Top 10 Most Influential Guitarists

Please note that these are the guitarists who had the most influence on music, not just the best guitarists.
The Top Ten
1 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

Technically and musically superior to any of his contemporaries, Ritchie Blackmore was shredding neo-classical style 45 years ago while all the others were playing pentatonic blues scales, creating the base for a new guitar playing style.

He was clinical and madly skilled, but he would always play for the song. His songwriting was second to none. His stage presence was huge. His exquisite taste and unique touch made his style instantly recognizable.

He was the only rock player to pick almost every note staccato style instead of using the usual pull-offs and hammer-ons that others were doing at the time. His playing inspired millions of players worldwide.

2 Jimi Hendrix Jimi Hendrix (born November 27, 1942 - September 18, 1970) was an American rock guitarist, singer, and songwriter.

Although his mainstream career spanned only four years, he is widely regarded as one of the most influential electric guitarists in the history of popular music, and one of the most... read more

Jimi is the most influential, period. It is undeniable that he is one of the most creative, inventive, talented, and popular guitarists ever. The other guitarists are absolutely phenomenal and definitely influential in their own right, but Jimi's influence goes beyond guitar playing.

He was very creative with stereo technology, and his use of it was never heard of before but has become a standard in just about any kind of recorded music. I could make arguments about any one of these guys being the most influential, but Jimi overshadows them all.

3 Jimmy Page James Patrick Page is an English musician, songwriter, and record producer who achieved international success as the guitarist and founder of the rock band Led Zeppelin.

Pagey is the iconic guitarist. His charisma, versatility, song composition, studio engineering, and range of playing skills are almost incomparable.

As a guitarist of many years, I believe Jimmy is number one. He taught me everything, introducing me to the blues and my love of the Les Paul. While everyone talks about Hendrix, as a guitarist, he is not number one. Personally, it was Robin Trower and Pagey that inspired me to pick up a guitar.

To this day, I cannot play for any length of time without running through some of Jimmy's amazing riffs. Just listen to the Zeppelin catalog. What on earth compares to that level of musicianship?

I turned my European wife onto Zeppelin, and even she was astounded, acknowledging these guys really are a cut above. Jimmy's blues makes her cry, proclaiming, "It is so beautiful."

4 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.

Eddie changed everything that came after him: songs, techniques, and the guitars themselves! He also got more people started in playing guitar than anyone else in history, even Hendrix!

Not to take anything away from Jimi, because he's the man, but Eddie got more of us started, showed more of us how to do it, and influenced all of our gear. Yup, definitely the most influential!

This should not even be up for debate. Now, 38 years after the release of Van Halen's first album, Eddie is still inspiring new players. His guitar and amp styles remain the standard in Hard Rock and Heavy Metal.

Many famous modern-day guitarists say he is in a league of his own. He gets ultimate respect from many of the best.

5 David Gilmour David Jon Gilmour is an English singer, songwriter, composer, multi-instrumentalist, and record producer. He joined the progressive rock band Pink Floyd as guitarist and co-lead vocalist in 1968.

David Gilmour is the most soulful, beautiful player ever! His tone and melody are second to none, and no guitarist has ever given me chills or brought tears to my eyes with their playing like he does.

Nothing fancy, which makes him even more incredible. Just pure musical genius!

Not only was his playing ability incredible, but he has influenced more guitarists with his tone and the quality of sound he was able to get out of his guitar. So much so, a book has been written to chronicle the Black Strat's life.

6 Eric Clapton Eric Patrick Clapton is an English rock and blues guitarist, singer and songwriter. He is the only three-time inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, once as a solo artist and separately as a member of the Yardbirds and Cream. He has also been a member of Derek and the Dominos.

Eric Clapton is one of the best guitarists I have ever listened to. He is an incredible artist who infused the blues into his music, and there has never been another one to have the Clapton sound.

Love it. He listened and played with Jimi Hendrix, Gregg Allman, B.B. King, Chuck Berry, and his best friend George Harrison, just to name a few. Clapton is the greatest!

