Best Rhythm Guitarists

The Top Ten
James Hetfield James Alan Hetfield was born on August 3, 1963. He is an American musician, singer and songwriter known for being the co-founder, lead vocalist, rhythm guitarist and main songwriter for the American heavy metal band Metallica.

Dude when will people realize Avenged Sevenfold Crap is some of the easiest stuff I have ever played not that the songs aren't good same thing with malcom Young... Really, Really the Guy that plays rhythm for the bands 11 year olds play lead on when they first start come on guys Jesus Christ not that ac/dc isn't good cause they are but from a guitar stand point no lie my 11 year old cousin can play Ac/Dc Lead and Avenged Sevenfold lead no problem like no crap But don't think I don't like em cause I do but Avenged Sevenfold are crappy musicians good POPULAR song writers not even good song writers but they can write mainstream song and every one in a while a metal anthem but as far as guitar goes X

The tightest metal rhythm guitar player of all time hands down. The main riff of Battery is a fantastic example, those triplets are so damn tight and he double tracked it all. To think he can play it and sing while keeping it so tight, blows my mind. Disposable Heroes is another great example, he plays the main riff just so effortlessly. Just have a look at the Metal Allegiance cover of the song on YouTube and you'll understand how difficult the riff is to play tight for mere mortals. I love his lyrics, they are such a refreshing break from the usual cringey, violent metal lyrics, the lyrics play on your mind. I could watch him riff along all day. The riff after the solo in Dyer's Eve is my favourite and probably Metallica's heaviest riff ever.

Does this really need explaining? Papa Het is one of the most consistent and powerful rhythm guitarists in popular metal music. The guy's right wrist is made of wrought iron, seriously.

He is the greatest musician I've ever known a true genius the meaning of the lyrics he wrote is too very deep it reflects the true pain and the music that goes with it is just too great he has struggled in his life with lot of things but he found a way to come over all the problems and masterpieces we hear today is the result of all his struggles.
Somehow he found the most inner deepest and evil feelings a man carries with him and this makes him greatest of all just listen to the songs like bleeding me unforgiven trilogy untill it sleeps fade to black and try to understand the true meaning of these songs and eventually you'll understand what I am trying to say...respect JAMES HETFIELD

Malcolm Young Malcolm Mitchell Young was an Australian musician and songwriter, best known as a co-founder, rhythm guitarist, backing vocalist and songwriter for the hard rock band AC/DC.

Malcolm should not be on this list, or any other list. He's simply the best ever, by a long long way.
Any list compiled should be for who's the best of the rest.

It is not even close. Malcolm stayed in the pocket better than any other player I have heard...and I have heard a lot. Everyone else on this list dreamed of being that good, inventive, kept perfect, I mean perfect, time. Sorely missed..

There is no doubt when you listen to the music and are able to hear the rhythm carrying the song you will agree that Malcolm was one of the pioneers and true artists... people recognized that...that's what paved the way to new music is that constant beautiful riff...Malcom didn’t say hey pick me!...the people heard the sound and picked him...he just wanted to play. RIP Sir Malcolm you are the best!

Even though Malcolm was the silent man in the background he was the true backbone of AC/DC and without him AC/DC would never have been as good

Dave Mustaine David Scott "Dave" Mustaine (born September 13, 1961) is an American musician, singer, songwriter, actor and author. Mustaine is best known as a pioneer in Thrash Metal, being the former lead guitarist of Metallica before his dismissal in 1983, leading to finding and becoming the front man of his own ...read more.

Dave Mustaine is an amazing guitar player, and his ability to evoke emotions while keeping things heavy is not to be underestimated. For example, "A Tout Le Monde".

Dave and Zacky V are technically ate the top. Need more people like them who are actual musicians, I.e., Bob Weir. Bob's playing is so much more subtle than your average metal guy, play only the 1 and 5 of a power chord all over the neck. He knows Blues, Jazz Improv (McCoy Tyner, Coltrane, Cool Jazz). I agree with Keith Richards, Izzy, etc. They know how to layers sound, weaving in different positions of the the same chord, in different neck locations - Or, the "ancient art of weaving". I've seen people do good covers of them, but typically miss 75% of the subtle aspect, I.e. drone srtings, inversions, etc

Come on now, Dave Mustaine comes to be the best Rhythm Guitarist as well. He Guitar solos are skilled and fast but his riffs are probably toughest to play, it becomes extremely tough while singing. We have got a lot of examples for that like "Holy Wars... The Punishment Due", "Good Mourning - Black Friday", "Tornado of souls", "Take no prisoners" etc. He writes way better, complex, fast, riffs and suitable for Thrash Metal as compared to James Hetfield and other guitarists. He deserves the number one position.

