Guitar Brands Used by Rock and Roll Legends

Updated on February 28, 2018
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I am a computer programmer and system analyst. In my spare time, I vigorously practice guitar and listen to hours of rock music.

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Few notable guitarist and musicians
Few notable guitarist and musicians

The guitar is one of the most common instruments used in making music. It is usually accompanied by a bass guitar and percussion. However, the guitar is such a versatile instrument that you can create beautiful songs without the need for other instruments. Even though there are approximately 200 guitar manufacturers worldwide, there are only a few brands that stand the test of time. Below is a list of guitar brands that are popular among notable artists.

Epiphone Flying V
Epiphone Flying V | Source

Acoustic Guitars Played by Famous Musicians

Acoustic guitars are common among reggae, folk, and country music artists. The Acoustic guitar became very popular in the mid-1940s and 1950s, when the King of rock 'n’ roll, Mr. Elvis Presley, dominated the music scene.

  • Gibson acoustic guitars are some of the most popular guitars in the world. Although there are many acoustic guitar brands that came out before it, Gibson is still one of the most widely used guitars by popular artists. It has a great reputation for creating good quality sounds.
  • Martin acoustic guitars became popular among many great artists. Martin is an older company than Gibson and has achieved popularity amongst many great guitarists. The sound quality of Martin guitars is comparable with that of Gibson guitars. Some notable artists who use this brand are Elvis Presley, Don McLean, Bob Dylan, Kurt Cobain, and Eddie Vedder.
  • Gretsch is another company that is as old as Martin. It wasn't until the late 1930s that they began to produce guitars. Gretsch guitars sound every bit as good as Gibsons and Martins, but Gretschs have their own distinct design, quality, and identity. It is more of a semi-hollow acoustic guitar. Some notable artists who used this guitar are Neil Young and George Harrison.

Slash's Signature Les Paul
Slash's Signature Les Paul | Source
Billy Corgan playing his Fender Stratoscaster
Billy Corgan playing his Fender Stratoscaster | Source

Electric Guitars Played by Famous Musicians

The electric guitar innovated music in the 1960s. The use of the electric guitar was essential to creating signature sounds. This was the era when sound effects and electrified rock 'n’ roll began to emerge. In the 1960s, The Rolling Stones, Black Sabbath, and Led Zeppelin dominated the rock 'n’ roll music scene. Here are the brands and models that created history and became part of the success story of 1960s rock music.

The Gibson Les Paul & SG are two of the most popular electric guitar models from Gibson. The Gibson Les Paul's distinct double-coiled pick-up makes it sound different from its competitors. Whether it's blues, jazz, or rock, you can really count on the sound of Gibson guitars. The design is aesthetically pleasing, and its functional design means it can be used in many different musical genres.

The Fender Stratocaster & Telecaster gained their popularity the same year as the Gibson Les Paul & SG models. The Stratocaster has its own distinct sound. It can be easily differentiated from a Gibson electric guitar. The Stratocaster produces a twangy sound. The second you hear it, you know that a Fender is being played. Unlike the Gibson Les Paul, which uses double-coiled or humbucker pickups, the Stratocaster uses single-coiled pickups.

Epiphone is worth including (even though this brand is already the property of Gibson). The Epiphone brand was popularized due to its similarities to the Gibson Les Paul. If you're looking for a cheaper option to the Les Paul, then Epiphone might be the brand for you.

Ibanez is another reputable company. Those who play heavy metal music and rock 'n' roll choose Ibanez. Ibanez guitars have a strong and deep sound, especially when accompanied by good distortion pedals.

Famous Artists and Their Guitars

Gibson Les Paul and SG
Fender Stratocaster and Telecaster
Bob Marley
Jimmy Hendrix
John Lennon
Jimmy Page
Jeff Beck
The Edge
Joe Satriani
Eric Clapton
Trent Reznor
Steve Vai
Billy Corgan
Pete Townshend
Omar Rodriguez-Lopez
Yngwie Malmsteen's Stratocaster
Yngwie Malmsteen's Stratocaster | Source

Different Genres Use Different Guitars

There are so many kinds of musical genres. Which brand of guitar you choose can have a great impact on your performance and playing style. For example, it is not ideal to use a Gibson Flying V model if you are a jazz guitarist. Although there are some models of guitars that can work for any genre, it is still vital to choose the specific model that can help create your own distinct style. The beauty of your guitar helps create the identity of the artist. Can you imagine Jimi Hendrix without his Fender? A musician's guitar becomes every bit as iconic as the artist.

Which Guitar Brand Should You Use for Each Genre?

