Top 10 Greatest Guitar Players (Famous Guitarists)

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From guitar faces to the different kinds of axes, here is the Top 10 Greatest Guitar Players. Squeezing the talent that’s blessed our ears for all these years into a list of 10 is just as difficult as choosing which limbs to lose or keep. The list is by no means definitive, but it’s an accurate representation for the uniqueness of the music the guitarist has made. In short, these famous guitar players have played the melodies that have made grown men cry, and probably gave you a taste of how your guitar face would look like pretending to play that solo. Of course many great guitarists may not have made this top 10 list, but feel free to add your own favorites in the comments.

10. Tom Morello

The guitar player who makes his guitar sound anything but a guitar. Helicopter rudders, disc scratching, and his use of the kill switch for staccato like guitar riffs has made him probably the most innovative guitar player of our time. He is a guitarist who can take feedback, and ground hum from his own body into coherent music. Be it Rage Against The Machine, or Audioslave you can always see Morello’s signature licks shining through.

9. John Mayer

Whoa whoa wait, what? This pop artist? A guitar player? If all you’ve ever heard from Mayer is Your Body Is Wonderland, or Daughters, then you’ve got to give his album Continuum a listen to. He is no Shakespeare, but his guitar playing speaks to your soul. His songs will make most glorified tough guys miss their old girlfriend, and the rest just go to a corner and cry. If you think that his songs are all too depressing, then watch some videos of him playing. His guitar face is priceless.

8. Jack White

 

Mr. White is an incredibly underrated guitarist. His singles (From the White Stripes) always span with just three to four chords and his simplistic blues rhythm and picking styles have him overlooked most of the time. However, his masterful use of the Digitech Whammy and is erratic playing make for some of the most memorable guitar solos ever. Check out Ball and a Biscuit and try not to like that solo. One of my favorite Jack White moments was during the 2004 Grammys, where he took 7 Nation Army and went into a cover of Son House’s Death Letter (another artist who I had to unwillingly cut out of the list). In an awards show celebrating Justin Timberlake and Missy Eliot, Jack White took time to give a salute to where things got started, to an artist born a century ago.

7. Jimmy Page

Admit it. You’ve slow danced to Stairway To Heaven before. Page’s playing have influenced so many guitar players of today, and Led Zeppelin revolutionized Rock and Roll blending acoustic guitars, banjos, and mandolins while still staying with the same gritty rock image. His guitar riffs are forever etched into Rock and Roll’s hall of fame. How influential was he? Step into a guitar store, and you’ll see. Thousands of 12 year old kids across the globe are playing the intro to Stairway. Now that’s how you know you’ve made it.

6. BB King

Yeah. He may have to sit down when he plays, but he’ll have you on your feet when he does. BB’s creamy yet piercing tone, his unique vibrato and his absolute flawless ability to express his emotions through the guitar earn him a spot in the top ten. King’s years of fame haven’t gone to his head. He is still as humble as ever giving front row seat tickets to fans waiting in a cold parking lot just to have a glimpse of him. BB King can’t play chords. Nor does he sing and play at the same time. But he has worldwide recognition of his accomplishments as an artist. That’s a mark of a truly great guitarist.

5. David Gilmour


Gilmour was made famous by his haunting guitar scores in Pink Floyd. This “replacement” guitarist surpassed expectations and helped shape Pink Floyd’s unique sound. You can always expect hairs at the back of your neck to stand whenever you hear one of his solos – be it for the first or hundredth time you’re listening to it. All the emotion that Gilmour’s poured into his guitar work lives on in the music and is channeled through anyone who’s ever wanted to cover a Pink Floyd song. I know several guitar players (myself included) who whenever playing the Comfortably Numb solo – whether they are alone in their bedrooms or on stage – have always been unwillingly brought to tears, near the point of crying. How could you not expect things to get esoteric and mystical when it comes to music?

4. John Frusciante

Let’s get it straight. Froo – Shawn – Tey. If you don’t know him, he’s the lead guitarist of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Frusciante is the author of the brilliant chord progression on Under the Bridge, the haunting intro to Californication and the simplistic solo and riff on Otherside. If you’re the casual listener of the Chili Peppers, then you may wonder why John has made it so far up this list. But a tad of a closer look will reveal that his simple catchy riffs are the tip of the ice berg. One can catch a glimpse at his technical skill in the Dani California solo. A bit deeper and you’ll run into Lyon 06.06.06 in one of the B Sides. John takes his influences (Page, Hendrix) and mixes his own nuances into a sound that’s pleasantly different, but melodically having the same effects on you. A track to look out for on his solo work – Ramparts – showcasing four or so guitars layered upon each other in an introspective orchestra.

