From the Strat to the Les Paul, power chords, and tapping, there is no doubt that choosing one virtuoso over another is extremely difficult. Indeed, it was understood that the debate itself had sparked several heated discussions. The 1960s produced more than their fair share of six-string slayers, but the 1980s revolutionized the concept of what is possible on a standard electric guitar. We compiled a list of the world’s greatest guitar players, taking into account their techniques and their contributions to the instrument. Is your favorite shredder on this list?
Robert Fripp, the founder of King Crimson, is responsible for musical innovations like Frippertronics, soundscapes, and the so-called “new standard tuning.” Even though he gradually rose to stardom in his own right, he paid his dues by working as a session guitarist for notable musicians such as David Bowie, The Talking Heads, Peter Gabriel, and Blondie for decades.
John McLaughlin of Doncaster, England, is a critical figure in the development of “fusion” music. He won the Grammy Award for Best Improvised Jazz Solo in 2018. John also had an impressive list of artists with whom he had collaborated at one point or another. While being on this list is hardly a reason to rub shoulders with rock royalty, there aren’t many guitarists who can claim to have shared the stage with Miles Davis. McLaughlin actually played on Miles’ most famous album, Bitches Brew.
Steve Morse is the founder of the Dixie Dregs and the lead guitarist for Deep Purple since 1994. Morse was born and raised in Ypsilanti, Michigan. In 1986, Steve Morse joined the popular rock band Kansas as the lead guitarist. The albums Power and In The Spirit of Things were released while he was a member of the band. Although he is now a member of the Flying Colors supergroup, Morse claims that when he was with Deep Purple, his bandmates forced him to ride in a separate vehicle because he would constantly play guitar as they went from gig to gig.
Peter Green was a co-founder of Fleetwood Mac and was born in London, England. Mr. John Mayall, the British blues godfather, hired him in 1965, a man who found more than a few guitarists on this list, and his career took off. In reality, the guitarist in John Mayall’s band who Peter Green replaced was none other than Eric Clapton, who, as you might expect, could be found further down this list.
Trower grew up in the Essex town of Southend-on-Sea. He was known as one of the best guitar players of his time due to his Jimi Hendrix-like abilities and alleged ability to bend notes better than any other musician alive. However, when he was a member of the famous group Procol Harum in the 1960s, his guitar playing became even more prominent. The album Bridge of Sighs, released in 1974, is widely regarded as Trower’s pinnacle achievement. In the 1980s, Trower formed a band with Jack Bruce, the bassist for Cream.
Tom Morello was born and raised in Libertyville, Illinois. Before becoming a rock god, he attended Harvard University and earned a BA in Social Studies. In the 1990s, Morello met Zack de la Rocha. Rage Against the Machine, one of the most popular and influential rock bands of the 1990s, was founded by Tom and Zack. Rage Against the Machine performed outside the Staples Center Convention Center in Los Angeles in 2000, which was hosting the Democratic National Convention. As the show continued, the crowd became increasingly enraged and angry, eventually resorting to throwing rocks at one point.
Malcolm Young was born in Sydney, Australia, and at the age of 20, he and his brother Angus co-founded Australia’s biggest rock band, AC/DC. Malcolm started to play rhythm guitar while Angus took the lead. According to legend, they chose the name AC/DC after seeing the letters on the top of their older sister Margaret’s sewing machine. Malcolm and his band were touring Europe with Black Sabbath by the late 1970s. It was said that they didn’t get along with Black Sabbath very well. According to one account, when things got heated, Sabbath guitarist Geezer Butler pulled out a knife on Malcolm.
Another great artist was a forerunner of his day. This founding member of the Beatles died in 2001 at the age of 58 from throat cancer, which he attributed to years of smoking. Harrison was the first Billboard Century Award recipient in 1992. It marked Harrison’s “critical role in laying the groundwork for the modern concept of world music.”
Michael Schenker, the legendary guitarist, was born in the small town of Sarstedt, West Germany, in January 1955. He was named “a legendary figure in the history of metal guitar.” The German guitarist was also a founding member of the Scorpions, a rock band. In the mid-’70s, he and his brother, Rudolf Schenker, formed the UFO band. Overall, Schenker has left and rejoined the UFO band at least three times and has written a song after each reunion.
