What Guitar Did Malcolm Young Play? Unraveling “The Beast”

by Madonna

Malcolm Young, born on January 6, 1953, in Glasgow, Scotland, was a pioneering rhythm guitarist and co-founder of the iconic rock band AC/DC. Alongside his brother Angus Young, Malcolm played a pivotal role in shaping the sound and direction of rock music throughout the 1970s, 1980s, and beyond. Known for his powerful rhythm playing, relentless energy, and unwavering dedication to his craft, Malcolm left an indelible mark on the world of rock music and guitar playing.

Malcolm’s tenure with AC/DC spanned over four decades, during which the band achieved unparalleled success with classic albums like “Highway to Hell,” “Back in Black,” and “For Those About to Rock We Salute You.” His rhythm guitar work provided the backbone of AC/DC’s distinctive sound, characterized by driving riffs, infectious grooves, and electrifying energy. Malcolm’s influence on rock music and guitar playing continues to be felt to this day, inspiring countless musicians and fans around the world.


Malcolm Young’s Guitars

At the heart of Malcolm Young’s iconic sound was his beloved Gretsch 6131 Jet Firebird, affectionately known as “The Beast.” This legendary guitar, with its distinctive design and powerful tone, played an integral role in shaping the sound of AC/DC’s music. Featuring a single-cutaway body, dual Filter’Tron pickups, and a Bigsby vibrato tailpiece, “The Beast” was designed to deliver maximum sonic impact and playability.


In addition to “The Beast,” Gretsch also released a signature model in honor of Malcolm Young, paying tribute to his legacy as a rhythm guitar maestro. The Gretsch G6131MY Malcolm Young Signature Jet is a faithful recreation of his iconic guitar, featuring custom specifications and appointments designed to capture the essence of Malcolm’s legendary tone and style.


Despite its iconic status, “The Beast” underwent several modifications over the years to suit Malcolm Young’s playing preferences and performance needs. One of the most notable modifications was the removal of the guitar’s neck pickup, leaving only the bridge pickup for a more focused and aggressive tone. This modification, coupled with the guitar’s natural resonance and sustain, helped to define Malcolm’s signature sound and distinguish his playing from other rhythm guitarists of his time.

The decision to remove the neck pickup was driven by Malcolm’s desire for a simpler, more streamlined instrument that could deliver the punchy rhythm tones he was known for. By eliminating the neck pickup, Malcolm was able to achieve greater clarity, definition, and articulation in his playing, allowing his rhythm parts to cut through the mix with precision and authority.

Historical Significance

“The Beast” played a pivotal role in shaping the sound of some of AC/DC’s most iconic songs and performances. From the thunderous opening riff of “Highway to Hell” to the driving rhythms of “Back in Black” and “You Shook Me All Night Long,” Malcolm Young’s guitar provided the foundation upon which AC/DC’s electrifying sound was built.

The guitar’s raw power, dynamic range, and unmistakable tone were instrumental in defining AC/DC’s signature sound and influencing generations of rock musicians. Whether delivering blistering solos or driving rhythms, “The Beast” stood as a testament to Malcolm’s unrivaled talent, creativity, and dedication to his craft.

Technical Specifications

“The Beast” featured a single-cutaway maple body, maple neck, and rosewood fingerboard, providing a solid foundation for Malcolm’s rhythm playing. The guitar was equipped with dual Gretsch Filter’Tron pickups, known for their rich, warm tone and distinctively twangy character. These pickups were specially chosen to capture the essence of Malcolm’s unique sound and playing style, delivering punchy rhythm tones with plenty of bite and definition.

In addition to its distinctive tone, “The Beast” was renowned for its exceptional playability and reliability, making it the ideal instrument for Malcolm’s high-energy performances and relentless touring schedule. With its robust construction, smooth action, and rock-solid tuning stability, “The Beast” was a true workhorse guitar that could withstand the rigors of the road and deliver consistent performance night after night.

Malcolm Young’s Playing Style

Malcolm Young’s playing style was characterized by his powerful rhythm guitar work, driving grooves, and infectious energy. As the backbone of AC/DC’s sound, Malcolm’s rhythm playing provided the foundation upon which the band’s music was built, driving the songs forward with relentless intensity and unwavering precision.

One of Malcolm’s signature techniques was his use of open chords and barre chords to create massive, wall-of-sound rhythms that filled the sonic spectrum and propelled the music with unstoppable momentum. His tight, aggressive playing style, coupled with his impeccable sense of timing and dynamics, made him one of the most influential rhythm guitarists in rock history.

Legacy and Influence

Malcolm Young’s choice of guitar had a profound impact on the world of rock music, inspiring countless musicians and bands to emulate his distinctive sound and playing style. “The Beast,” with its raw power, aggressive tone, and unmistakable presence, became a symbol of Malcolm’s musical legacy and enduring influence on the rock genre.

From the stadiums of the world to the garages of aspiring musicians, Malcolm Young’s guitar continues to inspire awe and admiration, serving as a reminder of his unparalleled talent, creativity, and dedication to his craft. Whether performing on stage or laying down tracks in the studio, Malcolm’s guitar was his voice, his instrument of expression, and his legacy to the world of rock music.

Where to Find Similar Guitars

For those looking to capture the essence of Malcolm Young’s legendary tone and style, replicas and similar models of “The Beast” are available from various sources. Gretsch offers the G6131MY Malcolm Young Signature Jet, a faithful recreation of Malcolm’s iconic guitar, complete with custom specifications and appointments designed to capture the essence of his legendary sound.

In addition to the signature model, Gretsch also produces a range of Jet Firebird guitars inspired by “The Beast,” offering players the opportunity to experience the same powerful tone and dynamic range that made Malcolm’s guitar so iconic. Whether purchasing a replica or a similar model, aspiring musicians can achieve a similar sound and playing experience to Malcolm Young with the right equipment and setup.


In conclusion, Malcolm Young’s guitar, “The Beast,” holds a special place in the annals of rock history, symbolizing his talent, creativity, and unwavering dedication to his craft. With its distinctive tone, powerful presence, and iconic design, “The Beast” continues to inspire musicians and fans around the world, serving as a timeless reminder of Malcolm’s enduring legacy and influence on the world of rock music. Whether on stage or in the studio, Malcolm’s guitar remains a testament to his unparalleled talent, passion, and commitment to the art of rock and roll.


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