Why Doesn’t Tom Morello Trim His Guitar Strings? Now We Know.

The guitarist explains the history behind his decision

Tom Morello
Tom Morello performs onstage during I Am The Highway: A Tribute To Chris Cornell at The Forum on January 16, 2019.
Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Chris Cornell Estate

If you’ve seen enough footage of Tom Morello playing his electric guitar live, you might have noticed something: the man does not cut his guitar strings. Most high-profile guitarists keep theirs trimmed and even; Morello’s can sometimes give the appearance of an abstract sculpture. One would think that Morello has a rationale behind this, but it’s largely been a mystery until now.

A new article at Guitar World reveals how Morello’s distinctive guitar aesthetic came to be. The Rage Against the Machine guitarist recently conversed with Howard Stern, who — as he tends to do — candidly broached the subject.

“Why do you always have your strings sticking out?” Stern asked. “I feel like it’s an accident.”

Morello revealed that the look of his strings is very much by design. When he was a young musician starting out, he avoided cutting his strings — only to be told that he’d have to be in the “baddest band in town” if he wanted his guitar to look like that. And, for a time, Tom Morello cut his guitar strings.

“Years later, when I was in Rage Against the Machine, I was in the baddest band in town,” Morello explained to Stern — and thus, his time of string-cutting came to an end. It’s an unexpected explanation for a musical quirk, but it does answer a longstanding musical question.

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