Poison was the Cure, Take no prisoners, Rattlehead, Wake up Dead. Rhythm guitars as tough as, if not tougher, than the solos. Plus they play it 1.2x or more live. Hetfield is a great player, but speed was never his forte. Although he plays accurate as hell, but so does Mustaine. That being said, Mustaine is no lesser, if not better, than the likes of Hetfield or Vengeance.

Izzy Stradlin Jeffrey Dean Isbell, better known by his stage name Izzy Stradlin, is an American guitarist, singer and songwriter.

Being a rhythm guitarist, Izzy has been my biggest influence to this date. He's got that old school rock vibe going on in his songs even to this day. Never have I seen another guy to play rhythm patterns like he does. I wasn't even aware of how much he has contributed until I started playing rhythm. Then I realized, he was the one making the songs sound so good and complete. He just knew when to play and when not to. That's Izzy. The coolest style of playing, just listen to Ghost Ft. Ian Astbury, that's what I'm talking about. Izzy's the rhythm guitarist I always want to be.

Listen to any song he made with Guns N' Roses and then listen to them without him. You can definitely hear the difference. He brought much more to the band than he gets credit for. He was essential part of the band.

Also listen to his solo music. He still makes great music. It's definitely not Guns, if that's what you're looking for then don't be surprised. It's more laid back and mellow. Slash even said that if Ronnie ever quit the Stones, Izzy's the only guy cool enough to replace him.

Izzy is a mixture of bests of rhythm. He got influenced by punk, reggae, rock n' roll, even prog. He has written damn awesome riffs and conquered a lot of Guns N' Roses songs with his playing. Trust me your most loved parts of GN'R songs but solos are Izzy's stuff. But Slash gets the credit because he is an icon. But when it comes to music Izzy destroys. He plays in so many different tones and ways. He writes great songs with great rhythm parts. He is f'in cool and makes hellova cool back vocalist. His solo stuff is very good. It's just good old rock n' roll. He kills it on acoustic too. That's a big plus for guys like Izzy, Keef, Townshend against guys like Mustaine and Hetfield. They are damn good at acoustic too. Still it's good to see him in a list like this.

Together with Slash, they are just a perfect match no matter how different their styles are. This guy has so much groove, he deserves to be above Zacky Vengeance. Rhythm guitar is about creativity and groove. Not just chugging and strumming power chords. Izzy can create amazing licks in between the chords and change the song so much with his tone that without him, the band will sound extremely different

Zacky Vengeance Zachary James Baker, better known by his stage name Zacky Vengeance, is an American musician, best known as the rhythm guitarist, backing vocalist, and founding member for the American alternative metal/ metalcore band Avenged Sevenfold. Zacky V. also owns a small clothing company, Vengeance University. ...read more.

Not a whole lot to say here that hasn't already been said. A strong, reliable rhythm player who can do a few leads of his own into the mix. Sure, his go-to style might not be your cup of tea, but don't ignore the skills he's got just because of that!

I am a massive Zacky vengeance fan probably his number one fan! Zacky is the best because he plays co-lead guitarist for synyster. He does harmonys for songs like second heartbeat, afterlife, buried alive, nightmare, unholy confessions etc. I own his guitar and I am proud to own it because if it wasn't for him I wouldn't even been playing guitar good.

People Zacky isn't up here because of Syn so saying he's the best rhythm guitarist cause he does harmony is incorrect. Everyone is mentioning Syn when this jas nothing to do with him. Zacky is up here in the list because he unites everything with his guitar and because he can do rhythm to any type of music.

He just knows when power chords are suitable. He is an awesome rhythm player and truly gives A7X their crunchy hard sound because of this unique guy. Just listen to city of evil and some songs from the self titled album.

Keith Richards Keith Richards is an English musician—primarily a guitarist—singer, songwriter, best-selling memoirist, and founding member of the rock band The Rolling Stones.

Hetfield and Mustaine over Keef? , no guitarist can hold a song like Richards did, he's a genius of the guitar, he invented every Stone riff existing, he can tune his guitar to every song to get the correct tone, he's one of the rare riffers that can only challenge Hendrix or Page at riffing, and so other things

If you want to learn the essence of rhythm guitar, you need to eat, live, breathe, and listen to everything Keith plays. Do this for a few years, and you'll definitely have the feel for a good rhythm riff. Long live Keith.