Howard Duane Allman was the founder and leader of the Allman Brothers Band, a band that allowed him to play with his brother, Gregg Allman. Duane was fatally killed in a motorcycle crash that smashed his internal organs. He was just 24 years old when he died. He was well-known for his expressive slide guitar playing and improvisational skill on the instrument. “Live at the Fillmore East” by the Allman Brothers is widely regarded as one of the best live rock albums ever made.
Paul Kossoff was a guitarist who was in high demand because of his uncanny timing and complex ability to solo. He was a member of the popular band “Free” and was in high demand as a guitarist because of his uncanny timing and complex ability to solo. Unfortunately, Kossoff started using drugs when he was 15 years old. He died of a pulmonary embolism on a flight from Los Angeles to New York on March 19, 1976. He was just 25 years old when he passed away.
Billy Gibbons, 70, is the lead guitarist and lead singer of ZZ Top if his beard didn’t give it away. Early in his career, Gibbons founded The Moving Sidewalks, which served as an opening act for The Jimi Hendrix Experience, allowing him to become close friends with Jimi. Billy Gibbons’ genius is undoubtedly responsible for ZZ Top’s Texas blues boogie sound, which is now selling out concerts all over the world.
Here’s why Joe is on this list. Joe Bonamassa famously opened for B.B. King when he was just 12 years old. B.B. King said that when he first started playing, the crowd fell silent for a moment when they realized it was the kid who was making those sounds. However, once the truth was revealed, the audience went wild, and Bonamassa played in front of huge crowds ever since.
Mick Taylor, another product of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers school of creating rock guitar gods, was the blues virtuoso Mayhall had been looking for. Taylor continued to work with The Rolling Stones until 1974, demonstrating that he was a blend of Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page. Slash, the guitarist for Guns N’ Roses, has said that Taylor had the most influence on him as an artist.
Dave Mustaine was Metallica’s first lead guitarist. He was born in the city of La Mesa, California. Mustaine was fired from Metallica on April 11, 1983, due to his alcoholism, drug abuse, aggression, and feuds with band members James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich. Despite this, he achieved considerable success in his career as a result of the band he formed, “Megadeth.” He is known in his band for both singing and playing quick, amazing lead lines. Isn’t it incredible?!
Speaking of James Hetfield, here he is! Hetfield is a guitar monster who hails from Downey, California. Hetfield is credited with inventing the sound of “speed metal,” as well as instilling in the music industry an unrivaled sense of rage. Hetfield went to rehab for drug abuse in 2001. He’s been residing in Vail, Colorado, since then.
Townshend co-founded The Who, one of the most prominent rock bands of all time. He wrote in his biography about growing up in London shortly after WWII, “I wasn’t trying to play beautiful music. I was confronting my audience with the awful, visceral sound of what we all knew was the single absolute of our frail existence—one day an airplane would carry the bomb that would destroy us all in a flash. It could happen at any time.”
Kirk Hammett, a member of Metallica, was hired as a replacement for Dave Mustaine, Metallica’s previous guitarist when he was 16 years old. After frontman James Hetfield approached Hammett, his parents put him on a plane to New York to meet with the band. When the kid walked into the room, the band was not impressed, but when he nailed the solo for the hit “Seek and Destroy,” they hired him on the spot.
Chuck Berry, the pioneer of Rock and Roll, was born in 1926. In 2017, he passed away at the age of 90. According to Joe Lynch, “Berry contributed three things to rock music: an irresistible swagger, a focus on the guitar riff as the primary melodic element, and an emphasis on songwriting as storytelling.” There is no question that today’s rock music would not be what it is today if it weren’t for Chuck Berry.
Howe is the lead guitarist for the progressive rock band Yes. After leaving The Velvet Underground, Howe was the lead guitarist on Lou Reed’s first solo album, further cementing his reputation. Howe had a promising solo career after leaving Yes. He was enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2017.
Rory Gallagher was a blues and rock singer who was born in Ireland. His albums have sold more than 30 million copies around the world. Gallagher died tragically on June 14, 1995, at the age of 47, from a failing liver caused by alcohol, opioids, and an MRSA infection. Because of how well he plays the blues, he has inspired a lot of blues guitarists.
Zakk Wylde started his musical career as a member and lead guitarist of the small band Stone Henge. He eventually auditioned for and was hired as Ozzy Osbourne’s lead guitarist, a role he held for a long time. He’s also a member of the Black Label Society heavy metal band, where he sings lead. Wylde is well-known due to his undeniable stage presence. When Ozzy was on stage, he used to say that getting the audience to look at him was difficult because everyone was too focused on Wylde.
