By Strings Direct – 29 August, 2023
“I was never taught how to play the guitar, I don’t know what the chords to ‘Everlong’ are. I only know what happens when I put the fingers there."
It’s festival season, and we can feel it! As we reach the height of summer, weekend after weekend the ringing in our ears becomes progressively louder and the sunglasses tan becomes stronger; and if there’s one band guaranteed to wake your festival buzz and inner rock ’n’ roll monster 👺, this man fronts it!
The man we put in the spotlight this week is a multi-generational icon standing head and shoulders above all others in his industry - after all, there aren’t many musicians who can say they’ve been a fundamental part of not one, but two of the biggest bands on the planet… ever. 🤟
He’s an extremely talented multi-instrumentalist, insanely gifted songwriter, skilled producer, and brilliant engineer; is there anything he can’t do?!
With great honour, let’s get into the world of the nicest man in R’n’R, Mr. Dave Grohl. 🥁
DAVE GROWS. THE BACKSTORY OF DAVE GROHL
The son of a teacher and a news writer David Eric Grohl was born in Warren, Ohio on the 14th January 1969.
His father James was not only an award-winning journalist but also had a very unique placement as special assistant to Senator Robert Taft Jr.. James was recognised as a talented political observer with an amazing, almost pre-emptive, wit to call every major election with great accuracy.
When he was still a child David’s family moved to Springfield, Virginia but at the age of seven his parents unfortunately divorced and he was independently raised by his mother Virginia Jean. After such a life-changing and disruptive event the angst began to build in Dave, and like many young people at a pre-teen age Grohl turned to the guitar 🎸 as his outlet.
Playing guitar back then was just part of the culture and everybody did it. Dave took a few lessons but eventually became irritable and tired and ended up teaching himself; but the guitar wasn’t going to be his main calling going forward…
Grohl became less and less interested in school, which was disappointing for his mother who was a teacher so the experience was difficult.
“Less happy was Dave’s experience of school, which hit his mum especially hard, as she was a teacher. Running through her book is the suggestion that schools don’t cater well for energetic, creative but non-academic kids. In his early teens, she tells me, Dave’s life was “all failure, and doom and gloom – not going to school, and then getting detention because he didn’t go … it was just deadly”. By this time, he was learning to play drums in his bedroom, using a chair as the high-hat, and a pillow on the floor as the snare; and was easily picking up songs on his guitar. The high-school band he was playing in had the awful name of Dain Bramage. (Improbably, they played an old people’s home, and sang Time Is On Your Side.) He was also smoking a lot of weed: he was, he has said, so stoned at school that “I didn’t know what I was studying”.
Grohl’s journey was a furiously fast-paced ride, and at the age of 13 a significant and imprinting event occurred: Dave and his sister spent the summer with a cousin in Evanston, Illinois.
“Tracey introduced them to punk rock by taking the pair to shows by a variety of punk bands. His first concert was Naked Raygun at The Cubby Bear in Chicago in 1982. Grohl recalled, "From then on we were totally punk. We went home and bought Maximumrocknroll and tried to figure it all out."
Quote via - Wikipedia.org
After such an influential summer Dave Grohl really invested himself in music and he recalls when he began to play the guitar with a purpose:
“When I was young my father was a classically trained flautist, he was a musician as well,” Grohl explained. “He was given a guitar as a gift when he was maybe two or three years old and I put it in his lap once and then it retired to the corner of the rooms for years and years. And when I was about nine or ten years old I picked it up and it was covered in dust, it only had two strings left on it.
I picked it up and I just instinctively went ‘bah bah baaah, bah bah bah bah’ [sings riff for Smoke On The Water, Deep Purple] and then I thought ‘Oh my god, I can do this! That’s all you need to do, I can do this.’ And that was kind of the beginning of me playing the guitar.”
Dave Grohl for - dave-grohl-first-learned-to-play-the-guitar
“I was never taught how to play the guitar, I don’t know what the chords to ‘Everlong’ are. I only know what happens when I put the fingers there. But that riff is a good example of how I look at the guitar.”
Quote from Rolling Stone in 2014.
The following video clip is a fantastic watch and insight to how Dave Grohl envisions the guitar; from his historical rock 'n' roll past we all know that he's known as one of the greatest rock 'n' roll drummers of all time, an absolute powerhouse and technical wizard, along with just sheer passion and aggression to his playing.
But this clip really breaks down how he translates his incredible rhythms and turns them into guitar riffs & hooks. The way he explains how he sees the bass strings as kick and snare and the high strings as symbols is absolutely mind blowing but makes complete sense. 🤘.
Having never learnt to play the drums via lessons Dave highlights how he learnt to play the drums his own way listening to Rush records, he took one lesson was told how to hold the sticks and decided that wasn't for him, he uses this exact same approach to guitar and it's utterly astounding!
ALL ROADS LEAD TO NIRVANA
Still a teenager and full of angst Grohl managed to secure himself a place in a touring punk band from Washington DC called “Scream” whole toured the world and Grohl was very much just along for the ride. However, in the late 80’s the band parted ways and left Dave eager to continue his momentum and get involved in another project. After relocating to Seattle he tried out for a then little known band called Nirvana.
Nirvana remain one of the most influential bands of all time and their cultural significance grows by the day, passed on from generation to generation.
