10 Iconic Guitars and the Musicians Who Played Them

An unforgettable riff, a distinct tone, an intimate lyric—all aspects that define a song, but what often goes unsung is the very instrument that underpins these elements.

Guitars have long been the vehicle for countless iconic tunes that echo in our collective consciousness.

Stratocaster guitar

1. Fender Stratocaster – Jimi Hendrix

The Guitar that Kissed the Sky

A sonic revolution was born when Jimi Hendrix wielded his flipped Fender Stratocaster. Hendrix, a left-handed dynamo, took a right-handed Stratocaster, turned it upside-down, and re-strung it, leading to a unique configuration that contributed to his distinctive sound.

Known for its bright, bell-like tones, the Stratocaster was central to Hendrix’s fiery, feedback-laden performances. From “Purple Haze” to “Hey Joe”, this guitar was the backbone of his expressive blues-inspired psychedelic rock.

Hendrix: A Maestro’s Legacy

Jimi Hendrix, with his free-spirited approach, transformed the realm of guitar-playing forever. He pushed the Stratocaster, and in turn, the boundaries of rock music to realms hitherto unexplored. Today, the legacy of his performances, such as at Woodstock where he performed a now-iconic rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner”, echoes in the annals of music history.

2. Gibson Les Paul – Slash

The Velvet Guitar of Hard Rock

When you think of Slash, the image of the top-hatted virtuoso ripping solos on his Gibson Les Paul is almost instinctive. A mainstay of his arsenal, the Les Paul’s thick, powerful tones have been a cornerstone of Slash’s sound, from his Guns N’ Roses days to his ventures as a solo artist.

Characterized by its hefty mahogany body and dual humbucker pickups, the Les Paul lends itself to the heavy, sustaining notes that define Slash’s expressive solos. Be it the epic intro to “Sweet Child o’ Mine” or the scorching riffs in “Paradise City”, this guitar’s prowess is on full display in Slash’s hands.

Slash: Cutting through the Decades

Despite changes in band lineups and music genres, Slash’s unwavering partnership with his Les Paul continues to resonate with fans worldwide. His distinct melodic approach, combined with his technical prowess, has etched him in the rock and roll hall of fame as a true guitar icon.

Les Paul guitar

3. Rickenbacker 360/12 – George Harrison

The Jingle-Jangle of Pop

The chiming tones of George Harrison’s Rickenbacker 360/12 became a defining aspect of The Beatles’ sound in their early years. Introduced to the guitar during their first visit to America in 1964, Harrison’s 12-string Rickenbacker lent a distinctive, rich jangle to their melodies.

Songs like “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Ticket to Ride” are standout examples of the 360/12’s bright, chorus-like sound, highlighting the guitar’s integral role in the “Beatlemania” era.

Harrison: The Quiet Beatle’s Loud Impact

Although often referred to as the “quiet Beatle,” Harrison’s impact on popular music was anything but silent. His innovative use of the 12-string Rickenbacker influenced a myriad of artists and helped popularize the use of the 12-string guitar in rock music.

4. Fender Telecaster – Bruce Springsteen

The Workhorse of Rock n’ Roll

Affectionately known as the “workhorse” of guitars, the Fender Telecaster found a faithful companion in Bruce Springsteen. Apt for his blue-collar anthems, Springsteen’s Telecaster has been his go-to instrument throughout his career, its lean, twangy tones perfectly aligning with his storytelling prowess.

Famous for its simplicity and versatility, the Telecaster has been integral to Springsteen’s sound, seen and heard on countless stages and iconic albums, such as “Born to Run”.

Springsteen: The Boss of Heartland Rock

Springsteen’s vivid lyrical narratives paired with the Telecaster’s grit have captivated audiences for decades. His masterful ability to convey the human experience through his music solidifies both his and his Telecaster’s place in the pantheon of rock legends.

Telecaster Guitar

5. Gibson SG – Angus Young

The Devil’s Guitar

Synonymous with the raw, high-voltage sound of AC/DC, the Gibson SG’s aggressive, punchy tones mirror the high-energy antics of Angus Young. With its devilish double-cutaway design and robust humbucker pickups, the SG was the perfect accomplice for Young’s gritty, riff-driven style.

Whether duck-walking across the stage or delivering electrifying solos, Young’s SG has been at the heart of hits like “Back in Black” and “Highway to Hell”.

Young: A Thunderstruck Legend

Few guitarists have managed to shape the sound of hard rock as Angus Young has. Armed with his trusty SG, Young’s influential playing style, characterized by minimalistic power chords and blistering solos, continues to electrify audiences worldwide.

6. Martin D-28 – Bob Dylan

The Voice of Folk

Bob Dylan, the voice of a generation, found his harmonic haven in the Martin D-28. This acoustic guitar, famed for its rich, balanced tone, was an ideal match for Dylan’s folk and blues-infused ballads.

From protest songs like “Blowin’ in the Wind” to poetic anthems like “Mr. Tambourine Man”, Dylan’s D-28 has been a fundamental part of his profound musical journey.