Frank Zappa, who died of lung cancer in 1993, was a practitioner of nonconforming free-form improvisation. Zappa was a prolific musician, releasing more than 60 albums with his band, Mothers of Invention, and as a solo artist. Zappa is a self-taught guitarist who is regarded as one of the most influential guitarists of the modern century. In his later years, Zappa led orchestras and recorded jazz and classical music albums.
Lars Johan Yngve Lannerbäck, better known as Yngwie Malmsteen, was born in 1963 and rose to fame in the 1980s for his neoclassical metal style. With 20 studio albums under his belt, Yngwie Malmsteen remains one of the most prolific artists working today. In 2018, he signed with Mascot Records and is showing no signs of slowing down!
John Petrucci, who was born in 1967, is best known for his work with Dream Theater, of which he was a founding member. Every “Top Guitarist” article and post in magazines and on the internet includes Petrucci’s name. He is best known for his ability to blend classical and jazz phrasings into rock chord progressions, resulting in a sound unlike anything else in the rock world today.
You may not think of the late musician Prince as a shredder, but his guitar playing might make anyone’s jaw drop. Prince was known for his ability to master a number of musical styles, including disco, punk, R&B, new wave, soul, pop, and psychedelic. Prince is one of the best-selling musicians of all time, with more than 130 million albums sold by his adoring fans.
Synyster Gates is the lead guitarist for the band Avenged Sevenfold. Total Guitar called him the Best Metal Guitarist in the World in 2016 and 2017. He’s a major jazz fan, and Django Reinhardt, the legendary gypsy guitarist, is one of his biggest influences. He also mentions Danny Elfman, the frontman for Oingo Boingo, as someone he admires. Did you know that M. Shadow, the lead singer of Avenged Sevenfold, is his brother-in-law?
Carlos Santana was born in the Mexican state of Jalisco. He stepped onto the Woodstock stage, practically unknown, and blew the crowd away. His band Santana rose to prominence in the 1960s and 1970s, pioneering a fusion of rock and roll and Latin American jazz.
Angus Young is another member of AC/DC. His active appearances, schoolboy-uniform outfits, and take on Chuck Berry’s duckwalk have made him popular. Young is 65 years old, and his playing style is strongly influenced by blues, power chords, and Scottish folk music. His skill to play one-handed arpeggios is prominent throughout his solos!
Dimebag Darrell of Damageplan has never had formal guitar lessons, but his style is legendary. In his riffs and leads, he made excellent use of the major third to bring dissonance to his minor key tonalities. He had exceptional picking abilities as well but favored legato phrasing. On December 8, 2004, during a Damageplan concert at the Alrosa nightclub in Ohio, something awful happened. A deranged fan jumped onto the stage during the first set and shot Dimebag Darrell numerous times. The guitar legend was pronounced dead on the scene. He was just 38 years old when he died.
B.B. King, who was born in 1925, was the first to bring a sophisticated guitar solo style to the world. He pioneered new methods for electric blues by using string bending and vibrato. B.B. (short for Blues Boy) was the undisputed “King” of the blues guitar. He was a lifelong friend of the blues and one of the greats of all time. King died in his sleep in 2015 at the age of 89.
David Knopfler, the rock band Dire Straits’ co-founder, is his younger brother. Label, number 70, was called a virtuoso. He is a finger-style guitarist, a four-time Grammy winner, and a three-time University of Music Honorary Doctor of Music. Sultans of Swing, from Dire Strait’s first album, is an absolute masterwork of guitar showmanship.
Randy Rhoads, who played with Quiet Riot and Ozzy Osbourne, significantly influenced neoclassical metal. He is credited as an influence by hundreds of well-known guitarists. He died tragically in 1982 while on tour with Ozzy Osbourne at the age of 25. A few members of the band, including Rhoads, were flying in a single-engine plane when it collided with the top of the tour bus, spiraled out of control, and killed everyone on board.
Gary Moore, another alumnus of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, has been called a genuine virtuoso. He had success in many bands and as a solo artist. He had eleven solo Top 40 hits in the UK as a recording artist. In 1993, he collaborated on an album with former Cream members Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker. Moore died of a heart attack in his sleep in 2011 at the age of 58.
