FZ Guitars

 

Guitars

FZ, interviewed by Tom Mulhern, Guitar Player, February, 1983

Do you collect guitars?

I don't go out and buy all the guitars all over the place. I'm not one of those kinds of guys. I do have a lot of guitars, but I don't know how I have accumulated them. I've got about 25 guitars. They just keep piling up.

FZ, interviewed by Steve Rosen, Record Review, June, 1982

Was there a particular guitar you used for the first years of the Mothers?
Yeah, it was an ES-5 Switchmaster. I used that on the Freak Out! album, Absolutely Free, We're Only In It For The Money, and up through Reuben & The Jets. I liked it. I had a gold-top Les Paul but my first guitar was a Telecaster and then I switched to a Jazzmaster and after the Jazzmaster got repossessed I bought this hollow body (ES-5). I got the Les Paul because the hollow body was feeding back too much—we started working bigger and bigger places. The more the volume goes up the more feedback you get and I didn't want to stuff it full of styrofoam in order to keep it from feeding back and so I switched to a Les Paul and somebody stole that. Then I got a real nice second-hand SG and played that from Apostrophe (') through Bongo Fury. About the time of Bongo Fury I switched over to an SG that this guy in Phoenix made. It was an SG copy and it had an extra fret on it and it went up to an E-flat. I started playing that for a few years and then I got another Les Paul and I've played Stratocasters on and off. Over the years I've switched between a Strat and those other instruments. On this last tour I started playing the Strat and ended up playing the Les Paul.

 

The First Guitar—Arch-Top F-Hole Acoustic

FZ, interviewed by Bill Milkowski, Down Beat, February, 1983

[My brother Bobby] bought this old guitar for $1.50 at an auction, and he never played it, so I just picked it up and started messing around with it. [...] I didn't know any chords; I just started playing the blues . . . period. That's all I wanted to play. I hated jazz and didn't care about anything else then. The guitar I had wasn't electric—just an arch-top, f-hole, unknown-brand guitar with the strings way above the fingerboard. I didn't know about technique or anything, I just had to teach myself what to do with it. It was all by ear.

8404 Kirkwood Photo Session, 1966

Kirkwood

 

Supro Dual Tone—(Borrowed?)

1958 Antelope Valley High School Book

1958 Year Book -- 1960 Supro Dual Tone

1960 Supro Dual Tone, manufactured by Valco

Supro Dual Tone

 

The 1st Electric Guitar—Rented Fender Telecaster

FZ, interviewed by Bill Milkowski, Down Beat, February, 1983

I started off with a [Fender] Telecaster, which I rented from a music store.

The Boogie Men, May, 1961

The Boogie Men
[Al Surratt, drums; FZ, white Fender Telecaster; Doug Rost, guitar; Kenny Burgan, tenor sax]

The Ramblers?, c. 1961

Ramblers1961
[Probably: Doug Rost, guitar; Al Surratt, drums; Kenny Burgan, sax; FZ, white Fender Telecaster; Joe Perrino]

 

The 2nd Electric Guitar—Fender Jazzmaster

FZ, interviewed by Bill Milkowski, Down Beat, February, 1983

After [the Telecaster] I bought a [Fender] Jazzmaster, which I used for about a year-and-a-half while playing lounge gigs at places like Tommy Sandy's Club Sahara in San Bernadino. That guitar got repossessed.

The Blackouts, c. 1961-1962

FZ
[FZ, Fender Jazzmaster]

Joe Perrino & The Mellotones, c. 1961-1962

Joe Perrino & The Mellotones
[FZ, Fender Jazzmaster; Mike Dineri, tenor sax; Joe Perrino, bass; Tommy Hernandez, drums]

 

The 3rd Electric Guitar—Gibson ES-5 Switchmaster

FZ, interviewed by Steve Rosen, Guitar Player, January, 1977

I got a chance to write some music for a movie and actually earned something doing that. With the money I got from the film job I bought a Gibson ES-5 Switchmaster, which I used for about five years. I recorded the first three albums with that guitar. [...] It was called Run Home Slow.

