What Guitar Does Dave Matthews Play?

Note: Professional musicians use many different guitars and frequently change them. Though this is by no means an exhaustive list of every guitar they’ve ever played, we’ll try our best to keep this list updated with their most notable guitars.

Dave Matthews has been a popular musician for many decades. He mostly plays acoustic guitar, though he uses a couple of electric guitars for various performances. If you’re interested in getting one of his guitar models or emulating his sound, you’ll enjoy a list of his most popular instruments.

Dave Matthews played the Gibson Chet Atkins SST throughout the late 90s, then he switched to a Taylor 714 and a Taylor 914C until the mid-2000s. These days, Dave Matthews plays and endorses Rockbridge guitars, with the Rockbridge SJ Custom being his go-to guitar.

Throughout this article, I’ll tell you all about Dave Matthews’ guitar collection, along with some background history for each of them.

Dave Matthews: Some Background Information

Dave Matthews is a self-taught musician who formed the world-famous Dave Matthews band in 1991. While his childhood involved a lot of moving back and forth between Johannesburg and New York, he formed the group in Virginia. Biography explains that Dave Matthews was a bartender at a jazz club when he got the idea to create a grassroots band.

The band consisted of a bassist, a violinist, a sax player, a drummer, and Dave Matthews, who played acoustic guitar and lead vocals. It was an instant hit in the surrounding area and quickly exploded onto the countrywide scene in 1994.

1. Taylor 914C

The Taylor 914C was one of Dave Matthews’ most influential instruments. He used it for nearly a decade in the early 2000s. It had a natural finish, much like most other acoustic guitars in his collection at the time. It’s made of rosewood and Sitka spruce. Instrumentio reports that the model is discontinued, but plenty are still in circulation.

This make and model was used in numerous live performances and studio recordings, making it the go-to guitar for Dave Matthews. He had several backups of the same guitar with the same color, pickups, and unique V-class brace that provided more bass than most acoustic guitars at the time.

What It’s Known ForDave Matthews’ guitar from 2001 to 2011
PickupsES2 acoustic pickups

It was used on several albums, including Busted Stuff, Big Whiskey & the GrooGrux King, and Stand Up. He stuck with this guitar long enough to make it his most iconic instrument (scuff marks and all). All of these albums reached #1 on the US music charts for the months and years they were released.

You can see Dave Matthews using the Taylor 914C in a live Atlanta, Georgia concert in 2005 here:

You can also listen to it when he’s playing Ants Marching in 2005 at Live Aid:

Dave Matthews played a couple of other Taylor guitars, but none of them were nearly as influential and noteworthy as the 914C. Afterward, he switched to Rockbridge guitars. However, there’s no denying his success while playing this instrument.

2. Gibson Chet Atkins SST

Almost just as iconic as the aforementioned Taylor 914C is the Gibson Chet Atkins SST. This guitar was much different from the rest of his acoustic guitars because it was ultra-thin. It also had a black finish, separating it from the traditional natural and sunburst patterns that Dave Matthews usually goes for.

The plastic soundhole on this guitar made it sound a bit toyish compared to some of his collection, but it actually improved the grassroots style the Dave Matthews Band often created. According to Guitar Lobby, the Gibson Chet Atkins SST was used in Under the Table and Dreaming Crash, and Before These Crowded Streets.

What It’s Known ForUnder the Table (and many other albums)
PickupsFishman Acoustic Matrix Natural II

Dave Matthews often bounced between Gibson, Taylor, and Yamaha. The Gibson Chet Atkins SST was his primary Gibson guitar during the late 90s. He customized it with the listed Fishman pickups to make it sound significantly clearer during studio sessions. Much like the Taylor 914C, the Gibson Chet Atkins SST was discontinued.

You can listen to an incredible solo performed by Dave Matthews in 1995 here:

Or watch him play the Gibson Chet Atkins SST at Live Aid in 1995 here:

The guitar was sold after the 90s, but the exact number isn’t known. It’s safe to assume that it went for thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars, though.

3. Rockbridge SJ

Rockbridge is a growing guitar brand Dave Matthews has endorsed for quite some time. In fact, there’s a Dave Matthews Rockbridge guitar model. He uses a Rockbridge SJ Custom guitar. It’s a beautiful sunburst-covered acoustic guitar with a rosewood body topped with a spruce cover.

