What Instrument Did George Harrison Play in The Beatles? A Comprehensive Guide

George Harrison, often referred to as the “quiet Beatle,” was a profoundly talented musician who played a variety of instruments during his time with The Beatles.

His influence on the band’s sound went beyond his role as the lead guitarist, as he introduced new musical styles and instruments, contributing significantly to the group’s innovative and groundbreaking work. From using the Gibson J-160E and Gretsch Duo Jet to the Rickenbacker 360/12 electric 12-string guitar, Harrison’s choice of instruments evolved as the band’s music and his own interests developed.

In addition to his impeccable guitar work, Harrison’s affinity for Indian music led him to incorporate the sitar, a stringed Indian instrument, into The Beatles’ sound.

His exposure to the sitar on the set of the film “Help!” sparked a lifelong interest in Indian classical music and its integration into Western pop and rock music. This cultural exchange contributed to the development of new musical genres and expanded the range of instruments and sounds used by popular musicians throughout the 1960s and beyond.

Key Takeaways on What instrument did George Harrison play in The Beatles?

  • George Harrison played various guitars and the sitar during his time with The Beatles
  • Harrison’s musical interests, particularly in Indian classical music, influenced the band’s sound
  • The incorporation of new instruments and styles by Harrison contributed to the development of new musical genres.

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George Harrison and The Beatles

George Harrison was the lead guitarist for the legendary English rock band, The Beatles. He joined the group in 1958 when it was still called The Quarrymen, alongside Liverpool musicians John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Harrison’s unique guitar playing style and his distinctive songwriting abilities contributed significantly to the band’s overall sound and success.

Brian Epstein, a music store owner, discovered The Beatles during one of their performances in Liverpool and became their manager in 1961. With Epstein’s guidance and the addition of drummer Ringo Starr, the band transformed into a worldwide phenomenon. The Beatles created innovative music that set new standards for the industry and influenced countless musicians over time.

Throughout his time with The Beatles, George Harrison played various instruments including electric and acoustic guitars. Some of his most iconic guitars include the Grestch Duo Jet, the Gibson J-160E, and the Fender Rosewood Telecaster. Harrison’s mastery of the guitar can be heard in songs such as “Something” from the Abbey Road album.

Outside of his guitar work, Harrison also had a talent for composing music. His contributions, like “Here Comes the Sun,” were celebrated and placed him alongside his bandmates Lennon and McCartney as one of The Beatles’ principal songwriters.

The Beatles disbanded in 1970, but their music and legacy continue to influence and inspire musicians and fans today. George Harrison’s talents as a guitarist, songwriter, and a member of The Beatles firmly cemented his place in music history.

Musical Instruments George Harrison Played


George Harrison, the lead guitarist of the Beatles, played a wide array of guitars throughout his time with the band. One of the early guitars he used was the Gretsch Duo Jet, played through a Vox amp. As he progressed, Harrison’s guitar collection expanded to include iconic models such as the Gibson J-160E and the Rickenbacker 360/12.

The Gibson J-160E, an acoustic guitar with an electric pickup, was used by both Harrison and John Lennon. A notable 12-string guitar, the Rickenbacker 360/12, became a signature instrument for Harrison, especially in the early years of the Beatles.

Harrison was also known for using Fender guitars. His long-desired Fender Stratocaster became a staple in his collection, with one of his most famous Stratocasters nicknamed “Rocky.” He also utilized the Fender Telecaster, another classic electric guitar.

Other guitars in Harrison’s gear included the Gretsch Country Gentleman, Epiphone Casinos, and Gibson SG Standard.

Exotic Instruments

George Harrison not only played traditional guitars but also introduced exotic instruments to the Beatles’ music.

He became fascinated with Indian music and incorporated the sitar into several songs, such as “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)” and “Within You Without You.” The sitar, an Indian string instrument, brought a unique texture to the Beatles’ sound.

