Flying V: Where Did This Iconic Guitar Come From?

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  May 26, 2022

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The Gibson Flying V is an electric guitar model first released by Gibson in 1958. The Flying V offered a radical, “futuristic” body design, much like its siblings the Explorer which was released the same year and the Moderne, which was designed in 1957 but not released until 1982.

What is the flying v guitar


The Flying V guitar is one of the most iconic and recognizable guitars in the world. It has been used by a variety of influential musicians over the years, and it is a highly sought-after guitar by many. But where did this iconic instrument come from? Let’s take a closer look at the history of the Flying V guitar and uncover its mysterious origins.

History of the Flying V

In 1958, Gibson shook up the music landscape with the release of their new flying V electric guitar. Designed by Ted McCarty and trainer/ guitarist Johnny Smith, it created quite a stir within the music world. Unlike previous models, this new design was as bold and avant-garde as the music its players produced.

Though there had been unconventional designs prior to this point, none of them impacted musicians in such an indelible way. The framework of the instrument was revolutionary in its angled body shape that pointed up towards the neck of the guitar. Its design was a combination of angular lines and curves that appealed to both professional and amateur musicians alike.

From its inception through today, it has seen remodeling or changes due to its unique shape making it difficult to produce or play multiple instruments at once due to varying durability requirements for playing live shows for one’s personal specifications for what works with your personal style sonically or aesthetically along with adjustments made in order to optimize strength without sacrificing sound quality. All these aspects have allowed this iconic instrument to remain relevant after over 60 years on the musical scene.

Design and Development

The Flying V is an iconic guitar shape that has evolved over the years. It was first conceived in the 1950s and has since become a staple in popular music. Its design has been highly influential in the guitar industry, and its unique shape has become synonymous with heavy metal and rock n’ roll. Let’s take a look at the design and development of the Flying V to better understand its place in the world of guitar playing.

Gibson’s Original Flying V

The Gibson Flying V is an iconic guitar shape that has been popular since its introduction in 1958. Developed under the direction of Gibson’s president, Ted McCarty, the Flying V was originally released as part of that year’s Modernistic Series alongside its sibling, the Explorer.

The Gibson Flying V was designed to stand out from other models and to accommodate modern musical styles such as rock and roll. Both models featured beveled edges, sharply angled horns, a deeply carved neck pocket and a pick guard with a trapezoid shape at its center. The radical design of the Gibson Flying V made it an instant hit with guitarists looking for something new and exciting. It was also seen prominently in advertising campaigns during this period, further propelling its popularity among musicians.

The original Flying V had two distinct contours: one beneath the bridge pick-up and another beneath the neck pick-up. This feature allowed players to switch between pickups while tilting their instrument on either side — giving them more tonal possibilities than ever before. Since then, Gibson has released many variations on its original design including various finish options, hardware upgrades and alternative wood choices such as korina or ebony instead of mahogany for that classic ‘Flying V’ sound!

Development of the Flying V

The Flying V guitar was first introduced in 1958 by the Gibson Guitar Corporation and is one of the most recognizable electric guitar designs ever made. The idea for this unique shape came from guitarist, explorer and inventor Orville Gibson and his design team of Ted McCarty and Les Paul.

Due to its unusual shape and heavy weight, the Flying V received great attention from both musicians and consumers when it was first released. This attention was not only due to its aesthetic appeal but also because it offered an ergonomic advantage: since it is balanced on both the bottom and top of the body, playing for extended periods of time causes less discomfort than any standard model.

Despite its initial popularity, sales dropped over time due to its large size, high production costs and strain felt on upper fret access as a result of extensive use beyond traditional tonal ranges. This led Gibson to shelve production after 1969 until production resumed again in 1976 with new designs in 1979 featuring major modifications such as sharper horns, a slimmed neck joint with improved upper fret access, two humbucker pickups instead of just one, etc.

This resurgence would be short-lived however as Gibson discontinued all production yet again in 1986 after selling off remaining stocks at discount prices through mail order catalogs into the early 1990s before they released updated models again in 2001 under its limited edition Flying V B-2 collection which featured a Floyd Rose tremolo bridge system incorporated onto some models every few years into today’s contemporary lineup.

Popularity of the Flying V

The Flying V has become one of the most iconic guitars in rock history and is beloved by many guitarists. It’s gained a lot of popularity over the years, but where did it come from? Let’s take a look back at the history of the Flying V and how it became so popular.

Rise to Fame in the 1980s

The Flying V, with its unique angular design, made its first appearance in 1958, but it was not until the 1980s that it started to gain widespread popularity. Named after its ‘V’ shape, the body of the guitar has two equally sized cutaways on either side of a symmetrical pointed lower horn.

The Flying V burst onto the scene when artists like Kirk Hammett and Ed Van Halen began using them as part of their show-stopping performances. Still popular today, bands such as Metallica and Megadeth continue to use them as part of their setlists.

Designers soon caught on to the appeal of this eye-catching guitar and started producing models boasting glittering finishings and colours that previously had only been seen on electric guitars. This sudden demand for it sparked changes in design throughout the industry as companies began offering creative alternatives including double neck versions of it and other variations – turning it into a style icon not just for rock musicians but also for audiences around the world.

It was during this time period when people began embracing Gibson’s original Flying V guitar, resulting in an incredible influx in sales from vintage models to modern reproductions across all levels – resulting in its undoubtedly iconic status within music history today!

Flying V in Popular Music

The Flying V first rose to prominence when Gibson unveiled the new design in 1958. Although it had existed for a few years before this time, the development of newer and more advanced models with updates such as humbuckers and trapeze tailpieces increased its visibility and gave it the potential to become an iconic guitar.