Tony Iommi is a founding member of Black Sabbath. He adapted his playing style after an accident in a factory where he worked as a teenager. He lost the tips of his middle and ring fingers on his right hand. He went on to become one of the greatest rock guitarists of all time.
Joe Satriani has been nominated for a Grammy 15 times. Satriani made a living as a guitar teacher before becoming a rock god, even teaching a young guitarist named Steve Vai at one point. His breakout album, Surfing With the Alien, which features the famous illustration of Marvel Comics’ Silver Surfer on the cover, cemented his reputation as one of the greatest instrumental rock guitarists of all time.
It’s difficult to criticize guitarists who played with The Yardbirds. Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page were the only members of the Yardbirds. Jeff Beck is a true guitar genius whose work encompasses blues rock, hard rock, and electronica, among other genres. He is now 75 years old and shows no signs of slowing down. He’s been seen playing with Johnny Depp at live shows lately.
Steve Vai was born in Carls Place, New York, in 1960. He started his music career at the age of 18 by transcribing a complicated Frank Zappa song on notebook paper and sending it to the artist. After reading the page, Zappa mailed a plane to Vai, who flew a few to Los Angeles and joined the band. Vai is another virtuoso who has been described as a rather individualistic musician.
Ritchie Blackmore is a co-founder of Deep Purple and a highly accomplished guitarist and composer. Single guitar notes are hard-punched, mixing his free-flowing jamming style with softer, almost pipe organ sounds to create a sound that hasn’t been duplicated. He is renowned for his fantastic riffs and classically influenced solos, and he is now 75 years old.
Slash is Guns N’ Roses’ lead guitarist. He has received critical acclaim for his guitar playing since he began his career in 1981. He shared the stage with some of the world’s best guitarists, including Lenny Kravitz, who described him as “probably the best guitarist he’d ever played with.” Slash later went on to form Velvet Revolver, a supergroup band.
Alex Lifeson is the guitarist for Rush, a progressive rock band from Canada. He plays the mandola, bouzouki, and mandolin, as well as electric and acoustic instruments. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013. Lifeson, who is now 67, enjoys becoming a painter, a restaurant owner, and a licensed pilot.
Brian May is the lead guitarist and one of the founding members of the legendary band called Queen band. May is known for his soaring guitar solos and ability to fuse rock and roll and classical music styles. Regardless of whatever band he’s in at the time, his distinct voice is immediately identifiable. Queen as a band was put on hold for almost a decade after Freddie Mercury’s death. On the other hand, Brian May has resurfaced since then, taking Queen back to the forefront of rock once more.
Stevie Ray Vaughan
Vaughan was a central figure in the revival of the blues in the 1980s. David Bowie, who chose Vaughan to play guitar on his new album Lets Dance in the mid-’80s, recalled his lightning-fast fingerpicking. Vaughn was an immediate success, and opening acts included The Stray Cats and Eric Clapton. He died in a helicopter crash in 1990, at the age of 35. He is still remembered as a legendary guitar player.
Eric Clapton is God. Or at least that’s what the graffiti scrawled on London houses once proclaimed. Eric Clapton, a member of The Yardbirds, Cream, Derek and The Dominos, is the first three-time inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Clapton has won 18 Grammy Awards and has sold over 100 million albums worldwide.
Gilmour was a member of Pink Floyd. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest guitarists of all time. Pink Floyd took their transformative sound from their roots as a blues/folk band and turned it into an acid rock genre that no other band could match. When new fans of the band emerge, the albums Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall continue to sell millions of copies each year.
Eddie Van Halen
On the guitar, the founder of the hard rock band Van Halen is an absolute beast. Edward Van Halen and his brother Alex were discovered by Gene Simmons of Kiss and formed one of the most successful rock bands of all time, fronted by David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar. Van Halen was named number one on Guitar World magazine’s list of the greatest guitarists of all time in 2012. Unfortunately, he passed away on October 6, 2020.
The rock band Led Zeppelin was founded by Jimmy Page. But, unbeknownst to many, he was also a member of The Yardbirds (as were Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck). He was one of the most sought-after session guitarists in Britain as a twenty-year-old in the 1960s. Page, who is now 77, has been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame twice.
In his 27 years on this planet, Jimi Hendrix managed to become one of the most unique and critically acclaimed artists of all time. He took the stage at Woodstock, but due to his lack of fame at the time, he only performed for a few people. Jimi Hendrix is regarded by more people than any other guitarist on the planet as the greatest guitarist who ever lived. His ability to create sounds never before heard on a guitar is legendary. At the age of 15, Jimi Hendrix is shown with his first guitar.