Keith created a one of a kind sound. You knew it was him from the second you heard the first note.
He laid down some of the most recognizable and memorable grooves of all time. In my opinion he is the be ever.

My persoanl favorite is Lennon, but since I'm a musician I can speak out of a bigger point of view and if I do so, I have to say that Keef should top this list. He's probably the greatest rhythm guitarist ever. Mr Riff

John Lennon John Winston Ono Lennon, MBE was an English singer and songwriter who rose to worldwide fame as a co-founder of the Beatles, the most commercially successful band in the history of popular music. He was assassinated by Mark David Chapman on December 8, 1980 at age 40.

Where would rock and roll be without The Beatles? The impact Lennon's music has had on the world is incredible, and only serves to demonstrate his talent.

John Lennon made the guitar speak. Listen to Come Together, Cold Turkey, Revolution, I Want You or Yer Blues for prime examples. His solos on Get Back and The Ballad of John and Yoko are brilliantly simple and to the point. A true original and classic guitarist!

A master of time, tone and taste. Complimented George Harrison lead work. Able to play with any lead guitarist and maintain the rhythm. John and George were the first of the two guitar attack in rock music followed by Keith Richards and Brian Jones.

Just a superb solid player -unique hard playing style -one of the best ever - honed in all night German stints -drove on the best band ever and he knew it!

Pete Townshend Peter Dennis Blandford "Pete" Townshend is an English musician, singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist, best known as the lead guitarist and songwriter for the rock band The Who.

Oh My God! The incredible amount of riffs he wrote, the fact he could sing perfectly, write an amazing amount of awesome songs...

Oh! And when it comes to playing guitar, he's a genius. Maybe he isn't the most talented (though he's damn close) but he's got something: passion! Just listen to the way he plays at Live at Leeds (and he was depressed that day! ) and Live at the Isle of Wight and let him kick your ass.

Pete Townshend is one of the greatest guitarists ever, let alone a rhythm player. He doesn't play many solos, but he could still kick the asses of lots of other people who do crazy solos.

Pete was the only rhythm in the entire band! Entwistle, Moon and Daltry were all lead players. Without Pete, The Who would have been senseless noise. Now that's a rhythm player of the highest order!

Listen to Pinball Wizard, unplugged versions of him playing Bargain and The Seeker. He's clearly in top 5 of all time.

Paul Stanley Stanley Bert Eisen, known professionally by his stage name Paul Stanley, is an American musician, singer, songwriter and painter best known for being the rhythm guitarist and co-lead singer of the rock band Kiss.

It's not easy, keeping up with Ace Frehley. Much less laying the rhythmic backdrop for the Space Ace's melodic leads to soar over!

He is the person responsible for the great anthems like rock n roll all nite, Detroit rock city, I was made for loving you etc. In 1973 he made KISS and laid down the foundation of one of the greatest band of all time.

Second only to the great Malcolm Young in my opinion.

I thought he would be at the place of Jim Root...

Jon Schaffer Jon Ryan Schaffer is an American heavy metal musician. He is best known as the guitarist and last remaining original member of the Florida-based heavy metal band Iced Earth, which he formed in 1985 under the name "Purgatory".

Not just insanely fast, but the machine-like consistently of his playing, the stellar clarity and intricate little accents on his palm mutes... The speed us mere mortals perceive as super fast is only moderately paced for The Schaffer, who chooses to play far below his actual maximum speeds to retain that insane level of consistency, tightness and control.

The only reason he's not number one is that not enough people know who he is, which is a real shame. I've never heard a guitarist who can gallop faster than Jon Schaffer. If you haven't listened to any Iced Earth songs listen to When The Night Falls, Life and Death, Travel in Stygian, Stormrider, or Dante's Inferno.

Jon Schaffer and Jeff Waters should be in the top 10. He's got power, speed and stamina comparable to James Hetfield's. Jon Schaffer is the King of gallops.

His triplets and galloping style writing make him among the best in heavy metal... True old school at its finest.

The Contenders
Scott Ian Scott Ian is an American musician, best known as the rhythm guitarist, backing and additional lead vocalist, and the only remaining original founding member of the thrash metal band Anthrax. He also writes the lyrics on all their albums.

Another strong rhythm player. And who's surprised? This is the top ten rhythm guitar players, after all, and Scott Ian is a member of the Big Four of Thrash .Rhythm guitarists in that illustrious crew have to be tight, and Mr. Ian is no exception.

