George Harrison, the iconic guitarist of The Beatles, was known for his extensive and diverse collection of guitars throughout his career. He played a variety of guitar models and brands, each with its own unique sound and role in shaping the music that defined a generation.
During his time with The Beatles, Harrison became famous for popularizing guitars such as the Rickenbacker 360/12 electric 12-string, the rosewood version of the Fender Telecaster, and the Gibson J-160E acoustic-electric, among others. As his solo career progressed, he continued to explore different guitars, including those crafted by luthier Tony Zemaitis.
Key Takeaways on What Type of Guitar Did George Harrison Play?
- George Harrison favored a range of guitar models and brands throughout his career
- His Beatles-era guitar choices significantly influenced the band’s sound
- Harrison continued exploring different guitars during his solo career, showcasing his versatility and impact on music history
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Early Guitar Choices
George Harrison, known for his versatility and vast contributions to The Beatles’ distinct sound, experimented with various types of guitars during the early stages of his career. One of the first guitars George played was an Egmond acoustic guitar.
It was not an expensive or high-quality instrument, but it served as a starting point for Harrison to develop his skills and musical preferences.
Harrison’s first electric guitar was a Hofner Club 40, which he acquired in 1959. This guitar had a relatively straightforward design, with its thin body and shorter scale length.
Despite its simplicity, the Hofner Club 40 became a stepping stone for George as he began to shape his sound and experiment with different guitar techniques.
Later, George moved on to purchase a Hofner President model. This beautiful archtop guitar featured a more sophisticated design, with its carved spruce top, flame maple back and sides, and beautiful binding. Its warm and clear tone made it an appealing instrument for George’s playing style at the time.
As The Beatles gained popularity, George’s gear continued to evolve. In 1962, he purchased a Rickenbacker 425 while on a trip to the United States.
The Rickenbacker 425 possessed a solid body, allowing for a higher volume without feedback, and had a unique tone which would become one of the signature elements of early Beatles recordings.
In 1963, George started playing a Gibson J-160E, an acoustic-electric guitar that would become one of his most recognizable instruments. The J-160E offered both the warmth of an acoustic guitar and the versatility of an electric, making it an ideal choice for recording various Beatles songs.
Throughout the early stages of his career, George Harrison explored different guitar choices to find the perfect fit for his evolving sound. These early guitars played a significant role in shaping not only Harrison’s playing style but also the iconic sound of The Beatles.
Beatles Era Guitars
During his time with the Beatles, George Harrison played a variety of guitars that became iconic in the world of rock and roll. Some of his most famous guitars include the Rickenbacker 360/12 electric 12-string, a rosewood version of the Fender Telecaster, and the Gibson J-160E acoustic-electric.
Harrison’s affinity for these instruments helped shape the band’s signature sound across albums such as Rubber Soul, Revolver, and Abbey Road.
One of Harrison’s most recognizable guitars was his Fender Stratocaster, nicknamed “Rocky”. George modified this instrument by hand-painting it with bright colors and mystical symbols, making it a visual representation of the band’s evolving style. This iconic guitar can be heard on tracks from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and The White Album.
Harrison also played other notable guitars like the Epiphone Casino, Fender Jazzmaster, and Gretsch Country Gentleman. Each of these guitars contributed to the various styles and genres explored by the Beatles throughout their illustrious career, from pop to rock to experimental music.
Collaboration with Eric Clapton
In 1968, Harrison collaborated with legendary guitarist Eric Clapton on the Beatles’ White Album track “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”. This collaboration showcased both artists’ extraordinary skills and helped to solidify their reputations as guitar virtuosos.
During the recording of the song “Let It Be,” Harrison used a unique instrument known as the Fender Rosewood Telecaster. This guitar, made entirely of rosewood, was a gift from Fender and provided a distinct tone that can be heard on the track.
It is said that Clapton’s influence led Harrison to experiment with guitars like the Gibson Les Paul and the Fender Stratocaster, paving the way for Harrison’s later solo years and post-Beatles work in the world of popular music.
Throughout the Beatles era, George Harrison’s ever-changing guitar lineup and innovative playing techniques continued to push the boundaries of what was possible in rock and roll.
Through collaboration with the likes of Eric Clapton and his creative experimentation with various instruments, Harrison made a lasting impact on the landscape of popular music during his time with the Beatles and beyond.
Post Beatles and Solo Career Gear
Unique Sound Contributions
During his post-Beatles and solo career, George Harrison continued to explore different guitar tones and styles, leaving a significant impact on the music industry. His album, Cloud Nine, showcases a blend of country, blues, and rock, largely attributed to the range of guitars he used in the studio.
Three iconic guitars used by Harrison during this era include the Gretsch 6131 Jet Fire Bird, Gibson Les Paul Standard, and the Fender Rosewood Telecaster.
