Top 20 Guitarists Of All Time – Guitar Players

Source: GuitarWorld

best-guitarist-of-all-time-zakk_wyldeIt was a dark and rainy night. The courthouse clock struck midnight; a stray dog howled. It was all too beautiful when the staff of Gear Vault convened for their semi-annual secret meeting with the confines of the beloved cinder block chamber they call their “office.” Their agenda? To decide the 20 most important people in guitar.

1. Jimi Hendrix

Widely recognized as one of the most creative and influential musicians of the 20th century, Jimi Hendrix pioneered the explosive possibilities of the electric guitar. Hendrix’s innovative style of combining fuzz, feedback and controlled distortion created a new musical form. Because he was unable to read or write music, it is nothing short of remarkable that Jimi Hendrix’s meteoric rise in the music took place in just four short years. His musical language continues to influence a host of modern musicians, from George Clinton to Miles Davis, and Steve Vai to Jonny Lang. Hendrix was the revolutionary guitar god, enuff said!

2. Edward Van Halen

Eddie Van Halen, EVHEdward Van Halen once likened his guitar playing to “falling down the stairs and landing on my feet.” Eddie’s had thirteen albums’ worth of such happy accidents and in the process has changed the way people play, hear and think about the electric guitar. With his unorthodox technique, dare-devil whammy bar antics and fearless experimentation, Van Halen revitalized heavy guitar after it had run its course in the Seventies. Espousing an I-just-play-that’s-all-I-do attitude and favoring basic gear like stock Marshalls. Peavey 5150s, homemade, slapped together guitars and simple, minimal stop box effects, Van Halen became guitar’s greatest hero by becoming its unassuming anti-hero.

From the jaw-dropping gymnastics of Van Halen’s “Eruption” to the eerie, tidal crescendos of “Catherdral” on Diver Down, through his 1984 chart-topping synth experiments and spirit of 5150 and For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, Eddie has remained innovative throughout his career. Never one to wait around for the electrician, Van Halen prefers building his own gear—and if it doesn’t always look pretty, well, beauty is in the ear of beholder. By “Frankensteining” his first striped guitar from $130 worth of parts, Van Halen launched his quest for the elusive “brown sound—“big, warm and majestic”—and gave rock guitarists a new holy grail of tone to seek in the post-Jim-my page era. His single-pick up and volume control innovation changed the way guitars looked and sounded, popularized the previously obscure Kramer Guitars, and inspired the do-it-yourself guitar gear industry. Eddie’s custom-designed Peavey amps and his with Sterling Ball on his Music Man guitars prove that Van Halen still believes the artist should retain creative input on his equipment.

As a player, Van Halen single-handedly—well, dual-handedly—introduced millions of rock players such exciting techniques as two-handed tapping and harmonics. Before 1978, guitar just had to be loud and fast. Eddie’s playing is also tasteful and always in context, a fact that distinguishes him from his legions of imitators. While he’s unimpressed by the copycat syndrome, it cannot be denied that many players first picked up a guitar after Van Halen’s dazzling licks. But none of them can fall down the stairs with such brilliance.

3. Eric Clapton

Eric Clapton GuitarEric Clapton has successfully reinvented himself dozens of times: Rave-Up King with the Yardbirds; Holy Father of the Anglo-blues with the Bluesbreakers; free-form improvisational genius with Cream; chameleon rises to every musical occasion.

By 1965 the 20-year-old Clapton was already a legend. He’d introduced the blues to the masses, interpreting and updating what had been a largely unknown form for the rock generation. Simultaneously, his lush, Les Paul-driven tone marked the absolute turning point in the history of rock, transforming what had been a good-time twang instrument into a vehicle for profound expression.

Ultimately, the most enduring image of the great guitarist will be of Clapton the bluesman, standing on a corner of a stage and exposing his psychic wounds to the masses. It is interesting, though, that, while “bluesy” in feel, his most memorable songs—“Layla,” “Tears In Heaven”—do not utilize the blues structure.

While most of Clapton’s contemporaries talk reunion and revival, he never retreats behind memories of his “good old days.” His Unplugged album, which was enormously successful—both for him and acoustic guitar manufactures—included a radical remake of “Layla.” Clapton is one artist who has learned how to grow up.

4. Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney GuitarPaul McCartney has spent very little of his career playing six-string guitar. But as a bassist, he almost single-handedly made guitar players’ jobs a whole lot easier.

When the Beatles first arrived on the scene, rarely was the bass even heard on most pop records; players seldom attempted anything more adventurous than a root-fifth accompaniment. But McCartney, who not only played bass, but sang, enlivened the Beatles’ material with dynamic, moving basslines on his famous Hofner and , later, a Rickenbacker 4001. By the time the Beatles began work on Sergeant Pepper’s, McCartney as pumping out bass melodies that carried entire songs, with the result that the Beatles’ guitar parts often became sparser, more subtle. Within months—and to this day—bass players the world over were unshackled.

