What Guitar Does Eric Clapton Use

What Guitar Does Eric Clapton Use?

Eric Clapton has probably influenced more youngsters into playing the guitar than any other guitarist of all time. His career of almost 60 years has produced some of the best blues guitar to ever come out of the UK. But it’s not just blues, Eric Clapton’s guitar style has spanned the genre gap.

From blues to pop, rock, ballads and pretty much everything in between Eric Clapton has written and performed them all. Among guitarists though, it was his early blues guitar that stands out. When Eric was playing with the Bluesbreakers and Cream he had such a unique bluesy, rocky sound that many guitarists strive to emulate to this day.

What Kind Of Guitar Does Eric Clapton Play?

Eric Clapton plays many guitars depending on the song he’s playing. He tends to play the Fender Stratocaster and for acoustic playing Eric often plays a Martin.Over his long career, Eric has played many guitars, he started off with a double cutaway Kay which cost £10. Once he started with the Yardbirds he played a Fender Telecaster, he continued to play the tele until he joined the Bluesbreakers where he started playing a 1960 Les Paul.

All through the bluesbreakers and Cream years, Eric played Les Pauls, until sometime in 1967 when he started playing a  1964 Gibson Les Paul SG. By Spring 1968 he changed to a Gibson Firebird and then switched between the Firebird and his Gibson ES-335. In 1970 when Eric formed the band Derek and the Dominos he switched to maple neck Fender Stratocasters most notably “Brownie”. This was a sunburst brown finished strat hence the nickname.

Eric Clapton Discovers Cut-Priced Fenders

 Later on in the same year, Eric discovered the Sho-Bud guitar shop in Nashville Tennessee selling classic Fender Stratocasters for between $200 to $300. He bought 6, gave 3 away to his friends and fellow guitarists Steve Winwood, Pete Townsened, and George Harrison, and played the others himself.  He soon realised that he liked some features from all 3 but not one in particular. 

So they were cannibalized into the best of their 3 parts and “Blackie” was formed. Named due to its 1956 alder black lacquer finished body.  Coupled with the neck from one of the others and the pickups and scratch plate from another. From 1973 until 1985 Blackie was Clapton’s main guitar. By 1988 Fender were making Eric his own signature Strats based on his beloved Blackie. 

50 Guitars

During the recording of the album “From the Cradle”, in 1994, Eric used around 50 of his own guitars including various Gibson ES-335s, an Eric Clapton signature Fender Strat, Various Gibson L-5s, Byrdlands, and some Super 400s. Acoustic guitars used on the same album include various Martins, a Zemaitis 12-string, and various resonators.

As you can see, what kind of guitar does Eric Clapton Play is not a question that can be answered in a few short sentences. Like most talented guitarists Eric owns and plays many guitars. We have given you a quick description just to show how open that question is.

What Is Eric Clapton’s Fool?

The Fool in question is a 1964 Gibson SG, that, rumour has it, was given to Eric by his friend and fellow guitarist George Harrison after Eric’s 1959 standard had been stolen. Eric along with Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce were going to tour America with their recently formed band, Cream. They knew they had to come up with something memorable to get noticed in the States, their manager contacted the design artists that went on to become The Fool to see about some promotional material for the upcoming tour.

During that, and subsequent meetings the idea was formed to paint the bands instruments – Eric’s 64 SG became the fool. It was an important part of rock and roll history, and in many ways iconic. The fool has the distinction of 3 “firsts” they are:

  • The First Ever Guitar With “Woman Tone”
    During an interview with Beat Instrumental Eric called the sound of the fool, the woman tone. Many people took that description to mean a rough, snarling sound, while others took it to mean a rich harmonic, smooth, sound compared to that of a siren from Greek mythology.
  • The First Guitar In Rock And Roll History To Be Painted With A Picture
    Thus Turning the instrument into a piece of art, as well as the musical art played on it.
  • The First Visually Representative Guitar That Encapsulates An Era
    The fool represents psychedelia with all that goes with it. Peace, love and drugs. Plus the first ever supergroup – Cream.