I find it humorous how this is literally a list of the most influential guitarists and not the best guitarists, yet two people who Clapton influenced are above him, and he's only number six. Eddie Van Halen has stated repeatedly that the only guitarist to ever influence him was Clapton, and Blackmore has spoken about Clapton's influence on him as well.

Why are people so unable to be objective these days? Who did Blackmore influence?

7 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

The Riff Master! The Godfather of Metal! How is James Hetfield higher than the Godfather of Heavy Metal? The genre we hear today as metal is alive thanks to him. James Hetfield is overrated!

If Iommi didn't exist, every member of Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Metallica, Megadeth, and Slayer (keep naming them) would be delivering pizzas!

I love Tony. His rhythms were even more catchy than his lead work. His distortion tone was his biggest influence.

8 Hideto 'hide' Matsumoto Hideto Matsumoto, better known by his stage name Hide, was a Japanese musician, singer, songwriter and record producer. He is primarily known for his work as lead guitarist of the heavy metal band X Japan.

Hide believed in freedom through his music. People were saved by his music, giving them a reason to live. When Hide died, he topped the news in Japan. Fifty thousand people came to see him.

A good man indeed. All the good guys and artists just have to go first.

Hide is the best guitarist in the world. He is a very good player, and X Japan is the biggest band in the world in my opinion. I love X Japan. Go Hide, you are the best!

Probably the most influential guitarist in Japan... and secretly in the whole world.

9 Slash Saul Hudson, known professionally as Slash, is a British-American musician and songwriter. He is best known as the lead guitarist of the American hard rock band Guns N' Roses, with whom he achieved worldwide success in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Slash is the most influential guitarist of all time. He is the inspiration for most guitar enthusiasts, and his style of playing is superb compared to any guitarist. That is why he is so famous.

The legend. Remember the solo of November Rain or the intro of Sweet Child O' Mine? Touched my soul. He's still making music. Really an inspiration for the youth. He has everything. He made me a Guns N' Roses fan. #Saulforever

Probably a bit understated, Slash is one of the more proficient guitar icons. Clearly enunciated playing at supersonic speed is not very common.

10 Chuck Berry Charles Edward Anderson "Chuck" Berry was an American guitarist, singer and songwriter, and one of the pioneers of rock and roll music. He died on 18 March 2017.

What is this list? None of these guys would exist if it wasn't for the grand architect of rock music, Chuck Berry. He laid the foundation for basic rock music riffs and rhythm and practically introduced the art of guitar soloing to the mainstream.

Plus, he also popularized the electric guitar as an instrument. Without Chuck Berry, rock music might be very different today or may not even exist. At the end of the day, almost every single guitar player has been directly or indirectly influenced by Chuck Berry. "Johnny B. Goode" is the national anthem of rock 'n' roll.

The Contenders
11 Stevie Ray Vaughan Stephen "Stevie" Ray Vaughan (October 3, 1954 – August 27, 1990) was an American musician, singer, songwriter, and record producer. In spite of a short-lived mainstream career spanning seven years, he is widely considered one of the most influential electric guitarists in the history of music, and... read more

I agree with many others. Not that Hendrix was bad or uninfluential, but SRV took some of his music and made his own take on the true blues, perfecting it too. Endless creativity performed with utter precision, and he was way faster than most.

On top of that, I've never heard him play a song the same way twice.

Very underrated player. In my humble opinion, he played Voodoo Child just as well, if not slightly better, than Hendrix. Awesome player.

Did Hendrix songs better than Jimi, sorry but it's true. Listen to Little Wing and tell me what you think.

12 Michael Schenker Michael Schenker is a German rock guitarist who has played in UFO and led the Michael Schenker Group. He was an early member of Scorpions the band co-founded by his elder brother Rudolf Schenker.

Not only is he simply the greatest guitarist of all time, but he's also one of the most influential. He's the reason Dave Mustaine, Kirk Hammett, Randy Rhoads, and many others play Vs.

Seriously, go listen to him before you scroll down trying to find the guitarist you are sure is the best. I was going to vote for Buddy Guy, but then I saw the Blond Bomber and realized he was more influential. Go listen to him!

Just ask most of the new breed. Maybe not the most famous with commercial success, but he influenced thousands of guitar players with his amazing tone, flat picking, feel, and individual sound.