FZ, interviewed by Paul Colbert, Musicians Only, January 26, 1980

The first guitar I owned was an ES5 Switchmaster which is a big fat jazz guitar and I had that spiffed up. It's got a Barcus Berry on the bridge and one of those Seismic Sensors on the pole-piece and three pickups in it and a quad output. It's got its own power supply to run everything—it's better than changing batteries.

Del Casher, interviewed by Willie G. Moseley, Vintage Guitar Magazine, January-February, 1997

To me, Frank was one of the most exciting musicians I've known, because he went beyond being a musician. When I first met him, he said he was interested in playing guitar, and asked me what was the most expensive guitar, and I told him that the most expensive one was a Gibson ES-5, like the one I had, so he went out and bought one.

FZ, interviewed by Bill Milkowski, Down Beat, February, 1983

[The Fender Jazzmaster] got repossessed, but then I made some money by writing music for a film, so I went out and bough a Gibson ES-5 Switchmaster, one of those big fat hollow-body jobs with three pickups on it. I used to really like that guitar; it had a nice neck on it, but there was a real problem with uncontrollable feedback whenever I needed more amplification for larger halls. That's common for hollow-bodies.

FZ, interviewed by Tom Mulhern, Guitar Player, July, 1983

When I first started playing, I had a hollowbody Gibson ES-5 Switchmaster. They really feed back. I always liked the sound of that guitar, but when we started working larger halls, and the feedback problem got to be bad, people said, "Stuff it with foam and it won't feed back." But I didn't want to destroy the sound of the guitar, so that's when I switched over to a solidbody instrument.

Robert Carl Cohen, "Frank Zappa & Mothers Of Invention," Mondo Hollywood Gallery, 1999

Mondo Hollywood
[c. Summer-Autumn, 1965]

The Mothers, Whisky á-Go-Go, c. November, 1965

The Mothers
[Ray Collins, vocals; FZ, Gibson ES-5 Switchmaster; Roy Estrada, bass]

Richard Avedon session, 1966

FZ & Claudia Cardinale
[Claudia Cardinale; FZ, Gibson ES-5 Switchmaster]

The Mothers & Claudia Cardinale
[Carl Franzoni; Claudia Cardinale; Elliot Ingber, Danelectro Bellzouki; FZ, Gibson ES-5 Switchmaster]

8404 Kirkwood Session, 1966

Il Borghese
[unidentified hand with Danelectro Bellzouki; Elliot Ingber, Gibson ES-5 Switchmaster; FZ, Rickenbacker 450; Claudia Salter; JCB; unidentified girl #3; old f-hole acoustic (on the wall); Carl Franzoni, unidentified guitar; Roy Estrada]

EFE
[Elliot Ingber, Gibson ES-5 Switchmaster; Claudia Salter; unidentified girl #1; FZ, Rickenbacker 450; JCB; unidentified girl #3]

Anthony Binsacca, January 11, 2019

I just wanted to identify the guitar that [was formerly] listed as "unidentified guitar" It is definitely a Rickenbacker 450 in mapleglow.

Ike Willis, interviewed by Gary Titone, Privacy #24, Winter 1997/1998

When we started touring he had me playing that big L5 switchmaster. The BIG SUCKER.

Ike Willis, interviewed by AJ Abrams, Jam Bands, March, 2000

I also played [...] his L5 Switchmaster.

"In The Studio With . . . Dweezil Zappa," Guitar World, December, 2008

Guitar World 2008

 

The 4th Electric Guitar—Les Paul Goldtop

FZ, interviewed by Steve Rosen, Guitar Player, January, 1977

After the Switchmaster I got a Les Paul gold-top and used that for a couple of albums.

FZ, interviewed by Bill Milkowski, Down Beat, February, 1983

So [after the Gibson ES-5 Switchmaster] I switched to a solid body, a Les Paul gold-top, which I used for a couple of albums.

August 31, 1968—The Catacombs, Houston, TX

RockinHouston.com

MOI
[JCB, FZ]

 

Hendrix Strat

Barry Hansen, "The Grand Design Of Which Apostrophe Is But An Element," Circular, April 29, 1974

Zappa takes great pains to preserve as much of the continuity as he can, recording all his performances in quadraphonic sound, and filming them whenever possible. Though the walls of Zappa's workroom are covered with remarkable artworks and artifacts (including the remains of the guitar Jimi Hendrix burned at the Monterey Pop Festival), the most prominent features of the place (aside from the equipment) are five-foot stacks of tapes and huge racks of movie film.