Dave Matthews also uses a 12-string Rockbridge SJ Custom for some of his songs. It’s believed that he brings multiple Rockbridge guitars with him to each concert. Rockbridge guitars were used in multiple Dave Matthews albums, including Away From the World and Come Tomorrow. It was also used in the 2023 Around the Moon album.

What It’s Known ForPerformances and recordings from 2011 to present (2023)
PickupsMatrix Infinity pickup

Dave’s enthusiasm for guitars shows most when playing a Rockbridge guitar. He’s endorsed them and has played numerous models from the company. The SJ Custom is his most common Rockbridge acoustic guitar, but it’s far from the only one he’s used. He’s also played a Rockbridge Jumbo, a Rockbridge OOO, and 12-string variants of these guitars.

Check out this video of Dave Matthews playing and discussing Rockbridge guitars in 2016:

Another worthwhile Rockbridge SJ Custom performance is here, in an NPR Music Tiny Desk concert:

Rockbridge is Dave Matthews’ current guitar model, and there seems to be no end in sight. However, he occasionally still uses Taylor, Yamaha, and Gibson guitars.

4. Yamaha CJ 818SB

Dave Matthews used the Yamaha CJ 818SB in his older music from the 90s. Most of his performances in he used Yamaha guitars were in smaller settings, such as jazz clubs and bars. He rarely used pickups with his Yamaha guitars, but he brought the microphone closer to the instrument to amplify its sound.

According to Kark Post, Dave Matthews used the Yamaha CJ 818SB guitar in the band’s 7th album. These guitars came with a low price point compared to other major brands. However, Dave Matthews preferred them for their bass-packed resonance, bringing an interesting twist to the band’s grassroots genre.

What It’s Known ForStay and Satellite

After using Yamaha guitars earlier in his career, Dave Matthews switched to the previously mentioned Gibson Chet Atkins SST. However, he’s been seen using Yamaha guitars in smaller settings, recording sessions, and practicing guitar.

He can be seen playing his Yamaha guitar in the Satellite music video here:

As well as the music video for the band’s song Stay here:

It’s unknown if Dave Matthews had multiple Yamaha CJ 818SB guitars, but he’s definitely gone through several acoustic guitars made by the company. They’re tried and true, and they can withstand a beating (which is more than necessary considering how often the band went on tour with Yamaha guitars).

5. Yamaha Country Jumbo

Dave Matthews also used a Yamaha Country Jumbo that looked almost identical to the Yamaha CJ 818SB. It featured a dark sunburst pattern, and it was used in different parts of the Satellite and Stay music videos in that he also played the 818SB. The Country Jumbo was only used for three years or so, but it boasted a bold, deep resonance.

The Yamaha Country Jumbo starkly contrasted with the thin-bodied Gibson Chet Atkins SST. Where the Chet Atkins was black with a plastic sound hole, the Yamaha Country Jumbo was a massive jumbo-bodied guitar with a wooden sound hole. For reference, jumbo guitars are one size bigger than the already-large dreadnought body style.

What It’s Known ForStay, Satellite, and 90s interviews
PickupsPiezo pickups

Unfortunately, the previously mentioned Stay and Satellite music videos are the only recordings that you can see him using the Yamaha Country Jumbo. However, it was a popular choice for him in the 90s before the Dave Matthews band became a household name.

The Yamaha Country Jumbo was often used as a backup guitar to the Yamaha CJ 818SB. It wasn’t as popular as the Rockbridge, Taylor, or Gibson guitars he used, but its presence in the earlier parts of his career make it more than worth mentioning.

6. National Resolectric

Dave Matthews used the National Resolectric earlier in his career because it helps a lot for those who don’t have or want to use an amplifier. The guitar’s unique metallic construction provides incredible volume boosts and interesting tonal changes and extended vibrations that lead to optimal resonance.

Dave Matthews’ National Resolectric guitar had a P90 and Piezo pickup. He also had a switch on the guitar that let him swap the pickups in the middle of a performance or while recording. This guitar was used in Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King, which included many of the band’s best hits from the time.

StyleElectric-acoustic hybrid
What It’s Known ForBig Whiskey and the GrooGrux King
PickupsP90 and Piezo pickups

Although Dave Matthews used this guitar a lot early on, he kept it for the foreseeable future. It became the primary guitar for almost every Alligator Pie performance, a song he wrote for his daughter Stella. The song’s sliding methods made it the perfect guitar for the job.