3. Stevie Ray Vaughan

Now if this house is rocking, don’t bother knockin. Famous words by Stevie. Many people perhaps know him for Hendrix covers, but where Jimi left off Stevie continued, and continued he did. The elements of Hendrix were alive and plain to see in SRV, but with it, he also mixed in his own influences such as Albert King and his own soul to make it his sound a trademark spot on his songs. I vaguely remember a car commercial where I spotted Stevie’s playing (Pride and Joy) in a Nissan ad. That was much before I really got into Vaughan’s work. SRV was an artist who could play while absolutely stoned face. And when he did sober up, he actually played better. His newfound health and love for life and music are showcased on In Step his last album before his death a year later. Stevie’s footprints will always be in the air and in our hearts.

2. Jimi Hendrix

 

Hendrix was known for a lot of things.The beautiful chord embellishments on Little Wing, the grit of the solo in Voodoo Child screaming off of his strat pickups, his cover of the Dylan song All Along The Watchtower, and the backwards solo in Castles Made of Sand, but known as a great innovative guitar player over and over again. His short but explosive career influenced numerous artists for many years past his death and continues to influence musicians today. To make such a difference in such a short amount of time truly earns Jimi a spot as number two. But…then you may ask, “Who is deserving of number one?!”

1. Robert Johnson

Bobby Jo is number one on this list. Every artist has unknowingly been influenced by him. Starting in the Mississippi Delta, Johnson’s life is rife with myths, and allegory. His deal with the devil and death are full of folklore and mysticism, and it only adds to his haunting voice and groundbreaking guitar playing. His songs are just a pure expression of emotion with no bars held. He led the groundwork for early blues to be filled in and worked upon by all the artists on this list. He also worked on breaking down social barriers. A black man in the early 20th century was not exactly the best place to be. But his music was to add interest by white musicians and help the civil movements of the sixties. Politically or musically, Robert Johnson is deserving of number one on this list.

Robert Johnson
written by Clarence F.


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564 Comments

  1. Where the necks Eddie van halen? And chuck berry? This list has some good guitar players on here but it’s missing some extremely important ones

  2. Where is Dimebag Darrell and Eddie Van Halen?

    Synyster Gates should also be on this list cause he brings such thoughtful lead progressions to modern metal.

    • TO NOT HAVE EVH ON NEAR THE TOP NEVER MIND NOT EVEN ON THIS LIST AGAIN IS A CRIME AGAINST ROCK AND ROLL AND GUITAR PLAYERS AROUND THE GLOBE …EDDY IS GOD……

    • Look what you just said, MODERN. The only way any modern guitar player would ever be on a greatest guitarist list is if they somehow completely change everything which is extremely unlikely. Emos can’t play music anyway.

  3. This list kind of blows. There are no greatest guitarists. And I hate how people think guitar is sickly limited to rock guys who in the whole scheme of things are pretty amateur. How about Eric clapton? Heck if Charlie Christian or django rhinehardt had never started playing solos guitar would still be a strict rhythm instrument playing crotchets to emphasise the beat. He had 2 fingers and did more for the guitar than anyone on this list? Especially Tom Morello? How about pat methany, wes Montgomery, pat martino, tal farlow, JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, george benson? Listen to any of those guys and it will completely redefine your thoughts on the guitar. It can so easily be intelligent and soulful simultaneously…

  4. Anjel Dg THEE BEST of all time>>>> Darrell Lance Abbott, also known as Diamond Darrell and Dimebag Darrell ? Rest In Peace ?

  5. Talk about caving to political correctnes!!!. Not a single thought of your own in your head,huh? God, what a pathetic list.

  6. Any top list should at least consist of these guitarists:

    Andreas Segovia
    (Truly the first guitar hero. Took the guitar from a peasant instrument to being respected and popular.)

