music store in Tacoma, Washington.

He would play this guitar for a couple of months before moving onto another Univox Hi-Flier in mid-1989.

He may have had several copies of this guitar over the years, as there were reports of him destroying Mustangs on stage when he first started playing with Nirvana during the late eighties.

This particular guitar is a Greco Mustang, which was manufactured by Gibson between 1976 and 1979.

It features a solid mahogany body with a maple neck, 22 medium jumbo frets, and a 24″ scale length.

1970s Gibson SG

Cobain played this guitar for only a couple of gigs between January and February 1990.

He smashed it on stage late-February during a show in Tijuana, Mexico, and it was damaged beyond repair.

The Gibson came to be in Cobain’s possession after he exchanged his 1973 Fender Mustang for it.

It originally belonged to Sluggo Cawley, the guitarist for The Grannie. 

Custom Mustangs

In early 1990, Cobain owned a variety of custom Mustangs in several different colors, including pink, green, and blue.

According to Cobain, he and his bandmates would construct these guitars themselves, finding separate pieces of wood, strings, and guitar necks to build their very own Mustangs.

They would all be hand painted different colors. 

Also, according to Cobain, all of these guitars were destroyed onstage during the same tour.

Fender Stratocaster (White ‘K’ Sticker)

This guitar was Cobain’s very first left-handed Stratocaster, and it was most notably used when Nirvana played in the UK during the later months of 1990.

This Fender Stratocaster was most notable for its ‘K’ sticker, which was placed behind the bridge.

This letter was referencing K Records, a record label in Olympia. Cobain also had this symbol tattooed on his arm.

1969 Fender Competition Mustang

This Lake Placid Blue Mustang is the guitar that Cobain used in the music video for Smells Like Teen Spirit, making it a guitar that many fans associate with him and Nirvana.

It is believed that Cobain played it for the first time during the filming of the music video, and he went on to play it live a couple of times.

Apart from a Stewart MacDonald Gotoh Tune-O-Matic bridge, which Kurt liked, this Mustang was mostly standard.

This was one of Cobain’s favorite guitars, and he was said to have looked after it very well compared to his other guitars, which often fell victim to being smashed up on stage. 

Fender Jag-Stang

In 1993, Cobain designed his own guitar after he decided that he wanted to produce a brand-new model.

He designed the shape by sketching it out, and then taking photographs of other guitars, cutting them up, and sticking them together to create his vision.

What Guitar Did Kurt Cobain Play (1)

The result was a hybrid guitar, created by combining the Jaguar and the Mustang, produced by Fender.

Cobain’s Sonic Blue Jag-Stang became one of the most iconic, well known guitars that he ever played, despite him only ever playing it a handful of times onstage. 

Martin D-18E

This is the acoustic guitar that Cobain played during Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged appearance. He had purchased it a couple of months before he played the show.

This was a rare guitar that had only been produced for one year before being discontinued.

Allegedly, there were only 302 of these guitars produced back in the late 1950. According to the serial number of Cobain’s Martin, his was the 7th out of the 302.

1990s Fender Telecaster Custom

It was reported that this was Cobain’s favorite guitar during the weeks leading up to his death. He never played it live on stage, but rather kept it at his house.

This was a replacement for his light blue Telecaster, and was given to him by Fender.

The Telecaster had been modified to a great extent by Cobain’s guitar technician: he had replaced the original tuners with Gotoh’s, and both stock pickups were also renewed, and several other modifications were made.

Final Thoughts

We have only mentioned a handful of the many guitars that Kurt Cobain played throughout his career, as there are so many that he owned and played throughout the eighties and nineties.

There are many more that he played during his run with Nirvana, and a lot of these have become collector’s items over the years.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article, and learned something about Kurt Cobain’s personal collection of guitars!

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