Top 10 Best Guitarists of All Time

The guitar is one of the most versatile and popular instruments in modern music. With its ability to produce a wide range of sounds and styles, it has been the backbone of many genres from rock to jazz and everything in between. Over the years, there have been many guitarists who have pushed the boundaries of what is possible on the instrument, captivating audiences with their virtuosity and creativity. In this top ten list, let's identify the best guitarists of all time, whose contributions have shaped the way we think about and play the guitar.

The guitarists on this list come from all walks of life and have made their mark on different genres and eras. Some of them were pioneers who invented new techniques and sounds, while others refined existing styles to perfection. They all share one thing in common, however, and that is their ability to make the guitar sing in a way that touches the soul. So, without further ado, let's dive into the top ten best guitarists of all time.
The Top Ten
1 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

I'm sure that Slash would admit that he, and basically every guitarist since the early seventies, owes Jimi Hendrix big time.

Jimi Hendrix revolutionized the playing of the electric guitar. Before Hendrix, guitarists just strummed the guitar, played the chords, and maybe picked out a solo melody. Hendrix got sounds out of the guitar that nobody had ever heard. He was THE innovator. He didn't just accept the guitar method book approach to playing and approached the instrument as more than just chords and twangy solos. He used the guitar and amplifier together to create even more unique sounds. He was the first to use feedback as a part of his playing. He brought fuzz, distortion, feedback, and reverb into the mainstream of guitar. You want to talk about shredding? Hendrix did it with his teeth.

The entire concept of the killer rock guitar solo started with Jimi Hendrix. True, it would have happened sooner or later, but Hendrix was the one man that changed the playing of every guitarist that came after him.

I guarantee if you ask Eddie who is the best guitarist of all time, he would say Hendrix and then probably Santana or Eric Clapton, and then some old blues players you've never heard of.

2 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.

It's subjective as to who is the best at any art form, although there are some analyses that can help. How enduring and widely popular, how much quality content, how complex, varied, and original are all factors.

Page's brilliance has been obscured by the fact that Zeppelin, as a band, was so great. It gave him more exposure but also camouflaged him. This is true with others, of course: for example, Joe Walsh, Neil Young, and Keith Richards. There are other reasons great guitarists don't get their due. I love guitar, and for me, it's Page, then Duane Allman. The fact that Allman is so far down this list is ridiculous. Also, many on this list don't really belong because so many voters are too young to know the difference.

3 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.

In my opinion, Van Halen should easily be number one when you add in everything. While his technical skill has probably been surpassed, nobody before or since has combined chops, feel, tone, influence, songwriting, and stage presence in such a complete package. He advanced the art of rock guitar like no other.

Hendrix was great and gets the nostalgia vote since he died in his prime, but really, he doesn't come close to Eddie Van Halen. That also goes for today's uber-shredders who can't write a good song to save their lives and simply don't have Eddie's fabulous finger tone. I predict that years from now when people look back, Eddie will be considered number one.

4 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.

The great B.B. King once said you will never find a guitar genius that can hold down, note for note, to Eric Clapton. He is the "one." He doesn't care if he's on any top list of anything. He has nothing to prove. Kids love to hear a guitarist banging on his guitar, but Clapton never does that. He actually knows how to play an instrument.

Some oldies but goodies think he is the rebirth of Robert Johnson. You will seldom find anyone who knows who Robert Johnson is, so how can you expect teenagers and 20-something guys who want to be guitar heroes themselves to understand the history of true rock and roll? Step up and listen to the ballads, and then listen to the riffs Clapton manages without breaking a sweat and the magic that happens when he does. There is soul to this man's music. He is simply the best.

5 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 an awesome guitarist. He's got it all! He's dedicated, and I think he's proven that he doesn't give up. All the music he plays is great. You don't get a song in which Slash plays the guitar that sucks. He just does what he loves.

Slash has earned his place in the top 5, and one day he may even make it to number two. Let's face it, Slash is a great guitarist.

I mean, you don't just wake up and are good at something. You have to earn it, and Slash has. For this, he is one of my greatest idols.