  • Rock n’ Roll and Heavy Metal - When it comes to rock 'n’ roll and Heavy Metal, the best guitars to use are Gibson Les Pauls, Fender Stratocasters, Ibanez electrics, PRS, and Washburns. While these are the most commonly chosen brands for rock n' roll and heavy metal, a few modifications by a custom shop can produce similar results from almost any electric guitar.
  • Pop & Alternative - Fender and Gibson electric guitars (and acoustic guitars) are commonly used for pop and alternative music. You rarely see a pop artist use Ibanez or Washburn.
  • Blues - Gibson and Fender are the most commonly used guitars in the blues genre. Gretsch and other acoustic guitars are also frequently used.
  • Jazz - Fender, Gibson, and Gretsch are the most commonly used guitars in the Jazz genre. Fender even produces a guitar model that is used specifically for Jazz, called the Fender Jazz Master.

The many faces of guitars
The many faces of guitars | Source

Why Does a Guitar's Shape and Design Matter?

The shape of the guitar is important for several reasons. Here are a few examples of why:

  • The single cut-away design of the Gibson Les Paul and the deep grooves on the sides of the Fender Stratocaster are especially useful for lead players. Lead players need their arms to be comfortable. They also need easy access to every fret on the fretboard.
  • The Gibson SG is designed to compete with its own sister model, the Les Paul. The Gibson SG is a little bit lighter than the Les Paul; therefore, it is more desirable for long stage performances. No one wants their back to be in pain all night.
  • The Gibson Flying V and the Gibson Explorer are usually seen being played by heavy metal bands like Metallica and Sepultura. Some Heavy Metal bands, such as Slipknot, also use the Fender Telecaster. By changing the pickups, they produce a more aggressive and heavy sound.

How Many Strings and Frets Should My Guitar Have?

Some artists use twelve-string guitars to produce a chorus. Gibson and Fender are not the right brands to use if you prefer to play a twelve-string. While it is uncommon to use this kind of guitar, there are occasions when it is practical to use a twelve-string guitar.

The type of strings that you use can play an important role in developing your style. Particular string types are associated with different styles of play. For instance, acoustic guitar players sometimes use nylon strings to produce a more classical sounding tune. Steel is the main material used in making strings. Choosing the right string type can improve your performance.

The number of frets on your fretboard determines the number of notes you can play. The higher the number of frets, the higher the pitch is for each note. A guitar that has a higher number of frets is ideal for lead guitarists. Artists like Joe Satriani and Steve Vai play Ibanez guitars with at least 24 to 30 frets.

There are many things to consider when buying your new guitar. Remember, just because your favorite artist uses a certain brand, that doesn't mean that that's the right brand for you. Keep in mind what your voice is, and make sure to choose a guitar that best matches your style.

Questions & Answers


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      • profile image


        11 months ago

        WTF did I just read

      • profile image

        Timmy Jenkins 

        13 months ago

        I heard somewhere that Slash's original Les paul was actually an off brand. Is this true?

      • profile image

        Derek st hubbins 

        13 months ago

        Ok first this reads like some kind of 4th grade music class extra credit project. Second Martin acoustics have comparable sound to Gibson acoustics? Seriously ? Everyone else seems to have covered the Metallica Ibanez issue. An SG is lighter so it's more desirable for stage performances , um no. No professional musician who can afford a Gibson is going to buy the Epiphone version. I am going to guess your personal experiences with guitars comes from watching music videos and playing guitar hero . Please don't ever write about these things again, it's embarrassing to read.

      • profile image


        14 months ago

        One does not simply talk about strats without mentioning John Frusciante.

      • profile image

        Bradley McCarty 

        15 months ago

        I had to sign up just so i could agree, THIS IS THE WORST ARTICLE EVER!

      • profile image

        Michael U. Santiago is a hack 

        15 months ago

        love to read articles about the guitar from someone who has never been in the same room as a guitar

      • profile image

        This article stinks 

        20 months ago

        Have you ever even played a guitar. Most of your information is inaccurate on so many levels. Where are ESP Jackson and Charvelle. You Mentioned PRS once I think. Metallica never used Ibanez they use ESP. Ibanez is one of the leading guitar brands for Jazz. They have 3 or 4 separate lines of jazz guitars ranging from semi hollow to full on hollow body archtops. They also have at least 3 signature Jazz artists. John Scofield, Pat Matheney and George Benson. Get your facts straight and rewrite this article. If you are a beginner guitarist do listen to anything in this article.

      • profile image


        20 months ago

        When did metallica use ibanez guitars? Your chart is incorrect.

      • profile image


        20 months ago

        In what universe did Metallica play Ibanez? This article is wrong on so many things.

      • profile image


        5 years ago

        why isn't ESP named as a populair brand or jackson ??

      • profile image


        5 years ago


      • profile image


        6 years ago

        There are so many errors on this page that you really should just erase it and try again. I don't just mean grammatical errors, I mean factual ones. For instance, your picture of Kurt Cobain shows him playing a Takamine, even though you say it's a Martin.

      • profile image


        6 years ago

        it dosent give me more ditals


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