FZ, interviewed by Steve Rosen, Guitar Player, January, 1977

Another one of my Strats is the one Hendrix burned at the Miami Pop Festival; it was given to me by this guy who used to be his roadie. I had it hanging on the wall in my basement for years until last year when I gave it to Rex and said, "Put this sucker back together," because it was all tore up. The neck was cracked off, the body was all fired, and the pickups were blistered and bubbled. That's the one that's got the Barcus-Berry in the neck. A lot of people thought I had Hendrix's guitar from Monterey, but it was from Miami; the one at Monterey was white and this one is sunburst.

[...] I don't even have a vibrato arm on the Hendrix Strat. You can hear it on Zoot Allures.

FZ, interviewed by Steve Rosen, Record Review, June, 1982

What you have to do is match resonances of the instrument to the type of pickup that's on there and it takes some experimenting around to get the sound you want to hear. For instance, on my Hendrix Strat I have a Dan Armstrong in the front position, I have a Seymour Duncan Strat pickup in the middle position, and a Carvin in the rear position. On another blond Strat there's an EMG, a Carvin, and a Dan Armstrong, and on my Les Paul I have a Carvin and a Dan Armstrong. And on my SG I have a DiMarzio and an EMG. The EMG is wired up in a way they were never intended to be used; normally they're a real clean, clear pickup but if you hook them up the wrong way . . .

FZ, interviewed by Tom Mulhern, Guitar Player, February, 1983

Do you have top five favorites?

[...] And the Hendrix Strat, which has a special size neck on it. It's an SG-size neck. It does certain things that other guitars won't do. The width and depth of the neck is different from that of a Strat, so you can do all kinds of things that just don't feel right on another guitar.

Ike Willis, interviewed by AJ Abrams, Jam Bands, March, 2000

I played a burned up Strat that Jimi had set fire to in Miami. That guitar was once on the cover of Guitar Player magazine. I also played Hendrix' Fender Jaguar on tour and his L5 Switchmaster. One guy that Frank loved was Jimi and Frank was nice enough to let me dig into some of that magic. My first year and half I used nothing but Hendrix guitars, which was wonderful.

Ike Willis, interviewed by Gary Titone, Privacy #24, Winter 1997/1998

What Frank did was he gave me all the guitars that Hendrix used to use when they use to jam together. When Frank was based in NY and he was playing all those shows at The Garrick Theatre. [...] At first it was the L5 Switchmaster. The Hendrix Strat and then a blue Fender Jaguar that he used to jam on too. So on my first tour I was playing on nothing but Hendrix guitars.

Dweezil Zappa, "Like Father, Like Munchkins," Zappa! 1992, p. 20

I found a Jimi Hendrix guitar not even in a case, with Anvil cases sitting on top of it and collecting dust under the stairs down under the studio. It looked like somebody raped it and left it to die. I told Frank I'd like to rebuild it. He said, "You can have it." I said, "Yeah!" So I had it rebuilt, and the guitar was reborn. It's like the third generation now: Jimi's, then Frank's, then mine.

"In The Studio With . . . Dweezil Zappa," Guitar World, December, 2008

Guitar World 2008

Ed Mann, alt.fan.frank-zappa, May 1, 2002

After my audition to join Frank's band we were standing around and he asked if I had any questions—I said, "Yeh—can I hold that guitar for a minute?"

In 1978 [September 15] We played Miami—and it was the first time I had ever seen FZ bring that guitar out for a show—before that he had been playing the imitation SG—anyway—that nite was amazing—especially for what was coming out of the guitar—long, beautiful sustained feedback—textures, etc—very unlike Frank at that time—or any time—it wasn;t particularly aggressive—but it was strong and different. Frank never brought it out again for the who tour. I think Jimi was glad to see it.

Caesar Glebbeek, "Gear Special: Strat Burning Down . . .," UniVibes #27, December, 1997

It was also here in Florida that Frank Zappa obtained the remains of not one but two Hendrix Stratocaster guitars.

