The unique guitars, amplifiers, effect units, keyboards and studio
equipment of Frank Zappa
Zappa's Gear Facts
Spurious facts from my researches - as posted
Steve Howe was offered Frank Zappa's custom
'Baby Snakes' SG before FZ, he turned it down as
he preferred semi-acoustic guitars
The custom guitar that Rex Bogue made for
Frank Zappa has been seen in the Hard Rock Cafe
in the Cayman Islands
The keyboard next to Ian Underwood in the
photograph inside the cover of Burnt Weeny
Sandwich is a Gibson G-101 combo organ
Frank Zappa had a stereo pair of MXR Flanger
stomp box circuits mounted in 'lunch box' cases
in his late 1970's effects rack.
Frank Zappa labelled one of his vintage
Telefunken U47 studio microphones 'Gandhi (The
After retiring them from touring, Frank Zappa
used two Yamaha CS-80 synthesizers as studio
keyboards for his E-mu modular synth
Frank Zappa's coffee machine on the 1988 tour
was an Italian 1979 Mk 2 La Peppina single-lever
portable (for you coffee geeks!)
Frank Zappa first recorded Twink Walks Amok
with a Linndrum machine, then got Chad Wackerman
to play the part with real drums
In the early days part of the Mothers of
Invention's rig was 'a Harmon Kardon hi-fi
amplifier hidden inside a peach box'
On the 1988 tour Frank Zappa used an Oberheim
'Studio' practice amp instead of his usual
Frank Zappa 's Hammond organ was modified so it
could work a custom SynDrum unit from one manual
and a Minimoog from the other
When Todd Yvega started working for Frank Zappa
in late 1988 he lent him his own stereo
Synclavier as FZ only had a mono system
Frank Zappa had a modified circuit board from a
1977 Mk3 ElectroHarmonix BigMuff fuzz box in his
1988 tour effects rack.
In 1967 Frank Zappa recorded a radio ad for the
US Hagstrom agent saying he used 35 Hagstrom
guitars on the Lumpy Gravy album!
In the late 1960s Frank Zappa had a beautiful
blonde Gibson 'Super Jumbo' SJ-200N acoustic
guitar. Current whereabouts unknown
Frank Zappa used an AKG 'Harry' dummy-head
microphone to record Terry Bozzio’s Hands
with a Hammer drum solo from YCDTOSA3
In the early 1980s Frank Zappa sometimes used
the serrated edge 'SharkFin' picks invented by
Swedish guitarist Stig Landström
Frank Zappa ’s Synclavier touring rack needed
lead weights put in the base as it was top heavy
& legally unsafe. Pity the crew!
Frank Zappa bought 2 rather expensive Alembic
F-2B guitar preamps in 1974, one for himself and
one for bassist Tom Fowler
Frank Zappa had a Rex Bogue custom guitar made,
but returned it as he couldn't find his way
around the 'tree of life' neck inlay
Frank Zappa 's sunburst 1960 Gibson ES-5
Switchmaster was a very rare guitar (only 41
made) but he still had it heavily modified
'Toshi' Doi who invented the Sony digital studio
recorders used by Frank Zappa also had a key
part in the development of the CD
For completeness: The serial number of the
backup sunburst Stratocaster that Frank Zappa
took on the 1988 tour is FZ0001
Frank Zappa used at least one 100 Watt Marshall
amplifier at almost every gig he played from
1970 until his last tour in 1988
The serial number on the neck plate of Frank
Zappa 's yellow Performance Guitar custom
Stratocaster is '00001'
The lost piccolo snare drum Ruth Underwood
refers to in 'Drummers of Frank Zappa' DVD was
discovered safe and sound at the UMRK.
Frank Zappa 's 'Baby Snakes' SG guitar
originally had a tiny silver hand holding a
crystal ball for the pickup selector switch.
Frank Zappa and engineer Mark Pinske made around
1000 tape edits while re-mixing the London
Symphony Orchestra recordings.
The tuners on Frank Zappa 's famous 'Shut Up'n
Play Yer Guitar' Les Paul originally came from
an Ibanez Artist series guitar.
In 1973 Frank Zappa not only fitted Barcus-Berry
piezo pickups to Ruth Underwood's marimba, but
also to Ralph Humphrey's drums.
Frank Zappa used a 200 watt Marshall Major amp
with an 18" bass cab for the output from his
Mutron Octave Divider. Heavy!
Frank Zappa 's 1968 Höfner bass guitar (used by
Roy Estrada) had active electronics with
built-in fuzz and bass-boost circuits.
Frank Zappa asked for his handprints at the
LA Guitar Centre 'RockWalk' to be placed next to
Leo Fender 's
Zappa fans escaping the fire at the Montreux
Casino in 1971 used the bands Orange OR200 amps
to break down a locked fire exit.
The Electric Sitar owned by Zappa (used by
SteveVai in the '80s) was a customised original
'60s Coral, not a Jerry Jones copy.
The Zappa / Hendrix Stratocaster now owned
by Dweezil was set on fire by Jimi Hendrix at
the Astoria London on March 31st 1967
The Telecaster that Frank Zappa traded for
Mark Volman's Martin D18S was the one he played
the night of the Rainbow accident.
Frank Zappa only broke one guitar string
during the entire 1988 tour, despite using metal
picks. Props to tech Merl Saunders Jr.
Frank Zappa took lessons in using and programming the Series 900
modular synthesizer from Moog pioneers Beaver &
Krause in 1967
Frank Zappa took about 20 guitars with him on the 1988 tour, but used
his two Strats with Midget Sloatman e.q.'s
Frank Zappa is holding a French Jacobacci Studio 3 guitar on the Joe's
Domage cover, bought in Paris after the Montreux
Oct.1975 FZ appeared on TV on with Australian comedian Norman Gunston,
with his Ovation 1613-4 Classic electric
The lowest note on Frank Zappa's Bösendorfer Grand Piano has a
frequency of 16.35Hz, almost an octave lower
than a 5-string bass
Frank Zappa's Fender Jazzmaster passed into the hands of Paul Buff
when FZ bought PAL studios in 1964, it was
Standel first demonstrated the 25L15 Amplifier (about which Frank Zappa wrote Electric Aunt Jemima) at El Monte