    Django Reinhardt
    (Two fingers and still played more beautifull than just about everybody else)

    Chet Atkins
    (It’s Chet freakin’ Atkins, need I say more)

    Jimi Hendrix
    (Even a non-hendrix fan like me cannot deny his influence on rock and how much it spreads throughout many genres)

    Paco de Lucia
    (The flamenco master)

    Robert Johnson
    (The man paved the way for Rock and was just an overall amazing player)

  7. You have to be kidding with this list right? This list would be fine if it was titled “most popular” or “best rock guitarists”. John Mayer one of the best guitarist ever, are you f’ing kidding?!!? Here are some of the best guitarists in my opinion.

    -Chet Atkins
    -Pat Martino
    -Al Di meola
    -Jeff Beck
    -Tommy Emmanuel
    -Paco De Luccia
    -Adres Segovia
    -Eric Clapton
    -Robert Fripp
    -John Mclaughlin
    -Trey Anastasio
    -Djengo Rheinhardt
    -Bill Frisell
    -Steve Howe
    -Adam Jones
    -Dimebag Darrel
    -David Gilmour
    -Stevie Ray Vaughn
    -Robert Cray

  8. Anyone who commented that this was a good list needs to reconsider what makes up a great guitar player. It’s about being multi-faceted musician. Creativity, technicality and musicality all come in to play when your talking about the highest quality players. When I listen to a “shredder” like Steve Vai, I think..yes he is fast but his music makes me feel absolutley nothing emotionally. Truth be told…SRV and David Gilmour are probably the only players on this list that deserve to be there.

  9. Ryan and Jfauser obviously play guitar and have decent taste in music. The rest of these people are clearly retarded.

  10. So frustrating!!!! That guy Dino!!!! Guitar exists in other type of music beside rock you meatheads!! Turn off Vh1′ top 100 countdown and try exploring some other types of music. If you play guitar and you think rock is the only style to be played…then I’m very sorry but you probably are absolutely terrible at the guitar. Hate to break it to you but compared to people like Django Rheinhardt and Chet Atkins….Eddie Van Halen and Steve Vai bloooooowwwwwww!!!!!!

  11. PAUL GILBERT is the best, very useful licks and style! One of the best modern guitarist in the whole world! rOCK n Roll!!!

  12. If we’re talking top 10 Rock guitarists, I don’t get any list that doesn’t include Clapton.

  13. music is an expression with a variety of feelings involved.there is no such individual as the greatest guitarist.there are however a great number of highly talented,highly skilled and original guitar players.they encompass many genres of style ,technique,they should not be compared with each other.rather they should be appreciated for their individuality and that magnetism that makes them all unique.

  14. I´M GLAD TO SEE TOM MORELLO HERE, AS HE DOES THINGS ELECTRONICALLY ON GUITAR NO ONE DOES, THINGS JIMI HENDRIX WOULD HAVE DREAMED OF.
    VERNON REED OF LIVING COLOUR AND STEVE STEVENS TRY THINGS ON ELECTRONICS AND PERFORMANCE NO GUITARISTS DO TODAY… NOT EVEN STEVE VAI NOR JOE SATRIANI.
    ….. AND DON´T FORGET ALLAN HOLDSWORTH !!!

    • Both Satriani and Morello are masters when it comes to “electronic sound effects”, but i think Satriani is a better guitar player generally speaking. He can do much more stuff with the guitar, he’s like a magician and his technique is also superior. Also you shouldn’t forget that Satriani helped Morello in the past to reach his full potential.

  15. Malmsteem, Randy Rhoads, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, M/A Batio, George Lynch, Zakk Wylde, Ritchie Blackmore and many more… I think some of them at least, should’ve been among the top 10. It is supposed to be a list with the greatest guitar players after all.

  16. This is the worst top 10 guitarists list ever. Jeff Loomis, Tosin Abasi, Paul Waggoner, Andres Segovia…. Jimmy page needs to be top 3 on THIS list. Jack White? Red hot chilli peppers? what???? i hate when people pick them… what did they do thats the GREATEST EVER. NOTHING

  17. John guitarist 2000 on

    Ahhhhhh john frusciante!!!!!! 4 th ooommmmgggg!!!!! Whooop whooppp. He deserved that!!!!!!!! He inspired me like you will never think! He is epikkk

  18. Steve Vai? Yngwei Malmsteen? John Petrucci? All WAYYYYYY better then the above mentioned…