Most of you are probably familiar with him as the pop star who is best known for his hit song “Your Body Is A Wonderland,” but did you know he can also play some mean guitar solos? In fact, Stevie Ray Vaughan is the reason he started playing guitar in the first place! With artists like John Mayer, you can be sure that the blues isn’t dead in this day and age!
Despite the fact that he has yet to release an album of his own, this incredible six-string virtuoso has taken the world by storm thanks to his viral Instagram videos. Mateus Asato, a guitarist from Campo Grande, Brazil, who now lives in Los Angeles, is a name you may have heard of. The Brazilian guitarist, who is known for his amazing chord-melody arrangements, has since toured as a session guitarist with a variety of pop stars.
Jake Bowen is one of three guitarists in Periphery, a progressive metalcore/djent band. In 2016, the band was nominated for a Grammy Award for best metal performance for the song “The Price Is Wrong.” Did you know that Dream Theater guitarist John Petrucci’s nephew, Jake Bowen, is also a musician?
Polyphia’s Scott LePage is one of the band’s two guitarists. If you’re unfamiliar with the band, they formed in 2010 and have progressive metal as their roots. They first gained notoriety as a result of their heavy sound. Later, their sound became more mainstream, eventually blending guitar with rap/hip-hop music to create a unique sound.
Polyphia’s other guitarist, Tim Henson, is a member of the band. The riffs he and Scott LePage wrote together had a significant impact on the guitar scene today, as they contributed to the formation of the new trap/hip-hop guitar sound. Polyphia is currently in the studio working on their fourth album, which will be released in 2021. Henson gained notoriety after posting several clips of himself playing guitar on Instagram.
Plini Roessler-Holgate is a guitarist and songwriter from Australia. He first released music under the moniker Halcyon before switching to his given name. As a progressive metal guitarist, he is known for his incredible guitar work; in fact, Steve Vai has referred to Plini as “the future of exceptional guitar playing.”
Aaron Marshall is a guitarist from Canada who is best known for his band “Intervals.” In 2011, he formed the band as a creative outlet in Toronto, Ontario. Aside from his work in his band, one of the things that people admire about him is how melodic his guitar playing is, as well as how beautiful his riffs are.
Oluwatosin Ayoyinka Olumide “Tosin” Abasi is a Nigerian-American guitarist best known for being the lead guitarist and founding member of the instrumental progressive metal band Animals as Leaders. Tosin’s band is known for their intricate music, which includes abrupt time signature changes and difficult rhythms. He also popularized a technique he calls “selective picking,” as well as playing guitar with the bass technique known as “thumping.”
Javier Reyes is best known for his work in the bands Animal as Leaders and Mestis, where he plays 8-string guitar. Having studied classical guitar, he combines traditional Spanish influences with progressive metal riffing. As one of Animals as Leaders’ guitarists, Reyes has demonstrated his mastery of the 8-string guitar by playing complex passages while remaining relaxed.
Tom Quayle is a British journalist who hails from Leeds. This incredible guitarist is known for his quick, fluid legato lines and his ability to play over complex jazz chord changes. He rose to prominence thanks to YouTube, and his popularity grew even more after he auditioned for Guitar Idol 2008. He recently collaborated on an app with David Beebee, a guitarist from Leeds. Guitarists can use the app to learn how to play over chord changes.
Martin Miller, a professional musician and an inspiring and knowledgeable guitar teacher from Leipzig, Germany, is making a name for himself as a professional musician and an inspiring and knowledgeable guitar teacher. Miller has been playing guitar since he was a child, having grown up surrounded by music and guitars, but he took it seriously in his teens. He first rose to prominence thanks to Youtube, where his incredible playing garnered a lot of attention.
Guthrie Govan is an English guitarist and guitar teacher who is best known for his work with The Aristocrats, Asia, GPS, The Young Punx, and The Fellowship, as well as his solo project Erotic Cakes. More recently, he has worked with Steven Wilson and Hans Zimmer. He won Guitarist magazine’s “Guitarist of the Year” competition in 1993 with his instrumental piece Wonderful Slippery Thing. The track demo earned him a spot in the live final, which he won over a number of other competitors.