“Nothing was ever quite the same after Nirvana. The band's second album, 1991's Nevermind, revolutionised popular music by bringing alternative rock above ground, introducing mainstream audiences to sounds and concepts that had previously existed only in shadowy record store corners and on low-frequency college radio airwaves. Nevermind's noisy, dissonant guitar rock, mumbled or howled surrealistic lyrics, and generally angsty punk attitudes were unlikely candidates for chart success, but the band undercut their grungy songs with enough pop melodicism to create a sound unlike anything average listeners had ever heard before, striking at the exact right moment to become an unprecedented success”
Quote via - Allmusic.com
THE BEST OF FOO. THE STORY OF THE FOO FIGHTERS.
The untimely and highly publicised suicide of Kurt Cobain stunned the world and the shockwaves are still felt to this day. Dave Grohl pushed himself through grief by continuing to play and write music. After some interesting projects and cameos he eventually put a band together in hope of giving some songs he’d written the light of day, the project was named “Foo Fighters”.
“Melding heavy rock guitars, driving punk sensibilities, and pretty melodies, Foo Fighters rose to become one of the biggest acts to emerge out of the alt-rock boom of the 1990s. Led by singer Dave Grohl, the former powerhouse drummer for Nirvana, Foo Fighters initially debuted as a solo project in 1995. However, as their lineup expanded, they steadily racked up success after success, filling stadiums around the world while staying near the top of the charts with hits like "My Hero" and "Everlong" off 1997's The Colour and the Shape. Once the band's lineup coalesced around the time of its third album, 1999's There Is Nothing Left to Lose, Foo Fighters' sound also gelled into a recognizable signature built upon the heavy, yet melodic, loud-quiet-loud template of the Pixies and Nirvana; a modern rock sound anchored by Grohl's love of classic guitar rock. It was commercial without pandering and creatively restless without being alienating, a sound with wide appeal delivered by a band that was happy to tour and record the way bands did back in the '70s. “
Excerpt via - Allmusic.com
THE TRINI LOPEZ SIGNATURE GUITAR
We here at Strings Direct truly believe that Dave Grohl is a highly underrated, unappreciated guitar hero. We of course overlook him as a guitarist because he's such a prolific drummer.
Learning and understanding his vision of guitar and how he utilises it like a set of drums has completely blown our minds and his signature sound and tone is a combination of some unique features, first of foremost a very interesting Gibson Guitar.
What Guitar does Dave Grohl play? At first glance to the untrained eye Grohl’s main guitar looks to be a simple Gibson Es-335 of some variety; well it is and it isn’t…
'Dave once told Gibson in an interview that he first discovered this guitar in a guitar store in Maryland in 1992, way before Foo Fighters or even Nirvana had enjoyed much commercial success.
He claimed to find the diamond-shaped f-holes beautiful and loved the stability of the headstock, and after purchasing it, proceeded to use it on just about every Foo Fighters record we have ever heard!
This guitar has been featured on every Foo Fighters album, and are you really surprised? It’s an absolute beaut. He loves this guitar so much that he owns several versions – his classic one with a red finish, a custom Gibson DG-335 which is based on the Trini Lopez, and three others with black and blue finished for gigging.'
Excerpt - guitarspace.org
The now iconic Gibson Trini Lopez from 1963 has become the basis of the Foo Fighters sound; sonically and visually this guitar is an integral part of the band, in both heart & soul.
Due to the success of the band and the iconic status of Dave Grohl himself he now sports signature models produced by Gibson and these have been available ever since 2007.
One interesting point to remember is signature models are really cool but how much is a Dave Grohl signature model guitar? Amazingly these guitars are changing hands in the pre-owned market for well over £10k! Now that’s subculture if I've ever seen it 😉 https://reverb.com/uk/p/gibson-dave-grohl-signature-dg-335
Gibson Custom Shop DG-335
Both signature models are of course incredible but the latest addition to the collection since 2014 has been the gold finish and what a guitar that is!
GUITAR STRINGS FOR A DRUMMER
In conclusion we have discovered a great deal, Dave Grohl is of course an iconic grunge figure from the 1990s recognised for his incredible and unrivalled drum style, and guitar hero in his own right utilising his own unique style which is somewhat of a fantastic achievement within the industry.
Considering Dave likes to attack the guitar like a drum kit one would imagine he's gonna need some pretty robust and reliable strings, so let's find out and cross examine what guitar strings Dave Grohl uses.
Joe Beebe, Grohl's guitar tech says:
“I use D’Addario EXL 115s, but I throw the bottom two strings away and I replace them with a .42 for the A-string and a .60 for the E-string... [Dave] is such a hard player; he’s a chainsaw live! He was breaking strings a lot, so I had to beef up the gauges a bunch and I also have to raise the action on him, otherwise he’s hitting the strings so hard all it would do is buzz all day long!”
What Dave’s tech has put across here makes perfect sense and the fact he's hitting the strings like a drum set is a clear indication that custom adjustments would need to be made to both guitar and strings choice.
Check out the DG Custom Set we've assembled here using those same D'Addario strings so you can get the Dave Grohl sound straight off the bat! ⚾️.
As far as Dave Grohl acoustic guitar strings go we're unable to find a definitive set as it's not mentioned anywhere. However, an educated guess based on his acoustic tone, percussive style and brand of electric strings would suggest D'Addario 80/20 bronze acoustic strings in either 11-52 or 12-56 gauges.
Don't forget to get that percussive tone and attack the strings in the right manner you're going to need the right plectrum, this is vital and we believe that Dave Grohl uses a Jim Dunlop Gator Grip .73mm gauge pick is the way to go 🤘. He's also been seen using a Jim Dunlop D38-09BK guitar strap.
Get the Dave Grohl guitar strings and plectrums here!
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