Frank Zappa’s guitar tone was a weird phenomenon: crunchy but never over-distorted, mid-range heavy but capable of sweet highs in his solos, extended dynamic range that allowed him to move from a whisper to a screech with a simple flick of a tone control.
I’ve always been one of those “composer” Zappa fans – music geeks who digs Zappa for his songwriting and compositional gifts. I know he ranks as a very good guitarist – and was probably astonishing in his day, compared to his 1960s and 70s contemporaries. But with so many uncannily fast and artistic guitarists to come around since him (e.g. Alan Holdsworth, Eddie Van Halen), his Guitar God status has always struck me as a bit unearned. Especially compared to his absolute one-of-a-kind ability as a composer in many genres.
But recently I’ve begun my latest nostalgia kick, and have been listening to his more renowned guitar solos. This one has me mesmerized lately:
Its shreddy, and sloppy in a perfectly soulful way. Even more, I love the tone, which lead me to read up on Frank’s guitar rig. Here are a few of his favorite models.
Frank’s first guitar was a crappy acoustic. Looks like an arch-top. According to his autobiography he paid a measly $1.50 for it. Ahh – the 1950s dollar….
Here’s his 1950s Fender Jazzmaster – a prelude to the legendary stratocaster. And man, look at that leisure suit (he’s the tall guy the left). This is from his high school days with Joe Perrino and the Mellotones:
Fast-forward to the 1960s and you have him with a Les Paul. This one looks remarkably clean for the King of Bodily Fluid References. Nevermind that his facial hair looks like it was glued on – that’s his Lebanese heritage showing through:
Here’s the gallery of his mainstay axes.