In popular music, rock stars such as Jimi Hendrix, Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones, B.B. King, and Albert King were seen sporting this eye-catching instrument around stages and studios during the 1960s and 1970s. Though very much a part of blues history and culture, the Flying V preluded metal genres like glam metal in the 1980s which made extensive use of its evocative aesthetics; bands like KISS consistently employed Flying Vs throughout their career.

More iconic players contributed to its ever expanding reach: Angus Young of AC/DC used a crimson Gibson Flying V with hand-painted ‘Devil Horns’ on it for many years; Lenny Kravitz preferred a slimmed-down white version named ‘White Falcon’; Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top was known for his white Epiphone model painted in stripes by Drum City Glamour Company and popular rock celebrity Dave Grohl found success with his signature blue Epiphone model called ‘The Giplinator’– which helped catapult this electric beauty into mainstream media even further!

Though thought to have died out somewhat after the 1990s due to other new designs emerging (such as Super Strat), there has been an undeniable resurgence from more recent bands like Black Veil Brides as well as a steady growth in custom luthiery shops reproducing classic models for modern electric guitarists—providing yet another creative outlet for those interested in exploring sonic possibilities through design production and experimentation.

Current Variations of the Flying V

The Flying V guitar is an iconic design that has been around since 1958. Since then, there have been numerous variations of the instrument released by various manufacturers and artists. This article will look at the current variations of the Flying V, as well as some of the most popular models available today.

Modern Variations of the Flying V

Since its inception in 1958 models, the Flying V has become an iconic guitar shape and its appeal continues to grow. With growing demand, manufacturers are creating more variations on the original design with today’s modern technology. Here are a few of the modern takes on this beloved classic:

-The Gibson Flying V 2016 T: This model features a mahogany body with an traditional archtop profile – offering warm tones while maintaining structural integrity. It also features an ebony fingerboard and titanium oxide fretwire, two vintage-style humbucker pickups, and white binding around the edges of the body for style and protection against wear.

-Schecter Omen Extreme-6: Featuring a double cutaway style reminiscent of vintage V’s but with heavier electronics including a Floyd Rose tremolo bridge, Grover tuners, Duncan Designed active humbuckers, and 24 Jumbo frets – this modern variation of the Flying V is sure to deliver plenty of sustain and rock power.

-Stevens Guitars V2 Soloist: Bold styling featuring a mahogany body for classic tones, three Seymour Duncan Alnico Magnetic Pole pickups driven through a single Volume knob for ultimate tonal control. In addition to its beautiful looks highlighted by cream binding on the neck and body, it also features two split ring humbuckers that provide plenty of flexibility when it comes to tone selection.

-ESP Blaze Bich: This bold variation on their classic Bich body style features neck through construction combining maplewood and mahogany for added defense against feedback while playing live performances or recording in studio settings. Equipped with ESP designed ALH10 pickups which are designed specifically to mimic organic brass instruments such as trumpets or saxophones while retaining all the expected clarity from humbucker equipped guitars.

Customized Flying V Guitars

Since its inception, the Flying V has developed an iconic status within the music community, inspiring countless custom makers to create their own versions. While some have chosen to maintain the simple classic design and aesthetic of the original Gibson models, other manufacturers have moved away from tradition to add unique features and modify existing ones. The following are some modern modifications to this classic guitar.

Pickups: Some manufacturers have swapped out similarly shaped “V” pickups for more powerful humbuckers, resulting in bigger sound with added definition.

Hardware: To enhance the playability of a Flying V design, many companies will opt for lighter weight tuners or strap buttons. Additionally, many offer a variety of finishes to make each individual instrument unique.

Strings: It has become increasingly popular for manufactures to increase string length by up to 2 inches (5 cm) on certain models; This results in higher pitches beyond what can be achieved on a standard scale guitar neck length of 24 ½ inches (62 cm).

Body: Manufacturers have experimented with different materials like acoustics and even exotic varieties such as glass or carbon fibre composites which produce notable sounds but require special handling and maintenance.


The Flying V guitar is one of the most iconic guitars of the rock and roll era. Its distinctive shape and sound have made it the ultimate symbol of rock and roll for many musicians. Its cool design and unique tone have helped it stand the test of time and remain one of the most recognizable electric guitars in the world. In this article, we explored the history and origin of the Flying V guitar, as well as its impact on the world of music.

The Legacy of the Flying V

Few guitar designs have had quite as strong an impact as the Gibson Flying V. Launched in 1958, this unique instrument has inspired generations of players to achieve new musical heights, including Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin and blues pioneer Albert King. With its space-age styling, it’s no wonder that the Flying V remains one of the most iconic electric guitars ever made.

The iconic design of the Flying V traces its origins back to the work of advancements in aerospace technology in the early 1950s. Crafted from solid mahogany and topped with a distinctive pointy headstock, many guitarists loved its looks but were initially put off by its weight and aggressive sound. Gibson responded by introducing lighter materials and electronics upgrades, which helped propel its popularity through the decades.

Today, with improvements like reduced neck angles and custom components like sustain blocks or Ultra-Modern Weight Relief options, modern versions of Gibson’s Flying V remain popular among players seeking maximum resonance and sustain on stage or in the studio. As time goes on, new generations will continue to be exposed to its unmistakable shape—emblematic of rock ‘n’ roll!”

I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Neaera and a content marketer, dad, and love trying out new equipment with guitar at the heart of my passion, and together with my team, I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2020 to help loyal readers with recording and guitar tips.

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