The 10 Coolest Guitars

Originally published in Guitar World, September 2010

All guitars are cool in their own way, but a handful of guitars simply
make us weak in the knees every time we see and play them. To us, the following guitars are perfect 10s—they look incredible, sound amazing, play like a dream and get our mojo working.

1. B.C. Rich Mockingbird

With just the right blend of pointy edges and sexy curves, the B.C. Rich Mockingbird manages to look classy and dangerous at the same time. Players like Joe Perry, Rick Derringer and Elliot Easton made the Mockingbird a serious object of many guitarists’ lust during the Seventies, and that feeling never subsided as Slash, Kerry King and Chuck Schuldiner flipped their own Birds during the Eighties. While the Mockingbird may not sound like every guitar under the sun (as its name suggests), this Bird truly sings.

2. Dyer Style 8 Symphony Harp Guitar

Most acoustic guitars look pretty much the same, but a Dyer harp guitar—with six sympathetic bass strings and an elongated resonant chamber that extends all the way above the six-string neck—is truly unique. The chamber, sympathetic strings and second sound hole give the guitar huge, lively tone that projects to the player as well as the audience and sounds like an expensive studio reverb unit. The ornate Style 8 version sounds as majestic as it looks, and playing one is pure acoustic nirvana.

3. Fender Stratocaster

The Strat has remained the world’s most popular guitar for the past five decades, not only because it’s extremely versatile, sounds great and has a whammy bar that actually works but also because it still looks as fresh and futuristic today as it did in 1954. Sure, everybody and his mother has played a Strat at some point, but when a single guitar model can produce the rainbow of tones we’ve heard from Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Johnson and numerous others, suffice to say its potential still hasn’t been fully tapped.

4. Gibson EDS-1275 Double Neck

What’s better than a Gibson SG? How about two of them spliced together with six- and 12-string necks? While the extremely heavy Gibson EDS-1275 double-neck may be as popular with chiropractors as it is with adventurous guitarists like Jimmy Page, Alex Lifeson and Claudio Sanchez, its glorious ringing tones—especially when both necks are engaged and the 12-string neck resonates sympathetically as you play the six-string neck—are worth the weight. Changing all 18 strings may be a bitch, but hey, that’s what roadies are for.

5. Gibson Explorer

With a body shape that looks like a lightning bolt, the Gibson Explorer (and its various knockoffs by Hamer, ESP and others) simply looks like the ultimate metal guitar. Thanks to the extra body mass behind the bridge and its extended lower bass bout, the Explorer also sounds like the ultimate metal guitar, delivering exceptional low-end chunk and meaty midrange that makes most other guitars sound tiny and tinny. Even the nerdiest-looking player becomes an instant rock god when he straps on an Explorer. Just ask Rick Nielsen.

6. Gibson Les Paul TV Model

Guitar collectors may view the late-Fifties Les Paul Standard with its cherry sunburst finish and flame maple top as being like the girl you want to marry, but a Fifties Les Paul TV Model is more like the sleazy slut that satisfies your most primal needs and animal instincts. With its single P90 pickup, fat baseball bat neck and basic two-tone design motif, the TV Model is a reliable, no-frills tool that gets the job done faster than you can say, “Wham, bam, thank you ma’am!”

7. Gretsch White Falcon

The Gretsch White Falcon is the guitar equivalent of the Cadillac Eldorado. Big, luxurious and pimped out to the max, the White Falcon is the kind of guitar you want to play when you want to show off your wealth and taste. Fortunately, the White Falcon sounds as good as it looks. Although most guitarists associate it with country and rockabilly on the basis of its styling, it’s also a wicked hard rock rhythm guitar that’s often been the secret weapon of players like Malcolm Young and Billy Duffy.

8. Ibanez Iceman

When Japanese guitar companies got tired of getting sued for copying classic American designs, Ibanez decided to make its own models to prove it had a few good design ideas of its own. The appropriately named Iceman model is cooler than frozen carbon dioxide, with plenty of sharp angles and a penile-looking treble-side cutaway horn that always impresses the ladies. Briefly discontinued in the Eighties, the Iceman has been going strong ever since Ibanez revived the model in the mid Nineties, allowing new generations of players to experience its frosty tones.

9. Jackson King V

The original Gibson Flying V looked pretty cool and futuristic when it came out in the late Fifties, but the Jackson King V with its slimmer and sharper lines offers 21st century styling that makes a vintage V look somewhat quaint and frumpy. The hockey-stick headstock and shark-fin inlays are metal-approved visual upgrades, but the availability of a Floyd Rose tremolo seals the deal for shred appeal. Dave Mustaine helped make the King V one of Jackson’s best-selling models ever.

10. Trussart Steelcaster

How can you make the Telecaster cooler than it already is? How about making it with a hollow body made of rusty metal that looks like it came from a Detroit scrapyard? The Trussart Steelcaster not only improves the Tele’s look but also enhances its sound, giving it added honk and bite similar to a vintage National tricone. If rusty metal ain’t your speed, you can also order the Steelcaster with the warm patina of antique copper or silver, the sheen of nickel or gold, or numerous other finish options and colors.

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