5. Pete Townshend

Pete Townshend Guitar SmashingBefore Pete Townshend came along, feedback was something guitarists shunned like halitosis. Pete turned it into one of rock guitar’s most powerful sonic resources.

Soon after The Who debuted in 1964, Townshend became legendary for violently slamming his guitar into his Marshall stack (a form of amplification he was the first to use) and smashing his instrument to splinters at the end of each show. All of this had a profound influence on Jimi Hendrix (aka The Guitar God #1) and just about every other rocker who ever picked up a guitar. Pete’s trademark “windmill” strum was actually swiped from Keith Richards. But Townshend made it even bigger and more dramatic—which is what he and The Who did with just about everything they touched. Having mastered the art of the three-minute pop song, Townshend turned his attention to 15-minute mini-operas and , with Tommy in 1969, the worlds first double album rock opera. Townshend’s songwriting genius and theatrical flair tend to obscure the fact that he is also a fine guitarist, as capable of supple lyricism as he is of angry mayhem.

6. George Harrison

ringo-starrs-gold-plated-ludwig-snare-drumWhen George Harrison strummed his first chord during the Beatles’ historic appearance on the Ed Sullivan show 44 years ago, he became the catalyst for the electric guitar’s metamorphosis from stringed instruments to tool of teenage liberation. And, as the folks at Gretsch and Rickenbacker will readily attest, it didn’t exactly hurt sales, either.

While Harrison has never been a virtuoso guitarist, he was an innovator—constantly pushing the limits of studio sounds and stylistic boundaries. In many ways, he also was the first modern session musician, his chops as diverse and far-reaching as Lennon and McCartney’s songwriting. He could dish up brilliant Scotty Moore-style rockabilly (“All My Loving”), heart-rendering gut-string lines (“And I lover”) and sheer fuzz and fury (“Revolution”)—always adding something memorable to the material. Later in his career, he developed an original slide style that is more melodic than bluesy. Like the Beatles as a whole, Harrison never settled into a comfortable groove. He glided across the musical spectrum—from country and western to spaced-out psychedelia to smooth and sweet slide—shattering conventions and then moving on.

7. Angus Young

learn how to play easy power chordsTwo decades after Angus Young first emerged AC/DC’s axe-wielding dervish at age 14, the we Scottish Aussie remains one of the sturdiest bridges between young metal-ists and rock’s blues roots. Although he did great work before and since, Young will always be best known for 1980’s Back In Black, a blue-collar masterpiece which, with killer classics like “You Shook Me All Night Long,” remains an all-purpose primer for riff writing and tight, scalar lead playing. Never mind the fact that the man does it all while spinning around like chinchilla on speed. Though he may be dwarfed by his signature oxblood SG, Angus Young is a giant among men.

8. Jimmy Page

Jimmy Page GuitarArguably the most emulated guitarist in rock history, Jimmy Page is additionally assured a place in the music’s pantheon of greats for his roles as a musical director, produce and all-around guru of Led Zeppelin.

His Rampaging, blues-based work on anthems like “Whole Lotta Love,” “Communication Breakdown” and “Rock And Roll” defines heavy metal. His real genius, however, was his ability to expand the parameters of the genre to include elements of traditional English folk, reggae, funk, rockabilly and Arabic classical music.

Page the guitarist has never been a facile as Edward Van Halen or Steve Via, but few players in rock history have been able to match his restless imagination or visionary approach to guitar orchestration. Whether he was exploring the exotic joys of open tuning on tracks like “Kashmir” and “Black Mountain Side,” pioneering the use if backwards echo on “You Shook Me,” or coaxing other worldly sounds from his ’58 Les Paul with a cello bow on “Dazed And Confused,” Page consistently transcended the limitations of his instrument and the recording studio.

More than 30 years have passed since Page recorded the seminal Led Zepplin IV, but the album’s gigantic imprint can still be detected in the work of such cutting edge bands as Jane’s Addiction, Stone Temple Pilots and Soundgarden, to name a few. Page, of course, remains active. His dense, mutli-layered work on the Coverdale/Page record demonstrated his refusal to rest his laurels.

9. Kurt Cobain

Nirvana Grunge MusicKurt Cobain was the intense and unkempt grunge lord who brought Nirvana from obscurity to the top of the charts, was all the rage—literally. The king of the guitar anti-hero, he didn’t play his Fender Jaguars but he mauled them in a chord-crunching fury. Inevitably, he smashed his guitars, littered stages around the world with his splintered victims.

Cobain was a guitar pioneer because he managed to fuse into one dynamic style the aggression of Seventies punk rock, the speed and simplicity of Eighties hardcore and the bottom-heavy crunch of Nineties metal—and done so without a trace of silliness or bombast to which all three genres are prone.

