What kind of pickups did Kurt Cobain use?
DiMarzio PAF and Super Distortion humbuckers
Kurt Cobain's most iconic and recognizable guitar was a 1965 Fender Jaguar that he purchased from a classified ad in 1991. That guitar had a DiMarzio PAF and Super Distortion humbucker, which he continued to use for the remainder of his career.
In 1991 Kurt Cobain was moving towards Fender guitars, particular Japanese models because they had more left-handed options. This led to him acquiring the Fender '65 Jaguar that we saw in so many of his famous performances, including the 1992 Saturday Night Live performance.
That Jaguar had been modified by installing two humbuckers at the bridge and neck position:
- DiMarzio PAF
- DiMarzio Super Distortion
While Cobain used other guitars, these DiMarzio humbuckers are most closely associated with Nirvana's sound.
Compare pickups that Kurt Cobain used
This table lets you compare the pickups mentioned on this page. Note that the comparison tool covers basic specs, audio demos, and live pricing.
DiMarzio Super Distortion
Seymour Duncan Hot Rails
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What about the Fender Mustang?
While there are some pictures of Cobain playing a Fender Mustang, that guitar is actually a combination of a Jaguar and Mustang or a "JagStang." Cobain liked both the Jaguar and the Mustang, so Fender built several hybrids of these guitars.
However, Cobain rarely played the JagStangs before his suicide later that year.
The initial model had a customized DiMarzio OEM humbucker, for the bridge position of the JagStang, that is no longer made. We don't know much about it.
Though DiMarzio mentions that the Evolution Neck is the closest replica of that sound.
Cobain settled on one of the Fender Japan-made Strats, the Standard model, which he then outfitted with a Seymour Duncan Hot Rails single coil at the bridge position. To the best of my knowledge, the other two single coils on that Strat were left unchanged.
Questions and additional resources
One of the best resources for checking out Cobain's guitar gear is kurtsequipment.com. It was put together in cooperation with Earnie Bailey, who was Cobain's guitar tech.
Although the site is very antiquated and somewhat hard to read (really small font), it's the single best resource we can recommend for those wanting to read up on Cobain's guitar rig.
If you have questions about the pickups Cobain used or something else mentioned in this article, reach out in the comments section below.
Thanks for reading and hanging out.
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