Dylan: The Bard of the Times

Dylan’s contribution to music, underscored by his introspective lyrics and the Martin D-28’s resonant strumming, has influenced countless artists across various genres. His dynamic narrative style coupled with the warmth of his acoustic guitar earned him the Nobel Prize in Literature, marking a significant milestone in music history.

7. Gretsch Country Gentleman – Chet Atkins

The Gentleman’s Guitar

Known for its smooth playability and clear, articulate tones, the Gretsch Country Gentleman was a perfect fit for Chet Atkins’ intricate fingerpicking style. Designed in collaboration with Atkins, this guitar became emblematic of his influence on country music.

From lively melodies to gentle ballads, Atkins’ playing on the Country Gentleman inspired generations of guitarists and continues to be revered in the music world.

Atkins: The Country Virtuoso

Often referred to as “Mr. Guitar,” Atkins’ sophisticated playing style significantly elevated the role of the guitar in country music. His legacy, shaped by his mastery on the Gretsch Country Gentleman, resonates through the echelons of country, jazz, and even rock ‘n’ roll.

8. Fender Precision Bass – James Jamerson

The Bass that Laid the Foundation

The Fender Precision Bass, in the hands of James Jamerson, laid the rhythmic foundation of the Motown sound. Known for its solid build and clear, punchy tones, the Precision Bass was instrumental in carving the grooves of countless Motown hits.

Whether providing the driving backbone of Stevie Wonder’s “I Was Made to Love Her” or laying down the iconic line in Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On”, Jamerson’s Precision Bass was at the heart of it all.

Jamerson: The Unsung Hero of Motown

Despite his work often going uncredited, Jamerson’s contributions to music history are undeniable. His innovative, melodic approach to bass playing on his Precision Bass helped shape a new era of music, making him one of the most influential bassists in history.

9. Ibanez JEM – Steve Vai

The Shredder’s Dream

Created in collaboration with Steve Vai, the Ibanez JEM offered everything the virtuosic guitarist needed. With its distinctive “monkey grip” and versatile pickup configuration, the JEM became synonymous with Vai’s experimental, genre-defying music.

From mind-bending solos to innovative techniques, the JEM was central to Vai’s signature tracks like “For the Love of God” and “Tender Surrender”.

Vai: The Guitar Wizard

A true virtuoso, Steve Vai’s awe-inspiring technique and musical creativity have pushed the boundaries of what’s possible on the guitar. The Ibanez JEM, a key element of his sonic identity, continues to inspire guitarists to venture beyond traditional realms.

10. Dimebag Darrell’s Dean ML – Dimebag Darrell

The Metal Maverick’s Axe

Customized with a lightning bolt design and a unique set of pickups, Dimebag Darrell’s Dean ML was as unorthodox as the guitarist himself. Its aggressive tone and radical appearance were fitting for Darrell’s incendiary playing style, which became a pillar of Pantera’s heavy metal sound.

Tracks like “Cowboys From Hell” and “Walk” bear testament to the Dean ML’s ruthless tone and Dimebag’s fierce approach to guitar.

Dimebag: The Cowboy From Hell

With his innovative riffing and razor-sharp solos, Dimebag Darrell redefined the genre of metal. His relentless pursuit of unique tones, largely powered by his Dean ML, has left an indelible mark on the landscape of heavy music.


Music history is filled with moments where guitars have been more than just tools—they’ve been extensions of the artists themselves, integral to their identity, sound, and influence. From the chiming jingle-jangle of a Rickenbacker to the soulful strum of a Martin, or the hard-hitting growl of a Dean, these 10 iconic guitars and the musicians who played them have shaped the course of music as we know it.


  1. Why are these guitars considered iconic? Each guitar on this list has been instrumental in defining the sound and style of a music legend. Their unique tones, playability, and even visual aesthetics have become intrinsically linked with the musicians who played them.
  2. Where can I see these guitars? Many of these iconic guitars can be seen in music museums, like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame or the Hard Rock Café’s memorabilia collection. Some are also showcased in exhibitions or are still being used by the artists on stage.
  3. Can I buy these guitars? Yes, many guitar manufacturers produce models or replicas of these iconic guitars. Some are standard production models, while others may be part of a signature series or limited-edition run.
  4. What makes a guitar iconic? A guitar becomes iconic through its association with a prominent musician and the music they create with it. The guitar’s unique characteristics and how the musician utilizes them to forge their distinctive sound contributes to its iconic status.
  5. Why do musicians choose certain guitars? Musicians choose guitars based on several factors, including their tone, playability, appearance, and personal preference. A guitar that suits their musical style and enhances their ability to express themselves musically is typically the preferred choice.
  6. Do these guitars sound different? Absolutely! Each of these guitars has its unique tonal characteristics due to differences in design, construction materials, and electronics. This variety allows musicians to choose a guitar that best fits their desired sound.
Related Articles