- Gretsch 6131 Jet Fire Bird: This guitar, known for its bright sound, allowed Harrison to experiment with country and blues tones, adding depth to his distinctive style.
- Gibson Les Paul Standard: The Gibson Les Paul Standard is renowned for its warm, full-bodied sound, providing a versatile option to complement Harrison’s musical journey.
- Fender Rosewood Telecaster: As a late ’60s prototype, the Fender Rosewood Telecaster had a unique appearance and provided a smooth sound for Harrison’s recordings during his solo career.
These three guitars, among others, were instrumental in shaping the unique sound that George Harrison brought to his post-Beatles and solo work.
Slide Guitar Techniques
George Harrison was known for his innovative slide guitar techniques. One standout example is his use of the Maton Mastersound MS-500, a guitar designed for slide guitar playing.
|Maton Mastersound MS-500||Known for its rich tone and unique sound, perfect for slide guitar playing|
Incorporating advanced slide guitar techniques, Harrison pushed the boundaries of how the instrument could be played, influencing future generations of musicians. By using distinct guitars like the Maton Mastersound MS-500, George Harrison solidified his status as a guitar legend, creating an enduring legacy in the world of music.
Influence and Legacy
George Harrison, often referred to as “the quiet Beatle,” left a significant impact on modern music during his career.
As a guitarist and songwriter, Harrison’s contributions to the Beatles and his solo work played a significant role in shaping rock and roll. His collaborations with John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and other musicians helped solidify his influential legacy.
Harrison’s unique style, rooted in Indian-influenced music and slide guitar, distinguished him from his contemporaries.
He was central to popularizing the inclusion of Indian instruments and styles in western pop music. Songs like “All You Need is Love” and “And I Love Her” showcase Harrison’s distinct approach to composition and arrangements, which have inspired countless musicians since.
In recognition of his impact on the music world, George Harrison was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame both as a member of the Beatles in 1988 and as a solo artist in 2004. This honor reflects his importance in the evolution of rock music, and his induction reinforces his position as one of the giants of the genre.
Harrison’s influence extends not only to the realm of music but also to global consciousness and humanitarian efforts. His famous Concert for Bangladesh in 1971, held in New York, marked the first-ever large-scale benefit concert. T
his event inspired future musicians and philanthropists to use their platforms for good, creating a lasting legacy that is still seen today.
George Harrison’s extensive career, innovative guitar techniques, and commitment to humanitarian causes solidified his enduring influence on the music world and beyond. His partnerships with John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and other musicians created a powerful presence in rock history that continues to inspire countless artists to this day.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which electric guitars were most frequently used by George Harrison?
George Harrison is known for playing various electric guitars throughout his career. Some of his most frequently used ones include the Gretsch Country Gentleman, the Rickenbacker 360/12, and the Sonic Blue Stratocaster.
What were the main guitars used by the Beatles?
The Beatles used a variety of guitars throughout their career. Some of the main guitars they used were the aforementioned Rickenbacker 360/12 and Gretsch Country Gentleman, as well as the Gibson J-160E, Hofner 500/1 bass, and Epiphone Casino.
Can you name some iconic George Harrison guitar moments?
Some iconic George Harrison guitar moments include his performances with the Beatles on songs such as “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” using the Gibson J-200, “Get Back” which he played with his 1968 Rosewood Telecaster, and the “guitar riff” on “Day Tripper” which he played using a Rickenbacker 360/12.
What was George Harrison’s preferred guitar while with the Beatles?
George Harrison had a few preferred guitars during his time with the Beatles. While it’s difficult to pinpoint just one favorite, some of his top choices were the Gretsch Country Gentleman, Rickenbacker 360/12, and the 1968 Rosewood Telecaster.
Which guitar did George Harrison play during the Ed Sullivan Show?
During the Beatles’ iconic appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, George Harrison was seen playing his Gretsch Country Gentleman, which was one of his most frequently used guitars throughout his career with the band.
What kind of classical guitar did George Harrison use?
Though George Harrison was mostly known for playing electric guitars, he did also play classical guitars. One of his classical guitars was the Ramirez A-1, which he notably used during the recording of “The Inner Light.”
My name is Howard Matthews and I have been playing the guitar since I was knee-high. My parents like to joke that I was pulling the strings even before I was born. In fact, one of my earliest memories is sitting on the couch with my dad’s guitar, wreaking havoc on the chords.
Now, 40 years later, I can attest that I play them much better than I did back then. I have followed in the footsteps of both my parents – much to their delight – and have been the main guitarist in my band for the best part of three decades.
Music has always been my passion, and until recently my life has been so consumed with it that I haven’t had a moment to have a breath (and I wouldn’t have it any other way)!