[...] Frank Zappa mentioned his so-called Hendrix Strat: "Another one of my Strats is the one Hendrix burned at the Miami Pop Festival; it was given to me by this guy who used to be his roadie. I had it hanging on the wall in my basement for years until last year when I gave it to Rex [Bogue] and said, 'Put this sucker back together,' because it was all tore up. The neck was cracked off, the body was all fired, and the pickups were blistered and bubbled. [...] A lot of people thought I had Hendrix' guitar from Monterey, but it was from Miami; the one at Monterey was white, and this one is sunburst . . . [...]" (Guitar Player, January 1977, p. 25).

[...] Hendrix researcher Michael Fairchild [...] put forth an interesting theory in his article 'The Ultimate Hendrix Gear Guide/Part 2' for Guitar Shop magazine (issue #4, Winter 1995, p. 60): that the burned Hendrix Strat owned by Frank Zappa "must be" the Strat Jimi burned at "The Astoria" in London, back on 31 March 1967, since Jimi didn't burn any guitar at the pop festival in Hallandale, Florida, on 18 May 1968. [...]

UniVibes subscriber Doug Anderson recently informed me about a meeting which took place in his amplifier repair shop, the "Tone Zone" in Los Angeles, with guitarist Dweezil Zappa, son of Frank Zappa: "Dweezil came to my shop in April 1997 with his father's so-called burned Hendrix Strat. Dweezil told me that he thought that a Hendrix roadie gave his father the burned Strat plus another Strat neck at the same time at the 'Miami Pop Festival' in May 1968. The roadie just threw the neck in because it might be repairable."

So now we have one burned Strat body; plus two Strat necks—the burned Strat neck which originally belonged to the burned Strat, and a second Strat neck, which nowadays in is a bad (rotten) state.

[...] The burned "Astoria" neck is currently owned by guitarist Bobby Robles from Los Angeles. Robles was a friend and client of the late Rex Bogue, who passed away in February 1996.

[...] The rotted Strat neck was discovered in mid 1996 by Dweezil Zappa, when he found it stored in an open plastic bag under the outside stairs of his father's garage in Los Angeles. The neck had received a lot of moisture over the years and had started to rot away. Shortly afterwards, Dweezil had one of his custom Iceman guitars painted by Dan Lawrence. Dweezil was so pleased with his work that he made a gift to Dan—a rotted Strat neck, which once belonged to Jimi Hendrix.

UniVibes #56, April, 2008

The burned Astoria [London, March 31, 1967] Strat remains ended up with roadie Howard Parker (a.k.a. "H"), who later (sometime in 1968) gave it to Frank Zappa. After "H" was fired by the JHE management he worked for Zappa as roadie until sometime in 1969 (he then returned to the UK). "H" can be seen on stage with Jimi Hendrix at the Isle of Wight show, 30 August 1970. "H" died at sea in 1974 and his body was never found . . .

 

Hendrix Jaguar

Ike Willis, interviewed by AJ Abrams, Jam Bands, March, 2000

I also played Hendrix' Fender Jaguar on tour [...]. One guy that Frank loved was Jimi and Frank was nice enough to let me dig into some of that magic. My first year and half I used nothing but Hendrix guitars, which was wonderful.

Ike Willis, interviewed by Gary Titone, Privacy #24, Winter 1997/1998

What Frank did was he gave me all the guitars that Hendrix used to use when they use to jam together. When Frank was based in NY and he was playing all those shows at The Garrick Theatre. [...] At first it was the L5 Switchmaster. The Hendrix Strat and then a blue Fender Jaguar that he used to jam on too. So on my first tour I was playing on nothing but Hendrix guitars.

 

Acoustic Black Widow

FZ with Acoustic Black Widow, Laurel Canyon, c. 1969

Bob Coronato, December 20, 2018

Frank had a Acoustic brand electric black widow guitar purchased in 1969 He used it on two tracks to record shut up and play yer guitar, plus there are photos of him with the guitar in 1969 in laurel canyon, as well as Lowell george playing it on stage in early mothers era. Frank kept it his whole life. Frank talks about it in several interviews. he had two a fretted and a fret less black widow made by acoustic.