Derek Trucks is a Grammy Award-winning guitarist, songwriter, and the founder of The Derek Trucks Band. He joined The Allman Brothers Band as an official member in 1999. He formed the Tedeschi Trucks Band with his wife, blues singer/guitarist Susan Tedeschi, in 2010.
Steven Lee Lukather is an American guitarist, singer, songwriter, arranger, and record producer best known for being the only remaining founding member of the rock band Toto from its inception in 1976 to the present day. Lukather, a prolific session musician, has recorded guitar tracks for over 1,500 albums, representing a wide range of artists and genres. Given his extensive experience as a session musician, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of him without even realizing it.
Lane began playing piano with his sisters when he was eight years old, but did not take up guitar seriously until he was ten years old. At the age of 12–13, he began intensive practice. He’s also collaborated with Ringo Starr, Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Reggie Young, Joe Walsh, Jonas Hellborg, and a slew of other musicians on two studio albums.
Cory Wong is a Minneapolis, Minnesota-based guitarist, songwriter, and producer. He has released several works as a solo artist and in collaboration with others. His musical background spans several genres, including jazz. He shared the stage with Vulfpeck, Stay Human, and Chris Thile, in that order. He released several albums in 2020, including Live in Amsterdam, a collaboration with the Metropole Orkest, and Meditations, a Grammy-nominated new-age album with Jon Batiste. He is best known for his work with the band Vulfpeck as a guitarist.
Scallon is a musician who rose to prominence on YouTube as a result of his videos of him performing metal songs with unusual instruments (an example of which would be a banjo). His YouTube videos cover a wide range of topics, from comedic music skits to educational videos teaching viewers about instruments they may not be familiar with.
Nili Brosh is a guitarist and songwriter who is Israeli-American. Brosh graduated from Berklee College of Music in 2009 and immediately began teaching in the college’s summer guitar programs. Through The Looking Glass, her debut album, was released the following year, and featured a guest solo from Andy Timmons. In 2010, she began performing with The Iron Maidens, as well as guesting with Stu Hamm, Andy Timmons, and The Aristocrats.
Orianthi Penny Panagaris is an Australian musician, singer, and songwriter who rehearsed with Michael Jackson in 2009 for his ill-fated This Is It concert series and performed with Alice Cooper’s touring band. She also won Guitar International magazine’s “2010 Breakthrough Guitarist of the Year” award. In February 2009, Orianthi performed as Carrie Underwood’s lead guitarist at the 51st annual Grammy Awards, and Underwood invited Orianthi to join her band. Following that performance, Orianthi was approached by Michael Jackson’s management for an audition for the This Is It concerts.
Nita Strauss is a rock musician from the United States. She is Alice Cooper’s current touring guitarist and also has a successful solo career. Strauss began touring with her own band as a teenager, and in her junior year, she dropped out of high school to pursue music full-time. Strauss’ career began with the Iron Maiden all-female tribute band The Iron Maidens, but she went on to perform with a variety of rock bands, including Consume the Fire, Femme Fatale, and the video-game supergroup Critical Hit.
James Burton has been in the industry for a long time and continues to tour as well as provide studio backup for a variety of singers. Burton began writing music when he was 14 years old, when he wrote “Susie Q” for rockabilly Dale Hawkins. During the 1950s, the amazing American guitarist had a huge impact on rock. He is now a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and has been named one of the 100 greatest guitarists by the Rolling Stones.
62-year-old Thurston Moors rose to prominence in the 1980s, when he was best known as a member of Sonic Youth. Outside of the band, he collaborated on a number of solo and group projects. Moore was also the founder and CEO of the Ecstatic Peace! record label. He was also named one of the top 100 guitarists by the Rolling Stones. Moore’s music has been said to have influenced several generations.
Joe Perry is the stage name for Joseph Pereira. The American musician and songwriter is best known for being the lead guitarist and founding member of the rock band Aerosmith. The band has been dubbed the “Greatest American Rock Band of All-Time” by many. Perry has 600 guitars in his collection. Isn’t that impressive?
Roger McGuinn is best known as the frontman and leader of the Byrds, an American rock band. The Byrds were a major hit-making band in the 1960s, combining traditional folk songs with a rock beat. For his work with the Byrds, McGuinn was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He has been praised and adored by millions of rock fans all over the world.