What Strings Does Eric Clapton Use?

Eric Clapton
Majvdl, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Like most guitarists, Eric Clapton has a preference when it comes to guitar strings, his preferred strings of choice are:

  • Electric Guitars
    Eric uses Ernie Ball .10 to .46 gauge strings.
  • Acoustic Guitars
    Eric uses Martin & co. light gauge .12 to .54  phosphor bronze strings. Since 2005, Martin started selling “Clapton’s choice” phosphor bronze strings in 2 gauges – light  (.12 to .54) and medium (.13 to .56).

What Amps Does Eric Clapton Use?

For the majority of his playing career, Eric Clapton has used a Fender Twin Amp, but he has also used Marshalls, Vox, Music Man amps, Fender Champ, Cornell amps- The Eric Clapton Custom 80 (single channel). He often chops and changes during concerts, and regularly goes back to the Fender twin.

What Effects Pedals Does Eric Clapton Use?

Eric Clapton uses surprisingly few effects pedals, when you consider the sounds he creates from his guitars. He is known to have used the following effects pedals on occasion:

  • 1982 Roland G-505
    He used this guitar synthesiser during the Edge of Darkness period (1985)
  • Dunlop 535Q Cry Baby Multi-Wah
    He has been known to use this wah on a few occasions.
  • Vox V847A Wah-Wah Pedal
    Eric often uses this pedal on tour and for studio work.
  • Boss TR-2 Tremolo
    Eric uses this pedal for tracks like Badge. To give that almost drifting sound.

What Pickups Does Eric Clapton Use?

The Eric Clapton signature Stratocaster uses Fender Vintage Noiseless Pickups. Situated at the bridge middle and neck. Older versions used the Fender Gold Lace Sensor pickups.

Martin & co have fitted Fishman/Martin Gold+ and natural under – the – saddle active pickups in the acoustic guitars they supply to Eric Clapton. He also uses a Carlos Juan CP – 1 pickup in the Bellezza Nera model of his signature Martin acoustic guitar.

What Chords Does Eric Clapton Use?

Eric tends to play classic blues chords for his blues tracks, like “before you accuse me” is in the key of E and uses E, A, B7, and E7. “Crossroads”  is in the key of A and uses A, D7, and E.

The majority of his pop or rock type songs tend to have standard chord structures too. Tracks like “Wonderful Tonight” Use G, D, C and Em. Eric’s skill is in the riffs and licks that fill in the chords in his playing. 

What Pick Does Eric Clapton Use?

Eric Clapton uses the Ernie Ball – “Eric Clapton Special” picks, which were designed specifically for him. He used to use the Ernie Ball heavy “M” size pick (the same as the Eric Clapton Special). During his early days, there’s no record of which picks Eric used to use. So he probably went through hundreds before finding the most suitable.

What Kind Of Music Does Eric Clapton Play?

Eric Clapton plays a range of different musical styles and genres including:

  • Rock and Roll
    Many of Eric’s songs are pure rock and roll-songs like “Layla” for example.
  • Blues
    It hardly needs pointing out, but many of Eric’s songs are heavily blues influenced, for example “Before you accuse me”
  • Rock
    What is rock? A fusion of rock and roll and the blues. Eric Clapton fits into this genre perfectly. A great rock example would be “Bad love”.
  • Pop
    Pop is a shortened way of saying popular music, it’s as true today as it’s ever been, Eric Clapton’s music is popular.
  • Country
    Eric slides into the country genre with songs like “Lay down sally”.
  • Reggae
    Eric Clapton’s cover of the Bob Marley song “I shot the sheriff” was pure reggae.
  • Ballads
    Sadly one of Eric’s best ballads was written after the loss of his young son, “Tears in heaven”.
  • Christmas Songs
    In 2018 Eric released the album “Happy xmas”, featuring such classic christmas songs as “White christmas”, “Silent night”, and many more.