FZ, Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar (1981), liner notes

1. 4. While You Were Out
[...]
Guitar Used: Acoustic Black Widow with EMG pick-ups direct into recording console

3. 5. Stucco Homes
[...]
Guitar Used: Acoustic Black Widow with EMG pick-ups direct into recording console

April 12, 1969—Community Concourse, San Diego, CA

Al Fresco, Zappateers, November 19, 2016

Find more pictures of Lowell George with the Acoustic Black Widow from the gig that The Mothers performed at Community Concourse-San Diego-CA, and dated on April 12, 1969:

MOI, San Diego, 1969
[FZ, Gibson Les Paul Goldtop; Art Tripp, drums; Lowell George, Acoustic Black Widow; Roy Estrada, bass.]

 

1970—Gibson SG

FZ, interviewed by Bill Milkowski, Down Beat, February, 1983

And eventually I got a Gibson SG.

FZ, interviewed by Philip Bashe, International Musician And Recording World, June 1985

I got my first SG in 1970, after hearing one for the first time at a party on the Riviera. Before that, I was playing a Gibson LS-5. When I got back to L.A., I went down to the guitar shop and picked out a secondhand SG, which I used until about 1975.

 

Martin

Darrin Fox, "Frank Zappa: Inside The Guitars And Amps Of His Greatest Recordings," Guitar Player, October 6, 2015

Martin's Dick Boak helped us identify this guitar, which is a D-18S 12-fret "standard" Dreadnought with a slotted headstock; Brazilian rosewood fretboard, headplate, and bridge; and mahogany back and sides. It was used on the 1974 recording of "Sleep Dirt" and the tune "Blessed Relief" from The Grand Wazoo. Zappa traded a Telecaster to get the Martin from its owner, Mark Volman (a.k.a "Flo") from Zappa's early Seventies Flo and Eddie lineup.

 

Fretless Acoustic

FZ, interviewed by Steve Rosen, Guitar Player, January, 1977

Do you ever play slide guitar?

No, but I do have a fretless guitar, and I'm pretty good on that. At one time Acoustic manufactured a fretless guitar, they made a prototype and tried to interest people in it, but nobody wanted it. So the prototype ended up at Guitar Center. I walked in there one day and asked them if they had anything new, and they said, "Have we got one for you!" And they brought out this thing, and it was really neat, so I bought it for $75. The only restriction was they had to take a chisel and some black paint and scratch off the word "Acoustic" on the headpiece, because Acoustic didn't want anybody to know that they had made such a grievous error as to make a fretless guitar. I've put a Barcus-Berry on that, too, and I send the magnetic pickup to the left and the Barcus on the right. The thing that sounds like a slide guitar on "The Torture Never Stops" is actually a fretless. It's also on "San Ber'dino" and "Can't Afford No Shoes" [both from One Size Fits All]. It's different than a regular guitar; you don't push the strings to bend them, you move them back and forth like violin-type vibrato, which is a funny movement to get used to. But you can play barre chords on it—it's fun.

Dan Forte, "Pop Music's Central Scrutinizer," M.I., November, 1979

M.I.: What will be your main guitar the next time you're on tour?

Zappa: It's probably going to be a toss-up between the Les Paul and maybe an Acoustic Black Widow that I had souped up. It's got a 24-fret rosewood neck, and I had two EMG pickups put in it, and new fret work by Carruthers.

The Guitar World According To Frank Zappa (1987) liner notes by FZ

FRIENDLY LITTLE FINGER
1975
recorded in a dressing room at Hofstra University and over-dubbed at the Record Plant, Los Angeles, California
[...]
guitars: Gibson acoustic-electric, Custom fretless, Hofner bass

[...]

DOWN IN DE DEW
1975
recorded at Paramount Studios, Hollywood, California
[...]
guitars: Gibson acoustic-electric. Custom fretless. Hofner bass
[...] This selection was an out-take from the "APOSTROPHE" album. Another example of fretless guitar soloing can be heard on the song 'San Ber'dino' in the "ONE SIZE FITS ALL" album. Unfortunately, the fretless guitar was stolen several years ago.