There’s little doubt that scores of new guitar players have been inspired to plug in by the chugging chords of Cobain’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Segovia he wasn’t. But Segovia never captured the angst of an entire generation with one burst of ungodly feedback.

10. David Gilmour

David Gilmour GuitarWhat makes David Gilmour truly remarkable is his uncanny ability to marry two seemingly contradictory genres—progressive rock and blues. Perhaps the most dramatic example of this unusual union can be heard on one of Pink Floyd’s biggest hits, “Money” (Dark Side Of The Moon). As the song begins, Gilmour slowly builds a delicate network of spacious, effected guitars, only to topple them with a series of emotionally charged, vibrato-drenched solos, whose rich, shimmering tone and impeccable phrasing recall B.B. King, rather than King Crimson.

Gilmour is the rarest of rockers. Like Jimi Hendrix, he ahs the natural ability to balance the cerebral with the emotional, the technical with instinctual, while keeping an eye on both the past and the future. It is this awesome juggling act that is the secret to Pink Floyd’s lasting appeal.

11. Keith Richards

keith-richards-guitarist-the-rolling-stonesKeith Richards is the archetypal rock outlaw, the quintessential skinny English rock guitarist in a tight black suit. He’s filled that role since the Rolling Stones first established themselves as the dark, dangerous alternative to the Beatles in 1963. With his deep love of the blues, Keef initiated a generation of white, middle-class kids into the wonders of Muddy Waters, howling’ Wolf and Chuck Berry. His unique five-string, open-G tuning lies at the heart of such all-time power chord classics as “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and “Street Fighting Man.” As a soloist, Keef has worked a few miracles; witness the icy, amphetamine mesmerism of his licks on “Sympathy For The Devil” and his buoyant bending on “Happy.” And he is the author of the most-played riff in all rock: the tritone mating call of “Satisfaction.” Much has been made of Richards’ fondness of controlled substances, but his ultimate drug is music; his knowledge of rock, blues and reggae is encyclopedic, his passion for them boundless. They have sustained him through imprisonment, addiction, tempestuous lines of his leathery face, the history of rock and roll is etched.

12. Eric Johnson

In a realm often dominated by ham-fisted machoismo, Eric Johnson stands apart as rock guitar’s elegant poet laureate. He has managed to create an original style from such radically dissimilar sources as country chicken picking, Jimi Hendrix and jazzman Wes Montgomery. A legend long before he became famous, Johnson’s seemingly endless, melodious lines and distinctive “violin” tone made it an absolute requirement for guitarists stopping near the Texan’s hometown of Austin to attend his show there in the early/mid 1980s.

After turning down numerous offers to tour as a sideman, he rose to prominence in 1986 with his critically acclaimed, Grammy-nominated album, Tones. His follow-up, Ah Via Musicom, thrust the self-effacing innovator further into the spotlight, yielding one Grammy-winning cut (“Cliffs Of Dover”) and eventually going gold. Combining passion and lyricism with what can only be described as an overwhelmingly positive vibe, Johnson’s music is progressive without being academic, uplifting without stooping to sentimentality.

13. Buddy Guy

“Part of my reason for forming Cream was I suddenly had this mad idea about being English Buddy Guy; my goal was to be Buddy Guy with a composing bass player… And to this day, when he’s on I don’t think anyone can touch him. He takes you away to somewhere completely different.” –Eric Clapton

“Buddy Guy is as close as you can come to the hear of the blues.” –Jeff Beck

“He plays one note and you forget about the rent.” –Carlos Santana

“Nobody can get out of tune as cool as Buddy Guy.” Stevie Ray Vaughan

14. Yngwie Malmsteen

Yngwie-Malmsteen-stratTwo schools of thought have sprung over the years regarding Yngwie J. Malmsteen. On the one hand, the Swedish native’s incredibly precise, rapid-fire playing has earned him as a profound and brilliant artist, the founder and most important exponent of neo-classical guitar. From the point of view of this school, the effortless blend of raw spead, finesse and passion that has characterized Malmsteen’s style since his 1984 solo debut, Rising Force, represents the pinnacle of fretboard achievement. Yngwie is also credited with popularizing the scalloped guitar neck.

But Yngwie is also scorned by many in the guitar community, who loathe him with an intensity that matches the ardor of his most dedicated boosters. To group, Malmsteen was the architect of cold, empty guitar style, which emphasized technique over art, speed over feel. They rejoice over the apparent demise of neo-classicism. And how do you plead—for Yngwie or against?

