Top 10 Ways to Destroy a Perfectly Good Guitar (or Bass)

Top 10 Ways to Destroy a Perfectly Good Guitar (or Bass)

10. Smash It To Bits

The list of well-known artist who have smashed a guitar on stage is long. It includes Eddie Van Halen, Yngwie Malmsteen, and Garth Brooks. Perhaps the most famous of them all is Pete Townsend, guitarist for The Who. Or is it Paul Simonon, of the Clash?

9. Burn it

Jimi at Monterey. We all knew this was coming, right?


8. Toss it To Your Guitar Tech

Question: What is the only thing better than a super-cool, no-look stage exit?

Answer: A super-cool, no-look stage exit gone horribly awry!


7. Play a Love Song to Bluto Blutarsky

John Belushi’s iconic character in the 1978 movie Animal House may just hold the title for the most hilarious guitar-smash of all time. And considering the song, it was a perfectly justifiable response, in my opinion.


6. Spin it Around You, 80’s style

Anybody know who the first artist was to perform this maneuver on stage? I think the earliest guys I recall doing it were Tom Keifer and Jeff LaBar of Cinderella. Regardless, it’s probably responsible for more destroyed guitars than all other man-made factors combined.


5. Lend it to Quentin Tarantino and Kurt Russell

The Tarantino-directed movie The Hateful Eight contains a scene in which a female character, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, strums a guitar and sings. At the end of the scene, character John Ruth, played by Kurt Russell, destroys the guitar in a fit of rage. The main filming was to be done using a priceless 1870’s Martin acoustic, on loan from the C.F. Martin Co. museum. Several “stunt-doubles” were also created, to stand in for the real thing when smashing-time came. Kurt Russell somehow didn’t get the memo, and mistakenly destroyed the real one by smashing it against a wooden post. Leigh’s reaction in the scene makes it pretty clear she was aware the newly-destroyed guitar was indeed the genuine article. Oops.


4. Lend it to Prince

At a 2013 taping of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, pop-icon Prince punctuated his performance by throwing his guitar to the ground, irreparably breaking it. Unfortunately, the guitar wasn’t his. It was a 1961 Epiphone Crestwood belonging to Captain Kirk Douglas of The Roots, that Prince had asked to borrow before the show. Click here to read an interview with Kirk Douglas about the incident. I guess Shakespeare had it right when he penned the words “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.”

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3. Store it in a Floodplain

On May 1 and 2, 2010, more than 13 inches of rain sent Tenessee’s Cumberland River spilling over its banks. The unprecedented 52-foot flood claimed the lives of 24 people, and wreaked massive damage to buildings and property. One business ravaged by the flood was Soundcheck Nashville, a warehouse where many of the city’s most famous acts stored their stage sets, lighting, PA gear, mixing consoles, amplifiers, and of course, their guitars. Over 4 feet of water flooded the warehouse. As the water receded it left behind a mine-field of mud, spiders, and snakes that hampered recovery. About a thousand guitars and two thousand amplifiers, some vintage and irreplaceable, were damaged beyond repair, making it almost certainly the largest mass destruction of guitars and guitar-related gear in history. The emotional value of those lost instruments is incalculable.


2. Play the Snot Out Of It

You know…stomp it, kick it, and ride it like a surfboard.


1.  Really Play the Snot Out Of It

You know….play it almost exclusively for decades, until it is worn clean down to the bones.


Tell us Your Story

Have you ever destroyed a perfectly good guitar? Have you ever watched someone else do it? On purpose? By mistake? Tell us your story!

17 thoughts on “Top 10 Ways to Destroy a Perfectly Good Guitar (or Bass)”

  1. In ’88, I was doing a gig with my brand new Charvel Model 2 with a fresh set of strings and 2 songs into our (45 minute) set the “D” string popped leaving my guitar in Q# tuning in the middle of a lovely major scale harmony solo! Well, what was I to do besides grab it by the waist and swing it at my stack!! The result being the neck nearly perfectly snapped in half, leaving only the truss rod and remaining strings to “hold it together”!
    I had a heavily modified Warmoth bodied Strat as a backup to finish out the set. Luckily, $200 and the remaining pieces of the neck were all I needed to secure a (unquestionably nicer) replacement neck
    from Charvel. Does that qualify for this discussion?

  2. #1 would realistically be how I destroyed my first guitar.

    “Don’t have a stand on stage, and lean it against an amp and walk away.”

    So many guitars have died untimely deaths due to owner negligence at gigs!

  3. The guitar spin video had me in stitches: They think they’re such bad asses! But the last two are my favorites. That’s the way you do it: You play the livin’ snot out of it on the MTV!

  4. 11.) leave it in your car on a cold night.
    12.) leave it in your car on a hot day.
    13.) lend it to your roommate.
    14.) drill holes to install coil-cut switches.
    15.) install a kahler tailpiece (worst mistake since marrying my 1st wife).

    • That’s funny….they say any press is good press, as long as they spell your name right. Sorry for the bad press Kurt and Quentin. In my defense, I did get “Kurt Russell” right half the time. I completely bonked on “Quentin” though. I have fixed ’em all now!

  5. 16.) put stickers on your guitar- dreadful for finish, they age horribly and will be entirely regrettable someday.
    17.) paint your initials in a really amateurish way like Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day (“B.J.”). Moron.
    18.) put two pickguards on a Les Paul or 335 like the BeeGees did, when one is too many.
    19.) cut up a Les Paul Jr. by adding a pickup and/or a whammy bar. (appreciate and enjoy it’s simplicity).
    20.) hand-paint in an amateurish way political slogans (Tom Morello, Rage Against the Machine- “arm the homeless”) on your guitar. Get a life. Write & play your message. Kudos if it’s a hit and someone listens to it.
    21.) scallop the fingerboard. Unless your name is Yngwie or Ritchie, it is regrettable and irreversible.
    22.) bandsaw a Tele to make it a double cutaway instead of a single cutaway. Go buy a lefty Tele if that’s what you need. Here’s lookin’ at you, dolt, for cutting up Michael Bloomfield’s iconic vintage Tele.
    23.) installing a Bigsby tailpiece on anything. Just looking at it will knock a guitar out of tune and sustain is greatly diminished. The voice of experience speaking…

  6. I kinda sorta agree, but . . .

    16. You mean your heart doesn’t swell with admiration and envy when you see the “PEROT / STOCKDALE ’92” bumper sticker on the back of my ratty strat? That I bought with my own money and put there myself? In 1992? Huh? Is that what you’re trying to say?

    21. Of course, if it’s a strat-oid, it’s reversible by bolting on a new neck. And if you have an endorsement deal, the guitar company will fly a guy out to wherever you are to do it for you. So it depends.

    22. Yeah, why in the world didn’t Erlewine make a prosthesis for that poor thing while he was re-fretting it and cleaning it up? There’s no one on the planet that could do a better job putting it back together and making it look all period-correct with all the right dings in all the right places, but without a huge cookie monster bite missing.

    23. Whaddya mean? My Fender Sonoran dreadnought acoustic has a Bigsby on it (well, it’s a GFS X-Trem, but same idea). When most kids were ogling the women’s underwear section in the Sears catalog, I was secretly poring over the electric guitar pages with a flashlight under the covers. The more machinery a guitar has, the better I like it. A guitar isn’t a guitar without a whammy bar! I feel a bumper sticker coming on.

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