Mike Oldfield covers so many decades, styles and sounds that making a list of the gear he has used or that has been characteristic to his discography is a hard nut to crack for this piece… but we’ll give it our best shot.
We’re going to ignore his basses, keyboards, synthesisers, and all the wind instruments that don’t fit with our name, so we’re going to focus on just his guitars.
For real fans of Mr. Oldfield, we’ll have you know that there is a detailed website which analyses every instrument he has used in his career since his beginnings in 1973 with the legendary Tubular Bells.
On that album we mainly hear one of the first ‘real’ guitars to land in his hands back then, none other than from the hands of Marc Bolan. we’re talking about the 1965 Fender Telecaster fitted with a pickup in the middle.
On his next record, after becoming an authentic rock star thanks to his music appearing in one of the best-selling movies of the year, The Exorcist, he began to use one of the guitars that has been with him the longest throughout his career until he sold it in 2006: one of the first SGs that still had the name Gibson Les Paul from 1962. It isn’t the only ‘old’ Gibson that he’s used a lot, since another of his usual gems was a Gibson Les Paul TV Model from 1957.
As we were saying, there are many more electric guitars used by Oldfield but let’s wind up by talking about two other models that have marked his sound: that of the ‘59 Fender Stratocaster painted in sunburst and one that’s even more important, the Fender Stratocaster in Fiesta red from 1963 which is featured in most of his albums.
And another model that cannot go missing here is his own PRS Signature Model from 1989, also used on his record Earth Moving up to the present.
Apart from these electric models we must remember that many of his famous pieces are based on an acoustic guitar sound like the one built for him by Tony Zemaitis in 1975, although he has played with classic models like the Martin D-35 or the D-28 12-string.
We should also remember his sound on classic Spanish guitars, his favourite being the ones built by luthier José Ramirez , several of whose models he’s used throughout his life.
As a final note, without delving too much into this world because this guy is more than extensive, it is important to highlight that Mike Oldfield was one of the pioneers who, little by little, left the muscular million watt amps and mountains of screens on the stage behind (using mainly a Fender Twin Reverb at the start) and began to brazenly bet on processed sounds and virtual effects like the Roland GP-8 and VG-8, or more recently the Boss GT-5 and GT-6.
That said, this is just a summary of the guy’s gear that made him a legend bringing to the market a record with two instrumental songs of over 20 minutes each...can you imagine something like that today?