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Kurt Cobain's Unique Pedals and Settings


A Little Background...

In case you didn't know, Kurt Cobain was the singer/guitarist for Nirvana. Nirvana was formed in 1986 in the small town of Aberdeen, Washington by Kurt Cobain and the Bassist Krist Novoselic. After many drummers, they finally ended up with the final lineup of Kurt Cobain(guitar, lead vocals), Krist Novoselic(Bass, vocals), and Dave Grohl (drums vocals; now lead singer/guitarist of he Foo Fighters).


The Boss DS-1

Used from Nirvana's forming until 1992.

Used extensively on both the Bleach and Nevermind albums.



TONE: 11 to 1 O'clock

DISTORTION: Max (sometimes 1 to 2 O'clock in the studio)

(Kurt used the 1980s version of the DS-1, as it was discontinued and succeeded by the DS-2 in the early 90's. BOSS rereleased the DS-1, but without a chip crucial to the sound of the original DS-1. The DS-1's now are very different from the one that Kurt used)


The Boss DS-2

(My Personal Favorite)

Used from 1992 up through the MTV Unplugged In New York performance.

(This pedal is very similar in sound and functionality as the old DS-1, as it was made to be its successor. In fact, Turbo 1 was designed to sound like the DS-1)


All the settings for the DS-2 are the same as the DS-1

TURBO: Turbo 1


The Tech 21 Sansamp Classic

This is an amp modeler. Used in the In Utero tour.

(An amp modeler simulates the sound of a certain amp, or type of amp. There's a variety of amp and effects modeling systems and products, pedals and actual amps, cabinets and heads alike)

Settings (from left to right)

Three Up

Three Down

Two Up

(From there everything is maxed except high control, which is at 12 O'clock)


The Electro-Harmonix Small Clone Chorus

Used throughout Kurt's career. It was one of his favorites. You can clearly hear it on Teen Spirit and Come As You Are.


12 O'clock

(It was also rumored that Kurt used a Small Stone phaser pedal at some point, but I'm not sure about the truth in that)


The Electro-Harmonix PolyChorus

Used extensively on the In Utero tour. Kinda funny with this one, this pedal wasn't actually Kurt's, but he used it a lot anyway. It was lent to him as a backup for an Electro-Harmonix EchoFlanger that didn't always work since the PolyChorus produced basically the same sound as the EchoFlanger. Oh yeah, don't worry, the original owner eventually got it back. After Kurt wrote his settings on it and put velcro on it anyway.

Kurt used the EchoFlanger on the song Friendly Unit Radio Shifter from In Utero and also used it for the Heart Shaped Box solo when it was played live.

Polychorus Settings

I'll just put up his handwritten notes.


The Proco Rat

Kurt used this pedal on the recording of Territorial Pissings on Nevermind. As far as I know, that is the only time he used it. I couldn't find his settings for it either.

(Krist used this pedal for his distortion all the time when he wasn't using the DS-1, and Krist always used this pedal)


The Electro-Harmonix Big Muff

Kurt used this pedal subtly. It was used in conjunction with a Fender Bassman on the song Lithium from Nevermind. It was also used sporadically during the In Utero Tour.


The MXR Phase 100

Kurt rarely used this pedal. Ever. He used it only one B-side from the Nevermind era called Curmudgeon.

This pedal has only two controls: Intensity and Speed.

('Curmudgeon' was a B-side from 1992, and included in the 'With the Lights Out' Box set')

What Do You Think of Kurt's Sound? Does He Deserve His Title? - I sure think he does!

JustinLCroft on November 12, 2013:

I recently bought a DS-2 from eBay. It has quickly become my most essential pedal. It is perfectly out-of-control.

Love it! Long live Kurt!

Charles_Valmont on November 10, 2013:

This is a great idea for a lens. Cobain created such a unique sound and because of that this was perfect for a lens.

EzLoanLookUp LM on May 20, 2013:

I was a big fan of Kurt's tone growing up, and although I've grown away from it, you can't deny he helped define an entire genre of guitar tone.

TanoCalvenoa on April 23, 2013:

I've always wondered how he got that sound on Radio Friendly Unit Shifter.

HomeDecorKnight on October 04, 2012:

Good lens, I like this lens.

havokxtian on September 03, 2012:

Thanks for this lens. Long live Cobain

JohnGcorner on June 14, 2012:

Wish he was still alive...

anonymous on April 13, 2012:

@Obscure_Treasures: Do you know what Pennyroyal Tea is?

anonymous on March 30, 2012:

is good

Paul Goodman from Florida, USA on February 27, 2012:

A fascinating read for electric guitar and Cobain enthusiasts alike! (I fit into both categories!)

DanielTiley on November 16, 2011:

Very cool lens!

adamfrench on October 01, 2011:

Impressive lens, thumbs up

Obscure_Treasures on July 09, 2011:

The person I inspires me the most is Kurt kobain though he is dead.I dream of having a bad like Nirvana.Great lens....Loved going through it.No matter where Kurt Kobain is now but he is sipping Pennyroyal Tea for sure...

jaysiggs (author) on May 04, 2011:

@anonymous: k, thanks man.

anonymous on May 03, 2011:

The Big Muff was used on Lithium. The amp used on that song was a Fender Bassman. Pretty sure it was a Blackface.

sushilkin lm on April 24, 2011:

Thanks for sharing nice lens! PRAY FOR JAPAN Please

jaysiggs (author) on April 17, 2011:

@Schnieders LM: Thanks a lot. he did same for me, he's a really influential guitarist.

Schnieders LM on April 17, 2011:

Awesome lens, Kurt Cobain ignited my interest in the guitar and playing in a band, as well as turning me on to old school punk rock that influenced Nirvana.

Great job bro, and great research on his settings.

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