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Here are some artists and the guitars they play, grouped into broad musical styles.
COUNTRY/ ROOTS MUSIC: Fender Telecaster
Many country and country rock players have used the Telecaster (nicknamed the “Tele”) for its bright, twangy sound, including Merle Haggard, outlaw country singer Waylon Jennings, Nashville session guitarist Brent Mason, Luther Perkins (Johnny Cash’s backing band), and Robbie Robertson (The Band). Other guitars are used in country-related styles as well. Roy Orbison played a Gibson; Ry Cooder plays a Fender Stratocaster; and Jim Cuddy (Blue Rodeo) plays a Rickenbacker.
Old school: Archtop hollowbody jazz guitar, Gibson Les Paul
If you want to get the traditional jazz guitar tone that you hear in 1930s Swing, 1940s Bebop and 1950s Hard bop, you need an archtop hollowbody jazz guitar. Charlie Christian played a Gibson archtop hollowbody electric guitar in the late 1930s and Wes Montgomery used a Gibson hollowbody electric guitar in the late 1950s. By the mid-1960s, though, jazz guitarists were branching out. Grant Green, an influential jazz guitarist in the 1960s organ trio scene, used a Gibson Les Paul.
Jazz Fusion: Gibson Les Paul, Fender Telecaster, Ibanez, Yamaha
Fast-fingered jazz fusion guitarist Al Di Meola (formerly in jazz fusion band Return to Forever in the 1970s) often plays a Gibson Les Paul. Bill Frisell and Mike Stern have often played Fender Telecasters. Fusion guitarists Frank Gambale and Pat Metheney both used Ibanez guitars for many of their influential recordings (though more recently, Gambale has switched to Yamaha guitars).
Old school: Fender Tele, Fender Strat, Gibson
The blues guitar greats played guitars from both of the founding guitar “families”: Fender and Gibson. Albert Collins and Muddy Waters both played Fender Telecasters. Buddy Guy plays a Fender Stratocaster. Albert King usually played a Gibson Flying V (he flipped it upside down to play!) and B. B. King used many Gibson models, including his beloved ES-355, which he nicknamed “Lucille”.
Blues rock: Fender Strat, Gibson Les Paul
Eric Clapton (Cream, Derek and the Dominos), Bonnie Raitt, and Stevie Ray Vaughn played a Fender Stratocaster on many of their major recordings. However, there are exceptions to this trend. Duane Allman played Gibson Les Paul guitars in the Southern rock-infused blues rock style of the Allman Brothers Band.
The Legends: Fender Strat, Fender Tele, Gibson Les Paul, Gibson SG, Rickenbacker
Jimi Hendrix, Pete Townshed (The Who), Randy Bachman (The Guess Who, BTO), and David Gilmour (Pink Floyd) are all known for burning up the fingerboards of their Fender Stratocasters (in Hendrix’s case, in the literal sense). Keith Richards (The Rolling Stones) has made a solid place in the world of rock for the sound of the overdriven Fender Telecaster (think of the chords to “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction”). Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin) and Ace Frehley (Kiss) use Gibson Les Paul guitars. Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath) and Angus Young (AC/DC) use Gibson SG guitars. George Harrison and John Lennon (Beatles) both played on Rickenbackers.
Newer players: Fender, Gibson, Rickenbacker, Ibanez
John Frusciante (Red Hot Chili Peppers) plays a Fender Stratocaster. John Greenwood (Radiohead) and John 5 (formerly in Marilyn Manson) play a Fender Telecasters. Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters, Nirvana) and Slash (Guns ‘n Roses) play Gibson guitars. Peter Buck (R.E.M.); Andy Bell and Noel Gallagher (Oasis) and Ed O’Brien (Radiohead) play Rickenbackers. Guitar virtuosos Joe Satriani and his former student Steve Vai (formerly in David Lee Roth band) both play Ibanez guitars.
PROGRESSIVE ROCK: Fender Strat and Tele, Rickenbacker
There seems to be no iron-clad rule as to what guitar you have to play in the world of progressive rock. Alex Lifeson (Rush) plays a Fender Stratocaster; Steve Howe (YES) often uses a Fender Telecaster; and Michael Rutherford (Genesis) plays a Rickenbacker.
POP/ROCK (and related styles): Fender Strat, Fender Tele, Gibson, Rickenbacker
In the 1980s, the music world was almost taken over by synthesizer dance pop (Duran Duran), but fortunately a few creative guitarists held the fort. Johnny Marr (The Smiths) used a Rickenbacker on many of the Smiths recordings, on which the guitar parts creatively blend tinges of 1950s Rockabilly influences with 1960s pop playing. The Edge (U2) created shimmering walls of reverb-drenched arpeggios on his Fender Stratocaster; and Andy Summers (The Police) used a Fender Telecaster to back up Sting with reggae and jazz-inspired guitar parts. Fast-forward to more recent years, and we see that the Rickenbacker is still well-loved, with Pete Doherty (The Libertines) and Jay Ferguson (Sloan) both playing Rickenbackers. On the pop-punk side of things, Billie Joe Armstrong (Green Day) plays Gibson Les Paul guitars.
METAL: ESP, Washburn, Ibanez
Although Stratocasters rule in some styles, like blues rock and classic rock, in metal, you’d have to say Stratocasters are in the minority. One of the few metal Strat players is Yngwie Malmsteen, but he is in a relatively niche style of virtousic neo-classical metal. In metal, the classic brands that created the 1960s and 1970s rock sound (Fender and Gibson) yield space to newer brands, such as ESP and Ibanez. Dave Mustaine (Megadeth); Jeff Hannemen and Tom Arraya (Slayer); James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett (Metallica); and Alex Laiho (Children of Bodom) have all been prominent users of ESP guitars. John Petrucci (progressive metal band Dream Theater) played Ibanez guitars on many 1990s recordings.
There are other brands in the metal scene, too. Dimebag” Darrell (Pantera and Damageplan) played Washburn guitars from the mid-1990s until his untimely death in 2004. Randy Rhodes (Ozzy Ozbourne); Phil Collen (Def Leppard) and Mark Morton (Lamb of God) all played Jackson guitars on influential recordings. Kerry King (Slayer) plays a B.C. Rich guitar. If you see a metal guitarist playing a guitar which has a sharp angular body that looks like a guitar mated with a battle-axe, chances are it’s a B.C. Rich. You can see the brand’s commitment to the metal scene in the names of its instruments: Assassin, Iron Bird, Warlock, and WarBeast. The classic guitars are still used, in metal, though. Both of Metallica’s guitarists used Gibson guitars on a number of recordings early in the band’s career.
PUNK (and hardcore): Gibson, Rickenbacker, Ibanez
The mid-1970s UK punk guitarists used the “classic” guitars. Joe Strummer (The Clash) played a Fender Telecaster and Steve Jones (Sex Pistols) used a variety of Gibson guitars. Once punk crossed the Atlantic to the US and morphed into hardcore, we started to see newer brands like Ibanez mixed in. East Bay Ray (Dead Kennedys) played Fender Strats and Telecasters and Guy Picciotto (Fugazi) plays a Rickenbacker. Dexter Holland (The Offspring); Greg Ginn (Black Flag); and Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein (The Misfits) play Ibanez guitars. The more metal or thrash influence a hardcore band has, the more likely that you will see guitars from the metal scene, such as Ibanez instruments.