Kurt started first started playing on a Univox Hi-Flier guitar – which is a cheap replica of the more expensive Mosrite Gospel model. He played a few of these Hi-Fliers in his early days, including a sunburst model decorated with stickers, and a white one, given to him by his girlfriend at the time, Tracy. The Bleach-era was also filled with various half-working guitars, such as the blue Gibson SG, pieced together by Kurt himself, and a Greco Mustang, which went through at least two different reincarnations.
By the time Nevermind was out, Kurt was mostly playing Stratocasters, the most notable of which was a black model, decorated with a sticker reading “Vandalism”. For the album tour, he played a 1965 Fender Jaguar – which is the guitar that most people associate Kurt with. Around that same time, he also acquired a 1969 Fender Competition Mustang, which he used most famously during the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” music video.
In Utero era was mostly marked by four different Fender Mustangs, three of which were blue, and one of which was red. All of these Mustangs were customized to Kurt’s own liking. The body on each was routed out to fit a full-sized humbucker in the bridge position – more precisely a Seymour Duncan JB, and the stock bridge piece was replaced with a Gotoh Tune-O-Matic.
As far as acoustic guitars, Kurt’s best-known guitar is a 1950s Martin D-18E which he played during the Unplugged on MTV concert. Also, worth mentioning is the Harmony Stella 12-string, which Kurt played on “Something in the Way”, and a 1961 Epiphone Texan that styled a “Nixon Now” sticker on the top of the body.
Regarding effects, Kurt used a Boss DS-1 and DS-2 distortion pedals, the latter of which replaced the former around the time of Nevermind release. He also used an EHX Small Clone Chorus pedal on a number of Nirvana’s hits, including “Come as You Are”, and “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. In the latter years, he switched to an EHX PolyChorus/EchoFlanger.
Kurt Cobain Equipment Guide
Please note that this is just a quick basic guide for beginners. In reality, a lot of factors go into replicating someone’s sound, and it’s usually nearly impossible to achieve. To see the equipment that Jeff actually used himself, and all that went into it, refer to the chronological list below.
Kurt wasn’t too picky about his guitars, and especially in the early years, prior to Nevermind, he had to make do with what was available. So, if you really want the ‘iconic stuff,’ you could get yourself the Fender Kurt Cobain Jaguar, which is based on the guitar that Kurt used probably the most.
However, a cheaper option would be building something of your own. Grab a cheap Mexican Stratocaster, or even a Squier, and load it with a Seymour Duncan Hot Rails pickup in the bridge position – because that’s exactly what Kurt did with a lot of his guitars.
When it comes to amps, you can get away with almost any decent amp. You’ll pretty much use the clean channel all the time anyway, and add distortion with a pedal. In the case you do, it would probably be best to get yourself a decent used 50w+ combo amp. In case you plan to only practice in your room and don’t want to invest in pedals, get yourself a modeling amp, maybe a Fender Mustang LT-25.
Pick yourself at least a distortion pedal, more precisely a Boss DS-2 (which is what Kurt used in his later years). Add to that an Electro-Harmonix Small Clone Chorus, which is what Kurt used to create that ‘wobbly’ effect on “Come As You Are”, and during verses on “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”