Kurt Cobain’s Harmony Stella 12-string

Kurt bought this guitar at a pawn shop for around $30 in late 1989. It was a 12 string model, but Kurt strung it with only five nylon strings, and he allegedly never changed them since. The guitar barely stayed in tune, and apparently had duct tape holding tuning pegs in place.

This guitar was used on all of the acoustic songs on Nevermind (Polly, Something in the Way), and it supposedly even appeared on In Utero album, but only after the issues have been addressed. It was also carried regularly on tour but was mostly used just as a warm-up instrument.

Embed from Getty Images

A fun fact – one of Kurt’s favorite musicians, Lead Belly, played the same guitar so that probably played some part in Kurt’s decision to buy and play this exact model.


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1 year ago

in the picture the stella guitar is in the ground

jim Yates
jim Yates
2 months ago

The D18e was Martin’s first attempt at making an “electric guitar”. It was a D-18 with two DeArmond pickups and three control knobs. The electronics adversely affected the tone of the guitar, and the D-18E only remained in production for a year.
Kurt did not like the sound of the DeArmond pickups, so he disconnected them and put a Bartolini pickup in the sound hole, so although we see three pickups on his guitar, only one of them was functional.
I feel that this made Martin’s ugliest guitar ever even uglier.

jim Yates
jim Yates
2 months ago
Reply to  jim Yates

The photo at the top of this thread is before the Bartolini was added. You can see the Bartolini in the MTV Unplugged video.

jim Yates
jim Yates
2 months ago

The Harmony Stella that Kurt owned was a budget model from Harmony, with a birch body. Lead Belly did not own a Harmony Stella 12-string.
Lead Belly’s 12-string was a 1920s Stella, made by Oscar Schmidt, with a solid spruce ladder braced top, a much better instrument than the one Kurt owned.
There is one just like Kurt’s for sale on Reverb right now for $158 Canadian.