View this clip of Dave Matthews playing the National Resolectric guitar in 2009 while performing Alligator Pie:

You can also watch Dave Matthews use this guitar during a similar performance of the same year here:

The National Resolectric is one of the few guitars that Dave Matthews uses that doesn’t have a major brand (Rockbridge, Yamaha, Gibson, etc.). However, it greatly impacted the previously listed songs and albums. It also looks much different from most electric guitars you’ll come across.

7. Taylor W65 12-String

The Taylor W65 12-string Guitar was one of Dave Matthews’ handful of 12-string guitars. He also has a couple of 12-string Rockbridge guitars that look and sound almost identical to the Taylor W65. Perhaps the most notable performance he had with this guitar is from Lillywhite Sessions.

He also used the Taylor W65 12-string Guitar during a tour in the early 2000s. Unlike most 12-string guitars, this one holds the same intonation and resonance that you would expect from a 6-string guitar. It doesn’t sound toyish or tinny, which is a major benefit, according to Dave Matthews.

What It’s Known ForLillywhite Sessions
PickupsLR Baggs pickups

12-string guitars aren’t Dave Matthews’ go-to instruments. In fact, he’s switched to 6-string guitars for some of his songs that he originally recorded on a 12-string guitar. That being said, there are several videos where you can see him playing his Taylor 12-string Guitar(s) as recently as the mid-2010s.

You can see Dave Matthews playing the Taylor W65 12-String Guitar in this video during a 2013 performance of JTR (from the Lillywhite Sessions album):

Another video of Dave Matthews playing this guitar can be seen in 2001 while performing Bartender:

Dave Matthews also played the Taylor W65 12-string Guitar on the song Grey Street, though he’s since switched to 6-string guitars for most of the song’s live performances. This guitar remains in his collection for rare appearances during tours and solo shows, and it’s still in his guitar tech’s repertoire.

You can learn more about Taylor guitars in my guide about where Taylor guitars are made.

8. Fender Stratocaster

The Fender Stratocaster has been an iconic electric guitar for countless musicians. Its middle-ground price range, unique appearance, and undeniably rock-and-roll style make it a go-to for the Dave Matthews band. It’s been used by the band’s lead guitarist, as well as Dave Matthews himself.

Most of Dave Matthews’ recordings and performances have him on an acoustic guitar. The band has a guitarist for some of their songs, so he’s typically the one to play electric guitar. However, Dave Matthews usually goes with a Stratocaster when the guitarist needs backup audio or they need to layer the clip.

What It’s Known ForHis go-to electric guitar
PickupsSingle-coil pickups

The Fender Stratocaster is a popular electric guitar for many guitarists, including the Dave Matthews band.

You can see the band’s guitar tech showing off the Fender Stratocaster in this clip:

Unfortunately, there aren’t many videos or recordings of Dave Matthews playing the Fender Stratocaster (or any other electric guitar, for that matter).


Dave Matthews has an interesting tone and playstyle, which leads many to wonder which tools and instruments he uses. Whether you’re wondering what pick he uses, the tuning he goes for, or which strings he plays, you’re in the right place. Let’s dive into the most frequently asked questions below.

Does Dave Matthews Use a Pick?

Dave Matthews uses a pick for most of his guitar playing but also fingerpicks quite often. He switches between picking and fingerpicking, trying different renditions for almost all of his songs. Jim Dunlop claims that Dave Matthews uses Tortex Picks. Interestingly enough, these are some of the market’s most affordable and common picks.

What Tuning Does Dave Matthews Play?

Dave Matthews usually plays a traditional EADGBE guitar tuning. However, Dave Tabs reports occasionally using drop-D tuning and raised-B tuning. He also plays baritone tuning when he uses a baritone guitar, but baritone tuning can’t be achieved with a regular acoustic guitar.

What Kind of Strings Does Dave Matthews Use?

According to D’Addario, Dave Matthews uses D’Addario 12-53 Light XT Phosphor Bronze-Coated Guitar Strings. This string choice isn’t surprising since many popular musicians use D’Addario strings. The 12-53 light gauge makes it much easier for him to fingerpick his guitar with less resistance and better intonation down the fretboard.

Final Thoughts

Dave Matthews might not have an extensive guitar collection like other musicians from the 80s and 90s, but he seems to stick to a pattern of switching brands every 5 to 10 years or so. His unique fingerpicking style and blended melodies continue evolving and progressing, regardless of which guitar he uses.

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