What Guitar Does Chet Atkins Use

What Guitar Does Chet Atkins Use?

Chet Atkins commonly known as Mr. Guitar was an American song writer, musician, singer and record producer who was partly responsible for creating the Nashville sound.  Chet is most well known for his guitar work but he also played the banjo, ukulele, fiddle and mandolin. 

Before Chet came along the country music scene was at an all time low. Chet changed all that and the success of country music as a genre is attributed to Chet Atkins, Owen Bradley and Bob Ferguson. Chet’s first hit was “Mr. Sandman” and all through the 50s his albums became more and more popular.

Chet became a design consultant with Gretsch and that’s when the Chet Atkins Signature Gretsch guitars became popular.Chet’s signature guitars were made by Gretsch until 1980 when Fred Gretsch jr. died. Chet then partnered with Gibson who developed  a signature semi-acoustic nylon string guitar

What Kind Of Guitar Did Chet Atkins Play?

Chet Atkins preferred hollow bodied guitars, all of his signature Gretsch “country gentleman”  guitars are hollow bodied models. As are all of his signature Gibson guitars. Other guitars Chet has played over the years include:

  • Gretsch 6120
    This was designed by Gretsch and endorsed by Chet. 
  • Gibson Chet Atkins Country Gentleman
    Seen on the cover of “Me and my guitars”, Gibson made the Country Gentleman for Chet Atkins in 1987.
  • Gibson L10
    This was a gift from Chet’s half brother, who bought it from Les Paul
  • Gretsch G6122-12 Chet Atkins Country Gentleman
  • Gibson Studio Classic
  • D’Angelico Excel
  • Sears Roebuck Silvertone
    This was Chet’s first guitar. By the time he acquired this from his brother, it had a neck repair that was not too good. Apparently it had a very high action, making it difficult to play.
  • Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster
    As seen on the Jerry Reed “when you’re hot, you’re hot hour” show from 1972. Chet played “baby’s coming home” written for him by Jerry Reed.
  • Peavey T-60
    This guitar was used by Chet in the recording studio. He changed the neck, swapping it for a Stratocaster type neck. He also changed the pickups to EMG pickups.
  • DelVecchio Dinamico (Resonator)
    Chet used this resonator on an edition of “Pop goes to country” from the 1980s. He played “Hawaiian Wedding Song” 

Who Has Chet Atkins Worked With During His Long Career?

Mr. Guitar has played with many famous artists throughout his long career, including 

  • The Everly Brothers
  • Elvis Presley
  • Arthur Fiedler
  • Doc Watson
  • Paul McCartney
  • Hank Williams
  • The Carter Family
  • Les Paul
  • Merle Travis
  • Mark Knopfler
  • Suzy Bogguss
  • And many more

Who Did Chet Atkins Discover?

Chet was hired by the RCA Victor recording company to discover fresh talent and some of the artists he discovered make an impressive line up. Artists like:

  • Don Gibson
  • Waylon Jennings
  • Dottie West
  • Bobbie Bare
  • Dolly Parton
  • Willie Nelson
  • Skeeter Davis
  • Roy Orbison
  • Jerry Reed
  • Charley Pride
  • Eddy Arnold
  • Jim Reeves
  • And many more.

What Strings Did Chet Atkins Use?

Chet used Gretsch strings, he even had strings named after him, the Chet Atkins country style strings.  He preferred the .010, .012, .020 wound, 028, .038, .048 or .050 gauge. When he started playing Gibson guitars his strings were 10,12,16,28,38,48. Chet disliked flatwound strings; he said they were too flat. The nylon strings Chet used were D’Addario Pro-Art for LaBella 500p Professional, concert and recording strings. For the DelVecchio Chet used silk and steel strings.

Chet used to change strings regularly, especially on his nylon strung guitars he said the bass strings soon become flat, dull sounding.

What Amps Did Chet Atkins Use?

Chet used a few amps over the years, but he was mostly seen using either a Gretsch Nashville Amp, a Gretsch 6163 Chet Atkins piggyback Tremolo and Reverb or, his favourite a 1954 Standel 25L15 Combo.

What Effects Pedals Did Chet Atkins Use?

Chet Atkins relied on his guitar playing and the Ray Butts EchoSonic. He also used an Echoplex, which he replaced with Lexicon PCM 42 (delay pedal) and sometimes the Lexicon Jam Man.

What Pickups Did Chet Atkins Use?

Chet’s Gibson L-10 had floating DeArmond pickups, whether that was done by Chet or Les Paul we don’t know. But what we do know is that on the Peavey T-60 Chet changed the pickups to EMG pickups, and on the Gretsch Country Gentleman Chet used Super’Tron pickups.

Guitar Picking

What Chords Did Chet Atkins Use?

Chet was a finger picker, he played a style of Travis picking. So he kind of skirted around chords just using them to finish a phrase. But his finger picking was always within one key or another, many of Chet’s phrases are based around the key of A major.

What Pick Did Chet Atkins Use?

Chet used to finger pick, and only used a thumb pick and plain fingers for picking.

What Kind Of Music Did Chet Atkins Play?

Chet Atkins played across many music genres, including, Country, Rock, Country Rock, Rockabilly, Jazz, and folk. 


How To Play Guitar Like Chet Atkins

The first thing you’ll need to play like Chet is a guitar with a fairly high action. Then you’ll need a thumb pick. You need to round the end of the thumb pick  so it’s not so pointed (that’s what Chet did). Then you need dedication, Chet would be practising from 4 AM somedays. 

Then it’s all finger picking, try mastering the Travis picking style, and elaborating on that. That’s playing the bass part with just the thumb using the 3 bass strings, with the fingers playing the melody on the top  strings. Chet also used his thumb of his left hand to keep the bass line flowing when picking further up the fretboard.

To achieve that Chet Atkins sound you should use the neck pickup with just a slight sound from the bridge pickup. With the tone in the midway position and the volume at around 8 or 9.

What Age Did Chet Atkins Learn Guitar?

At the age of 9 Chet started learning the guitar, after swapping an old pistol and a list of household chores from his brother.By the age of 17 he was playing for a local radio station in Knoxville.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many guitars did Chet Atkins own?

It is estimated that Chet owned around 50 guitars mainly archtops and many made by Gibson.

What instrument did Chet Atkins play?

Chet Atkins played a few stringed instruments including the guitar, violin, ukulele and banjo.

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