The legendary bass playes talks on his favorite guitars and different sounds he got out for Beatles’ songs.
On getting his first guitar, as told to Guitar Player (1990):
I bought a right-handed guitar, a Zenith, an old acoustic which I’ve still got. I sat down at home with a little chord book and started trying to work it out. It didn’t feel good at all … very awkward. It was only when I saw a picture of Slim Whitman in a magazine, holding his guitar the “wrong” way, that I thought, “Oh, he must have turned his strings around.” So I started on that problem, which is always the nut. I used to actually take matchsticks and build up the bass nut. It was only later that I was able to buy a left-handed guitar.
So I had to learn upside down. It’s funny: John learned upside down, too, because of me-because mine was the only other guitar around for him, if he broke a string or didn’t have his. That’s more unusual; left-handed guys can nearly always play a straight guitar.
When I came to play guitar, I bought a right-handed guitar, a Zenith, an old acoustic which I’ve still got. I sat down at home with a little chord book and started trying to work it out. It didn’t feel good at all; it felt very awkward. It felt very awkward. It felt nothing natural about it. It was only when I saw a picture of Slim Whitman in a magazine, and I saw he was left-handed and was holding it all the “wrong” way, that I thought, “Oh, he must have turned his strings around, then.”
Point the mouse to picture to know guita type
(pictures from equipboard.com)
So I started on that problem, which is always the nut: I could never change the nut. I had the strings changed around, but the thick bass string never fit in the little first-string slot in the nut. So I had to gouge that out, which I could do reasonably successfully. But then I always had my little thin string in this whacking great cavern of a hole originally cut for the bass string. So I used to actually take matchsticks and build up the bass nut that way. It was only later that I was able to buy a left-handed guitar. (gibson.com)
The Rickenbacker was very nice. They were right: It recorded better. it had sort of a fatter neck, and it was much more stable-didn’t go out of tune as easily. Also, it stayed in tune right up the neck; the Hofner had problems when you got right up near the top. (maccacentral.com)
I like “Taxman” just because of what it was. I was very inspired by Jimi Hendrix. It was really my first voyage into feedback. It was just before George was into that. In fact, I don’t really think George got too heavily into that kind of thing. George was generally a little more restrained in his guitar playing. He wasn’t into heavy feedback.
On his love of the Epiphone Casino
I got that while I was with The Beatles, basically because I love Hendrix. I went into [a guitar shop]and said to the guy that I wanted something that would really feedback, and he said, “Well, this one will.” It had a hollow body and that was the reason I got it originally. I used it for the “Taxman” solo and for “Paperback Writer” because … through a Vox amp, it just gave a nice little dirty noise. I use that on stage now.
The Hofner (violin bass) I played, it was kind of symmetrical and looked good upside down, but I liked that it was also a well-priced thing. I think I saw the Epiphone the same way: they were never really top-of-the-line, but my dad had ingrained in me a certain way of thinking, and I don’t think I’ve ever lost that.”
A lot of people think I can do proper fingerstyle, but when you see me up close, you realise I can’t. John and I wanted to learn the formal style of fingerpicking, but I never got around to it. He did, and he used it on Julia and some other things. “I never really got into it, but I love the sound so much, so I just figured out my own way of doing it: that’s really how I learned every instrument I play. On things like Yesterday and Blackbird I just hit the bass string and sort of flick the high strings.” (musicradar)
I got a nice tone on my bass pickup on that guitar. I had it on the bass pickup through a distortion unit. It sounds really good, like an Isley Brothers thing. It gets that lovely sort of fuzz sustain. So I guess I think of myself as a guitar player, really. Mainly acoustic-that’s my main instrument, I suppose. If I couldn’t have any other instrument, I would have to have an acoustic guitar. I always take one on holiday, and most times I have one in the dressing room.