15. Dimebag Darrell

dimebag-dean-from-hell-1981-dean-MLThis authentic, crimson-bearded lone star madman had rewritten the book on heavy metal riffing in the short space by many major-label releases. By combining the virtuosity of Edward Van Halen with the rhythmic drive of a glue-sniffing punk rocker, the legend Pantera guitarist had created a highly individual sound that that appeals to classic rockers, fans of death metal and industrial headbangers. On Pantera’s March 15, 1994 release, Far Beyond Driven, Darrell solidified his reputation as one of metal’s true originals on tracks like “Good Friends And A Bottle Of Pills,” which combines hell-and-damnation riffing with the kind of abrasive avant-garde noodling that put Sonic Youth on the map.

16. John Petrucci

Dream Theater On The Backs Of AngelsKnown with Dream Theater, John Petrucci is proud to be progressive. “Our style is completely different from grunge and alternative music,” says the 47-year-old Berklee-trained musician. “But I think our music has as much attitude as any of those bands.”

Dream Theater is known for a complicated, textured style of hard rock that embraces flawless musicianship, lengthy improve sections, daring arrangements and other flashy elements made popular by Yes, Kansas, Rush and other old-school rockers. Leading the progressive charge is the technically masterful Petrucci, whose playing encompasses angular melodic phrases, liquid chromatics and manic dispays of speed-picking into an exciting, coherent style.

Despite his reputation, the Ibanez-wielding shredder remains modest; “Being looked at as a guitar hero is very flattering, but being singled out away from the rest of the band doesn’t appeal to me,” says Petrucci. “I’d prefer to have people view me as a talented musician in a good band—not as some flashy soloist.” Not a chance.

17. B.B. King

B.B. King As the universally hailed ambassador of the blues, B.B. King has introduced his favorite music to more people the world over than all other artists combined. In fact, he’s so highly visible—popping up everywhere from ads for Northwestern Airlines and McDonald’s to episode of “Sanford And Son” and “Married With Children” — that it’s easy to take for granted and forget why he became so revered in the first place.

B.B. King has an incredibly expressive, vocal vibrato and an unmistakable, ringing tone, both of which have been imitated by legions of admirers. He is also the master of the perfectly placed bent note, stretching his strings with eloquence, brilliant timing and consistently perfect intonation. But what is perhaps most impressive about B.B. King is that despite hanging over 300 nights a year for decades, and despite having attained cultural icon status long ago, he has avoided slipping into complacency. He never plays the same solo twice and to this day stretches himself, demonstrating night after night exactly why he is the King Of The Blues.

18. Joe Satriani and Steve Vai

joe-satriani-rockingBoth rockers are equal careers and talent.

Starting with Joe Satriani, a walking warehouse of virtually every rock guitar style and technique ever developed. From delicate, classical-style finger-picking to the most profane vibrato-bar molestation, Joe knows it all. He elevates the level of whatever he’s playing with his passion for sonic adventure and dead-eye sense of song and orchestration.

Like a human melting pot, Satriani has managed to integrate such disparate influences as surf guitar, world beat and Jimi Hendrix into his playing. His much-lauded 1987 breakthrough album, Surfing With The Alien, almost single-handedly rehabilitated instrumental rock as a mainstream genre and help bury the myth that a thoughtful, educated player couldn’t rock. In the manner of the Blow By Blow-era Jeff Beck. Satriani employs his superior technique and seemingly inexhaustible vocabulary of licks, riffs and styles in the service of memorable songs (rather than the other way around). And he continues to do this exhibitionism, traps that have foiled too many of his peers.

Steve Vai chooses 2009 Guitar Idol WinnerSteve Vai’s unparalleled technique and effortless flash made him rock’s paramount pair of hired hands in the 1980’s. He rendered PIL more accessible, empowered David Lee Roth, gave Whitesnake artistic credibility and even shredded for the Devil in a sensational performance in the film Crossroads.

But it was with 1990’s Passion And Warfare—perhaps the most anticipated guitar release of all time—that Vai crystallized his technical skills, incredible drive and explosive vision into a sensitive, acutely personal guitar statement. He shifts gears with the greatest of ease, gliding from delicate lyricism to the back. Like a demented circus master, Vai has the power to amuse and frighten with his most dangerous menagerie of sound.

19. Joe Perry

For 35 years, through not one or two, but several climbs to the top, Aerosmith’s Joe Perry has been a living testimony to the power of a Bad-Ass Attitude. Perry’s perpetual sneer is expressed not merely on his chiseled face, but also through his guitars and overdriven amps. Of course, he’s also written some pretty decent riffs, the best of which completely defines their song; it’s impossible for even non-guitarists to think of “Walk This Way” or “Sweet Emotion” without humming Perry’s etched-in-stone guitar lines.