 

1975—Custom SG

FZ, interviewed by Philip Bashe, International Musician And Recording World, June 1985

[In May, 1975] a guy showed up at a concert in Phoenix with a homemade version of an SG, with a 23-fret neck, special inlays and stuff. I bought that from him and started using it shortly thereafter.

Tony Bacon, "Zappa," International Musician, March, 1977

At the [London, February, 1977] gig I saw Frank was playing an SG-shaped instrument—was it an SG?

"It's not really an SG, it's a homemade guitar. I bought it from a kid in Arizona, he brought it around after a show, about four or five years ago."

There was an SG pictured on the cover of his live "Roxy and Elsewhere" album, was it the same guitar?

"No. That is an SG, but a different one. Both of them have shaved necks, but the Roxy cover one is my favourite, but there are some problems with that; the neck's been shaved so much that it's hard to keep it in tune, it flaps around like a piece of cardboard. This SG that I was playing here has one extra fret, going up higher than a normal SG, so it means that all the rest of the fret scaling is a little bit tighter. But it's got an ebony fingerboard, which I find nicer. I bought the other SG (the Roxy cover one) second-hand, and it 's really good. The frets were all beat up on it, it was broken in just right.

"Both the guitars I'm using now have 12-volt bi-polar pre-amps, and plus or minus 20dB volume and tone controls as well as different ranges for the EQ's—like the treble control's got a switch selector which gives you one of two ranges, the bass has a similar range selector, and there's a pick-up splitter switch that'll change it from humbucking to a single-coil, along with a phasing switch on it that gives you some really whistling harmonics."

As well as the SG's, Frank has a stack of other guitars, including three Strats.

"Each one of the Strats is wired differently," explained Frank, "one of them, for example, has a Barcus Berry at the end of the neck, which means that if I hammer notes on the neck, it's picked up as part of the picking sound. It also has a special pick-up that was made by Rex Bogue—he was the guy that made that double-necked monstrosity for McLaughlin—he does most of the work on my guitars. I also have Martin, Guild and Gibson acoustics, I've got a bouzouki and a sitar, and two Acoustic Black Widows, made by the Acoustic Control Corporation, one of which has a special pick-up shaped like loops for the strings to go under, similar to what they use on the Condor. I've also got a Hofner bass, a Rickenbacker 12-string and a Fender 12-string, both of which are a little tweezed, and I have a Gibson Switchmaster."

FZ, interviewed by Tom Mulhern, Guitar Player, February, 1983

Do you have top five favorites?

[...] The fifth guitar would be the SG copy that I got from this guy in Phoenix, Arizona. It says "Gibson" on it, but it's handmade, and it's got an ebony fretboard with 23 frets on it; it goes one fret higher than a normal SG. I play that a lot.

"In The Studio With . . . Dweezil Zappa," Guitar World, December, 2008

Guitar World 2008

Darrin Fox, "Frank Zappa: Inside The Guitars And Amps Of His Greatest Recordings," Guitar Player, October 6, 2015

The "Baby Snakes" SG was Zappa's main guitar for the latter part of the Seventies. The guitar is not actually a Gibson but rather the creation of "a guy in Phoenix," who made his way backstage and sold the guitar to Zappa for $500.

 

Gibson Les Paul

FZ, interviewed by Tom Mulhern, Guitar Player, February, 1983

Do you have top five favorites?

I've got the Les Paul that I use. It was a brand new guitar when I bought it. It's not a vintage thing. It was a very well made production-line Gibson Les Paul right off the rack.

You didn't go to the Gibson factory and have them custom-build one to your specifications?

You know, considering how long I've been playing Gibson guitars, I've never spoken to or heard from anyone connected with that company. There's no factory connection with Gibson whatsoever.

"In The Studio With . . . Dweezil Zappa," Guitar World, December, 2008

Guitar World 2008

Darrin Fox, "Frank Zappa: Inside The Guitars And Amps Of His Greatest Recordings," Guitar Player, October 6, 2015

Pictured on the Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar cover [...], this Les Paul Custom is loaded with Seymour Duncan humbuckers and has been outfitted with a Dan Armstrong Green Ringer circuit (which was installed in the control cavity) and an XLR output jack. An extra knob located in the midst of the stock controls is a nine-position rotary switch that allows for single-coil/humbucker and out-of-phase options. The mini-toggle switch selects between series and parallel operation.

