John Lennon played rhythm guitar, accordion, piano and acoustic guitar during his time with the Beatles. On his first British album, ‘Please, Please Me’ in 1963, John played a Rickenbacker 325 semi-hollow electric guitar, an acoustic Gibson with built-in pickups and an accordion. His main guitar on the album was Rickenbacker. In fact, he played that or other Rickenbackers on most of their early albums. In the early days when he played acoustic guitar, he generally chose the Gibson J160E acoustic with built-in pickup.
Paul McCartney made the Hofner 500 bass so popular that its violin form became known as a ‘Beatle Bass’. He did not leave it behind until the band stopped touring after their last concert at Candlestick Park in San Francisco in 1966. For the psychedelic period, starting with a few tracks on ‘Rubber Soul’ and mostly on ‘Revolver’, he switched to Rickenbacker 4001. He is seen to play it in the movie ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ and on ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. ‘ For the famous ‘Yesterday’ on ‘Help!’ he used an Epiphone acoustic guitar. He also occasionally played a Hofner electric piano.
George Harrison often used a Gretch half-hollow electric guitar as a lead guitarist. He used a variety of these in the early years. He also played Rickenback 360-12 string guitar for songs on ‘A Hard Day’s Night. ‘For later work he used Gibson Les Pauls, Epiphones and a host of other Gibsons, including SG. He also played a Fender Telecaster. George also introduced the Indian instrument, the sitar, to Western audiences with ‘Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)’ 1965’s’ Rubber Soul. ‘He sometimes even played bass.
Drummer Ringo Starr started ‘Please, Please Me’ with a Premier drummer set. When their second album, ‘With the Beatles’, rolled around later in 1963, he had switched to a Ludwig drum set. He got stuck with Ludwig. Ringo also played other percussion instruments, including tambourine, maracas and bongos.
When the Beatles started playing for large crowds, they did not have the type of stage-filling amplifiers known today. They had essentially the same amperes that they used in the studio. These were generally Vox AC-100 amp heads with 12-inch speakers.
They also did not have ‘speakers’ on stage, so they could not hear what they were playing, especially among the thousands of screaming girls. Foldback came into great use later when other bands routinely played big shows.
The Beatles had switched to Fender amps by the time they filmed their last live show on the Apple Roof for the movie ‘Let It Be. ‘They may have had some kind of coves there, but it’s a little hard to tell from the movie. Never has a band had the kind of influence over culture, music and musicians that the Beatles did. From the way they looked to what they looked like and the clothes they wore, they were copied by bands for decades after their peak. If they used an instrument or an amplifier, sales for that type and brand would increase dramatically.