Kirk Lee Hammett (born November 18, 1962) is the lead guitarist and a songwriter in the band Metallica and has been a member of the band since 1983. Before joining Metallica he formed and named the band Exodus. In 2003 Kirk Hammett was ranked 11th in Rolling Stone’s list – The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.
As far as Kirk’s gear, for the majority of his career Hammett has been relying on ESP guitars. He’s best known for using various different models from his own signature line – KH2, most of which feature custom body paint, often inspired by Boris Karloff’s work. He also occasionally picks up a Gibson, perhaps the best known of the bunch being a blacked-out Les Paul Custom with EMG pickups. His amp choice changed over the years from Marshall to Mesa Boogie, and most recently to Randall. The effects are somewhat of a different story thought. Ever since the very early years Kirk has been relying mostly on the Ibanez Tube Screamer pedal, which he continues to use to this day.
Kirk Hammett’s Electric Guitars:
1970s Gibson Flying V
Kirk used this Gibson Flying V as his main guitar in Exodus, and on Metallica’s first couple of albums. The guitar was completely stock until 1987 when pickups were replaced with EMGs, and Kirk installed the Leo Quan BadAss bridge. Many of Metallica’s great hits were recorded on this guitar, including “Fade to Black” (Kirk used only neck pickup for this one).
Kirk acquired this guitar circa 1984, and used it occasionally during the Ridge the Lightening tour. The guitar seemed to have been modified by Kirk, and featured a Floyd Rose tremolo and a locking nut, and three Fender Lace Sensor pickups with black covers.
Jackson Flying V “Randy Rhoads”
|Alder Body with a neck-thru maple neck, EMG humbuckers, Tune-O-Matic bridge and Gotoh Tuners.
Kirk started playing it in 1983, just after recording “Kill ‘Em All”, and used it during recording sessions of “Master of Puppets”, which he almost completely recorded with this guitar.
He still plays it live today, for songs like “Sad but True” and “The Memory Remains”.
ESP MM-270 “Zorlac”
|This was Kirk’s first ESP, which he started using in 1987 for “Garage Days Re-Revisited”. This particular guitar can be seen in the 1989 Live Shit: Binge & Purge DVD recorded in Seattle. It was also used during the “And Justice for All” tour.
It has the same basic specs as his previously mentioned ESPs, except that it has a skull and crossbones design painted behind the bridge, hence the name.
This guitar has often been reffered as “Zorlac”.
Gibson Les Paul Custom
|Kirk’s main Les Paul. This guitar is set up in the similar fashion as his ESPs – it has double EMG humbuckers, Sperzel Locking Tuners and Tonepros Locking Tune-O-Matic Bridge. The body is colored in gloss black, and all the hardware is gold.
Kirk bought it in 1989, and used it ever since. It can be seen on “Live Shit” DVD on the song “Welcome Home (Sanitarum)”.
ESP MM-290 “Caution”
|Black alder body and a maple neck, two EMG humbuckers and a Floyd Rose bridge. Kirk started using it during the Black Album era, and still uses it today.
The guitar has an orange sticker on it bellow the bridge saying “CAUTION HOT”, and a small sticker above the neck pickup saying “Kirk’s Guitar”. It is also sometimes referred as “Skull & Crossbones II”.
ESP KH-3 Eclipse “Spider”
|This guitar is based on the ESP Eclipe series. It has an alder body, maple neck, and fingerboard. The pickups are EMG 81s, and it also has the Floyd Rose bridge mounted on.
The Spider was first played during the Black Album tour, and Kirk still plays it today.
ESP KH2 M-II “The Mummy”
|This is noted as Kirk’s favorite guitar. It’s a Kirk Hammett signature model made by ESP and based on the M-II. He got it in 1996, just prior to recording the “Load” album.
The body paint is based upon poster for the movie “The Mummy” starring Boris Karloff, graphic of which Hammett actually owns the rights to.
ESP KH2 M-II “Ouija”
|This guitar was also based on the M-II series. It is fitted with EMG-81/60 humbuckers, and the original Floyd Rose bridge.
The body is painted black, with the custom graphic design. The guitar is named “Ouija” after a board used by supernatural believers to recieve messages from the spirits. The board design seen on the picture bellow is painted on the guitar’s body.
|This is a single pickup (EMG-81) telecaster-style guitar with hollow Plexiglas body filled with blue colored motor oil. Kirk first used it live on the recording of “Cunning Stunts” DVD in 1998 for “Am I Evil”.|
ESP KH-1 Flying V Signature Model
|Kirk stared using ESP Flying Vs around 1997. These guitars are heavily based on the Gibson Flying V model, with the Kirk’s own modifications. All of them are equipped with EMG 81/60 pickups, but they have different bridges and tuners. Kirk’s favorite V is a black ESP with Tune-O-Matic bridge and Gotuh tuners. His second V is also black, but features the original Floyd Rose tremolo system. His V #3 is same specs as his #2 except that this one has only one pickup (bridge – EMG 81).|
ESP KH-2 M-II “Frankenstein”
|Newer model – used during the Summer Sanitarium Tour 2000.
