Summary of Gear used by Kurt
Kurt first started playing on a Univox Hi-Flier electric guitar. This model is a cheap and affordable replica of the more expensive Mosrite Gospel model. He played a few of these Hi-Fliers in his early days. These include 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. He had a blue Gibson SG, pieced together by Kurt himself, and a Mustang, which went through at least two different reincarnations.
By the time Nevermind was out, Kurt was playing Stratocasters left and right. 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 the same time, he also acquired a 1969 Fender Competition Mustang, which he used during the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” music video.
Kurt playing his Martin D-18E during MTV Unplugged concert.
During the In Utero tour, he used four different Fender Mustangs, three of which were blue, and one of which was red. All these Mustangs Kurt’s customized to his own liking. Each was fitted with a full-sized humbucker in the bridge position (a Seymour Duncan JB) and a Gotoh Tune-O-Matic bridge.
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. He also had a Harmony Stella 12-string, which he played on “Something in the Way”. Also worth mentioning is the 1961 Epiphone Texan that styled a “Nixon Now” sticker.
On effects – Kurt used a Boss DS-1 and DS-2 distortion pedals, the latter of which replaced the former around the time of the Nevermind release. He also used an EHX Small Clone Chorus pedal on some 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.
For picks, he mostly used the orange-colored Dunlop Tortex .60mm guitar picks, and for strings, he alternated between Dean Markley 2502s and 2504s. The difference between these is that 2502 is a 9-48 set, while 2504 is a 10-52 one.
How to Sound like Kurt Cobain
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 Kurt 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.”
Grab yourself a pack a set of Dean Markley Heavy strings (as these were most likely what Kurt used himself), and a pack of Dunlop Tortex .60mm picks.