American singer-songwriter, musician and producer Buckingham, was the lead guitarist and lead singer of popular music group Fleetwood Mac. He remained in this position from 1975 to 1987, and again in 1997 until 2018. He has released six solo albums and three live albums. Together with his bandmates, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll ‘Hall of Fame’ in 1998. He transformed his banjo-playing style from his younger days into stadium rock. He was the master of harmonized leads and crisply snapped chords to create magical music.
London-born Steve Jones is a famous guitarist in his own right, but also excelled as a singer, actor and radio DJ. He is best known for his role as guitarist in the Sex Pistols. However, when the group broke up, alongside former band-mate Paul Cook, he formed The Professionals. Jones has released two solo albums and has also worked with other greats like Johnny Thunders, Iggy Pop and Bob Dylan.
Another American singer-songwriter-musician that we all know and love is Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen. He has released twenty studio albums, of which many feature his backing band, the E-Street Band. Springsteen is one of the originators of the rock style, heartland rock. This method combines mainstream rock with actual lyrics about working class life in the United States. Springsteen’s career has lasted five decades thus far and he has become famous for his poetic, socially aware lyrics. He also received particular praise for energetic stage performances.
Peter Buck, born December 1956, is an American singer-songwriter. However, he was the lead guitarist of alternative rock band, R.E.M. Furthermore, he was also the co-founder of this band. Buck has a particularly interesting guitar style, because it is fairly simple but also very distinctive from everyone else. Buck uses open strings while chording to make chiming, yet memorable pop melodies. While using his sound on mid-period R.E.M albums, it saw the band rise to international popularity.
Paul Simon has had an incredible career which has so far spanned over six decades. Simon is half of the famous duo of Simon & Garfunkel. Together, the duo released five studio albums and were on of the biggest groups of the 60s. Simon was an excellent guitarist, and even provided guitar on Garfunkel’s 1973 album, Angel Clare.
Dave Davies, born February 1947, is a British singer-songwriter and guitarist. Davies is the lead guitarist for English rock band, The Kinks. Over his career, Davies has played many guitar, but the most memorable must be the Gibson Flying V. Davies had full responsibility for the signature distorted power chord sound on the first song released by The Kinks. The Kinks were very successful and Davies at guitar was surely one of the catalysts.
Singer-songwriter, guitarist Verlaine is most well-known for his role as front-man of NYC rock band, Television. Initially, Verlaine has little interest in the guitar aspect of both rock and jazz. It was only after hearing the Rolling Stones’ “19th Nervous Breakdown”, that he developed some interest. It was at this point that he began a lengthy time of experimenting, to discover his own personal style. Verlaine, alongside his future bandmate Richard Hell, once escaped boarding school in order to move to New York City and begin his musical career.
Raitt was more than just a guitarist, she was also a blues singer, a songwriter and an activist. Raitt’s personal touring guitar is a customized Fender Stratocaster, which she nicknamed Brownie. It was this that became the basis for a signature model in the year 1966. So far she has received 10 Grammys. Raitt features as number 89 on Rolling Stones’ list of “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” but at number 50 for greatest singers.
Carl Perkins was an American singer-songwriter, and an excellent guitarist. Charlie Daniels claimed that “Carl Perkins’ songs personified the rockabilly era, and Carl Perkins’ sound personifies the rockabilly sound more so than anybody involved in it, because he never changed.” He is known as the “King of Rockabilly” and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Rockabilly Hall of Fame, the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and Memphis Music Hall of Fame. Perkins also was the recipient of a Grammy Hall of Fame award.
Joseph Donald Mascis Jr, or J Mascis as he is more commonly known, was the singer, guitarist and main songwriter for alternative rock band Dinosaur Jr. Initially a drummer, he switched to guitar after founding Dinosaur Jr alongside bassist Barlow and drummer Murph. It was with this band that he acheived national success. His guitar riffs have been described as ‘monolithic’ by many.
Andrew Summers, more professionally known as Andy Summers is a British guitarist who was a member of rock band, ‘The Police’. He initially started out on the piano but after years of lessons, he moved onto guitar. He played jazz guitar from a young age and achieved international fame in his role as guitarist for ‘The Police’. Unofficially (without credit), Summers wrote the guitar riff for “Every Breath You Take”. The song was a hit, going on to be number one for eight weeks.
