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.

No need for an explanation why he tops other players, just listen master of puppets and justice for all, incredibly powerful and melodical riffs at the same time, this man's music had reached out of metal music era, and make others follow his example, simply put, no other names mentioned here has more influence on rock music generally than him, and on other rock metal bands. Metallica is no non stop speeding bullet, or feelingless same satanic deppessive riffs, metallica is pure music, full of this mans artictic approach, his feelings, his troubles, his demons, his rage against corruption in every aspect, no matter what others blame them for, just listen to their music, it sums it all, they are not the people what others accuse them to be just out of them jealousy, megadeth is good slayer rocks, but to be honest even those bros not even close harmonicaly, melodicaly, neither of them could express them rage on guitar and lyrics like hetfield did, thats my opinion I have been listening ...more

This amazing person can play rhythm guitar like no other- a forerunner to the best bands happening now. Not only is his guitar unmistakable but his voice is and instrument unto its own. AND he can pull a lead solo with the best of the best. Guess I am just a major fan, but when you watch him perform, there is a transport between man and instrument that happens only with the cream of the crop. King James.

Hetfield has written some of the most famous metal riffs of all time as well as barking out his incredible vocals. He is one of the most artistic singers/songwriters we have today, a true poet. He out performs anyone I've ever watched play. Long live papa het!

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.

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..

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

He is responsible for creating some of the greatest riffs in the history of rock music. Even though Angus is mistaken for writing a lot of the bands material, it is Malcolm who is the real brain behind their sound.

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 is definitely mor of a lead guitarist then he is a rythm guitarist, but his rythms are just wicked. not only is he a fantastic lead guitarist, he's also written some of the best metal songs in history. its rythm stuff like the wickedly hard to mimick spider chords, and snarly riffs that helped curve a new meaning to the word speed metal. not only that, but dave plays some ridiculously complicated rythms and sings at the same time! and doesn't miss a note either. songs like hangar 18, holy wars, and peace sells are absolute master pices. probobly one of the greatest guitar players of all time, extremely humble, and very underrated.
if you want to truly see what I'm talking about, check out my last words on youtube. daves rythms are wicked, and check out the guitar solo. thats definitely one of my favourite guitar solos of all time.

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 mustaine taught james how to play guitar... Dave was lead when he was in Metallica and he's a lead rhythm switch in megadeth who also sings dave is definitely a top 3 rhythm guitarist with izzy stradlin to go with

Though his leads may not be where he shines, his rhythms are damn heavy and tight.

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

He's just got an amazing feel and groove. His style's very simplistic but that just adds to the emotional quality of his art and just goes to a whole level of elation. His songwriting is top notch, very great.. definitely underrated, though obviously he prefers the low profile, which is very respectable.. great musician, brilliant guitar player, great person.. it all comes through in the sound

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.

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

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.

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!

He is great, the perfect couple, not only he plays the chords, also he play the harmony with synyster gates, I like them. Also when they are playing solos or intros together, like AFTERLIFE!

Just a great Rhythm Zacky,.. specially with Synister,..
your awesome,...
playing with your left hand,..
Avenged Sevenfold
LOVE IT Or Die!

Combines with Gates... They are just an epic couple.

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.

Great rhythm guitar in one of the greatest rock and roll bands of the 60s, ie: Honkey tonk women, Jumpin Jack flash, Brown sugar epitomize his style.

He's the man of rhythm n bLues king in this pLanet, Listen 'can't you hear me knocking', 'brown sugar', hand of fate, beast of burden, hot stuff, etc, so sexy

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.

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!

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.

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.

Whoever didn't vote for Pete Townshend should listen to Magic Bus on the Live at Leeds album.

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.

I don't know why kiss is so underrated in every lost they are most talented band and he should be second after hetfield as hetfield is god but he is also lord

Second only to the great Malcolm Young in my opinion.

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.

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

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.

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.

The Newcomers

? Dave Padden David James Padden, is a Canadian musician, best known as the former vocalist and rhythm guitarist for Canadian thrash metal band Annihilator from 2003 to 2014.
? Steve Clark Stephen Maynard Clark was an English musician. He was the lead guitarist and principal songwriter for the British hard rock band, Def Leppard, until 1991, when he died from alcohol poisoning.

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.

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.

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!

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

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.

omg, Brad is #1! there's not any guitarrist more underrated than Aerosmith's!

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

Brad is excellent!

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.

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.

best of the best
beast of the beasts
guitarist of the guitarists

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.

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

Isn't he lead guitar though?

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!

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

Yes, but they often shared the duties. Jeff played the most difficult parts of some solos... - Metal_Treasure

This man is incredible love his playing

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

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.

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.

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

He served as both lead and rhythm guitarist. He didn't play only solos. Who the hell wrote and played the legendary riffs? Him! - Metal_Treasure

Jeff Waters

Jeff Waters is the Annihilator lead guitarist, extremely talented

Like the shredding guitar

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.

Robbin Crosby

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

Eddie Van Halen Edward Lodewijk "Eddie" Van Halen is a Dutch-American musician, songwriter and producer. He is 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.

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

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.

just listen to those riffs! It will blow your head off!

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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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