20. Zakk Wylde

Guitarist Zakk Wylde Ozzy OsbourneZakk Wylde’s hellacious guitar playing and charismatic stage presence made him a keeper of the heavy metal flame with Ozzy Osbourne for many years. But you ain’t heard nothin’ yet. Zakk stared a few bands of his own, Pride & Glory and his most recent, Black Label Society (BLS), frenzied, high octane slab of guitar mayhem. It’s a molten mix of Zakk’s two selves: his heavy, energetic Ozzyfield side and the hell-bent Southern rocker and ruthless side. Step out of the way and make peace with yo’ maker, son.

Guitar Players Online


  1. Gotta agree with Josh. No SRV???

    Also, no Randy Rhodes?

    No Duane Allman or Dickie Betts?

    Guitar legends all.

    Yet you include Paul McCartney? George Harrison? What the…???

  2. Now, out the icons, the best rock guitar player of world is a young Pedro Castilho. The guitar became your third hand….fantastic!!!!

  3. I hate these lists if you are talking commercial guitarists constantly in your ear because of radio then OK, I have seen guys play at guitar shops that can outplay a lot of people on your list but will never make it in music or maybe don’t want to, These lists are ridiculous, go on you tube and listen to people play all styles, from finger picking classical to heavy metal shredding! if you wanna talk good guitarist then versatility comes to mind I wanna see angus young finger pick a classical riff on nylon strings, I have talked to guitarists who play live shows semi professional and always talk about the guy in front of the recording studios who defineately play better then them but don’t have a certain look or a connection and will never make it,plain and simple!

  4. Chuck, I agree about being able to finding lots of skilled players on YouTube. But there is more than just guitar skill. One thing that I think you’re ignoring is creativity and style.

  5. George I agree, but Paul.

    Where is Ace Frehley? he was the man in between Jimmie Page and Eddie Van Halen. Ace should be in the top 5

    Also Richie Blackmore, Fast Eddie Clark, Tony Iomi

  6. I don’t exactly agree with the inclusion of Cobain, as he was no great guitar player, and he wasn’t an innovative guitarist either. I guess he did inspire though. Dimebag should have been higher… and where is Tony Iommi and Randy Rhoads?? Surely they deserve to be on this list before Paul McCartney?? what an odd top 20 list!

  7. Hetfield is a guitar riff god; he has insane amount of music creativity. Hammett had good chops back in the day, but he was never close to top 20 in my opinion.

  8. These are not all time greatest guitar players by any stretch. Al Demeola, Paco Delucia, Roy Galliger, Tommy Emmanuel, Chet Adkins, Duane Allman. No, what we have here are the authors favorite players and pretty much Rock n Roll with just a touch of blues.

  9. Where do you put the greatest American guitar player – Michael Bloomfield. He should be listed at the top of any list either American or international.

  10. Dave Gilmore for me any day , not the flashy riff shredder but just listen to his phrasing on Comfortably Numb , and also the brilliant virtuoso that is Alex Lifeson

  11. For what ever reason Carlos Santana, the godfagther of Latino Rock was not on the list nor was Stevie Ray Vaughn or Jeff Beck Can’t believe that Paul McCartney and George Harrison made the list. Sure McCartney was a decent bass player but certainly not one of the best. Tim Bogert who played with Vanilla Fudge could do things with his bass that were really wild especially when it came to using feedback. Harrison was mediocre, the guitar solo on My Guitar Gently Weeps was done by Eric Clapton. Both Joe Walsh and Don Fleder are much better guitarists than Harrison. BTW none of the Beetles could read a note of music.

  12. How could this list not include Ernie Isley, Prince, Eddie Jazel, Bootsy Collins, and The Brothers Johnson???

  13. Jeff Beck, Richie Sambora, Randy Rhodes, Robert Johnson, Carlos Santana and PRINCE? Buckley? Chet? C’mon. So many missing.

  14. This must be a cultural thing. Never in my life have I seen or heard anything (before or since) compare to Prince’s 3 and a half solo at the end of George Harrison’s tribute for his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I invite you to read comments from Tom Petty and Steve Winwood. Even George Harrison’s son (who was also on the stage) was blown away by his performance. It seems like black people don’t mean shit in mainstream media. Reluctantly, I thank you for keeping that alive so you can save face with your people. WHAT (at all) DOES INTEGRITY or TRUTH MATTER?

  15. After reading the comments here, this article should be “top 480 million guitarists of all time”. Lol

    Many of these “top guitarists” innovated something long standing. Such as Jimi Hendrix and EVH. Even Cobain with the birth of grunge. He may not shred like Vai, instead he innovated a new sound that changed the world.

  16. Yes Jimmy Hendrix made love to his guitar, but CLAPTON is GOD !!! How on earth paul McCartney would even be mentioned is beyond me. No mention of Jeff Beck, Tommy Bolin or Prince, shame, shame…. The writer needed to do MORE homework and BB way down the list A sin too !!!

  17. Paul McCartney and some of the others you have listed don’t even compare to Prince, Larry Graham, Bootsy Collins and many others. Man you need to redo your list!