Edward Hazel, 1950-1992, was the lead guitarist for Parliament-Funkadelic. He was posthumously added to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, alongside fifteen other members of the band. In the Funkadelic song “Maggot Brain”, Hazel has a ten minute guitar solo, which is hailed as one of the greatest solos of all time on any instrument. Hazel played in the vein of Jimi Hendrix and mixed “the aggressive rock and roll sound of Jimi Hendrix into the funky world of James Brown and Sly Stone”.
Cline is a famous American guitarist and composer. Since 2004, Cline has served as the guitarist for Wilco. The 1980s saw Cline focus on jazz, but he has also worked with other musicians in both punk and alternative rock. Such musicians include Mike Watt and Thurston Moore. Cline began playing guitar at the age of 12, while his brother Alex was a keen drummer. Cline claims that he decided to become a guitarist after hearing a version of Jimi Hendrix playing “Manic Depression”.
Buddy Holly was the prime influence of future heroes—George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Jeff Baker to becoming guitar players. His style was quite basic: country and blues blended rhythm and theme. Playing his Stratocaster and being the head of a two-guitar bass drum quartet, Holly basically invented the rock band. “Listen to the songs from the first three albums of the Beatles,” said John Melenkamp. “Turn off their voices, and it’s Buddy Holly.”
Campbell served as Tom Petty’s lead guitarist for over 40 years and knows just how to make a song tick. He never clutters up a song with notes. He also worked as a session guitarist with a number of acts and even replaced the lead guitarist of Fleetwood Mac, Lindsay Buckingham, on their world tour in 2018-19. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002 as a member of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
Fahey passed away in 2001 aged 61, and excellent at guitar. He played American folk music and was an eccentric, incredible fingerpicker. He can be credited with transforming traditionally blues with advanced harmonies of modern classic music to then mine it with a prankster’s wit. His solo instrument was the steel-string acoustic guitar, and his unique style can be described as the foundation of the genre of American primitive guitar.
Like his conversational singing, Willie Nelson’s guitar playing comes across as laid-back, playful, and easily recognizable without much diffuculty. Surprisingly, Nelson has been playing the same Martin M-20 classical guitar since 1969, nicknamed Trigger. It defines his voice, a nylon thorn of gypsy jazz that mixes country, blues, and Django Reinhardt jazz. Even though the guitar now has a big hole, Nelson still plays it every evening.
Educated in flamenco and jazz, Robby Krieger surpassed rock and roll when most players were still bound by the blues. In The Doors, he has a talent for improvisation, following Jim Morrison’s wildest journeys, writing some of their hottest songs (“Light My Fire”), and make up for it in their keyboard-drum-guitar lineup.
The Canadian singer-songwriter, Mitchell, draws her influence from folk, pop, classical and jazz. Her songs often draw from social and philosophical ideas, including emotions and sensitivity. She is the winner of nine Grammys and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997. Almost every song she has composed on the guitar uses an open, or non-standard, tuning; she has written songs in some 50 tunings, playing what she has called “Joni’s weird chords”. The use of alternative tuning allows guitarists to create accompaniments with more variety and wide-ranging textures.
He was not a conventional performer, this is the point: by snatching the electric guitar from the note-smashing technicians and returning it to artists, freaks and poets, Kurt Cobain became one of the most important guitarists of all time. Cobain did not invent alternative rock. But because of his love for Cheap Trick, the Melvins and Kiss, he gave it the metallic power it needs to dominate. His performance was not all untrained wind: seeing unconventional chord progressions and mastery of quiet-loud-quiet dynamics in “Lithium” and almost all other Nirvana songs.
The co-founder of the Rolling Stones, along with his partner Mick Jagger, is Keith Richards, arguably the best rhythm player in history and one-half of the “Glimmer Twins.” Richards was named the creator of “rock’s greatest single body of riffs” on guitar by Rolling Stone magazine in 2011. Richards was also the inspiration for Johnny Depp’s character, Pirate Captain Jack Sparrow, in the Pirates of the Caribbean films. This is what sets him apart from anyone else you’ve met.
Gilbert was born and raised in Carbondale, Illinois. In fast guitar playing, he is best known for his pace and stylistic versatility. Gilbert was tapped to fill in as a guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne, the legendary metal-monster when he was just 15 years old in the early 1980s. At the time, Ozzy’s manager and producer were adamant about not bringing in a child to play guitar for a man who had previously led Black Sabbath. It wasn’t over, however, until Ozzy’s producer heard Gilbert perform. Gilbert traveled around the country and joined the band shortly after. Most guitarists on this list couldn’t play the same way that he does.