The Beatles unplugged: a guide to the Fab Four's acoustic arsenal

The Beatles
(Image credit: David Redfern/Redferns)

Most Beatles fans who play guitar obsess over the electric guitars and guitar amps that the band members played through various stages of their career. 

However, with the exception of the Gibson J-160E acoustic-electrics that were seen throughout the entirety of the band’s existence, the acoustic guitars that they played don’t get as much attention, even though they played equally important roles in the acoustic songs they recorded, as well as those where acoustic and electric instruments were blended together.

George Harrison and John Lennon purchased a pair of brand-new Gibson J-160E guitars in 1962, and Lennon replaced his with a new 1964 model after his was stolen. 

Although a J-160E doesn’t have the most stellar acoustic tone (the Beatles used theirs amplified as often as they recorded it acoustically), it managed to provide a good driving rhythm texture behind the band’s electric tones. 

By 1964, the band had greatly expanded their acoustic guitar arsenal, with Lennon having a Ramirez 1A nylon-string classical and Framus Hootenanny 12-string, Harrison also owning a Ramirez classical, and Paul McCartney acquiring an Epiphone Texan FT79. These guitars were immediately put to good use on songs like And I Love Her, Norwegian Wood and Yesterday

In 1968, the Beatles expanded their acoustic collection further, with Lennon and McCartney each obtaining Martin D-28 dreadnoughts (Lennon soon stripped the finish off of his) and Harrison buying a brand-new Gibson J-200. 

These guitars appear on the White Album, with Harrison’s J-200 provided the driving rhythmic backbone to While My Guitar Gently Weeps, and McCartney’s D-28 playing a prominent role on Blackbird and Mother Nature’s Son. Harrison played his J-200 often until the band’s final days, using it to record Here Comes the Sun.

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Chris Gill

Chris is the co-author of Eruption - Conversations with Eddie Van Halen. He is a 40-year music industry veteran who started at Boardwalk Entertainment (Joan Jett, Night Ranger) and Roland US before becoming a guitar journalist in 1991. He has interviewed more than 600 artists, written more than 1,400 product reviews and contributed to Jeff Beck’s Beck 01: Hot Rods and Rock & Roll and Eric Clapton’s Six String Stories.