Techniques like power chords and finger-tapping can be found on guitars from Fender Stratocaster to Gibson Les Paul. It isn’t easy to choose one virtuoso over another. Indeed, it was believed the debate itself had triggered a heated debate. The 1960s produced many of their fair share of six-string slayers, but the 1980s changed an electric guitar’s face. We compiled a list of the world’s greatest guitar players, taking into account their technique and musical contributions.
Ladies and gentlemen, the founder of the band King Crimson, Robert Fripp, is a man who is also famous for his innovations in musical genres such as “Frippertronics,” soundscapes, and the so-called “new standard tuning.” He attained a great deal of success as a session guitarist, playing solos on albums for David Bowie, the Talking Heads, Peter Gabriel, and Blondie.
John McLaughlin of Doncaster, England, is a key 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 elbows with rock royalty, there aren’t many guitarists who can claim to have shared Miles Davis’s stage.
Steve Morse is the founder of Dixie Dregs and Deep Purple since 1994. Morse was born and raised in Ypsilanti, Michigan. In 1986, Steve Morse was added to the popular rock band Kansas. Power and In The Spirit of Things were released while the band was a member. Morse recalls when he was a Deep Purple member, his bandmates forced him to ride in a separate vehicle because he would constantly play guitar while they went from gig to gig.
Peter Green was a co-founder of Fleetwood Mac. 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. John Mayall had originally planned for his band’s guitarist Peter Green to be replaced by none other than Eric Clapton. But it turns out that Clapton, who was further down the list, was the original one he had in mind.
Trower was regarded as one of the best guitar players due to his Jimi Hendrix-like skills and alleged ability to bend notes better than any other player alive. However, when he was a member of the famous group Procol Harum in the 1960s, his guitar playing became even more popular. 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 Cream bass player.
Before becoming a rock god, Tom Morello earned a BA in Social Studies from Harvard University. In the 1990s, Morello met Zack de la Rocha. Rage Against the Machine, one of the most successful and influential rock bands of the 1990s, was formed. Rage Against the Machine performed outside the Staples Center Convention Center in Los Angeles in 2000, hosting the Democratic National Convention.
Gilbert is best known for his fast guitar playing 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 allowing a child to play guitar for a man who had previously led Black Sabbath. It wasn’t over, though, until Ozzy’s producer heard Gilbert perform. Gilbert relocated across the country and joined the band soon after.
At the age of 20, Malcolm Young and his brother Angus co-founded Australia’s largest rock band, AC/DC. Malcolm continued 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.
Another great artist died ahead of his time. 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 winner in 1992. It marked Harrison’s “critical role in laying the groundwork for the modern concept of world music.”
Michael Schenker 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. He and his brother, Rudolf Schenker, later founded UFO in the mid-1970s. Generally speaking, 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 tragically killed in a motorcycle crash that smashed his internal organs. He was well-known for his expressive slide guitar playing and improvisational ability on the instrument. “Live at the Fillmore East” by the Allman Brothers is widely regarded as one of the best live rock albums ever recorded.
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 famous band “Free” and was in high demand as a guitarist because of his uncanny timing and complex ability to solo. Unfortunately, Kossoff began 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.
Richards was dubbed 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 Caribbean films’ Pirates. He stands out from everyone you’ve met – though not in a bad way.
Billy Gibbons is the lead guitarist and lead singer of ZZ Top. 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 unquestionably responsible for ZZ Top’s Texas blues boogie sound, which is now selling out concerts worldwide.
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 audience fell silent for a moment as they realized it was the child who was making those sounds. However, once the truth was revealed, the audience went insane, and Bonamassa performed in front of large crowds ever since.
Mick Taylor, another graduate of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers school of producing rock guitar gods, was the blues virtuoso Mayhall had been looking for. Taylor continued to perform with The Rolling Stones until 1974, showing that he was a mixture of Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page. Slash, the guitarist for Guns N’ Roses, said that Taylor had the most influence on him as an artist.
Dave Mustaine was the first lead guitarist of Metallica. He was fired from Metallica on April 11, 1983, for his uncontrollable addictions and violence, not to mention his feuds with the band’s founding members, James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich. Despite this, he achieved great success in the future due to the band he founded, “Megadeth.”
The absolute best of the guitar is Hetfield. Hetfield is essentially credited with creating the ‘speed metal’ sound, creating a spirit of rage that is completely unparalleled in the music industry. In 2001, Hetfield went to rehab for substance dependence.
Townshend was a legendary rock musician who influenced generations of musicians. He wrote about growing up in London in his biography in 1947. He said, “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 Metallica member, was recruited as a replacement for Dave Mustaine, Metallica’s previous guitarist. 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 venue, 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 was a rock and roll pioneer. Berry gave rock music three things: an irresistible swagger, a focus on the guitar riff as the primary melodic element, and a focus on songwriting as storytelling.” Joe Lynch penned the piece. There is no doubt 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 successful solo career after leaving ‘Yes.’ In 2017, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame.