  18. Frank Zappa is by far the best guitarist of all time. Some of these modern era choices make my head hurt. Cobain?What about Prince? If we’re talking “modern” era Jack White and even totally unrecognized J Mascis.

  19. No I totally agree with you and of course Hendrix too but I stand by Zappa as being the greatest of all time.

  20. little Richard – defined rock n’ roll
    Richie Blackmore – defined hard rock
    Jeff Beck – guitarists guitarist
    Tony Iommi – defined Heavy Metal (and took EVH on tour!)
    James Hetfield – defined thrash
    Slash – re vitalised American hard rock
    The test is would you swap a single song or album by any of these for one by via or satriani. As much as they are great guitarists there is no legendary riff/song there…. and the simplest Free or Skynard solo is more memorable…

  21. Oh and forgot
    Brian May
    Stevie Ray Vaughn
    Peter Green

    P.S. malmsteen copied scalloped frets used by richie Blackmore & I’m sure others were before him…

  22. Hello,

    I like Carlos Santana but I don’t think he’s even in the conversation here.I like how you broke down genres and yes I def would With Satriani. What you’ve said here defines how this article should have been. I still stand by
    My top two but you should have made this list.

  23. Johnny Ramone, who was basically unskilled, at least compared to all on this list, did what no other guitarist before him did, and he changed music forever. Should still crack top 20 imo

  24. Funny no that Glen Cambell is not on the list, especially when Eddie Van Halen used to ask favors of friends in the business trying to get a guitar lesson from Glen.

  25. I’ve heard this about Glen Cambell and how he’s influenced so many different genres. So many of the greatest never get recognized instead musicians of the modern time are ending up on lists like this. It’s said that Kurt Cobain “created a genre” which a lot of ppl believe but listen to tons of 80’s-90’s bands that Nirvana learned from:Dinosaur Jr, Sonic Youth to name a few.

  26. My god… Kurt Cobain doesn’t know how to play guitar. Guys like S.R.V. Did. ANsd some other too. Strange list.

  27. This list should have been titled “Greatest Rock Guitarists of all time” there are Spanish and classical fingerstyle players who are WAY more skilled than the musicians on this list. You are only including a specific genre of music. Paco De Lucia could out play all of these dudes hands down no question asked.

  28. I agree 100% this should have been the case when whoever composed this list started.I would have actually enjoyed this article if it was divided up like that. If anyone is looking for some outrageously talented up and comers seek out Ricky Duran(he was a second place runner up for the voice last year) I hate those shows but I’ve known Ricky since he was a baby and his talent is almost frightening. Check him out!

  29. Wow what a list some are greatest material but SOME don’t even belong in the same thought Glen Campbell played lead for great rock bands before branching out Doc Watson stuck with country BUT could play any thing with anybody most of your list belong with the greatest but some OF the greatest are missing too many are not mentioned where did you do your research certainly nit in the dark dingy smoky smelly dirty clubs I still go to

  30. The greatest guitarist was Terry K.
    But apparently nobody remember him except fans.

  31. All of us have our list of G.O.A.T.
    The greatest guitarist in rock music is not present. And it’s not only on this list.
    Blackmore, Vaughan, Howe, Buckingham, Rothery, Simon (Paul), Prince, May,
    We can have a long list of great guitarist. I can do my own list of ten, and everybody have the right to not agreed with me.
    Well, for me the greatest guitarist of rock music was Terry Kath.
    You can find on YouTube one concert who show you why he was the favorite guitarist of Hendrix.
    Chicago, live in Tanglewood 1970

  32. A list that does not include Glen Campbel, James Burton, and Gerry Mcgee is laughable!

  33. I agree with Ron Vella. These Top Guitarist lists are mainly Rock Guitarists. Glen Campbell never gets a mention. Eddie Van Halen asked Alice Cooper if he could get Guitar Lessons off Glen Campbell. The Edge lavished similar praise on Stuart Adamson from Big Country. Yet neither Glen or Stuart are ever on these lists.


  35. I agree with many other names that you all mentioned that aren’t on the list. One guy that comes to my mind is Michael Schenker! He is never in the spotlight like most of the others but he is one helluva badass guitarist!!

  36. K.K Downing? James Hetfield? Dave Mustaine? Frank Zappa? This list was obviously made by some 50 year old mom. Not to mention the fact that they placed kurt cobain over Vai and Gilmour and pretty much everybody else on the list.

  37. Most of these types lists, including this one, are silly….. I mean all the great classical, jazz, fusion, country, acoustic etc. players are not even mentioned just because most folks are ignorant, confused or prejudiced.