Additionally, in the song “Within You Without You,” Harrison played the tamboura, another Indian string instrument. This further showcased his interest in diverse musical styles and contributed to the band’s evolving sound.

George Harrison’s instrumental prowess was not limited to guitars, as he experimented with exotic instruments like the sitar and tamboura, further enriching the Beatles’ iconic sound.

Studio Work with The Beatles

During his time with The Beatles, George Harrison played several instruments, mainly guitars. The band’s recording sessions usually took place at EMI Studios, where they produced albums like With The Beatles, Revolver, Rubber Soul, Let It Be, and Abbey Road.

This studio work allowed Harrison to showcase his exceptional skills and introduce timeless songs like “Here Comes The Sun,” “Something,” and many more.

Notably, Harrison used Gibson J-160E, an acoustic guitar with an electric pickup at the base of the fretboard. Additionally, George, along with John Lennon and Paul McCartney, played Casino guitars, with Harrison’s 1965 Casino equipped with an aftermarket Bigsby vibrato tailpiece.

Furthermore, Harrison incorporated a Rickenbacker 360/12 electric 12-string and a rosewood version of the Fender Telecaster in various recording sessions.

As the band progressed and experimented with their sound, albums like Revolver and Rubber Soul displayed a shift in their songwriting. George Harrison’s musicianship greatly contributed to this evolution, as he explored different guitar tones and even ventured into using Indian instruments, such as the sitar.

His innovative approaches to recording also played a part in the creation of iconic tracks like “Please Please Me” and “A Hard Day’s Night.”

Though The Beatles eventually disbanded, George Harrison’s guitar work remains celebrated in their discography. His diverse instrumental choices and continued curiosity in experimenting with sound left an indelible mark on the history of rock music.

Collaboration with Other Musicians

George Harrison was known for collaborating with a wide range of musicians throughout his career, both during his time with The Beatles and after their breakup.

One of his most notable collaborations was with Eric Clapton on the song “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” which was featured on the White Album. Clapton’s presence during the recording session helped to lighten the mood among the band members.

Harrison also teamed up with legendary Indian musician Ravi Shankar, who introduced him to the sitar. This influence can be heard on various Beatles songs, most notably “Norwegian Wood” and “Within You Without You.”

Harrison’s friendship with Shankar proved to be an enduring one, and they would continue to work together throughout their careers.

Outside of The Beatles, Harrison successfully collaborated with several prominent musicians. In 1988, he formed the supergroup The Traveling Wilburys alongside Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, and Jeff Lynne.

The group’s debut album, Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1, was a critical and commercial success, reflecting the combined talents of these musical heavyweights.

Harrison’s work with Delaney Bramlett is also notable, as it marked a significant period of musical exploration for the guitarist. Their collaboration resulted in Harrison’s first solo album, Wonderwall Music (1968), which featured a range of musical styles and instruments.

Another regular collaborator was Klaus Voormann, a German artist and musician who played bass on several of Harrison’s solo albums. Voormann is also known for designing the cover art for The Beatles’ Revolver album, further solidifying his connection with the band.

Harrison’s Solo Career and Beyond

After the Beatles disbanded, George Harrison continued to establish himself as a talented and influential musician, singer, and songwriter. He released his first solo album, All Things Must Pass, in 1970, which included the hit single “My Sweet Lord.” The album was a critical and commercial success, showcasing Harrison’s growth as a musician since his time as the lead guitarist of the Beatles.

Harrison’s solo career spanned several decades and included many notable albums, such as Cloud Nine. He collaborated with other renowned musicians and formed the supergroup Traveling Wilburys, featuring Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, and Jeff Lynne.

The group released two successful albums in the late 1980s, further solidifying Harrison’s status as a respected musician.

Besides music, Harrison also ventured into filmmaking as a producer and co-founder of HandMade Films. The company produced several successful films, contributing to his diverse legacy as an artist.

His contributions to the world of music extended beyond his solo work. Several of his songs from his time in the Beatles, such as “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” became iconic and influential in the history of rock music.

