How the 60s Changed the Guitar: A Musical Revolution

The 1960s was a transformative decade in many aspects, and the world of music was no exception. During this time, the guitar underwent a remarkable evolution that forever changed the way it was played, designed, and perceived.

In this article, we’ll delve into the fascinating journey of how the 60s changed the guitar landscape. From iconic players to groundbreaking innovations, we’ll uncover the pivotal moments that defined this era for guitar enthusiasts.


The 1960s, often referred to as the “Swinging Sixties,” was a decade of social and cultural upheaval. This period witnessed a seismic shift in music, with the guitar at the forefront of this revolution.

From the electric blues of Jimi Hendrix to the folk-rock of Bob Dylan, the guitar’s role in shaping the sound of the 60s cannot be overstated. In this article, we’ll explore how the 60s changed the guitar in profound ways, revolutionizing not only the instrument itself but also the entire music industry.

Acoustic guitar player and a VW bus

The Rise of Electric Guitars

Electric Guitars Take Center Stage

The 60s saw a surge in the popularity of electric guitars. Artists like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Who embraced the electric sound, paving the way for a new era of rock ‘n’ roll. The Stratocaster and the Telecaster by Fender became iconic instruments synonymous with this decade.

Distortion and Feedback

Innovations in amplifier technology allowed guitarists to experiment with distortion and feedback, giving birth to the raw and powerful sound of rock music. Jimi Hendrix’s mastery of feedback became legendary, pushing the boundaries of what the guitar could do.

Iconic Players of the 60s

Jimi Hendrix: A Guitar Virtuoso

Jimi Hendrix’s virtuoso guitar skills and innovative techniques redefined what was possible on the instrument. His performances at Woodstock and Monterey Pop Festival remain iconic moments in guitar history.

Eric Clapton: The Bluesman

Eric Clapton’s bluesy guitar playing with bands like Cream and Blind Faith brought the blues to the mainstream. His “woman tone” became a hallmark of his distinctive sound.

The British Invasion

Bands like The Rolling Stones and The Yardbirds led the British Invasion with their blues-inspired rock, introducing a new generation to the magic of the electric guitar.

Electric guitar player

Evolution in Guitar Design

The Psychedelic Aesthetic

The 60s were marked by a psychedelic visual style that extended to guitar design. Custom paint jobs, psychedelic graphics, and wild finishes became the norm, reflecting the counterculture movement.

The Birth of the Solid-Body Bass

Leo Fender introduced the Precision Bass in the 50s, but it gained immense popularity in the 60s. It revolutionized the bass guitar and became an essential instrument for rock bands.

How the 60s Changed the Guitar Sound

The Birth of Pedals

The 60s saw the emergence of guitar effects pedals, offering guitarists new sonic possibilities. The wah-wah pedal, in particular, became an integral part of psychedelic and blues rock.

Experimentation with Alternate Tunings

Artists like Joni Mitchell and The Byrds experimented with alternate tunings, creating unique sounds that added depth to their music.


  • What were the most popular guitar models of the 60s? The Fender Stratocaster and Telecaster, along with the Gibson Les Paul, were among the most popular guitar models of the 60s.
  • How did Jimi Hendrix achieve his iconic guitar tones? Jimi Hendrix achieved his iconic guitar tones through a combination of distortion, feedback, and innovative use of effects pedals.
  • Who were the notable female guitarists of the 60s? Notable female guitarists of the 60s included Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez, who both made significant contributions to the folk and rock genres.
  • Did the 60s influence acoustic guitar playing as well? Yes, the 60s had a significant influence on acoustic guitar playing, with artists like Bob Dylan and Simon & Garfunkel popularizing folk and acoustic-driven music.
  • What role did the guitar play in the counterculture movement of the 60s? The guitar became a symbol of the counterculture movement, with its music serving as a powerful means of expression for social and political change.
  • How did the 60s guitar innovations impact future generations of musicians? The innovations of the 60s had a lasting impact on guitar design, playing techniques, and sound, shaping the way future generations of musicians approached the instrument.

The 1960s left an indelible mark on the world of music, and the guitar was at the heart of this transformative era. From the rise of electric guitars to the iconic players who pushed the boundaries of what was possible, the guitar underwent a metamorphosis that forever changed its role in music.

The 60s were a time of innovation, experimentation, and cultural revolution, and the guitar was both a witness to and a catalyst for these changes. As we look back on this remarkable decade, we can appreciate how the 60s changed the guitar and, in doing so, changed the course of music history.

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