Rory Gallagher was a blues and rock star who was born in Ireland. His albums have sold over 30 million copies around the world. Gallagher died tragically on June 14, 1995, from a failing liver’s combined effects caused by alcohol, narcotics, and an MRSA infection. Because of how well he plays the blues, he has influenced a lot of blues guitarists.
Zakk Wylde began his career as a member and lead guitarist of a small band called Stonehenge. He eventually auditioned for and was hired as Ozzy Osbourne’s lead guitarist, which 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.
Frank Zappa, who died of lung cancer in 1993, was a master of nonconforming free-form improvisation. Zappa was a prolific artist, releasing more than 60 albums with his band, Mothers of Invention, and solo artists. Zappa is a self-taught guitarist who is regarded as one of the new era’s most influential guitarists.
Lars Johan Yngve Lannerbäck, best known as Yngwie Malmsteen, became well known for his neoclassical playing metal in the ’80s. Some still believe that Yngwie may be one of the most prolific musicians in the world today, with at least 20 full-length studio albums. He signed with Mascot Records in 2018 and promised to bring many more new and great songs!
John Petrucci is most known for his work with the Dream Theater, although he started as a band member before leaving. Every “Top Guitarist” essay and post in magazines and on the internet includes Petrucci’s name. Getting his starts playing in Jazz phrasings, he developed his ability to infuse classical and jazz phrasings into progressions of rock chords, producing a sound that today in the rock world is unlike any other.
You might not think of the late musician Prince as a shredder, but his guitar playing could make anyone’s jaw drop. Prince was known for his ability to master various 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 named him the Best Metal Guitarist in the World in 2016 and 2017. He’s a big 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.
Carlos Santana had been virtually unknown since he blew the audience away at Woodstock. His band Santana rose to prominence in the 1960s and 1970s, pioneering a fusion of rock and roll and Latin American jazz. He won a Grammy, a Billboard Century Award, and numerous other accolades.
Angus Young is another member of AC/DC. His active appearances, schoolboy-uniform outfits, and take on Chuck Berry’s duck walk have made him famous. Young is 65 years old, and his playing style is heavily influenced by blues, power chords, and Scottish folk music. His ability to play one-handed arpeggios is well-known in his solos!
Dimebag Darrell of Damageplan has never had formal guitar lessons, but his style is legendary. He used the major third to add dissonance to his minor key tonalities in his riffs and leads. He had incredible picking ability as well but preferred legato phrasing.
B.B. King was the first to introduce a sophisticated guitar solo style to the world. He pioneered new techniques for electric blues by using string bending and vibrato. B.B. King, the undisputed “King” of the blues guitar, was a lifetime friend of the blues and one of the greats of all time.
Knopfler is the co-founder and his little brother, David, of the rock band Dire Straits. 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 masterpiece of guitar showmanship.
Randy Rhoads, who played with Quiet Riot and Ozzy Osbourne, was a major influence on 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. A few band members, 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 former member of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, has been dubbed a true virtuoso. He had success in several 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.
Tony Iommi is a founding member of the Black Sabbath. He changed 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.
Satriani made a living as a guitar instructor 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 Marvel Comics Silver Surfer’s iconic illustration on the cover, cemented his reputation as one of the best instrumental rock guitarists of all time.
It’s hard to argue with 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 spans blues rock, hard rock, and electronica, among other genres. He doesn’t appear to be slowing down. He’s been seen playing with Johnny Depp at live shows recently.
At the age of 18, Steve Vai began his musical career 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.
Ritchie Blackmore is a co-founder of Deep Purple and a highly accomplished guitarist and composer. Single guitar notes are hard-punched, combining 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 inspired solos.
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 aspires to be a painter, restaurant owner, and a licensed pilot.
Brian May is the lead guitarist and one of the founding members of the legendary Queen band. May is known for his soaring guitar solos and combining rock and roll and classical music styles. Regardless of which band he’s in at the time, his distinct voice is instantly recognizable.
Stevie Ray Vaughan
Vaughan was a key figure in the revival of the blues in the 1980s. David Bowie, who chose Vaughan to play guitar on his new album Let’s Dance in the mid-’80s, recalled his lightning-fast fingerpicking. Vaughn was an instant hit, and opening acts included The Stray Cats and Eric Clapton. He died in a helicopter accident in 1990, at the age of 35.
Eric Clapton is a divine being. – Or at least that’s what the graffiti scrawled on London houses once declared. 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 is widely regarded as one of the greatest guitarists of all time. Pink Floyd transformed his transformative sound from his blues/folk group roots into an acid rock genre that no other band could match. As new fans of the band emerge, the Moon and The Wall’s albums Dark Side continue to sell millions of copies each year.
Eddie Van Halen
The founder of hard rock band Van Halen is an absolute beast on the guitar. Edward Van Halen and his brother Alex were discovered by Gene Simmons of Kiss and form one of the most successful bands of all time, fronted by David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar. Van Halen was voted number one on Guitar World magazine’s list of the greatest guitarists of all time in 2012.
The rock band Led Zeppelin was founded by Jimmy Page. But, surprise! 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 was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on two occasions.