Paul McCartney Rickenbacker Facts

An iconic musician, Paul McCartney is known worldwide for being the Beatles’ bassist. Even when the latter disbanded, he pursued his passion for music, joining other bands and building his solo career. More than his skills, we can also attribute his musical prowess to his gear, such as the Paul McCartney Rickenbacker. 

The Rickenbacker 4001S is one of Paul McCartney’s guitars. It was given as a gift to him in 1964. In the following years, it became a favorite of McCartney and made it inseparable from his music. It was even a huge contributor to his new musical styles and that of The Beatles. 

Read on to learn more about Paul McCartney Rickenbacker, including facts about the guitar that helped cement his reputation in the global music scene. 

Paul McCartney Rickenbacker Facts

Paul McCartney Rickenbacker

McCartney’s “Other Bass”

When we talk about Paul McCartney gear, one thing that most fans will mention is the Hofner bass guitar. Although not as popular, his Rickenbacker is also worth mentioning. Known as his “other bass,” the Rickenbacker has a huge role in the career and music of McCartney. 

McCartney Used the Rickenbacker 4001S

While the Rickenbacker is available in an array of models, the specific guitar used by McCartney was the Rickenbacker 4001S. Before this, he was using his Hofner bass because it is lightweight. Initially, he did not use the Rickenbacker because it is heavy.

Lennon and Harrison Used the Rickenbacker Before McCartney

John Lennon and George Harrison, both members of The Beatles, used Rickenbacker before McCartney. McCartney’s Rickenbacker was gifted to him during their 1964 American tour. However, he was still attached to his trusted Hofner, so he showed no interest in playing the Rickenbacker. 

When McCartney received his Rickenbacker, it had a sharp fireglo finish with two regal horns protruding from the top and bottom portions of the bass guitar

Mccartney Started Using the Rickenbacker During the Beatles’ Last Touring Days

McCartney started using the Rickenbacker during the last touring days of The Beatles. It was them when it became his go-to guitar to suit his melodic approaches. Additionally, it also coincided with his discovery of counter melodies. 

The Rickenbacker showcased a new look in 1967. Then, the bass guitar had a psychedelic painting to match the other instruments of The Beatles. All You Need Is Love is one of the first music videos to show such a change in the appearance of the Rickenbacker.

The Beatles Started Using Fender in 1968

However, in 1968, Fender provided The Beatles with new equipment. It was then when McCartney switched gear and used guitars from Fender. Nonetheless, when The Beatles moved to Apple Corp, the Rickenbacker made a re-appearance. It had an appearance in the music video of Two of Us.

More on Paul McCartney and Rickenbacker

McCartney Started Using the Rickenbacker 4001S in 1965

It was in 1965 when McCartney started using the Rickenbacker 4001S. He was with The Beatles at that time. One of the first instances when he was seen playing with this guitar was at the 1965 Hollywood Bowl performance of The Beatles. 

Basslines with More Character

With his new Rickenbacker, McCartney gave birth to a new style. His basslines had more character because of this instrument. His music became more fluid, melodic, and complex, elevating his basslines.

Rickenbacker Features

The Rickenbacker has a fatter neck compared to McCartney’s previous guitar. It is also better in terms of stability. Plus, it remains in tune up to its neck, which is one thing Hofner could not achieve. 

After its introduction to the market, McCartney was one of the early adopters of the Rickenbacker 4001S. Unsurprisingly, other iconic musicians considered the Rickenbacker their bass of choice. It is one thing that we can attribute to the punchy and bright bass with a distinct growl. 

The Rickenbacker 4001S used by McCartney is also easy and comfortable to play. Adjusting with the guitar can be difficult at first, but after getting used to this model, it is effortless to use. 

From Backup to the Star of the Show 

McCartney had a hard time letting go of his Hofner guitar. It could be because he was so accustomed to its use that he found it challenging to switch gear.

With this, his Rickenbacker started as a backup bass. He often brought it in the US tour of The Beatles as a reserve, so it was rarely seen on stage then. 

The entry of the Rickenbacker to the life of McCartney had the perfect timing. It was also the same time when the guitarist was evolving and developing.

The Rickenbacker eventually became his preferred bass and the star of his performances. It demonstrated his novel sonic approach and new music character.