  38. Unbelievable Jimi Hendrix above Eddie Van Halen not a chance. Guitar playing and guitarists in the world are measured by one night in 1986 in Connecticut with before and after Eddie Van Halen the live without a net solo is pure genius all of Eddie’s work up until that point put into a 13 minute plus solo that measures before and after. Cathedral to me is the most ingenious thing ever done with an electric guitar basically turning his guitar into a almost four string quartet sounding piece of music that is purely genius that nobody on this planet has ever come close to doing on an electric guitar that piece alone by far put him light years above anybody.IMO that’s just part of the solo. He played his guitar with piano-esque ability which was unheard of and it’s still unheard of from his classical piano ability he learned that an early age. nobody before could do that and nobody after because if you couldn’t do it before after doesn’t matter the embodiment of that solo speaks for itself the things he did for the six string electric combining the Stratocaster with the humbucker the work he put in the design of the Floyd Rose bridge with Floyd Rose the power attenuator and the biggest thing with traditional music not being able to notate his playing thus bringing tablature to the forefront because that was the only way you could notate his music seeing how traditional music didn’t have any notation to come close to it. And there’s a few other things please forgive me for not listing them. Now I’m a fan of Jimi Hendrix Clapton Paco de Lucia awesome player Jimmy Page for what he wrote he’s pretty sloppy player though Chuck Berry all great players but nothing changed the game like Eddie Van Halen the modern day Mozart nobody can come close to what he did for music and guitarist based on before and after Eddie Van Halen. So to say anybody’s above him on this list is music blasphemy. This isn’t just an opinion but historically his body at work says it all nobody can touch that ever before and after live without a net is how it’s measured these days and that’s how it will always be measured rest in peace Edward Van Halen The modern day Mozart hands down the best ever!!!

  39. I think Jimi Hendrix Eddie Van Halen and Eric Clapton are the world Best!!!! Bar None

  40. This list, and all the others on the net, only hit on a fraction of historical reality. The fathers of modern electric guitar were: Charlie Christianson and T-Bone Walker. T-bone had all of the showmanship tricks that Hendrix and other made famous and T-bone INVENTED them! Charlie’s hands had been burned so badly in a fire that he did all of his recorded work was done with only three fingers on his fretting hand yet no one, before or after, can keep up with his speed and dexterity! Eric Clapton, in numerous interviews, is the only guitar player you have listed that is at least somewhat honest about his roots. He has stated over and over again, that ANY aspiring guitarist should listen to: BB King, Albert King, Freddie King and others, because, as Chuck Berry stated when asked about the origins of his guitar playing: “There is nothing new under the sun.” I could write an encyclopedia about this subject that you are trying to cover with a paltry list. And you have made such huge mistakes. Paul Mccartney has had no impact whatsoever as a guitar player—only as a bass player and the singer-songwriter that he has in fact been! Jimmy Page has had no lasting impact on anyone but metal heads! The flash shredders that you religiously include have had no impact on the making of music of any kind because they have never been, or intended to be musical in any way. The goal of a flash shredder is to entertain, like a mud wrestler, or a sumo wrestler. They don’t get anywhere near music in any sense. Steve Vai has never hid this point in any statement or interview. The amps, pedals and sounds he endorsed are trash. It is the musicians that choose their notes with care, that stand a chance of musical accomplishment. They PLAY,
    they don’t shred. Shred is not a musical term! Furthermore, your list leaves out the world’s greatest slide guitar players! Where is Duane Allman? George Harrison’s slide playing? Ry Cooder? Jesse Ed Davis? There are many more. The fathers of slide guitar were: Elmore James and Blind Willie Johnson–author of “Dark was the night” and “Motherless children.” Elmore James was recorded hundreds of times and Blind Willie Johnson just two albums. And then as both a guitarist and a blues song writer the great Robert Johnson had more influence on modern blues and rock than any other person in history! If you don’t know blues, you don’t know rock, because rock is ENTIRELY derived from blues. Entirely! Eddie Van Halen was innovative with guitar amps and pickups, but all he ever did with playing is hammering on and off and whammy bar shenanigans. I sorry, but that just doesn’t count as music. Al Di Meola has stated that his ONLY intention in learning guitar was to be the fastest player in the world! He knows he never succeeded at that and on the way he blew out his ears with tinnitus and can hardly think or play anymore. Yngwie Malmsteen has learned how to bend a string, but he was newer the best at that, and has shredded his way into oblivion. Paco de Lucia plays gypsy music and he was the titan of that effort, but he could make 2 notes count where a so-called shredder would have wanted to to throw in the proverbial kitchen sink with memorized licks and trills. There is only ONE greatest string bender of all time and that was beyond question: Albert King. NOBODY copies how he did this but EVERYY guitar player imitates it! So now have you people learned something? Every word I just wrote was–as it was written, and you can take that to the bank or anywhere else!