 

Custom Stratocaster

Philip Bashe, "The Art Of Being Frank," International Musician And Recording World, June 1985

Since 1982, Frank Zappa has been playing a Fender Stratocaster customized by Performance Guitars of Los Angeles. Neither Zappa nor Performance's Bob McDonald can pinpoint the year of the alder body, though McDonald estimates it's from the 1960s. "The neck is one of ours," he says, "very thin with a flat back and a very flat maple fingerboard. We've made about four or five Strat and Telly necks for Frank and Dweezil; he swaps parts like crazy."

The guitar has been fitted with a Floyd Rose tremolo, a built-in parametric EQ and three Seymour Duncan humbucking bar-magnet pickups. Strings are Ernie Ball stainless-steel; picks are either stainless-steel or copper.

FZ, interviewed by Tom Mulhern, Guitar Player, February, 1983

Do you have top five favorites?

[...] I also have Stratocaster with a Floyd Rose installed on it. It was the guitar that I used the most on the last European tour.

FZ, interviewed in 1988 by Alan di Perna, Guitar World, December, 2003

GW Most of the Guitar album was done on a custom Strat, according to the liner notes. What did that consist of?

ZAPPA The only thing that is "Strat" about this Strat is the shape of the body. I think that the original body was a heavy Fender Stratocaster body. And I had a neck custom made for it at [Hollywood custom shop] Performance Guitar, and it has custom electronics in it and Seymour Duncan pickups.

GW What kind of electronics are involved?

ZAPPA It was a circuit that was designed right here in the Utility Muffin Research Kitchen. It's got a gain stage and two parametric EQ circuits built into it. It's set up so that you can have either EQ or gain, or gain plus both of these concentric [EQ] pots. The pots give you variable frequency selection and variable boost and cut at the different frequencies. And then there's a screwdriver adjustment for the Q [resonance point] of the filter—how peaky it will be. This allows you to tune right into the feedback point of the room. You can find out where it's going to squeal, locate it and then that's it.

GW Hence, a lot of that really controlled feedback in your soloing.

ZAPPA Exactly.

GW Are the pickups just stock Seymour Duncan Strat pickups?

ZAPPA Seymour has wrapped some special pickups for me from time to time. I believe that what live in that Strat now are pickups that have an 8k boost.

 

Fender Telecaster

FZ, interviewed by Tom Mulhern, Guitar Player, February, 1983

Do you have top five favorites?

[...] I also have a Telecaster—one of the copies of the originals that Fender put out about a year ago. It's a real good blues guitar.

 

c. 1978—Coral Electric Sitar

FZ, interviewed by Dan Forte, M.I., November, 1979

I got that Coral electric sitar that's used throughout Joe's Garage—actually, Denny Walley found it for me.

 

c. 1978—Vox Guitar

FZ, interviewed by Dan Forte, M.I., November, 1979

I got one real nice guitar in England; it's just a neck built onto a Vox wah-wah pedal for a body. It sounds beautiful. Warren's playing it now.

 

c. 1978—Blue Fender Jazzmaster

FZ, interviewed by Dan Forte, M.I., November, 1979

Before the last tour I got a metallic blue Fender Jazzmaster.

 

D'Mini Guitars

FZ, interviewed by Tom Mulhern, Guitar Player, February, 1983

Is the weight factor behind your choice of small guitars?

Yes, I have three of them, and I don't wear them; I play them. I have one Strat and two baby Les Pauls. They were made by D'Mini. [Ed. Note: These models are called the Les Paule and the Strate by their manufacturer, Phased Systems.] The D'Mini Strat that I have is unbelievable; you can't believe the noises that come out of that thing. It's ridiculous, I'm having a special one made with a little bit deeper body on it so that I can have a locking vibrato put on.

How are those guitars tuned?

The little Les Pauls are tuned up to A, and the Strat is tuned to F#. The relationship between the strings is the same as on a standard guitar.

Are special strings used on those guitars?

