Famous Guitarists & The Guitars They Use: A Big ‘Ol List…

What guitar does James Hetfield play? What about Slash? Or even Ed Sheeran, Dave Grohl, Brian May, Alex Turner, Josh Homme, and Angus Young? I was sick of Googling them, so I decided to make a MEGA TABLE…


When you first get interested in guitars, you’ll start taking more and more notice of the guitars and gear used by your favorite bands and artists. It’s something of a rabbit hole, and it can get expensive too if you want the best possible guitar and hardware from brands like Gibson and Fender.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the world’s most well-known guitarists, of old and modern times, and the guitars they were (or are) most famous for using. 

From Angus Young to Tobin Abasi, I’ve tried to add as many guitarists as possible, so next time you’re wondering what guitar so and so plays, you’ll know where to look. 

Famous Guitarists And Their Guitars

Guitarist NameThe Guitar They Use / Used
James HetfieldKen Lawrence Custom Explorer Natural
ESP Custom Black Explorer
ESP Custom Black Flying V
ESP Custom Les Paul
Gibson Les Paul Custom
ESP New Model Black Explorer
Electra 2236 Flying Wedge
Gibson Explorer
White ESP Explorer “EET FUK”
Kirk HammondESP MM-270
1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard
1970s Gibson Flying V
Jackson Flying V Randy Rhoads
Gibson Les Paul Custom
ESP KH-1 Flying V
Fernandez Stratocaster
ESP KH-DC STBC
Epiphone Limited Edition Matt Heafy Les Paul Custom
SlashGibson Slash Les Paul Standard
Dave Grohl1967 Gibson Trini Lopez Standard ES-335
Gibson Custom Shop DG-335
1991 Gibson Les Paul Custom
Gibson Les Paul Standard
Gibson SG Custom
Gibson Explorer
Gibson Firebird
Kurt CobainFender Mustang
Fender Jaguar
Brain MayThe Red Special
Josh HommeMaton BB1200
Maton BB1200 JH Signature
Motor Ave Belaire
Echopark Custom Crow
1984 Ovation Ultra GP 1431
Burns Double Six
Motor Ave La Mirada
Fender Jazzmaster Troy Van Leeuwen Signature
Epiphone ES-335
1968 Teisco V2
Alex TurnerGibson Les Paul Custom
Fender American Vintage ’65 Jazzmaster
Fender Stratocaster MIM
Gretsch G6122-12
Gretsch G6128T-1962 Duo Jet
Fender Telecaster
Angus YoungGibson SG
Jimmy Page1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard
Jimi HendrixFender Stratocaster
Robby KriegerGibson SG
Tosin AbasiIbanez TAM 100
Abasi Concept Guitars
Ed SheeranMartin LX1 series
Noel GallagherGibson ES-355
Dimebag Darrell81 Dean
Rob FlynnEpiphone Robb Flynn Love/Death Baritone Flying-V
Randy RhodesJackson Randy Rhodes Flying V
Eddie Van HalenFender Strat AKA Frankenstein
Ritchie BlackmoreFender Stratocaster
Billy CorganFender Billy Corgan Signature Strats
David GilmourFender Stratocaster
Buzz OsbourneGibson Les Paul Custom
The Electrical Guitar Company
Ben WeinmanESP LTD BW-1 FM/ET
Zakk WyldeGibson Les Paul
Tony IommiGibson SG / Epiphone SG
Dave MustaineDean VMNT
Jeff HannemanJackson Punk Rock
Gibson Les Paul
Kerry KingB.C. Rich Kerry King V
Mikael AkerfeldtPRS SE Mikael Akerfeldt Electric Guitar
PRS Custom 24
Steve VaiIbanez JEM
Mick ThomsonIbanez MTM
Jim RootFender Tele / Fender Strat
Jerry CantrellG&L Rampage
Gibson Les Paul Custom
Ritchie BlackmoreFender Stratocaster
Marty FriedmanCarvin V220M
Matt HeafyEpiphone “Matthew Kiichi Heafy Les Paul Custom” Signature guitars
Brent HindsGibson Les Paul
Gibson SG
Gibson Flying V
EGC Signature
The Great Big “What Guitar Does [INSERT AMAZING GUITARIST] Play” Table!

Why Do Musicians Use Fender & Gibson Guitars?

The main reason why professional guitarists, legends like Slash, Angus Young, and Kurt Cobain, use Fender or Gibson guitars is, number one: the tone you get from the guitar. Proper Fender and Gibson guitars sound unlike anything else and are custom designed to sound a certain way – this is why some guitarists ONLY ever use one style, a Strat or a Les Paul, for instance.