  41. My comments I left yesterday, you refused to accept. You decided not to post them. Are you a legitimate musical source? I think not. I’m going to let you have it again, you have eviscerated the subject. Any hard-rock shredder is outside the sphere of musicality–whether Page, Halen, or Vai–they have NO musical goals whatsoever in their approach to guitar playing and never did. Jimi Hendrix told Dick Cavett on national tv that he was not only not the best guitar player in the world: “I’m only the best guitar player sitting in this chair–the world never!” ALL of M. Hendrix’s showmanship skills were copied from T-Bone Walker and Buddy Guy! You say he was original? A classic rocker from The Band once confronted him with that fact that he was not, and he replied: “I know”. Al di Meola freely admitted that his ONLY goal learning the guitar was to become the fastest player in the world. Well guess what folks, that just doesn’t happen to be a MUSICAL goal. Anyhow, he knows that he completely, and utterly failed at that objective (only Paco de Lucia could have accurately have made that claim, and no serious audiophile considers M. de Lucia to be a shredder–he was a TITAN of flamenco guitar music). Like most of the so-called shredders on your list, M. Di Meola now suffers from severe tinnitus, which not only effects his hearing, but also severely limits most of his cognitive functions. WARNING all you SSShhhredders: loud playing not only decimates your hearing, it also decimates your ability to sleep, function, balance and cognitive motor functions–as ACDC spouted, you’re on a highway to HELL!! Di Meola has thoroughly debilitated himself as has Jeff Beck, Pete Townsend and just about every other shredder or basher. Shredding isn’t a musical term, even if some find it to be energetic entertainment, like professional wrestling, mud wrestling, sumo wrestling, violent video games etc. Eric Clapton stated in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine that he felt that playing hard rock was: “like eating raw meat”. It’s disgusting, banal, toneless bullsh’t! Because of Slowhand’s time in Cream (and some later) he has serious tinnitus too, but certainly has been able to keep recording and performing to large enthusiastic audiences. Playing the blues or classic rock has always required a thousand times more technical abilities than shred or jazz. There IS no shredder who can execute a proper vibrato, or successfully learn even a basic blues lick. Do you get it now? Time for you to go back to school, back to the trenches and hope that with every mistake, sometimes you might learn a thing or two. If, you have two brains to rub together!!!! (the left lobe, the right lobe etc.??) I could write an encyclopedia on the subject of great guitar players–you tried to do it with a paltry, mostly misguided list; Shame, Shame Shame on you! Remember what Ginger Baker (the force of nature of drumming) said about his former band Cream being oft cited by the press as the supergroup birthplace of ‘hard rock’? He said in every interview that posed that question: “if it was it should have been aborted”!!!

  42. Lots of great ones left off this particular list. In my opinion, you cannot have a “greatest” list without Prince in the top 3, if not 2.

  43. People now a days dont remember the guitar greats like Rory Gallagher who could out play anyone.Roy Clark could smoke anybody on this list.Alvin Lee rocks.

  44. What a farce. There are many guitarists in other genres that virtually nobody ever mentions. There is not a single one of the virtuoso classical guitarists mentioned. Anybody seriously listened to Jerry Reed? Brad Paisley? Roy Clark (who was a world-class banjo player as well). Sophocles Papas? Django Reinhardt? Les Paul? Tommy Emmanuel? How come these lists are always so rock-oriented? (Also, this writer needs a few lessons in grammar and spelling. Obviously the article wasn’t even spell-checked.)

  45. What about Steve Kath? Jimi Hendrix said he was the Best. 25 or six to 4?

  46. Jimmy Hendrix could never be number 1 on any List. To say that he was very good, that he was revolutionary, unique, and high, would be accurate. But as far as “Guitarists” go, there were and are so many more that far surpass him AS A GUITARIST. If the category was “Revolutionary”, “Impactful”, or “Unique”, he would be number one according to some, but not according to all, and I am talking about extraordinary guitarists who have commented on the topic. Your list as presented, should be initially qualified with the statement “For Rock guitarists, lacking specific criteria, and not considering skill level, technique, range of fretboard knowledge, and diversity or range of application, IN MY OPINION”; that would be a great introductory statement for that list. On an ALL-INCLUSIVE list, Hendrix would show up, but not where you located him and for him to show up, it would have to be a very long list. Your list with the obvious exclusion of Classical, Country, Flamenco, Fingerpicking, Blues, Jazz, and many others. Have you heard of Marcin? Reinhardt? Segovia? Malmsteen? Clark? and the (Real) List goes on…

  47. If anyone has ever seen Prince play purple rain or a video of him playing guitar at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to the Song of While My Guitar Gently Weeps video or any other concert video would know he should be ranked very high on any list. In fact, just compare Prince, Eric Clapton and George Harrison playing guitar to the same Song of While My Guitar Gently Weeps and all are great guitar players although Price by far outshine them on his version.

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