What guitar does Dave Matthews play? A Deep Dive

As the lead vocalist and guitarist of the Dave Matthews Band, Dave Matthews has captured the hearts of millions with his unique blend of acoustic guitar-driven music and powerful, emotive lyrics.

What guitar does dave matthews play? here's everything you should know

Throughout his illustrious career, Matthews has demonstrated exceptional skill and versatility on the guitar, making fans and fellow musicians curious about the instruments accompanying him on stage and in the studio.

In this article, I’ll explore the guitars that have shaped Dave Matthews’ distinctive sound and examine the characteristics of the instruments that have become synonymous with his unforgettable performances.

🎶What guitar does Dave Matthews play? 

Dave Matthews primarily plays variations of Taylor and Martin acoustic guitars. One of his most notable instruments is the signature Dave Matthews Martin DMB, based on the popular Martin D-14 platform with specific customizations tailored to his preferences. Other Martin models he’s played include the Martin D-28 and D-18 and the Martin OMJM John Mayer Signature (OM-28). 

In addition to the Martin guitars, Matthews has been known to use Taylor guitars, particularly the Taylor 914ce Grand Auditorium (a cutaway edition) as his main stage guitar. Occasionally, he plays a Gibson J-45 acoustic guitar as well.

Dave Matthews’ choice of guitars reflects his commitment to high-quality and versatile instruments that cater to his intricate playing style, and these premium brands have played a significant part in characterizing his acoustic sound throughout his career.

On occasions, Dave Matthews has also been seen playing the Veillette Guitars Gryphon 12-String. The Veillette Gryphon presents a unique, high-tuned sound, adding another versatility to Matthews’ performances.

This 12-string guitar features a resonant, sparkling tone with a strong midrange, making it diverse in application. It’s tuned as six unison pairs, up to D, bringing a mandolin-style pitch range to the traditional guitar framework. This proprietary tuning applies to the same notes as a standard guitar, but 10 frets higher.

Given its distinct and appealing sound characteristics, the Veillette Gryphon 12-String quite well complements the nuanced aspects of Matthews’ music style.

🎶What tuning does Dave Matthews use? 

Dave Matthews uses a combination of standard and alternative tunings in his music. A significant number of his songs, including popular hits like “Ants Marching,” “Satellite,” and “The Space Between,” are played in standard tuning, which is E-A-D-G-B-E from low to high.

What tuning does Dave Matthews use

However, alternative tunings also feature in his music. A notable example is the use of Drop D tuning (D-A-D-G-B-E) in songs such as “Tripping Billies” and “Big Eyed Fish”. Matthews also has used a further modified D tuning known as D-A-D-A-C-D for songs like “The Stone” and “Dreaming Tree”.

This diversity in tuning reflects the versatility of Dave Matthews’ music style, characterized by complex fingerstyle techniques, distinctive rhythms, and a wide range of tonal textures.

🎶What strings does Dave Matthews use?

Dave Matthews primarily utilizes medium-gauge strings on his acoustic guitars. Specifically, Matthews’ guitar of choice, the Martin DMB, is reportedly strung with Martin Acoustic SP Phosphor Bronze Medium strings ([.013-.056] gauges).

These strings are recognized for their durability, brightness, and the dynamic range they bring to the instrument, aligning closely with Matthews’ expressive and intricate playing style.

What strings does Dave Matthews use

Notably, the string gauge and material (Phosphor Bronze) play a critical role in influencing the tone, volume, and sustain of Matthews’ guitar sound. Medium-gauge strings, such as the ones Matthews uses, provide more volume and better sustain but require more finger strength to play.

While these specifications correspond to Matthews’ well-documented preference, string choice can be a highly personal aspect of a musician’s approach to their instrument. It can be adjusted based on specific tonal and playing requirements of different songs or performances.

🎶Dave Matthews Rockbridge guitar specs

Dave Matthews often plays a custom Rockbridge SJ model guitar, designed and handcrafted by Rockbridge Guitar Company, a small boutique guitar maker based in Charlottesville, Virginia, where Dave Matthews Band was formed.

Specifications of the Rockbridge SJ model, like Matthews’ custom version, typically include:

  1. Top Wood: The Rockbridge SJ, including those Matthews is seen playing, often features Adirondack Spruce top. This provides a rich, powerful tone fitting for Matthews’s performance style.
  2. Back and Sides Wood: Matthews’s custom Rockbridge guitar uses Brazilian Rosewood for the back and sides, known for its deep, warm tones and complex harmonic response.
  3. Neck: The neck is usually crafted from Mahogany, balancing strength and weight well.
  4. Fretboard: Matthews’s custom guitar features an Ebony fretboard, providing durability and a smoother, quicker feel under the fingers.
  5. Body Shape: The Rockbridge SJ (Small Jumbo) has a unique body shape that offers a versatile tone, balanced across the bass, mid, and treble frequencies. It’s designed for versatility across various playing styles.
  6. Finish: Matthews’ guitar includes a custom finish, often seen as a natural, gloss finish.

Remember, while these are typical specifications for a Rockbridge SJ, custom-built guitars often include personal modifications or adjustments made according to the artist’s specific preferences or performance needs.

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🎶Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How many guitars does Dave Matthews own?

The exact number of guitars Dave Matthews possesses is not publicly documented. As a professional musician, Matthews likely has access to a large collection. He has been seen using multiple guitars throughout his career, which suggests he owns and uses different guitars to suit his various needs.

What Taylor guitar did Dave Matthews play?

Dave Matthews is known to have played the Taylor 914ce Grand Auditorium. This guitar is known for its balanced sound across highs, mids, and lows, making it a great choice for Matthews’ style of music.

What kind of acoustic guitar does Dave Matthews play?

Dave Matthews primarily plays acoustic guitars and is often seen using a Martin HD-28V. He also uses other Martin models such as D-35 and DM models. These guitars offer a rich, warm tone that aligns well with his musical style.


Dave Matthews is known for his impressive guitar skills and unique playing style that captivates audiences worldwide. While his iconic choice of the Martin HD-28V, D-35, and DM models remains significant in his musical arsenal, he is also recognized for playing the Taylor 914ce Grand Auditorium.

Each of these guitars offers distinct tonal characteristics that contribute to the exceptional sound associated with Dave Matthews’ music. By understanding his instrument choices, fans and aspiring musicians can gain insight into the elements that shape his iconic sound and further appreciate his artistry.

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