Kurt Cobain’s Dean Markley (Light Top/Heavy Bottom) Guitar Strings

access_time First seen circa 1991

The only piece of information in regard to strings coming from Kurt himself comes from one of the interviews from the Musician magazine, in 1992, where Kurt mentioned that he’s using actual piano strings for low E and A.

I use piano wire for guitar strings, ’cause it’s a lot thicker. I buy it in bulk, in these big long tubes, and just cut it to the length of the guitar. They’re thicker than the thickest guitar gauge that’s available. I don’t know what the thickness of ’em is anymore – I can’t remember. I use a really thick E string, and then a smaller size A. A few of the others are guitar strings – I think I use Dean Markley because they’re the cheapest.

The Year’s Hottest New Band Can’t Stand Still, Musician, January 1992

However, this was most likely just a joke that over the years developed into a legend. Piano strings would be impossible to fit on most of the guitars that Kurt was using at the time, and if he indeed wanted thicker strings, there were easier ways to achieve that.

One of them would, of course, be to just use a heavier set – which is most likely what he did. Based on the photos, and a statement from Ernie Bailey, Kurt actually used Dean Markley LTHB set (.010, .013, .017, .030, .042, .052).

For strings, he used .010-.052 Dean Markley’s (the red pack).


In case you’re looking to buy the same set, unfortunately, it’s no longer being made (more about this in the comments). If you want something similar from Dean Markley, their Blue Steel heavy set (10-52) should do a pretty good job (same principle as the original – Light Top/Heavy Bottom)

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“Kurt actually played both sets. He started off with the Nickel Steels and then moved to the Blue Steel. As far as sounding as close to him as possible, use the Nickel Steel (Signature Series). This is what he used most often and what he preferred.” DM USA Customer Service – my inquiry with Dean Markley, 2018 BUT… “For strings, he used .010-.052 Dean Markley’s (the red pack).” – Earnie Bailey, KURT COBAIN/NIRVANA EQUIPMENT TUTORIAL VERSION 1.0 12/24/96, WRITTEN BY CHRIS LAWRENCE http://www.oocities.org/sunsetstrip/club/1631/chrisp.txt Back then, “the red pack” was the Dean Markley 1974 LTHB . See left in the suitcase:… Read more »

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