On the little Strat I use Gold Maxima strings. On the little Les Pauls, I use Black maximas, which are Teflon-coated. They don't make them anymore, but I had a lot of them lying around. The upper unwound strings are platinum-plated.

What modifications have you had done to your D'Mini Strate?

The neck and body are stock, and it has Seymour Duncan pickups, and a built-in parametric equalizer with variable "Q" [resonance]; that's the one with the concentric knobs. It was custom-designed here at the Utility Muffin Research Kitchen [Zappa's studio/workshop]. There's a volume control and a silver plug that takes the place of another parametric that failed when I was out on the road. It has a 3-way selector, and the toggle switch used to be for switching between the two parametrics. By having two parametrics, I was able to preset two different types of feedback boost. The circuit boards were worked on by Midget Sloatman and Eddie Clothier. David Robb, who was the guitar tech on the last tour, also did some work on it.

 

Performance

Darrin Fox, "Frank Zappa: Inside The Guitars And Amps Of His Greatest Recordings," Guitar Player, October 6, 2015

Used on Frank's last tour, in 1988, this custom-made Performance solidbody sports concentric knobs along with tiny screwdriver-adjustable trimpots to accommodate the tone tweaking Zappa was so fond of.

"The trimpots are identical parametric filter circuits," Zappa's tech, Midget Sloatman, told GP in 1995. "One trimpot is dedicated to bass frequencies from about 50Hz to 2kHz, and the other one affects the top-end frequencies from about 500Hz up to 20kHz. The filters also featured a variable resonant frequency [or 'Q'] knob that allowed Frank to control the feedback characteristics of his rig in any hall. He could basically tune his guitar to the room, determine how the room responded to the amplifier, and then use the Q control to elicit the feedback he wanted.

"Frank also used the active filters to emphasize the highs in the 4k-to-8k range in order to bring out the nuances of the strings. He wanted to really hear what his fingers were doing, even if he wasn't picking every note."

 

Tours

1974 Spring Tour

FZ, quoted by Ed Baker, The Hot Flash, May, 1974

I think the [Mu-Tron] is a good box. And I just bought a Morley rotating sound pedal. Have you seen that? It's pretty interesting. It's like a . . . You've seen the Morley wah-wah pedal? It's not battery-operated, you plug it into the wall. It's chrome, it's about this long, about that wide. It's got a real big pedal on it. Well, the rotating sound box is about that long and it's got this box sitting on top of it. It's got a motor and some other weird stuff on it and it's got a few adjustments. It can either sound like a Leslie or it can do a thing that's roughly equivalent to a Cooper time cube. Know what that is? It's a device they use in a studio for making things sound like they're doubled. You know, a real short echo. A Cooper time cube is nothing more elaborate than sixteen feet of garden hose with a transducer on one end that produces a sound and another on the other end which hears, and what you get is a 16 millisecond delay. Anyway, what this box does is in one position, if you pull it back, if you hit one note on the string you'll hear the original note you hit and then a very slight delay of it. It just thickens the tone. It's pretty interesting.

1982 Tour

FZ, interviewed by Tom Mulhern, Guitar Player, February, 1983

On the last tour, I took out a Fender XII 12-string, the Telecaster, the Les Paul, the Hendrixx Strat, my old mirror-pickguard SG, and the Stratocaster with the Floyd Rose on it. Plus the mini Strat and the mini Les Paul. Right now, the only thing I miss on my D'Minis is the vibrato arm.

[...] The guitar I played the most was my Strat with the Floyd Rose on it, and it was capable of such ungodly noises with that parametric EQ and the pickups that were in it. It made plenty of noises without any fuzztones or other crap.

 

Other Gear

Pignose

Darrin Fox, "Frank Zappa: Inside The Guitars And Amps Of His Greatest Recordings," Guitar Player, October 6, 2015

Pignose

This is the Pignose amplifier that was responsible for the bulk of the nasty guitar tones found on the Apostrophe(') and Over-Nite Sensation albums. This little piggy couldn't escape modification, as evidenced by the two XLR jacks on the back.

 

Additional informant: Javier Marcote.

Research, compilation and maintenance by Román García Albertos
http://www.donlope.net/fz/
This page updated: 2020-08-27