No one has written so many awesomme, unmistacable and original riffs as scott ian. You can tell right away which song Anthrax or S.O. D song you're listening too. Also a man who has mastered both the relentless down picking style of thrash and also how to play groove riffs. And you have to mention his unique guitar sound, that rly crunchy guitar sound that so many metal bands use these days!

The mastermind of Anthrax's monstrous, infectious riff. He's THE MAN and the walking dude. His presence on stage is just awesome. Thank you for your music.

Although a great rhythm guitarist, Charlie Benante is actually the main riff writer. Scott is the lyricist of the band. Still one of the best.

Nancy Wilson Nancy Lamoureaux Wilson is an American musician, singer, songwriter, producer, and composer. She rose to fame alongside her older sister, singer Ann Wilson, as a guitarist and backing vocalist in the rock band Heart, which she joined in 1974.

Probably the most underrated guitarist. Period. Better at 61 than at 30. Amazing especially with acoustical..

Overlooked like all females in any category

Yeah, she's been awesome for decades...

Brad Whitford

Anyone who plays guitar knows how underrated Brad Whitford is.
he's not flashy, but could be.
Brad is a better guitarist than Joe Perry. He is a very good technically.

he's in the top 3. Right up there with Malcolm Young, Hetfield and Stradlin.

Most best guitarist lists are a joke. It's a popularity contest.

Unlike most rhythm guitarists you can actually, you know, HEAR whiteford on aerosmith tracks. He can keep a beat better than a lot of bassists out there. It was his rhythm guitar part in helter skelter that made it ALMOST better than the beatles' original.

You HAVE to vote for Mr. Whitford. The song he wrote for Aerosmith "Last Child" was one of their biggest hits,

One of the few Rhythm guitarists that you can actually hear in the songs.

Dimebag Darrell Darrell Lance Abbott, also known as Diamond Darrell and Dimebag Darrell, was an American guitarist and songwriter best known as a founding member of two bands, Pantera and Damageplan, alongside his brother, Vinnie Paul. Abbott died in 2004 after he was shot by a mentally unstable fan.

Not precisely 100% rhythm guitar, Dimebag is still among the absolute pinnacle of guitar players in rock / metal history. His leads were astronomical, his rhythms were crunchy and groovy, and his personality was pure gold. Rest in peace to a true legend.

This is a complete joke. Clearly whoever did this does not play guitar or have a knowledge of talent. Dimebag would crush Hetfield on rhythm guitar. Go play some Metallica riffs and then go play some Pantera riffs case closed. Anyone can cover Metallica and make it sound good. Nobody can cover Pantera like Dimebag. Just go and YouTube and type in Metallica cover by Pantera and you will see Dimebag plays it better than Hetfield and Hammet combined. If Metallica were to cover Pantera it would be an utter mess.

Dime is not only a rhythm guitarist, he plays lead also. This genius was a one man army that played the greatest leads and riffs of all time.

Awesome guitarist. And yes, he is a rhythm guitarist. But this list is mainly for rhythm guitarists. Lead guitarists also can be here. But I think it's better if the rhythm guitarists (who focuses more on rhythm guitar) come here first.

Tony Iommi Anthony Frank "Tony" Iommi is an English guitarist, songwriter and producer. Best known as lead guitarist and founding member of the pioneering heavy metal band Black Sabbath, he has been the band's sole continual member and primary composer. At age 17, he accidentally lost the fingertips of his middle ...read more.

Ah, Tony Iommi. Without Black Sabbath, would we have Metallica, Slayer, Slipknot, etc? I think not. Mr. Iommi falls into the same group as Lennon, for me. A legend, one who brought a whole new dimension to rock and roll guitar.

he's the undisputed king of the music world. Nobody comes close 5 spaces down. Then comes Zakk W. Notice I put a period behind Zakks last name initial.

He does some great solos but it's his riffs that are more memorable

Unbelievably amazing, diffidently top ten.

Kerry King Kerry Ray King is an American musician, best known as a guitarist for the American thrash metal band Slayer.

Kerry King had the unenviable task of playing rhythm guitar lines and dual leads that kept pace with Dave Lombardo, and later Paul Bostaph's thundering drums. He deserves to be on the list if for nothing else than the sheer speed at which he can maintain consistency!

Very overrated. Jeff H. was better at both - lead and rhythm.

I thought he was a lead guitarist. And Jeff as rhythm player.

This man is incredible love his playing

Ritchie Blackmore Richard Hugh "Ritchie" Blackmore is an English guitarist and songwriter, best known for his work in the hard rock/metal bands Deep Purple and Rainbow. He was ranked number 16 on Guitar World's "100 Greatest Metal Guitarists of All Time" in 2004, and number 50 in Rolling Stone magazine's list of the ...read more.