Rickenbacker’s Fat Tone in the Song Paperback Writer

One of the first definitive appearances of the Rickenbacker at the performances of The Beatles was for recording their song Paperback Writer. If you listen closely to the track, you will quickly notice the fat tone of the Rickenbacker.

It sounds better than the soft and hollow tone of the Hofner. It made The Beatles sound different in a good way, and the Rickenbacker greatly influenced such. 

McCartney Continued Using the Rickenbacker in the Following Years

McCartney’s adoption of the Rickenbacker continued in the following years. It was the same guitar that he used in the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the eighth studio album of The Beatles.

Lovely Rita and Penny Lane are two of the songs where the timbre of the Rickenbacker is most apparent. These songs also show the multifaceted style of McCartney. 

McCartney and the Rickenbacker After The Beatles 

Even after The Beatles disbanded, McCartney continued using the Rickenbacker, making it a crucial element in his music. In McCartney, his first solo album, the Rickenbacker provided remarkable basslines.

It was also used in the Ram album in 1971. Meanwhile, in 1973, the same bass guitar was used in the Red Rose Speedway album by Wings. 

However, it is essential to note that even in these years, the Rickenbacker was not McCartney’s primary instrument. He would use it only when he needed a chunky and hearty tone.

Soon enough, it became his preferred guitar to bring to the stage, making the Rickenbacker more identifiable. 

With his intention to let go of his past with The Beatles and focus on his career at Wings, McCartney was no longer using the Hofner bass guitar.

The Rickenbacker became his primary instrument, appearing in the band’s major concerts. However, late in the 80s, McCartney returned to using the Hofner.

Rickenbacker vs Hofner 

To better understand why McCartney switched to Rickenbacker, let’s talk about some of the main differences between the two. As earlier mentioned, one of the most significant was that the Rickenbacker was heavier and fatter. 

The solid body of the Rickenbacker weighs at least ten pounds. On the other hand, the rosewood neck has an approximate length of 33.25 inches. It is longer than the neck of the Hofner bass, which is 30 inches. 

Because of its more solid construction and longer body neck, the Rickenbacker has a deeper tone and more complex resonance than the Hofner. More so, McCartney revealed that the Hofner has a more challenging time staying in tune when played. 

With all the good things about the Rickenbacker, we were not surprised that McCartney made the switch. He occasionally played using the Hofner, even with the guitar change. Safe to say, the latter has a special place in his heart and career. 

Most Expensive Bass Guitar in the World – Top 8

What Is a Rickenbacker 4001S?

paul mccartney rickenbacker bass sound

As mentioned above, the specific guitar used by Paul McCartney was the Rickenbacker 4001S. Many people would often say that it is a league on its own. Indeed, it is! And such gave McCartney enough reason to switch during his last few years with The Beatles and his career after that. 

The Rickenbacker 4001S, known as Model 1999 in Europe, was made from 1964 to 1967 and 1980 to 1986. The S at the end of 4001 stands for Special. 


Below are some of the features of the iconic Rickenbacker 4001S: 

  • Construction: Solid 
  • Body Material: Maple 
  • Body Style: Crest wave 
  • Neck Material: Walnut and maple
  • Tone Controls: 2
  • Volume Controls: 2 
  • Pickup Selector Controls: 3-way selector 
  • Number of Strings: 4 
  • Pickup Configuration: Horseshoe 
  • Bridge: Fixed
  • Hardware: Chrome 
  • Fingerboard Material: Padauk 
  • Colors: cherry sunburst, tobacco sunburst, red, black, natural, blue 

Again, did Paul McCartney ever play a Rickenbacker bass? Paul McCartney used the Rickenbacker bass until 1968. He used it again during his Wings tours.

Rickenbacker 4001S Through the Years 

Classic Electric Guitar

As one of the bestsellers in the 1970s, the 4001S is undoubtedly a classic in the market for electric guitars. 

Rickenbacker 4000 Inspired the Creation of Rickenbacker 4001

In 1951, Fender introduced the Precision Bass, quickly becoming a game-changer. Since then, many American manufacturers have responded to the competition by producing their respective electric guitars.

Rickenbacker introduced the Model 4000 in 1957. It has evolved through the years, inspiring the creation of the Rickenbacker 4001.