In recognition of his achievements, Harrison was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice – once as a member of the Beatles in 1988 and again as a solo artist in 2004.

Throughout his career, George Harrison remained a prominent figure in popular music, leaving a lasting impact on fellow musicians and fans alike.

His unique approach to songwriting and guitar playing, along with his innovations in incorporating Indian instrumentation into rock, earned him a revered place in the annals of Rolling Stone as one of the greatest guitarists of all time.

Legacy and Influence of George Harrison

George Harrison, often referred to as the “Quiet Beatle,” left a significant impact on the music world, both during his time with the Beatles and in his solo years. Known for his exceptional slide guitar skills, Harrison played various guitars, such as the Gibson J-200, making him an influential figure in rock and pop music.

Harrison’s guitar work helped shape the Beatles’ iconic sound, blending rock and roll with Indian influences, such as transcendental meditation. In fact, it was Harrison who introduced the band to the practice during their time in the UK, contributing to a unique and evolving sound throughout their career.

In interviews and reviews, George Harrison’s contributions to the Beatles were sometimes overshadowed by those of his bandmates; nevertheless, his exceptional musicianship and innovative playing styles earned him a place in the hearts of many music enthusiasts.

Over the years, Harrison’s influence continued to be felt as he worked with other bands, such as Badfinger, helping them develop their sound.

During his solo years, Harrison stayed in California and continued to explore various musical styles. Drawing inspiration from artists like Elvis Presley and various rock and roll rebels, he created a unique blend of sounds that garnered both critical acclaim and commercial success.

Notable for his humble demeanor, Harrison shied away from the spotlight, often preferring to let his music speak for itself.

Unfortunately, in 2001, George Harrison passed away from lung cancer in Los Angeles. Despite his untimely death, his music and influence continue to resonate with fans of the Beatles, as well as new listeners discovering the Fab Four.

Whether through rock band tributes or popular guitar lessons and deals that teach his techniques, Harrison’s impact on the music industry remains evident and is remembered fondly.

Frequently Asked Questions

What guitars did George Harrison play in the Beatles?

George Harrison played several types of guitars during his time with the Beatles, including the 1957 Gretsch 6128 Duo Jet, a prominent one when the Beatles performed at The Cavern Club.

He also helped make famous the Rickenbacker 360/12 electric 12-string, a rosewood version of the Fender Telecaster, and the Gibson J-160E acoustic-electric.

What other instruments did George Harrison play besides guitar?

Apart from the guitar, George Harrison was known for playing the sitar. He introduced this traditional Indian instrument to the Beatles’ music, which significantly influenced their work, especially on songs such as “Norwegian Wood” and “Within You Without You.”

What was George Harrison’s first guitar?

George Harrison’s first guitar was an inexpensive, second-hand Dutch-made Egmond, which he bought in 1956. This was later replaced by the 1957 Gretsch 6128 Duo Jet, which became his primary instrument during the early years of the Beatles.

What was George Harrison’s role in the Beatles?

George Harrison was the lead guitarist of the Beatles. He played a pivotal role in shaping the band’s distinctive sound by frequently using unconventional and innovative techniques.

In addition to his expert guitar playing, Harrison contributed as a songwriter and occasionally sang lead vocals on songs such as “Something,” “Here Comes the Sun,” and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”

Which guitar was George Harrison’s favorite?

While it is difficult to pinpoint a single favorite guitar, as George Harrison played various guitars throughout his career, the 1957 Gretsch 6128 Duo Jet has been described as his main axe during the early days of the Beatles.

His fondness for the instrument can be seen in his continued use of Gretsch guitars over the years.

Did George Harrison play any other instruments besides guitar and sitar?

Yes, George Harrison was a versatile musician who dabbled in various instruments. Apart from guitar and sitar, he played bass guitar, keyboards, percussion, ukulele, and sometimes even drums. His multi-instrumentalist abilities contributed to the Beatles’ diverse and innovative sound

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