They only use one style of guitar because it fits their sound. Jimi Hendrix ALWAYS used a Strat, while Jimmy Page mostly played a Les Paul. Led Zeppelin and Hendrix are similar in certain respects, they’re both blues-driven rock bands, but the two bands’ sounds couldn’t be more different.

Jimmy Page’s Favourite Guitar
Jimmy Page And His Favorite Guitar – A Gibson Les Paul Standard

And this is largely down to the guitar choices made by Hendrix and Page.

Fender and Gibson guitars are hand-crafted in the USA; they use the best quality woods and electronics, so they sound incredible and, importantly, are more reliable than cheaper models from other guitar brands and stay in tune better, so they’re more reliable for recording sessions and when you’re touring and playing shows every night.

Fender and Gibson’s most popular models are so popular because of the way they sound – a Strat sounds different from a Tele and a Les Paul, for instance. And an SG sounds different to a Les Paul.

And different kinds of music sound better with certain types of guitar. This is why metal guitarists tend to favor Gibson Les Paul models; they have a deep, earthy sound which is great for riffing, while more rock-focussed players like Strats.

Similarly, Fender Stratocaster and Telecasters have a brighter, twangier tone that lends itself to both rock, jazz, and country. The Strat is much lighter than the Les Paul too. You can also get mountains of tonal variation from them too which is why they’re used by everybody from Jimi Hendrix to Billy Corgan.

Is Gibson or Fender Better?

Better is such a useless, throwaway term when you’re talking about expensive guitars, and brands like Gibson and Fender. It’s a bit like when you’re comparing really expensive cars, a BMW M5 and a Mercedes E63 AMG; they’re both amazing cars and they’re both beloved by those who drive them – but usually for very different reasons.

It is the same with Fender and Gibson guitars. It is all very subjective. For instance, some players might prefer the design of a Les Paul to a Strat, and that’s why they’ve always been Gibson players. Other guys and girls might prefer single coil pickups, so they’ve always been loyal to Fender.

Fender and Gibson guitars are all made to the same exacting standards in the USA. They both use quality materials, have excellent electronics, and they all sound amazing. Most of the time, the best brand, out of Fender or Gibson, will be decided by the style of guitar you like, the kind of music you play, and the type of scale length you’re used to.

Brant-Bjork
Brant Bjork Loves His Fender Guitars

And while there is plenty of crossover with Fender and Gibson guitars, notably the Les Paul, the Strat, the SG, and the Tele, the two brands both have their loyalists and their haters. Slash always uses Gibson. But Jimi Hendrix preferred his Fender guitars. Is one better than the other? Not really; it is all down to the player and the sound they want.

The rest of the Fender vs. Gibson debate is just a mix of brand loyalty, affinity with either companies history, or is based on a person’s favorite guitar player’s preference. If you love and aspire to be like Hendrix, chances are you will gravitate towards a Strat – more likely a Squire Strat, but a Strat all the same. If you’re more of a Zeppelin man, you’ll probably want a Les Paul-style guitar.

For you, the best thing to do is decide what kind of music you want to play and then pick a guitar that best suits it. Fender’s are great for detail and clarity, whereas Les Paul guitars are better for heavy, bigger-sounding music. Both brands make great guitars, though, so if you’re lucky enough to own one from either brand you’re in a good place.

What is Gibson Used For?

Gibson makes a range of guitars, from the Les Paul to the ES series, which is used in all kinds of genres of music, from metal to jazz and bluegrass. Gibson’s most popular guitars, however, are the Gibson Les Paul and the Gibson SG – both are industry standards in the metal and rock worlds and are used by thousands of professional guitarists.

Fender Strats and ‘Teles are used in metal and rock too, but Les Paul and SG guitars are more common. The reason? They use Humbuckers which are better for high-gain music, whereas Fender prefers to use single-coil pickups on its Strats and Telecasters.

Fender’s pickups of choice, single-coil ones, have been around for longer than humbuckers and they do produce a clearer sound that can handle higher frequencies. This is why you’ll see Fender guitars used in a wider variety of music, whereas Gibson tends to OWN the metal and hard rock worlds.

And if you cannot afford a Fender or Gibson, no problem – there are tons of awesome Fender alternatives available and even more Gibson Les Paul alternatives too. My personal being 2020’s Epiphone Les Paul Prophecy – it is a traditional Les Paul-style guitar with Fishman Fluence pickups. And, my god, is it good!


Learn The Guitar Faster

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What Guitar Does Dave Grohl Play?

