Best Rhythm Guitarists

The Top Ten
1 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.

Hetfield is truly one of the best rhythm guitarists ever, period. James Hetfield is the king of melody and power-- seriously, I have never heard someone so good at what he does on the rhythm guitar. Every single person has a different opinion on their best Metallica riff, because a large majority of them have unparalleled rhythm from James. James knows how to make the most perfect blend of rhythm, power, groove, tone, etc.-- he is the exemplar of a powerful tone combined with stellar playing.

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.

Hands down the greatest. The first solo in Master of Puppets. Listen to it. It is the most melodic solo of Metallica, and such a smooth, calming solo.

Every time I listened, my life would flash before my eyes, and I would get watery eyes each time. James knows how to combine bad ass with power, soul, and melody. Zacky Vengeance knows how to sound bad ass, but the reason James Hetfield wins, is because he adds that touch of soul to any riff he's ever made.

I know James will be at top... He is my favourite rhythm guitarist as well as vocalist and song writer... He is in Metallica and its name is enough... Love his work in every album and lives of Metallica... He is best and he and other members of Metallica have inspired me a lot... I love James, rob, Lars, Kirk... They all are best please vote for all of them in every list...
Metallica is best band of the world and I only like to listen to there songs every day...
Please launch one more album

2 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.

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!

A lot of people consider Angus to be the force behind Ac/dc's huge sucess...
Malcolm is the one who's playing the riffs of Highway to Hell, Back in Black, You Shook me All Night Long and a lot of others, but just these three could place him at first place, above the guitarist from Avenged Sevenfold at least!
He's classic, every riff from his career can stay behind of your ear

Definitely the best. He can sing a little bit, but most important: He writes unbelievable riffs adnd his playing goes straight to the heart. He plays it easy with some chords, but his timing ist very difficult to imitate. James Hetfield as n1? Malcolm is defintiely better, no one has got a timing like him. And this is most important when you are a rhythm guitarist.

Malcolm should be first. His rhythm guitar playing, his right hand, his style is just unrepeatable...just try it out. Even Angus stated that Malcolm could easily fill his shoes, whilst he would be unable to do Malcolm's parts as it should be.

3 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 band Megadeth shortly after.

Although I personally prefer James Hetfield's rhythm playing, Dave Mustaine is in a league of his own. Not only is Mustaine a monster when playing rhythm, but his solos are absolutely insane as well. Just listen to Peace Sells, Rust In Peace, Countdown To Extinction, etc. (NOT the 2004 Expanded Editions) and you'll get what I mean.

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.

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

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.

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.

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

5 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.

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.

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

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.

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!

6 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

7 John Lennon John Winston Ono Lennon, MBE (9 October 1940 - 8 December 1980) 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. Lennon was characterised by the rebellious nature and acerbic wit in his music, writing and drawings, on film, and in interviews. His songwriting partnership with Paul McCartney remains the most successful in history.

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!

John Lennon was a great rhythm guitar, his rhythm would have helped the Beatles during there concerts, and his chunky chords suited the rock and roll sound perfectly.

8 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 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.

Unbelievably amazing, diffidently top ten.

Isn't he lead guitar though?

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

9 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.

10 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.

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!

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.

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.

The Contenders
11 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.

The most underrated of the lot, his riffs lifted Frehley, Kulick, and Thayer above their real stations.

12 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..

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

13 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.

14 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.

15 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.

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.

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.

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.

This guy gets respect from any real player. Dime was unique and incredible in his own right. Hetfield is good, but not that good... Chuck Berry was the granddaddy of them all... Where is he on this list?

16 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.

17 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 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.

Why so low - his riffs are legendary.

18 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

19 Adrian Smith Adrian Frederick "H" Smith is an English guitarist, best known as a member of Iron Maiden, for whom he writes songs and performs live backing vocals on some tracks.

Yes, both of them, Dave Murray and Adrian Smith did lead guitar. But it seems like that Adrian did most of the rhythm parts

20 Robbin Crosby

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

21 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.

The Scorpions ax-man should be WAY higher on this list. He created a number of the most memorable riffs in Rock history! Even 40+ years later (just listen to Sting in the Tail)! M/ m/

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.

22 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?

23 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...

One of the most boring and unoriginal guitar players EVER!

24 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...

25 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.

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