Slash gets my vote because, since I first started hearing their songs around 1992 when I was 13, Guns N' Roses were by far my favorite band. That was largely because of Slash's amazing guitar work. It just "hit the spot" like no one else really had in the past, or has consistently since.

It would (and still can) give me goosebumps on songs like "Sweet Child O' Mine" (especially when he really winds up in the middle guitar solo), "November Rain" (near the end when it reaches a crescendo), and "You Could Be Mine." It could also go straight to the heart and soul on other songs, like during the beautiful guitar solos earlier in "November Rain" and in "Estranged."

One of the reasons he is so good is that he reportedly would just play what came to him in the moment when in the studio. So someone would hand him a song, and he would just let go and play what came to him (pure inspiration). That would basically be what ended up on the album. He wouldn't generally spend weeks trying to piece something together, and that would be why his solos flowed so well and really hit the spot.

Others might have been technically better, or faster, or whatever, but for heart and soul, especially, Slash gets my vote.

6 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.

People who vote on this list don't play guitar. Gilmour is the master. Being a great guitarist isn't about playing as fast as possible. No one on this list can make a note sing like him. No one on this list comes even close to his ability to write solos.

His solos are more melodic than any other individual on the list, and they could go on for many minutes without ever boring you. You'll be in a trance every instant of his solos, no matter how long they are. Listen to his solos on Comfortably Numb, Echoes, Money, Time, Dogs, Shine On You Crazy Diamond, and I could name many more.

He can play anything when he has the sacred instrument in his hands. He is the God of all guitarists, and no one can beat the God.

7 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

To me, the fight for the #1 spot comes down to Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan. If I had to choose one, I'd give it to Vaughan. Hendrix was phenomenal. He absolutely ripped on guitar. But to me, he was more of a creative force - a guy who sounded different than anyone else, past and present.

I was in the midst of writing a lengthy argument when I realized that probably no one would read it. So, I will just sum it up with my closing paragraph:

If the two took the stage together, the level of awesomeness would surely cause the world to explode. Barring that, I can't help but speculate that while Hendrix would likely outperform Vaughan, Vaughan would be very capable of outplaying Hendrix. Innovative, influential, and revolutionary Hendrix was - the best ever he was not. I think that distinction should go to Stevie Ray Vaughan.

8 Kirk Hammett Kirk Lee Hammett is the lead guitarist and songwriter for the heavy metal band Metallica and has been a member of the band since 1983. Before joining Metallica he formed and named the band Exodus.

Do I even have to say anything? Kirk Hammett can play anything you put in front of him. He is literally part of the best band in the history of metal, Metallica. He really shows his immense speed in songs like Battery, Master of Puppets, Blackened, and Damage, Inc., but he also demonstrates his mastery in slower pieces and the art of musical structure, along with perfect harmonizing, in songs like ...And Justice for All, Fade to Black, and Welcome Home (Sanitarium). He is well-trained and truly is the best guitarist since Jimi Hendrix.

As far as the Kirk Hammett vs. Dave Mustaine debate goes, there is no doubt that Kirk is running laps around Dave. Like I mentioned earlier, the fact that he can create glorious pieces of music using just his sheer speed or his complex and unique style of writing slow or melodic pieces is just insane to imagine. This has to be the reason why Metallica is twice as successful as Megadeth ever is or will be. Wow, I think I just blew my own mind.

9 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

Hands down, Tony is the greatest of all time. He has the best body of work out of all these guitarists on this list. He helped pioneer some of the most influential metal genres ever: traditional metal, stoner rock metal, and thrash metal. Don't believe me? Just listen to Supernaut, Symptom of the Universe, Paranoid, Into the Void, Iron Man, War Pigs, Snowblind, Lord of This World, Sweet Leaf, Heaven and Hell, and Methademic. Not to mention the fact that he is missing part of his fingers due to a factory accident when Tony was a child. Come on, give this guy the credit he 100% deserves.

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

So, let me get this straight. Everyone, and I mean everyone on this list eats Slash for breakfast. I simply can't see your point when you fuss about him being the best guitar player, or even the best soloist. Really, people? November Rain is the best you can get?

