With his 2021 induction into the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame, Dave Grohl joined a group of elite performers that it includes only one other member, arguably one of the most recognizable musical artists in history: John Lennon. These two hold the distinction of being the only two musicians to be inducted into the Hall of Fame twice, both times in their first year of eligibility.
Grohl was first inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014 as the drummer of Nirvana, along with Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic. In May of 2021, he was inducted a second time as the guitarist, lead vocalist, and main song-writer of the Foo Fighters.
This well-deserved recognition is just the next step in Dave’s phenomenally successful career. He got his start in 1986 at the young age of 17 after lying about his age and dropping out as a Junior in high school to join the band. Four years later, after Scream disbanded, he joined Nirvana, during which time he wrote and recorded many songs that would become Foo Fighter’s classics.
Prolific as his time in Nirvana was, Grohl’s career hit the road after Nirvana disbanded in April 1994. After a six-month music hiatus, Dave spent one week recording a 15-track demo in which he played all parts except one guitar part on one track himself. Can you say iconic a bit louder?
Since Grohl didn’t want to start a career as a solo artist, he recruited two other band members and remixed that demo tape until it became the basis for the Foo Fighters’ eponymous debut album.
Given this impressive pedigree, one thing that makes Grohl’s music stand out is that he holds on to that small garage-band sound and stays away from the slick, polished sound of most professionally produced albums. That makes his sound feel rawer, more real, more rock, and more attainable to even novice guitarists because it relies mainly on the instruments’ sound instead of on editing.
Let’s break down Grohl’s sound through some of his most iconic axes, from the lucky find that became the “sound of the Foo Fighters” to his signature model by Gibson:
Gibson Trini Lopez
Grohl’s favorite guitar seems to be his 1967 Trini Lopez Standard ES-335 in Cherry Red. This Trini Lopez model is the guitar that has defined the sounds of the Foo Fighters and which Grohl played regularly even before the Foo Fighters existed. He picked the guitar up in Bethesda, Maryland, in the early 90s while touring with Nirvana, and it’s been his primary guitar ever since.
This guitar is the one Grohl has used to record almost every single Foo Fighters album, and he’s even called it the “sound of the Foo Fighters” in interviews. But the sound must have been something of a happy accident since Dave didn’t know anything about Trini Lopez when he acquired the guitar. This guitar is the instrument you’ll see in many of the Foo Fighters’ official music videos, including “The Feast and the Famine.”
Trini Lopez Specs
So let’s get into the specs of this guitar: the body is a classic semi-hollow Gibson ES-335 Maple body with diamond-shaped f-holes and PAF humbucker pickups. The neck is solid Mahogany with an Indian Rosewood fingerboard and split diamond inlays. The modifications for the Trini Lopez model include a firebird headstock, the diamond-shaped f-holes, and the split diamond inlays.
It was the diamond f-holes which first attracted Grohl’s attention at the guitar shop in Bethesda. The unique shape gives the guitar a sleeker, more dramatic look, along with a sharper resonance. It’s also notable that most of Grohl’s guitars, including this Trini Lopez model, are semi-hollow, rather than the solid-body model more often chosen by rock artists to minimize feedback. This is another way he builds the raw, imperfect, garage-band sound of the Foo Fighters that is so beloved.
Trini Lopez fans with exceptionally sharp eyes might notice one slight difference between Lopez’s design and Grohl’s guitar. The original Trini Lopez design features sharp horns on the body. Grohl plays the commercial release, in which those horns have been softened and rounded.
The Gibson 1964 Trini Lopez Standard Reissue is the closest model currently in production.
Gibson Les Pauls
While the Trini Lopez is indisputably Grohl’s most-used and most-loved guitar, fans are unlikely to catch a glimpse of it at live performances. There’s an infinite number of possibilities for damage during a public performance, apart from the simple wear of frequent use. The Gibson Trini Lopez is far too precious to risk under such circumstances, so Grohl often opts to use other models instead.
Grohl more often opted for one of his two custom-designed 1991 Gibson Les Pauls at live performances – one black and one polar white. By the Color and Shape era, these were the primary guitars in Grohl’s performance rotation. Occasionally, other members of the Foo Fighters, most notably Pat Smear, would also use one of these guitars. They can even sometimes be seen in use today.
Grohl has been known to play a Gibson Les Paul Standard with a tobacco burst finish. While it’s less well known than the custom black and white versions, it was present at the very start of the Foo Fighters, even featuring at the beginning of the 1995 Foo Fighters promotional tour at the Velvet Elvis Arts Lounge in Seattle, WA, on March 4th.
A solid body model lacking the distinctive f-holes and firebird headstock of the Trini Lopez, you can expect more sustain and less feedback from this guitar while still delivering a clean, robust sound.
Gibson Custom Shop DG-335
In many recent videos, from the Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace period onward, you’ll spot Dave’s custom Gibson DG-335. Grohl teamed up with the struggling Gibson to design a custom model of the ES-335, which pays homage to the Trini Lopez version with diamond f-holes, a firebird headstock, and split diamond inlays. The main variation from the Trini Lopez is in color. In 2007 he released two models: one in Pelham Blue and one in Ebony. In 2014, he added a metallic gold model.
The electronics also show an update from the vintage model, with two Burstbucker pickups and a Tune-O-Matic stop tail bridge. Overall, the guitar provides an updated sound with the cool, vintage look of the Trini Lopez.
Grohl owns several of these guitars, and there are too many public appearances to keep track of. They appear in music videos and live performances, but they are known as his designated concert instruments. Notably, the Pelham Blue guitar appeared in Grohl’s performance in celebration of Joe Biden’s inauguration.
While these 3 models are the most well-known in Grohl’s collection and are the most defining of the sound of the Foo Fighters, Grohl owns many instruments. He’s been known to play a Gibson Firebird, a Gibson Explorer, a Martin D-28, and Taylor 612ce. As an electro-acoustic parallel to his Trini Lopez, he owns a Gibson Elvis Presley Dove, which he occasionally brings out to play a stripped-down acoustic song, usually Everlong, in live performances.
Grohl fans might also be interested in the first guitar he played, which kindled his taste in music. Even before owning his own instrument, Grohl played a Flamenco style nylon-stringed acoustic that belonged to his father.
Grohl’s first guitar that he owned himself was given to him as a Christmas gift in 1981. The gift was a 1963 Series Silvertone. As the story goes, Grohl played this 6 string until it became a 3 string – a testament to his dedication to music and growing his craft. Even then, he used this guitar to strengthen his chords, a skill that indisputably has paid off in his current career.
Grohl is most known as a guitarist and vocalist and has reached incredible heights in that career. He’s a household name even among households that aren’t that into rock.
Part of that fame comes from his versatility as a musician. His first induction into the hall of fame came as a drummer before becoming known as a guitarist.
However, one of the most notable points of Grohl’s career is the 6 month period in which he produced no music at all. In his hiatus following the death of Kurt Cobain and the disbanding of Nirvana, it seemed as though Grohl’s career might be coming to an end.
Grohl’s founding of the Foo Fighters was proven to be the right decision to return to the life of a musician. This was his opportunity to define his own music and his own career. He channeled his grief into one of the most meteoric comebacks of all time. This speaks to his unstoppable power and determination to excel in his career.
Dave Grohl is an inspiration to many aspiring guitarists and advanced players alike. Whichever camp you fall in, we hope you enjoyed learning more about Grohl’s impressive arsenal of guitars.