The most perfectionist without flaws. But he played played LEAD.
Then again, Frank Zappa was the Master of 60's 70's Rock. Saw Frank on The Tonight Show with Steve Allen, on his very 1st performance in the early 60's in Black and White T.V..
Look it up on youtube, it's there, playing drumsticks on a bicycle...hehe
I've seen most of 'em in over 50 years, and Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention were the Best.
Look up Frank Zappa and Steve Allen on youtube and laugh and enjoy.
Don't Vote! It only encourages Them.

Deplorable Frank

Ritchie is amazing. However, as Jon Lord stated, Ritchie doesn't like playing rhythm and it's obvious when you hear him play. When he's not soloing, he doesn't play much of anything. That's my only criticism of him. If he's not in the spotlight, he'd rather not play.

He was only guitarist. So he's both lead and rhythm guitarist

Why so low - his riffs are legendary.

Jeff Waters

He's one of those very talented guys who is equally good as rhythm and lead guitarist (he switches). His riffs are awesome - not only beautiful but also very fast and sophisticated.

Jeff Waters is the Annihilator lead guitarist, extremely talented

Like the shredding guitar

Robbin Crosby

Also does amazing leads, great tone and chops. RIP King.

Eddie Van Halen Edward Lodewijk "Eddie" Van Halen (January 26, 1955 – October 6, 2020) was a Dutch-American musician, songwriter, producer, and inventor. He was best known as the lead guitarist, occasional keyboardist and co-founder of the hard rock band Van Halen.

Are you kidding me? Easily number "1" Why is he listed so low here?

Rudolf Schenker Rudolf Schenker is a German guitarist and founding member of the hard rock band Scorpions, being the rhythm guitarist and one of the main songwriters of the band.

His awesome guitar-playing and rhythms are one thing, but the way he plays and all the energy he uses on the scene, makes him the best rhythm guitarist by miles.

Rudolf deserves the top place! He created Scorpions and beats every single rhythm guitar players!

He touches my soul and makes it weep. No one else does that.

He the legend of riff

Brian May Brian Harold May is an English musician, singer, songwriter and astrophysicist, best known as the lead guitarist of the rock band Queen.

Umm, yes he is a very good guitarist. And sure he played both lead and rhythm guitar for Queen. But still he focused more on l lead guitar than rhythm guitar.

Sometimes I think his composition skills are so good they distract from the credit he should get for how well he plays that guitar!

Hey, buddy? Yeah... Brian May might not exactly be a rhythm guitarist... He might be a lead guitarist... Yeah...

HE's so good he's songs are so emotional try to watch his Bohemian Rhapsody solo it's cool

John Petrucci John Peter Petrucci is an American guitarist, composer and producer. He is best known as a founding member of the progressive metal band Dream Theater. Compared to his level of skill, John Petrucci is relatively unknown in the modern music industry.

How did no one put him on the list? Dream Theater's got a lot of great guitar riffs, each song is loaded with genius and complex riffs, solos, and backing rhythm guitar. When you hear the guitar, there's one person playing it. Not a rhythm guitarist and two lead guitarists, John Petrucci is the ONLY Dream Theater guitarist, and what he contributes to their music never ceases to amaze me. John Petrucci is arguably the greatest guitarist of all time, but he is, no doubt, the greatest rhythm guitarist of all time.

I feel like his lead playing overshadows his rhythm playing. Songs like The Dark Eternal Night, Sacrificed Sons, Outcry, The Glass Prison, Change of Seasons just to name a few have some of the best riffs I’ve ever heard.

He's more of a lead guitarist though...

Johnny Ramone John William Cummings, better known by his stage name Johnny Ramone, was an American guitarist and songwriter, best known for being the guitarist for the punk rock band the Ramones.

He will be my first choice. He is the rhythm guitarist kind. Most of his songs are rhythm guitar bases. Well its not like that he can't play lead guitar. But he is best at rhythm guitar. And he is very fast at it.

He was a genius and his technique saved rock n' roll. Also The Ramones were way ahead of their time.

Long live the pioneer of punk's thrashing and awesome guitar style!

Few chords but the way he plays its awesome.

Dave Murray David Michael Murray is an English guitarist and songwriter best known as one of the earliest members of the British heavy metal band Iron Maiden.

Dave Murray was manly a lead guitarist. But still he can play rhythm guitar (Every lead guitarist can play rhythm guitar actually).

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