Gear Rundown: Guitars of Dave Grohl

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Gear Rundown: Guitars of Dave Grohl

Dave Grohl Guitar
Words by Lewis Noke Edwards

Diving into the guitars that have been used - and lovingly abused - by Dave Grohl throughout his legendary career as Foo Fighters' front man.

While Dave Grohl started life as a professional musician penning iconic drum fills for Nirvana, he’s spent most of his career with one guitar or another strung across his shoulder, and a small portion of that while incapacitated with a broken leg; the show must go on.

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Exploding out of the mid 90s, Foo Fighters tore across the USA on the back of their first album, the self-titled Foo Fighters, which was released in 1995. And the band are as explosive as Nirvana ever were, with layers of guitars, driving rhythms and Dave’s soaring vocals informing the sounds of both bands in one way or another. In interviews, Dave speaks to their recording techniques often being made up of thick rhythms with sparkling, reverberant leads, the tones being created by the perfect pairing – of course, with the help of his massive guitar collection. So what makes a Dave Grohl guitar? There’s a recurring theme to these axes: humbuckers, big heavy bodies and a healthy sprinkle of semi-hollow additions.

Les Paul Custom

The 90s saw a lot of exploration for Dave, sifting through just about the entire Gibson catalogue, a few wild card electrics and other American made acoustics making appearances for stripped back performances and recording.

Throughout the 90s, Dave Grohl could be seen with a stream of Gibsons, in particular a Les Paul Custom in white in the early 90s, though he’s played a black one from time to time. A Les Paul Custom fits the bill – dual humbuckers, a weighty mahogany body and classy, sleek looks. Les Paul Customs deviate from Les Paul Standards in that they don’t always feature the maple cap, as well as some premium appointments like block inlays and an ebony fretboard. When Chris Shiflett joined the band in 2000, Dave bought him a similar Les Paul Custom which is still played live to this day.

1990 Gretsch White Falcon

Pat Smear

The later 90s saw the release of the Foo Fighters smash hit “Monkey Wrench”, and Dave can be seen playing a 1990 Gretsch White Falcon. The guitar is actually owned by Pat Smear, and it’s a really interesting model. Gretsch’s designs deviated from their classic 50s looks throughout the 80s and 90s, and this guitar features a little hangover from this period. The angular pick guard was that popular on 80s and 90s Falcons makes this particular model stand out, as does its ‘Cadillac’ style tailpiece that deviated from the more traditional Bigsby tremolos often synonymous with Gretsch.

1967 Gibson Trini Lopez

Dave Grohl Guitar Gibson trini Lopez

All the while though, Dave had been noodling and writing on a 1967 Gibson Trini Lopez. The Trini – a melting pot of ES-335, ES-345 and other Gibsons, is possibly the guitar most closely associated with Dave and the Foo Fighters, so much so that the DG-335 was produced from 2007 to 2014; a Pelham Blue version with a stoptail instead of the classic, jazzy Trini Lopez tailpiece. Demand is at an all time high, and rumours are swirling about a re-issue! His original Trini is finished in Cherry Red, and by Dave’s own admission is “the sound of the Foo Fighters”, having been featured heavily on every Foo Fighters record. The Trini features the split diamond inlays associated with the ES-345, has a maple center block like an ES-335, and a unique headstock that’s somewhat reminiscent of a Gibson Firebird. What has made the Trini so iconic is its diamond sound holes rather than the traditional ‘F’ shaped sound holes usually adorning semi-hollow and hollow guitars.

While the original ‘67 is largely retired from live use, Dave’s own Custom Shop DG-335’s continue the legacy, being finished in Pelham Blue, Metallic Gold and Ebony.

Dimebag Darrel Signature Washburn Dime 333 Dimebolt

Depicting Satan in 2006’s The Pick of Destiny, Dave played a Dimebag Darrel Signature Washburn Dime 333 Dimebolt Guitar. The flame maple is stained blue with lightning bolt artwork adorning the front of the guitar, and is recognisable by the Floyd Rose tremolo system and barbed wire flanking the ‘Dime’ logo on the headstock as well. This guitar was also used on stage at Melbourne Big Day Out in 2000!

Silvertone Electric

Deviating a little from his classic humbucker combination, Dave Grohl played a Silvertone electric at Glastonbury in 2022. The dual lipstick style pickups make for a brighter, sparkling tone than the usual heavyweight chords we’re accustomed to hearing from Grohl, possibly to prevent his overpowering Paul McCartney’s sound as they sang side by side.

Dave Grohl Acoustic guitar

There’s been other guitars throughout the years, a couple of nice acoustics for good measure. Grohl has been seen consistently with an all-black Gibson acoustic, either something totally custom or a modified Dove, Evis Presly or something else entirely. He’s played Taylors, USA-made Epiphones and other Gibsons, though the electrics have always been the focus. From Les Paul Standards, SG Customs and Standards, Gibson Explorers, Gibson RDs to multiple Telecasters in different variations.

All of these amplified through loud amps, like Fender and Hiwatt, effected with different pedals, like Rats, MXR MicroAmps and Boss DM-2, but ultimately the guitars informing the final output.

While Nirvana brought Dave fame initially, the Foo Fighters has solidified that legacy, continuing it for decades. Cycling through tours, the band has earned themselves a spot as one of the most well-loved music groups of all time, and Dave himself has earned the moniker of “Nicest Guy In Rock”. Looking back on the guitars Dave has played throughout his time as frontman of the Foo’s, it’s interesting to see his exploration of solid and hollow body guitars, ultimately landing somewhere in the middle with his DG-335s: the Dave Grohl Guitar is a certified humbucking rock machine with a little extra twang and resonance from the semi-hollow build. Dave Grohl has written some of the most memorable music in the modern age, and his guitars have undoubtedly helped him do it.

Read all about Grohl’s tribute to the late Taylor Hawkins that is their forthcoming album here.