Rickenbacker 4001 Has Better Tonal Range and Aesthetics

Roger Rossmeisl, the man behind the Rickenbacker 4001, intended to create a deluxe version of the Model 4000.

Aside from the improvements in aesthetics, he also introduced a better tonal range, which was made possible by the guitar’s tone and volume controls, as well as a three-way selector switch. 

When Rossmeisl left Rickenbacker to join Fender, Dick Burke entered the picture and introduced several improvements in the guitar. It has a cast aluminum tailpiece and bridge. There was also a reduction in body depth and an extension of the bass horn. 

Rickenbacker Equipped the 4001 with a Ric-o-Sound Stereo Output

In 1968, one of the significant updates to the Rickenbacker included a Ric-o-Sound stereo output. More so, a Hi-gain unit replaced the original horseshoe pickup. A regular mono jack was also added to the guitar. 

Replaced by the 4003 Model

The 4001 became the biggest hit for the decade from Rickenbacker. However, in 1986, the company stopped manufacturing the 4001. It was eventually replaced by the 4003. This was also when McCartney stopped using the guitar and returned to using the Hofner bass. 

What Songs Did Paul Mccartney Use the Rickenbacker On?

Some of the most popular songs where McCartney used his Rickenbacker guitar are the following: 

  1. Get Back 
  2. So Bad 
  3. Drive My Car 
  4. Nowhere Man 
  5. You Won’t See Me 
  6. Girl 
  7. In My Life 
  8. Here Comes the Sun 
  9. Band on the Run 
  10. Tomorrow Never Knows
  11. For No One 
  12. Rain 
  13. Think of Yourself 
  14. Lady Madonna
  15. I Want to Tell You 
  16. All You Need Is Love 

Here is a video where you can see McCartney in action rocking his Rickenbacker guitar.

Other Artists Who Used Rickenbacker Bass Guitars

paul mccartney rickenbacker strings
George Harrison

With the many benefits of Rickenbacker bass guitars, McCartney was not the only one who enjoyed playing with this instrument. Here are other artists who also played the Rickenbacker: 

  1. George Harrison 
  2. John Lennon
  3. Roger McGuinn
  4. Paul Weller 
  5. Chris Squire
  6. Chris Baio 
  7. Cliff Burton 
  8. John Deacon 
  9. Hans Zimmer 
  10. Geddy Lee 
  11. Paul Gilbert 
  12. Jay Watson 
  13. Bruce Foxton 
  14. Maurice Gibb 
  15. Martin Gordon 
  16. Ed O’Brien 
  17. Susana Hoffs
  18. Nick O’Malley 
  19. Pete Townshend 
  20. John Fogerty 
  21. Mark Stoermer 
  22. Sid Vicious 
  23. Johnny Marr 
  24. Bill Wyman 
  25. Simon Gallup 
  26. Mike Campbell

Frequently Asked Questions – Paul McCartney Rickenbacker Bass Guitar 

What Rickenbacker Guitar Did Paul Mccartney Use?

Paul McCartney used the Rickenbacker 4001S from 1965 to the late 1980s when he switched back to using the Hofner bass. Between those years, there were also times when he was not using his Rickenbacker guitar, primarily when Fender provided equipment for The Beales. 

When Did Paul Mccartney Play a Rickenbacker Guitar?

Paul McCartney played with a Rickenbacker guitar in 1965. It was a gift to him but did not immediately become his favorite. It took a while before it made appearances in more shows and recordings.

When he realized its potential, it became one of his favorite instruments, which he continued to use until the late 1980s during his time with Wings after The Beatles disbanded. 

Why Did Paul Mccartney Stop Using the Rickenbacker? 

Several factors might have contributed to this. On top of the list would be that the company stopped its production in the late 1980s. It was also heavy, so it tended to weigh down McCartney.

In Closing – Paul McCartney Rickenbacker Facts

The Rickenbacker 4001S became popular because many iconic musicians used it, and Paul McCartney was one of them. While he received the guitar in 1964 as a gift, he did not immediately fall in love, mainly because it was heavy and fat.

Nonetheless, it did not take long before he appreciated its musical brilliance, making it one of his beloved guitars. 

From the years leading to the disbanding of The Beatles to the late 180s during his time with Wings, McCartney used the Rickenbacker 4001S. In the late 1980s, however, he started returning to the Hofner bass, which is what he used before the Rickenbacker.