Nineteen Sixties surf-rock celebrated all issues California – seashore events, sunshine, and speedy automobiles. For surf rockers, a swell of glossy new guitars entered the marketplace primed for trebly, twanging riffs.

Instrumental surf with its speedy tremolo selecting, rolling drums, and heavy reverb had a sonic vibe all its personal. The Ventures made waves with the long-lasting tune “Pipeline” and Dick Dale’s reverb-drenched riffs took instrumental surf to new heights.

“What I used to be looking to do was once in fact seize the sound of being out within the ocean,” Dale informed the Baltimore Solar in 1993. “Once I’d be available in the market browsing, I may really feel this thunderous sound. Once I began banging on my guitar, I used to be looking to emulate that very same sound – that fats, thick sound.”

Dale gravitated towards Fenders, that have been manufactured now not a long way from the seashore within the corporate’s Fullerton, CA manufacturing unit.

Kathy Marshall

Guitarist Kathy Marshall, referred to as “the Queen of the Surf Guitar,” performed a Stratocaster in addition to a Jazzmaster. She sat in with a number of teams, together with Eddie and the Showmen, the Blazers, and the Crossfires. Legend has it she even jammed with Dick Dale. Scant recordings of her taking part in exist, however she’s outstanding for her level genre and selecting methodology.

Early on, The Ventures used Fenders however later performed Mosrite guitars via the California producer. That connection was once short-lived, however nonetheless, many affiliate the crowd with Mosrite since they launched a couple of Ventures fashions.


The Surfaris, from Glendora, California, created the preferred surf requirements “Surfer Joe” and “Wipe Out.” James Fuller’s lead guitar riffs are nonetheless broadly duplicated nowadays.

In later years, surf rock resurged with the film Pulp Fiction; and standard guitars of the day become retro-cool reveals. Surf rock’s affect may also be heard within the Move-Move’s track and U-2’s The Edge.

These days, seashore track remains to be going sturdy with bands The Surfrajettes, amongst others.

Standout Guitars of Surf Tune

A number of colourful and offset guitars enhanced the sound and imagery of the surf rock style.



Introduced in 1954, the Stratocaster gave the look of no different guitar on the time. It had a clean, contoured physique and designed with the participant’s convenience in thoughts, versus the chunkier Telecaster.

A solid-body electrical, the Strat housed 3 pickups, a integrated vibrato unit, and was once without equal guitar for developing chordal results.

This new breed of guitar got here in colours like Sonic Blue and Burgundy Mist, which appealed to the SoCal automotive and seashore tradition. The Strat’s manufacturing reflected the recent automotive designs and aesthetics of the ‘50s and ‘60s. With swish curves, a proportioned physique, and chrome main points, the Strat seemed as just right because it sounded. To at the moment, the guitar is famously used for nearly any genre of track.

So far as the Stratocaster, there was once none extra notorious than Dick Dale’s gold awl referred to as “The Beast.” Dale wanted sturdy apparatus, and a Strat was once the easiest automobile for the guitarist’s rapid-fire taking part in and unique tone. He strung The Beast with a mixture of wound and unwound strings and most popular a heavy-gauge pick out for his competitive assault.

The Stratocaster was once additionally the go-to for lots of different surf gamers searching for a flexible, stand out guitar.


With the intention to extend the scope and enchantment in their lineup, Fender presented the Jazzmaster at 1958’s NAMM display. Touted as “The us’s best electrical guitar,” its offset-body sported an up to date vibrato device and price $50 greater than a Stratocaster on the time.

The distance-age good looks, designed via Leo Fender, was once first advertised as an upscale guitar for jazz gamers. Made to provide a wealthy, heat sound, the Jazz got here with new options as neatly. The guitar had two, plastic-covered soapbar pickups, a rhythm/lead circuit slider, in addition to a floating tremolo device – a characteristic that intrigued surf guitarists whose pitch-bending mimicked the sound of ocean waves.

Jazzmasters have been produced in cool colours, and a few had block-shaped fingerboard inlays. A Jazz in Usual Sunburst end was once launched in 1959, the decidedly surfer-friendly Foam Inexperienced debuted in 1963, and the Blue Ice Steel was once vivid, however yellow fading time beyond regulation became it a greenish hue.

Total, jazz gamers hadn’t embraced the Jazzmaster as anticipated, and die-hard Strat and Tele gamers didn’t sway both. However as destiny would have it, the guitar ultimately received acceptance via the surf rock group. In later years, the Jazz made a comeback with punk and indie-rock bands like Sonic Formative years and Nirvana.


The flexible Jaguar rolled out in 1962 with 3 unique chrome-plated keep watch over panels and an offset physique. Its short-scale neck and distinctive switching device proved an ideal selection for gamers at the surf scene.

With its shorter scale neck (24”), the Jag was once constructed for quick taking part in. It had other pickups than the Jazzmaster, which rocked extensive, single-coil pickups that have been unshielded and hummed a little. The Jaguar had two slim, single-coil pickups (extra like the ones on a Strat) that have been encased in notched steel rings (or claws), that lowered hum – an addition now not standard on Fenders however was once observed on a ‘60s Bass VI.

Even if the Jag and the Jazz each had dual-circuitry (lead and rhythm), the Jaguar’s lead circuit was once extra concerned. It had 3 slide switches at the decrease horn. The primary two have been on-off switches for each and every pickup; the 3rd precipitated a capacitor that filtered out the low-end for a trebly tone, which some dubbed the “strangle” transfer.

Options noticed the floating tremolo, a spring-loaded string mute on the bridge. Then again, maximum gamers most popular muting the strings naturally with their arms. The Jag was once additionally the primary Fender with 22 frets at the fingerboard.

At the early Seaside Boys information, Carl Wilson performed a Jaguar. He later performed Stratocasters, Guilds, and Gibsons. Different guitarists picked up a Jaguar equivalent to Mary Kay, Eddie Bertrand, PJ Harvey, and Dave Myers.

The Jaguar was once discontinued in 1975. Thankfully, Fender has created many vintage reissues of its early tools. Nonetheless, with a novel design and a character all its personal, the Jag has held up neatly amongst its Fender circle of relatives.

Different Notables at the Surf

Mosrite guitars

Guitars produced via Semie Moseley have been identified for his or her cutting edge designs and top of the range. There have been a number of Mosrites known as the “Ventures fashion” guitars, later referred to as Mark I. The Ventures fashion had a slender neck, microdot inlays, and an angled neck pickup. The ultra-cool guitars have been made on the corporate’s manufacturing unit in Bakersfield, CA. Punk rocker Johnny Ramone would later play one.

Teisco Del Rey

The Eastern producer’s Teisco Del Rey emblem debuted in 1964. The TRG-1 and SD-4L have been surfy cool guitars.


The American producer primarily based in New Jersey put out many nice guitars fitted to new gamers such because the Silvertone.

The Danelectro Slimline had a jaguar-style form, vinyl side-trim, and a stumpy headstock. It got here with two or 3 pickups and was once introduced without or with vibrato. Their Hawk line of guitars have been identical as neatly. The Danelectro Hawk (mid-’60s) had a brief scale and was once designed with out the side-trim. Powder blue and different funky colours and finishes like alligator and crackle have been very fashionable.

Guitar Time period Tip
The phrases vibrato bar, tremolo bar, and whammy bar are all used synonymously, in addition to the phrases bar and arm.


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