The Guitarsenal: Nancy Wilson

Nancy Wilson at Marymoor Park in Redmond, WA on July 1, 2014 - Photo by Kirk Stauffer
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As seen in Guitar Girl Magazine Issue 15 – Spring 2021 – Electrified!

Heart has been around since 1974, so it’s no wonder that Nancy Wilson has an appreciation for vintage tone–and a lot of guitars to choose from. Here’s a deeper dive into some of the guitars she has used throughout her career.

Ovation Adamas 1687-7
While touring with Heart in the late 1970s, Nancy was frequently seen playing a blue Ovation Adamas 1687-7. Made specifically for her in 1978, this Ovation was probably ideal for touring due to its resilient design; the top consists of carbon fiber and birch, while the back and sides are made of a patented “Lyrachord” fiberglass bowl. The internal piezo transducer pickups helped Nancy to cut through the rest of the band during their most iconic songs. She has since retired the Adamas, but it can often be found circulating around various museums.

1963 Telecaster Custom
For over twenty years, Nancy has sported a 1963 Telecaster in Lake Placid Blue finish. Apart from modified Sperzel locking tuners and a vintage PAF pickup in the neck position, this guitar remains true to the original Telecaster tone (with a little bit of added warmth from the humbucker). Nancy has also been seen rocking this guitar with other side projects such as Roadcase Royale, and it is still used today. As a matter of fact, it can be heard on her new solo album, You and Me.

1968 Gibson SG Junior
Another longtime favorite of Nancy’s is her 1968 Gibson SG. It was purchased from a used guitar store and upgraded with graphite saddles and a Vibramate Bigsby accessory for faster string changes. This guitar is most often heard on “Barracuda,” especially the Bigsby vibrato on the intro. The modified Kent Armstrong single P90-style pickup in the bridge position gives this guitar a simple yet punchy tone. In honor of her father, Nancy placed a Marine Corp logo on the back.

Martin HD-35 Nancy Wilson Dreadnaught Acoustic
It’s no surprise that Nancy wields her own signature Martin acoustic guitar onstage. She collaborated with Martin to select the premium solid tonewoods used on this model, featuring a top made of Englemann spruce (a tree found in her native Pacific Northwest), East Indian rosewood back and sides, and a brilliant red (“Heart”) African Bubinga center wedge. The powerful Fishman Aura pickup system delivers clarity even at high volumes. Additionally, the upgraded titanium bridge pins not only secure the strings but add another layer of sustain.

Gibson Nancy Wilson Nighthawk Standard
Nancy’s signature Gibson was first introduced in 2013, exactly twenty years after the first Nighthawk model was born. While this Gibson has a familiar Les Paul body shape, it boasts a ribcage contour for added comfort. The pickups consist of a Nighthawk Mini Humbucker in the neck (rich, full sound) and a Nighthawk Lead Humbucker in the bridge (bright and crunchy). Nancy often brings multiple Nighthawks on tour in order to quickly play in different tunings. Gibson recently launched the Epiphone Nancy Wilson Fanatic in January 2021, giving even more players access to her iconic Nighthawk design.

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