How To Play Guitar Like Eric Clapton

To play the guitar like Eric Clapton you will need lots of practise, but here are a few pointers to get you on the right track.

  1.  First and foremost, play it loud
    Clapton cranks the amp up and controls the sound via his guitar controls.
  2. Mix major and minor pentatonic scales
    This will give your soloing a greater depth and break the monotony of using the same phrases over and over.
  3. Get to know your guitar sounds
    Learn how to change the sound of your guitar using the volume and tone controls.
  4. The right combination is important
    Gibson guitars work well with Marshall amps and Fender guitars work well with Fender amps.
  5. Learn from the best
    Watch classic blues guitarists as well as Eric and create a few licks of your own.

What Age Did Eric Clapton Learn Guitar?

Eric first picked up a guitar at the age of 13, it was a cheap Hoyer steel string guitar that was almost as big as he was. He is reported as saying “I started when I was 13 and gave up when I was 13 and a half”. Luckily for us it never put him off for long, by the age of 16 he got kicked out of college for non attendance. The reason – listening to and learning to play blues guitar.. 

What Was Eric Clapton’s First Guitar?

Eric Clapton’s first guitar was the German made Hoyer that nearly stopped him learning at all. His first electric guitar was a double cutaway Kaye which cost him £100 in 1962. His grandparents helped him with the money to buy it.

Why Was Eric Clapton’s Nickname Slowhand?

The nickname slowhand was given to Eric while he was a member of the Yardbirds. It had nothing to do with his hand speed (as anyone who’s ever seen him play can testify). Apparently he used to break guitar strings quite often, during shows. While he changed the string, the audience would slow clap waiting for him to start playing again. The Yardbirds manager Giorgio Gomelsky came up with the ironic nickname of slowhand as a result of witnessing the audience’s reaction to his string breaking.

Eric Clapton And The Beatles

Eric Clapton was friends with George Harrison the Beatles guitarist. Whilst rehearsing and recording “The White Album” George felt the rest of the group were dismissive of his song “While my guitar gently weeps”. So he asked Eric to play the solo, which incidentally was an extremely unique invitation. No other non-band member ever performed on a Beatles song. 

Layla Was Inspired By Pattie Boyd (George Harrison’s Wife)

Eric Clapton was in love with the wife of his friend George Harrison. Pattie Boyd told the Guardian newspaper in 2008 that she was “amazed and thrilled” by the song, but wanted to “hang on” to her marriage. The song was a massive hit for Clapton’s band Derek and the Dominos in 1970.

In 1977 Pattie divorced George, and 2 years after that Pattie and Eric were married. Eric and George remained good friends with Harrison performing at their wedding along with Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney.

Layla was partly inspired by Pattie Boyd, and partly by a 12th century Persion tale, the story of Layla and Majnun. A tale of unrequited love, and at the time of writing the song “Layla” when Eric was in love with Pattie, but she wouldn’t leave her then husband George Harrison, that’s exactly what it was. Eric and Pattie divorced in 1989.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Eric Clapton’s favorite guitar?

Eric Clapton’s favourite guitar was Blackie, which was the nickname he gave to a Fender Stratocaster consisting of 3 strats from the 1950s. The black lacquered body is where the nickname originated.

What guitar amp does Eric Clapton use?

Eric Clapton uses a Fender twin signature amp.

What year is Eric Clapton’s Blackie?

Eric Clapton’s guitar Blackie is a combination of 3 1950s stratocasters, the black lacquered body is from a 1956 Strat and made up from parts from 2 1956 or 1957 strats, so the most accurate year would be a decade, not a year. Blackie is a 1950s guitar.

How many guitars does Eric Clapton own?

It’s hard to say how many guitars he currently owns, but in 2011 he auctioned off 75 guitars from his own collection.

Who inspired Eric Clapton?

Eric Clapton was inspired by many blues guitarists Robert Johnson was once described by Eric as “the most important blues musician who ever lived” Some of his other influences include Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters and BB King.

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