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

He is not a single guitarist. He is the conductor of his own orchestra made of Brians. That's beyond the reach of any other guitarist. The harmonies he plays are out of this world.

And he plays many more string instruments: ukulele, banjo, harp, organ, piano, and more. Who can repeat him?

One of the best soloists of his day, and still a bright light in the guitar icon pantheon. Amazing sound (built from scratch), solos that twist and turn and peak like a brilliant plotline. There's simply no one like him.

Brian May was extremely influential. His home-built guitar was the first to use feedback, and many of his styles have been copied through the years.

14 Randy Rhoads Randall William "Randy" Rhoads was an American heavy metal guitarist who played with Ozzy Osbourne and Quiet Riot. He was killed in a plane crash.

Randy was great but died too soon to be considered an all-time great. His influence was starting to take hold when he was taken, but what hurts him is that he would start his solos live with Eddie Van Halen's Eruption. At the time, that was considered blasphemy.

Randy could play technically, slowly, and just incredibly. He had the perfect mixture of everything from tremolo picking to tapping to trills. Had he lived longer, he would've easily been the greatest guitarist ever.

A real talent. If he had lived longer, who knows what he could have created. Way ahead of Van Halen, Gary Moore, and Slash. Up there with Hendrix, Blackmore, and Page. Just listen to the two great albums he played on!

15 Angus Young Angus McKinnon Young is an Australian guitarist of Scottish origin, best known as the co-founder, lead guitarist, songwriter and sole constant member of the Australian hard rock band AC/DC. When performing live he does his own version of Chuck Berry's "duck walk" and has also spun on his side while... read more

The infamous Duck Walk, his awesome SG Standard, the devil horns on his head and guitar, and the signature schoolboy outfit create a demonic possession on stage. He also has the stellar tone everyone loves.

His 3-4 chord progression, along with his guitar solos and licks, makes him the king. "The Devil in your fingers and The Blues in Your Soul, hell, you've got rock and roll."

His energy alone in live performances should inspire anyone. I mean, he played a 16-minute solo on the Black Ice Tour!

AC/DC's guitar style has been copied to death, very influential, although Malcolm is responsible for a lot of that.

16 Gary Moore Robert William Gary Moore was a Northern Irish musician, most widely recognised as a singer, songwriter, and virtuoso rock and blues guitarist.

Along with M. Schenker, Gary Moore is the greatest, most soulful metal guitarist ever! Before he played the blues later in his career, he was a true hard rocker.

I saw him open for Rush, never having heard of the guy. His first song was "Victims of the Future," and I bought every album he ever played on after seeing him! He also created some of the most beautiful instrumental songs ever.

Check out "The Loner" from the Wild Frontier album or "The Messiah Will Come Again" from the After the War album. Nobody did it better. RIP Gary!

Criminally underrated player! His work with Thin Lizzy, Colosseum II, and solo is incredible!

17 Tommy Bolin Thomas Richard "Tommy" Bolin was an American-born guitarist who played with Zephyr, The James Gang, and Deep Purple; in addition to maintaining a notable solo career.

Not number one, but judging by this list, he belongs in the top ten. His work with Billy Cobham and Alphonse Mouzon set the bar for all jazz fusion players.

The Deep Purple and solo albums really expanded the definition and overall skill and technique of rock players. As with Zappa, shamefully underrated and slowly being forgotten.

Criminally underrated. Ask Jeff Beck. He still plays "Stratus" live to this day. If that's not an endorsement, I don't know what is.

A forgotten gem of a guitarist, and an amazing voice. When you consider what he did in a lifetime of only 24 years, it's astounding.

18 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.

James should be number 1. If you give me hell for this, I don't care. I'm just sharing my opinion.

He influenced John Petrucci, Matt Heafy, and many more great guitarists.

A lot of these are lead guitarists, but Hetfield still kills them all.

19 Alex Lifeson Aleksandar Živojinović, better known by his stage name Alex Lifeson, is a Canadian musician, best known as the guitarist of the Canadian rock band Rush.

Alex should be at least 11 on this list. His guitar playing is deceiving. He happens to play with two of the best in the world, and his leads are crisp, fast, and well thought out.

