Kurt Cobain's Guitar Rig

Kurt Cobain's Guitar Rig

Not many songwriters changed the course of music overnight. Kurt Cobain did! The Nirvana frontman's frenetic, punk-inspired guitar playing and melancholy, melodic vocals ultimately popularised the iconic "grunge" sound that dominated airways in the early '90s — propelling alternative rock into the mainstream.

Kurt Cobain had a famously nihilistic outlook on the world, and it's fair say that he didn't care much for guitars. We mean that quite literally too, with many of his instruments ending up in pieces on stage! But he clearly cared a lot about his sound, and luckily, a lot of the equipment he used is well-documented from photographs and even a few guitar magazine interviews. On this page, we've compiled a lot of Kurt Cobain's guitar gear to make it easy for you to capture his unique tones.

Kurt Cobain's Guitars

Mr. Cobain used a variety of instruments over the course of his short career. While a lot of his earlier electric guitars were just cheap pawn shop "finds" that he'd later destroy during performances, the Seattle-born southpaw later became synonymous with Fender guitars — especially offsets. In a late 1991 interview, he was quoted saying “I like guitars in the Fender style because they have skinny necks”.

Kurt favoured Fender's Mustang and Jaguar guitars, which he'd have modified with aftermarket DiMarzio and Seymour Duncan humbuckers in order to achieve a thicker sound that worked well with high-gain distortion. He eventually collaborated with Fender to design a signature guitar that merged his favourite elements from the Mustang and Jaguar models he used — the Jag-Stang! With an extreme-looking body design, this guitar is extremely distinctive and just oozes with alt-rock charm.

Kurt Cobain's Amps

While Kurt's Fender guitars played an important role sonically, his amplifiers were also a key ingredient when it came to his sound. Before recording their breakthrough album Nevermind, Kurt bought a Mesa/Boogie Studio preamp and Crown power amp which he routed through several Marshall 4x12" cabs. This became his core studio and live rig, but according to Nevermind producer Butch Vig, a Vox AC30 and Fender Bassman were also used for layering and clean tones.

Kurt Cobain's Pedals

The legendary Nirvana frontman didn't use a plethora of pedals like most modern guitar players — he kept things simple. And we mean really simple! The Boss DS-1 was his main distortion pedal of choice; arguably the world's most accessible, easy-to-find stompbox! The Digitech/DOD Grunge was another unit he occasionally used live.

Chorus was a huge part of Cobain's guitar sound too. The Electro-Harmonix Small Clone was his weapon of choice, which he'd use to achieve that watery, metallic clean sound heard on songs such as "Come As You Are" and "In Bloom". Kurt would also use chorus in conjunction with a distorted tone, which is particularly evident in the "Smells Like Teen Spirit" pre-chorus/solo.