If you’re like me and grew up watching (and loving) the Back to The Future film series, you’ve probably wondered about Marty McFly’s guitars.
That’s what we’re going to dive into in this post!
Which Guitar Did Marty McFly Play in Back to the Future?
“Back to the Future” film and its sequels hold a special place in the hearts of guitar players.
The scene where Marty McFly, portrayed by Michael J. Fox, plays guitar in the school dance is embedded in their memories.
The scene in the film is set in 1955.
And what Marty was pulling off on the guitar was something unheard of for the era.
And the guitar model that he used primarily was Gibson ES-345.
However, this was a mistake by the filmmakers since ES-345 wasn’t a thing before 1958.
Nonetheless, it’s a legendary scene, and we’ll take some time to explore this instrument.
Additionally, we’ll also look into other guitars that appeared in the legendary film series.
As I already mentioned, Gibson introduced ES-345 in 1958.
The idea was to take the previous standard, ES-335, onto a new level.
Here we’re looking at a regular semi-hollow-body guitar.
Back in the 1950s, this was a new thing.
It wasn’t your hollow-body archtop for jazz, and it wasn’t like a Les Paul or a Fender Stratocaster.
In its essence, ES-345 bears the same basic traits as ES-335.
There’s the same maple body with F-shape holes, maple center block, and other standard traits.
The model also has your regular Gibson scale length of 25.75 inches.
Then there’s the mahogany neck with a rosewood fingerboard.
However, things get very interesting with the electronics.
Apart from having regular Gibson-style humbuckers of the era, it came with a stereo output.
You could use it as a mono or a stereo instrument.
Yeah, it sounds odd, but this was something that Gibson and other companies liked to experiment with.
Then there was also the Varitone circuit with a 6-way toggle switch.
Essentially, the Varitone feature changed the EQ curve before sending the signal out of the guitar.
It used different resistors or capacitors to change the tone between the pickup and the volume pot.
Another unique trait of an ES-345 was the fretboard inlay design.
It brought the parallelogram-style design.
One final thing to add is that ES-345, which Marty McFly plays in the film, had a Bigsby vibrato tailpiece.
The model came with a Bigsby back when it came out, although the company removed it shortly after.
However, these days, ES-345 is way more similar to ES-335.
The differences are mostly just aesthetic.
Both the stereo connectivity and the Varitone circuit are gone.
Also, Gibson still makes them without the Bigsby vibrato.
Other Guitars That Appear in BTTF Films
The guitar aspect of “Back to the Future” is often associated with the ES-345 scene.
However, guitar lovers might recall Marty holding other guitars in these films.
Two other instruments appeared — Erlewine Chiquita and Ibanez RS430 Roadstar II.
Erlewine Chiquita is a smaller-sized travel-friendly electric guitar.
Although it isn’t super-rare, it’s still far from your conventional electric guitar.
Erlewine is a guitar company started by Mark Erlewine.
He also worked with some of the biggest names in the world of guitar.
The likes of Billy Gibbons and Jerry Garcia used his instruments.
In the film, Marty owns a yellow Erlewine Chiquita guitar.
You can see him playing it through the big amplifier known as CRM-114 in the film.
We’re looking at a short-scale guitar with a compact body.
The scale length is 19 inches and the entire guitar is 27.5 inches long.
But at the same time, it comes with 23 frets.
There’s a wraparound bridge on it but with all the functionalities of a tune-o-matic.
The instrument comes with one regular humbucker and a single volume knob.
In general, if you want to play it in the E standard tuning, you’ll need thicker strings.
With such a short scale, your regular 9s or 10s will only maintain proper tension in a standard tuning three semitones higher.
So that’s G standard.
The company recommends 13s as the best option.
Apart from its famous BTTF appearance, Chiquita is regarded as a great practice instrument and a travel companion.
Ibanez RS430 Roadstar II
And another guitar that we can see in the first installment of the film series is an Ibanez.
The model in question is RS430 Roadstar II, and it was in black finish.
You can see Marty playing the guitar during the film’s battle of the bands section.
Ibanez manufactured it in 1984 and 1985.
After that, they replaced it with RG430.
We’re looking at a Strat-style instrument with a basswood body and a birch top.
However, Ibanez removed the birch top in 1985 and made the body all basswood.
Other than that, it’s a regular 22-fret Stuper-Strat guitar with three single-coil pickups.
These were Ibanez’s V7 pickups with a bar-style design.
There were also two unique traits of this model.
Firstly, the knobs came with so-called Tek Grip metal caps.
And secondly, the guitar came with a Pro Rock’r two-point tremolo.
There’s some mystery surrounding these bridges.
They were manufactured especially for Ibanez.
However, it’s still unclear whether Gotoh or another company was behind them.
It’s similar to Floyd Rose bridges, although brings a different twist to the design.
In all honesty, it seems like a more advanced design.
On the other hand, it’s somewhat rare, so it’s kind of inconvenient to repair it if anything goes wrong.
Was Michael J Fox Really Singing and Playing the Guitar in Back to the Future?
Technically, the recorded audio of Marty playing the guitar and singing Johnny B. Goode features the voice and guitar of two different artists.
However, Michael is a guitarist, as evidenced in the video above, and he allegedly got so good at playing Johnny B. Goode that he told the director that he could cut to his hands playing the song whenever he wanted to because he was actually playing it.
That said, the audio viewers hear is Tim May on the guitar, and Michael’s playing and hand movements are simply synced up to that.
Although I don’t know for sure, according to the video above, it does look like Michael is actually playing the guitar with The Pinheads in the battle of the bands tryout.
Marty McFly Guitar: Conclusion
I hope this article has given you more information about Marty McFly’s guitars from the Back to the Future film series!
And if you want to read more about the different types of guitars on this blog, then check out:
- A Thorough Guide to The Sally Face Guitar
- Cocobolo vs Rosewood as Guitar Materials
- Cherry Guitar Neck: Does this Material Work?
Lastly, feel free to leave a message in the comments below if you have questions about this or another guitar-related topic!