- This article is about the instrument. For the song, see "The Guitar". For transcribed chords and tablatures to They Might Be Giants songs, see Guitar Tabs
Guitars have been prominent in They Might Be Giants songs, both on stage and in the studio, since the band's start.
Co-founding member John Flansburgh is the main guitar player. In the late 90s, Dan Miller joined as lead guitarist. Other guitar players have worked with the group over the years, including Eric Schermerhorn, Jay Sherman-Godfrey, and Jonathan Gregg. John Linnell has also played guitar on occasion, notably in "The Big Big Whoredom", "Mainstream U.S.A.", "Mr. Klaw", "Louisiana", and "West Virginia" from his State Songs album.
Flansburgh has used a variety of guitars on stage and in the studio, including:
- Coral Longhorn (hollow body electric, sunburst) - There are two different, but similar Coral Longhorns used in videos. The one appearing in the video for "Don't Let's Start" (1986) was borrowed from Lary 7 . Flansburgh owned the one used in "Purple Toupee" (1988) and "The Guitar" (1992), but sold it "after many attempts to make it practical."
- Danelectro 56 U2 - a black lefty guitar henceforth seen only in the video for Tender Is The Mind
- Danelectro 59 DC - John has played two, both right-handed guitars strung upside down. He plays a gold one in the video for "Birdhouse In Your Soul" (1990), there is photographic evidence of a black one as well
- Danelectro Longhorn (black solid body) - Used in the video for "They'll Need A Crane" (1988)
- Fender Jazzmaster (candy apple red with a gold pickguard, built by Dennis Galuszka in the Fender Custom Shop) - Purchased in October 2007. A backwards Fender logo was added to the headstock at the request of Flansburgh. John has used this guitar for majority of the first leg of the Join Us tour.
- Fender Telecaster - Flansburgh owns two different ones. The first one was purchased in 1986 and is maple sunburst with a pearl pickguard which has been decorated with decals of The Puppet Johns since 2005. The second one was purchased in September 2005: a '62 model built by Dennis Galuszka in the Fender Custom Shop in Sonic Blue or Daphne Blue with a white pickguard, though it has greened from age. The blue Telecaster has been favored in frequent live performances.
- Fernandes Guitars Telecaster (black) - A right-handed guitar, seen in early promotional photographs with a white THEY sticker and later turned into the 'Chessmaster prototype' realized with foam core and duct tape" and used in the "Rabid Child" video (1985?).
- Fernandes Stratocaster (metallic purple) - Used since 1986. Used all over Lincoln and seen during a taped live performance for Everything Right Is Wrong Again - this guitar is right-handed but strung upside-down.
- Gibson ES-330 - John's first guitar. "I never even thought about other guitars I enjoyed it so much. […] It is the double speed guitar on the recording They Might Be Giants—flown in from the original demo made five years before the album) but alas it was stolen in a big apartment theft." This was the guitar used at the El Grupo De Rock And Roll show.
- Gibson ES-335 (cherry red) - Purchased in the mid-90s after a Les Paul was stolen. Commonly seen on stage.
- Gibson L1 acoustic guitar - Custom built during the John Henry sessions
- Gibson L48 - According to Flans, this guitar, which is occasionally seen in promotional photos and rarely at live performances, was purchased with his first Bar/None royalty check.
- Gibson Les Paul (gold top; sunburst) - Used in the "Doctor Worm" video (1999)
- Gibson SG (white)
- Gretsch Bo Diddley prototype (firebird red) - Borrowed for use in the video for "(She Was A) Hotel Detective" (1986)
- Gretsch 6118 (smoke green) - Used on stage in the early 2000s, including on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, and depicted in Mink Car promotional photos
- Gretsch 6120 (orange) - Used at an appearance on The Early Show in 2002 and shot for an unknown magazine
- Jerry Jones Guitars Guitarlin (blood/creamburst finish) - Used in "Snail Shell" (1994) and "Albany" (2004)
- Epiphone Les Paul Special II (heritage dark burst) Used in a live performance of I Palindrome I.
- Mojo Chessmaster (gold, designed by Flansburgh and built by Chris Cush of Mojo Guitar Shop) - Used live during the Apollo 18 tour and appeared in music videos from 1992-2011. While he still owns the guitar, it has been semi-retired from live shows.
Guitars of lesser note
John Flansburgh likes to keep his social media updated with his instrument purchases.
- In August 2012, Flansburgh posted that he purchased a green Eastwood Airline Bighorn, purportedly to celebrate International Lefthanders Day.
- In 2013, he found a right-handed Danelectro Shorthorn bass at a yard sale
- In 2015, he posted about using a Hagstrom III
- One month later, he copped a truly left-handed, circa 1970 Gibson 12-string acoustic on eBay
- In 2018, he picked up a lefty Custom Shop Fender '61 Stratocaster (from 2007) on Reverb
- An image posted to Instagram in 2018 also depicts an elusive left-handed Fender XII , a Hofner Club Bass, and a righty Fender Precision Bass. Flans has used an actual lefty P-Bass on stage at some trio shows circa 2008, including the TED talk—funnily enough, this bass is seen played upside-down (right-handed) in the Q U video.
Flansburgh has spoken at length about the difficulties of playing right-handed guitars strung for left-handed players.
Miller has used:
- Gibson ES-335 (yellow) - Purchased in late 2001. Used in the video for "Cloisonné" (2011) and recorded with on Join Us
- Gibson Les Paul Deluxe (goldtop) - Dan's live guitar rig since 2005
- Gibson SG Zoot Suit (rainbow) - Purchased in 2010
- Fender Stratocaster (black) - Dan's live guitar rig since 1999. The neck single coil pickup is replaced with a humbucker pickup
- Fender Telecaster (red) - Dan's live guitar rig since 1999. Also used in videos for "Fake-Believe (Type B)" , "D Is For Drums", "Robot Parade (ABCs Version)", "Sleepwalkers (ABCs Version)" (2005)
- Hamer SATQ (honeyburst; no pickguard) - Miller has owned a sunburst one in some shows in 2001.
- Danelectro D56 (aqua) - Dan's original guitar. In the early 2000s, it was used as a MIDI guitar for live performances, often on songs such as "She's Actual Size".
- Epiphone Acoustic (yellow orange)- Used in live performances when acoustic guitar is featured on certain songs.
- National Val-Pro 82 map guitar (scarlet) - played on The Tonight Show and occasionally appears as a stunt guitar at hometown shows
- A yet-unidentified natural brown Gretsch single cutaway hollow body with a Bigsby and two humbuckers, which was used during the first leg of the 2018 tour