Dave Grohl has been playing guitar in the Foo Fighters for over 20 years, and during that time he has played many different guitars, although Grohl’s most commonly used guitars are a 1967 Gibson Trini Lopez Standard ES-335, a Gibson Custom Shop DG-335, a 1991 Gibson Les Paul Custom, a Gibson Les Paul Standard, a Gibson SG Custom, a Gibson Explorer, and a Gibson Firebird. Yep, Dave Grohl likes his Gibson guitars…

What Guitar Does Slash Play?

Slash is best known for playing in Guns N’ Roses, although he has been in plenty of other bands since, most notably Velvet Revolver with the late Scott Weiland. Slash plays Gibson guitars and can usually be seen playing a Gibson Les Paul Standard in a range of finishes, though usually a red or gold top.

What Guitar Does Ed Sheeran Use?

Ed Sheeran mostly plays acoustic and his acoustic guitar of choice is Martin guitars. Sheeran has used Martin acoustic guitars for nearly all of his professional career.

What Guitar Does John Mayer Play?

John Mayer has an extensive collection of guitars that he has amassed over the years. As of 2021, Mayer has over 200 guitars in his collection. But John Mayer’s current, main guitar is a PRS Super Eagle II which he can be seen using all over the Internet and during live shows.

What Guitar Does Angus Young Play?

Angus Young of AC/DC has always played Gibson SG guitars, in one form or another. His most iconic guitar is a Gibson SG Standard 1969 to 1971 model, although Young also played a modified SG called the Jaydee SG. Either way, Angus Young is a Gibson SG man through and through.

What Guitar Does Wilbur Soot Use?

Wilber Soot, the guy that wrote the hit song, “I’m in love with an e-girl”, is most commonly associated with Fender Stratocaster guitars. Usually, Soot plays a blue Fender Telecaster.

What Guitar Does James Hetfield Play?

James Hetfield, the lead singer, and songwriter for Metallica has a truly enormous collection of guitars – too many to name in one place. Hetfield tends to play ESP guitars these days, notably an ESP Custom Black Explorer, an ESP Custom Black Flying V, an ESP Custom Les Paul, a Gibson Les Paul Custom, an ESP New Model Black Explorer, an Electra 2236 Flying Wedge, a Gibson Explorer, and the White ESP Explorer “EET FUK”

What Guitar Does Santana Play?

Carlos Santana mostly plays PRS guitars these days; he has his own signature model, the PRS Santana II, fitted with PRS Santana III nickel covered pickups, a tremolo bar, and .009–.042 gauge D’Addario strings. Santana has been known to also play Gibson Les Paul guitars and also Gibson SG models too.

What Guitar Does Alex Turner Play?

Alex Turner of Arctic Monkeys fame, like his mentor Josh Homme, has a ton of guitars in his collection. But Turner’s most-used guitars, the ones that he plays most, include a Gibson Les Paul Custom, a Fender American Vintage ’65 Jazzmaster, a Fender Stratocaster MIM, a Gretsch G6122-12, a Gretsch G6128T-1962 Duo Jet, and a Fender Telecaster.

What Guitar Does Adam Jones Play?

Adam Jones of TOOL plays a Gibson Les Paul and always has done. Jones has used the same Silverburst 1979 Gibson Les Paul Custom guitar since TOOL first arrived on the scene in the early 1990s. This guitar has been Jones’ studio and live performance guitar for more than three decades.

What Guitar Does Ace Frehley Play?

Ace Frehley of KISS is most known for playing Gibson Les Paul guitars. Ace preferred a Les Paul Custom to the Standard model. He also used a heavily modified Gibson Les Paul Custom, developed by John Elder Robison, that was affectionately known as “Ampie”.

What Guitar Does Brian May Play?

Brian May is known for only using one guitar: The Red Special, or the Fireplace and Old Lady, as it is sometimes known. May actually built The Red Special with his father in the 1960s. It is the guitar he used on all of Queen’s records as well as all of its live performances. Crazy, right?

What Guitar Does Billy Gibbons Play?

Billy Gibbons owns an extensive guitar collection, but the ZZ Top legend is best known for playing Gibson guitars, specifically Les Pauls. Gibbons favors Les Paul models for their denser tone and has been seen playing a sunburst 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard plenty of times throughout his career of nearly 50 years.

Richard

Richard has been playing guitar for over a decade and is a huge fan of metal, doom, sludge, and rock music in general – though mostly metal. Having played in bands and worked in studios since the early 2000s, Richard is a massive music production geek, a fan of minimalist recording techniques, and he really likes old-school guitars.

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