This model has the “Frankestein” graphics painted on the body, and the words “Warning! The monster is loose!” painted over the fretboard which glow in the dark.
There are atleast three of these guitars, one in green, one red, and one in pink.
ESP KH2 M-II “Dracula”
|Again the same model based on the original M-II with EMG 81/60s. This model has the Dracula graphics painted over the body, from a poster made for the movie “Dracula” in 1931.|
ESP KH-2 M-II “Bride of Frankenstein”
|Used in 2010s. The guitar is set up in a pretty much the same way as all his ESP KH-2s. The body paint was based on the “Bride of Frankenstein” movie poster from 1935.|
ESP KH-2 M-II “Greenburst”
|Standard KH-2 with a EMG 81/60 set, custom green sunburst finish, green inlays, and green logo. Used in the 2010s.|
ESP LTD Kirk Hammett Signature “White Zombie”
|New model, available from January 2014.
This guitar features Kirk’s usual EMG 81/60 set, and a custom body paint based on the 1932 horror film “White Zombie” directed and produced by Halperin brothers.
Kirk Hammett’s Guitar Amps:
– Marshal 1959 SLP 100W head
Used on Metallica’s first album “Kill ‘Em All”. It actually belonged to James, but since the band didn’t have much money back then, they both used it. The amp was modified by Jose Arrendondo.
He also used Marshall head on “Ride the Lightening”, “Garage Days Re-revisted” and “…And Justice For All Era” albums. They were most likely JCM 800 models.
– Mesa Boogie Mark IIc+
For the “Master of Puppets” Kirk was still using Marshall on-stage, but made a swith to Mesa Boogie heads in the studio.
– Mesa Boogie Strategy 400
For “…And Justice For All” Kirk used this amp as a part of his main rack.
– VHT 2150-MJF Power Amp
New addition to the rack for the Black Album.
– Bradshaw CAE and Bogner Fish Preamp
Used for clean and lows on the Black Album.
– Mesa Boogie Mark IV
Kirk started using these amps live around the time of releaseing the Black Album.
– Mesa Boogie Studio
– Mesa Boogie Triaxis
– Vox AC30
All of the three previously mentioned amps were first used on the “Load” album.
– Matchless Spitfire and Cheiftain
Used on the “Re-Load” recording sessions.
– 1959 Fender Twin Reverb
Used on the “St. Anger” alongside his Marshalls and Mesa Boogies. This is one of Kirk’s favorite amps.
– Randall RM100KH
In 2007 Kirk signed a contract with Randall, and started using their amps, cabinets and preamps. He continued to use Mesa Boogie amps too.
– Randall Meathead
This is Kirk’s latest amp which is completely designed by designed by Mike Fortin. Kirk started using it in 2013.
Kirk Hammett’s Guitar Effects:
Kirk played with lots of effects, and they will not all be listed. We will try to focus on the ones that he stick to, and likes to use over and over again. For detailed list of Kirk’s effect please visit Monty Jay.
– Ibanez Tube Screamer TS-9/TS-10
Kirk’s main on-stage effect. He have used it since the Metallica’s first album, and still plays through it today on the solos.
– DigiTech Whammy WH-1
This pedal has been part of Kirk’s setup for quite some time now, and he uses it quite frequently.
– Dunlop Wah Pedal
Used for the first couple of albums
– Vox Wah Pedal
Kirk started using this Wah pedal on “…And Justice for All”.
– EMB Audio Remote Wah
First used on the “Load” album.
– Dunlop 1SR Rack Wah
Used on “St. Anger”.
– Dunlop KH-95 Kirk Hammett Signature Wah
Used ever since 2008 when it was first released.
– TC Electronic G-Major 2
Controlled by his tech for easy access to effects from older albums. Prior to the 2009 model G-Major 2, Kirk used it’s older brother – the G-Major. [TC Electronic – Products Used by Kirk Hammett]
– Line 6 DL4 Delay Modeler
– Line 6 MM4 Modulation Modeler
– MXR Bass Octave Deluxe
– Boss NS-2 Noise Suppressor
– Digitech Space Station Pedal
Kirk Hammett’s Guitar Strings:
– Currently Kirk uses a mixed set of Ernie Ball RPS Slinky strings. He uses .010, .013, .017 strings from the Ernie Ball RPS-10 Slinky set on the bottom , and .028, .038, .048 from the heavier Ernie Ball RPS-11 Slinky set on the top. In the early days however, he seemed to have used the standard 11-gauge set:
The reason for that is that I as a guitar player need to be able to bend the light strings, and if I have 11s, I notice that over the course of a tour my hand gets fatigued. If I go to 10s – it’s okay – and it only took me ten years to realize that! Obviously, the bass strings are on the heavier gauge so they sound heavier and fuller when I play. [Ernie Ball: String Theory Featuring Kirk Hammett]
Kirk Hammett’s Guitar Picks:
– Kirk Hammett Signature Picks KH01T088