He is a master and a hell of a nice guy to boot. He has influenced many guitar players and will continue to do so for years to come. His latest music shows he's lost nothing off his fastball.

I would put Alex Lifeson at number one! He was voted number one just a few years ago by Guitar Player Magazine as the best rock guitarist.

He is so overshadowed by the best drummer and perhaps the best bassist in rock. I think he is better at his instrument than the other two! Hendrix gets his popular vote by being black and dead (he's good, don't get me wrong).

Most of these guys are rated on popularity, not talent. Eric Clapton is boring compared to most of these guys. Boring blues Eric.

20 Ace Frehley Paul Daniel "Ace" Frehley is an American musician, singer and songwriter best known as the former lead guitarist and founding member of the rock band Kiss.

When it comes to influence, Ace is top three, top five minimum. An entire generation of guitar players who evolved in the eighties cite him as their main influence. Slash, Dimebag, Mike McCready, John 5, and Lenny Kravitz are just a few of thousands.

Ace's Les Paul/Marshall sound on the early Kiss records was just so cool. Dimebag had Ace tattooed on himself. You want influence? There it is.

Ace should be higher. Not only is he great, but just how many famous guitarists did he influence? Thousands!

21 Steve Vai Steven Siro "Steve" Vai is an American guitarist, composer, singer, songwriter, and producer, born and raised on Long Island, New York.

Maybe the most technically brilliant player ever. Still, like Jeff Beck, a great player who doesn't write great songs. The guy is an absolute monster on the fretboard, though, and plays things few others could.

Check him out as the Devil's guitarist in the movie Crossroads. Brilliant!

Steve Vai is one of the best guitarists I've ever heard. His skill is as if he had sold his soul to the devil. He is that good.

22 Joe Satriani Joseph Satriani (born July 15, 1956) is an American instrumental rock guitarist and multi-instrumentalist. Early in his career, Satriani worked as a guitar instructor, with many of his former students achieving fame, such as Steve Vai, Larry LaLonde, Rick Hunolt, Kirk Hammett, Andy Timmons, Charlie... read more

I'm sticking my neck right out now! Joe is the best guitarist ever, full stop. A genius. And a one-off never to return. He's one of the most influential to most people who actually know anything about guitar.

A true gentleman from another world, if you ask me! I'm listening to one of his melodies as I write this. UNBELIEVABLE! If I'm reincarnated, please bring me back as Joe. I want to play like him, but he's just too good!

The best guitarist since Eddie Van Halen and king of the instrumental song. Great melodies and a guy who knows when to shred and when to quiet down. A true genius with unmatched technical ability, he really makes it look easy! It's not!

23 B.B. King Riley B. "B.B." King was an American blues singer, electric guitarist, songwriter, and record producer.

Buddy Guy, Joe Bonamassa, Eric Clapton, SRV, and even greats such as Eddie Van Halen or Slash have all been influenced by the speed, cleanliness, perfection, and soul of Lucille, the guitar that squeals and sings when played by King.

Hendrix himself was in awe.

Maybe not too well known, but he is the grandfather of the guitar solo as we know it in rock songs.

24 Dave Davies David Russell Gordon "Dave" Davies is an English singer, songwriter and guitarist. He was the guitarist for the British Invasion band, The Kinks.
25 Yngwie Malmsteen Yngwie Johan Malmsteen is a Swedish guitarist, songwriter and bandleader who was born on June 30th, 1963, in Stockholm, Sweden. He was known for his neoclassical metal playing style back in the 1980s.

A true innovator, Yngwie Malmsteen brought the neoclassical style into the forefront for today's shredders to copy, much like Eddie Van Halen introduced the finger-tapping style. Technically, Malmsteen is the best rock guitarist to walk planet Earth ever!

However, he cannot write rock songs like Blackmore, Hendrix, or Gilmour, so he will never be at the top of the tree.

Yngwie may have a style that doesn't change much between songs and albums, but if you can deal with his extended shreds, you can really hear the music he's written and understand how great he is.

As a fellow six-stringer, he helped me get my signature sound. As a fellow Swede, he is a true inspiration.

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