Kurt Cobain’s Favourite Guitar

kurt cobain

Kurt Cobain’s collection of guitars was quite extensive over the years. However, this wasn’t due to his preference but rather a necessity. After nearly every Nirvana concert, some piece of equipment would end up broken, smashed, or otherwise battered. Often, it was Cobain himself leading the charge, and unfortunately, his guitars often found themselves in the line of fire.

From the early gigs in Seattle clubs to their final stadium performances, Nirvana desperately needed affordable instruments.

This led many to believe that Cobain favored pawn shop guitars over sleeker, newer models. But as he revealed in an interview with Guitar World shortly after the release of “Nevermind” in 1991, this wasn’t entirely accurate. He clarified, “I don’t favor them – I can afford them. [laughs] I’m left-handed, and it’s not very easy to find reasonably priced, high-quality left-handed guitars. But out of all the guitars in the whole world, the Fender Mustang is my favorite. I’ve only owned two of them.”

By the early 1990s, Fender Mustangs were widely viewed as a discontinued model. Initially produced in 1964 and later discontinued in 1982, the Mustang was a low-cost Fender guitar aimed primarily at beginners.

While famous musicians like Todd Rundgren and Rory Gallagher had played these models, it was only when Cobain associated himself with the Mustang, particularly after playing one in the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” music video, that it gained true value.

Even so, Cobain didn’t hold back when describing his favored guitar.

“They’re cheap and not very efficient. They sound terrible and are quite small,” Cobain bluntly remarked. “Plus, they don’t hold their tuning very well. If you want to adjust the string action on the fretboard, you have to loosen all the strings and remove the bridge completely. You have to fiddle with these tiny screws using your fingers, hoping you’ve got it right. If you mess up, you have to repeat the process over and over until it’s right. Whoever invented that guitar was not too bright.”

When the interviewer pointed out that Cobain essentially called Leo Fender, the founder of Fender, a less-than-flattering term, Cobain just laughed good-naturedly. While Cobain did use Fender guitars, including Stratocasters and Jaguars, throughout his career, he consistently favored the Mustang.

During the “Nevermind” tour, Cobain was asked if the Mustang was his primary guitar. He replied, “No, I also own a ’66 Jaguar. That’s the one I baby and polish, and I won’t let anyone touch it when I dive into the crowd. Lately, I’ve been using a Stratocaster during live shows because I don’t want to damage my Mustang yet. I prefer Japanese Strats because they’re a bit cheaper, and the frets are smaller than the American version.”

Although Nirvana hadn’t yet reached the point of performing unplugged, they did have two notable acoustic songs on “Nevermind”: “Polly” and “Something in the Way.” Cobain used a guitar he had purchased in 1989 from the Edgewater Pawn Shop – a Stella Harmony H912 for these songs.

“That’s a $20 junk shop, Stella – I haven’t even bothered to change the strings,” Cobain chuckled. “It barely holds its tuning. In fact, I have to use duct tape to keep the tuning keys in place.”

In the ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ video below, you can watch Cobain using his favorite guitar.

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