What Instruments are Used in Psychedelic Rock?

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Psychedelic rock is a style of rock music that is inspired or influenced by psychedelic culture and attempts to replicate and enhance the mind-altering experiences of psychedelic drugs. It often uses new recording techniques and effects, and sometimes incorporates elements of other genres like acid rock, folk rock, and electronica.


The drums are the backbone of any rock band, and that’s especially true for psychedelic rock. This music is all about creating a thunderous, pounding beat that will get the listener’s blood pumping and feet moving. To achieve this sound, psychedelic rock drummers rely on a few key pieces of equipment.

The use of the bass drum

The bass drum is the largest and lowest-pitched drum in a standard rock band. It provides the basic beat or pulse that helps define the tempo and groove of a song. In psychedelic rock, the bass drum is often used to create a hypnotic, trance-like feeling by keeping a steady, even beat. Bass drums are usually played with two sticks, or with one stick and a foot pedal.

The use of cymbals

Cymbals form an important part of the psychedelic rock sound. Often, two or three cymbals will be used in addition to the drums, providing a fuller sound. Cymbals can also be played on their own to create special effects.


Guitars are the most popular instrument used in Psychedelic Rock. Many different types of guitars can be used such as electric, acoustic, and bass guitars. Guitarists often use effects pedals to create a more psychedelic sound.

The use of the electric guitar

In rock music, the electric guitar is often used in a duo or band context with an acoustic guitar or a bass guitar. The electric guitar is played with a pick, and is usually amplified through a tube guitar amplifier or using distortion effects pedals.

The first use of an electric guitar in a commercial recordings was in the early 1920s by George Barnes. He used it on several of his compositions including “Swanee River” and “Avalon”. It wasn’t until the late 1940s that the electric guitar began to be used extensively in blues and country music. In the late 1950s, it became a staple in rock n’ roll bands. The Beatles used electric guitars on their early hits such as “I Want To Hold Your Hand” and “She Loves You”.

The use of the acoustic guitar

The acoustic guitar is used extensively in psychedelic rock. Many of the genre’s principals — including the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Donovan, and Roger McGuinn of the Byrds — began their careers playing this instrument. The acoustic guitar became increasingly significant as these artists began to write their own material. For example, the Beatles’ early songs “I Saw Her Standing There,” “She Loves You,” and “I Want To Hold Your Hand” were all written on acoustic guitars. The Byrds’ 1965 hit “Mr. Tambourine Man” was also written on an acoustic guitar.


Keyboards are used to create the LSD-induced, mind-altering sound effects that are integral to psychedelic rock. Rock bands such as Pink Floyd, The Doors, and The Grateful Dead all used keyboards to produce their unique sound.

The use of the piano

Psychedelic rock, sometimes called garage rock, is a style of rock music that is influenced by psychedelic culture and attempts to replicate and enhance the mind-altering experiences of psychedelic drugs. It often uses new recording technologies, such as multitrack recording and tape manipulation, as well as electronic effects, such as feedback.

Pianos are sometimes used in psychedelic rock to create a full, “trippy” sound. They are especially effective when used in conjunction with other keyboard instruments, such as the Mellotron or the Hammond organ.

The use of the organ

Psychedelic rock is a music genre that emerged in the 1960s that was characterized by heavy use of distorted electric guitars, extended improvisation, and cosmic themes. The first use of the term “psychedelic” in rock music occurred in 1966 with the release of The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators’ album, which featured distorted electric guitar work and slightly unusual lyrics. The style quickly spread internationally, with bands such as Pink Floyd in England, Jimi Hendrix Experience in America, and Roky Erickson’s 13th Floor Elevators in Austin, Texas becoming popular.

Other Instruments

In addition to the standard rock band instruments, psychedelic rock bands often made use of keyboard instruments such as the Mellotron and the Rhodes Piano. The Mellotron was an early tape-based keyboard instrument that allowed for the playback of pre-recorded sounds. The Rhodes Piano was a popular electric piano that was used in many psychedelic rock recordings.

The use of the sitar

The sitar is a plucked stringed instrument used mainly in Hindustani classical music and Indian films. The sitar emerged in medieval India and flourished in the Mughal Empire. It is named after a Persian instrument called the setar (meaning “three-stringed”), which was adopted by the Indo-Persians. The sitar reached its pinnacle during the 18th and 19th centuries and was an important instrument in India’s court music. During the Mughal period, the sitar was played by noblemen, often accompanied by other instruments such as the tabla (a percussion instrument).

The sitar has a long neck with twenty-four frets and six to seven main strings. The frets are stops that divide the neck into fixed intervals. The main strings are plucked with the right hand while the left hand manipulates the drone strings. The sitar produces a unique sound that is lush and resonant. It is often used in film music to create an otherworldly or dreamlike atmosphere.

The use of the sitar in psychedelic rock began with Indian musician Ravi Shankar, who popularized the instrument in the West with his performances at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival and Woodstock Festival. Shankar’s style of playing, which incorporated Indian classical music with Western pop, had a profound influence on psychedelic rock musicians such as George Harrison of The Beatles and Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead. Psychedelic rock bands such as Jefferson Airplane and The Doors also used sitars on some of their most popular songs, such as “She Has Funny Cars” and “The End.”

The use of the Mellotron

The Mellotron is an electro-mechanical, polyphonic tape replay keyboard originally developed and built in Birmingham, England, by Streetly Electronics. It evolved from a similar device, the Chamberlin, but could be mass-produced more effectively. The instrument works by pulling a section of magnetic tape across a head. The electromagnetic field emitted by the tape head alters the signal from the instrument’s pickups, which generates sound.

Similar Posts