Well, if you pop in any Queen song, it will most definitely have a solo that humiliates all. But if you are going for harmonies, try My Bijou. If it's for creativity, check out Brighton Rock. And if you are someone to be amused only by the speed (which is a shame), then Princes of the Universe shall blow your mind.

But then again, I could have mentioned basically any songs from the band, from The March of the Black Queen to Crazy Little Thing Called Love (for those rockabilly fans), so this is just a little appetizer for you all, and also a friendly reminder that you should check out others before you decide to stick with the current favorite.

The Contenders
11 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

Angus is literally the epitome of "rock." There is no other guitarist who can play pure rock the way Angus does. People criticize him for the simple chords, but that's just a part of the songs they play and not a reflection of Angus's true abilities. When he lets loose, he is very close to Eddie Van Halen.

I understand why people always place Hendrix at the top, but it's more for his innovation rather than purely being the best. I believe Gilmour and Page are better, and the things said about Stevie Ray Vaughan are true as well. These lists need to be more specific. If you're talking about the best rock guitar player ever, it's Angus by a long shot. For the best ever across all genres, I'd say Gilmour, who literally speaks to you just like everyone says. He takes you away to another land when he plays. Also, the guitarist for Yes escapes me, but he would be up there too. He takes you to places you've never been in your mind. Bunch more, but this is enough.

12 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.

Dime was and will always be number one for me as a guitarist. Not even Jimmy could compare to the amount of inspiration and skill that Dime brought to the table. He was the innovator for future metal guitarists, and he was absolutely brilliant!

His memory will live on through his family, friends, and fans. And if you think that he doesn't deserve this spot, and you've never heard him shred, I strongly suggest you watch/listen to "5 Minutes Alone," "This Love," "Walk," "Cemetery Gates," and all the greatest songs by Pantera. I'm sure you'll change your mind! R.I.P. Dimebag Darrell.

"In this river, all shall fade to black" - Zakk Wylde (In this River, a tribute to Dime)

13 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 a true great. He was so far ahead of most people playing guitar and always practiced. You would never see him without a guitar in his hands, like Hendrix. He was great in Quiet Riot and had a great opportunity to join Ozzy. Randy's writing and playing improved dramatically. He was the type of person who was in it for the music. "Blizzard of Ozz" and "Diary of a Madman" are great examples of what rock/metal virtuosity is.

Listen to songs like "Mr. Crowley," "Revelation (Mother Earth)," "Diary of a Madman," "Crazy Train," his spotlight solo that he did in Quiet Riot, "Laughing Gas," "I Don't Know," "Over the Mountain," and "Flying High Again," and you'll surely be amazed. He was always in control of what he did. "Blizzard of Ozz" is a very powerful title because of its power and energy. "Diary of a Madman" shows him going deeper into jazz and classical music. The best example of that is the album's title track, which doesn't have the typical power chords and rock licks. It has crazy time signatures from 4/4, 9/8, 8/8, 6/8, 7/4, 3/4 and uses diminished, 13th, and suspended chords. It truly shows the testament of Randy's writing, a beautiful piece of work.

His work left a huge impact on people. His death was one of the worst deaths in music history. That cocaine-induced pilot shouldn't have coaxed him to go up in the plane while the pilot was high. Very few can match him to this day. He had that piece of God in him and intertwined into his DNA. RIP Randall William Rhoads: December 6, 1956 - March 19, 1982. Rock on Randy!

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

B.B. King, the man who started it all when the other greats were just babies or perhaps not even conceived yet, quite literally didn't create this amazing instrument. However, besides T-Bone Walker, he brought the electric guitar to the forefront along with Albert King, Freddy King, Buddy Guy, and a vast majority of the older and late great bluesmen.

His "hummingbird" vibrato effect, nuance, and style have made him a household name for some 50 or 60 years. Even today, with all the different types of music, he is still a household name. However, in this day and age, blues is no longer the mainstream music it was way back when.

15 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.

He's the father of the electric guitar! Without him, there'd be no Hendrix, no Slash, no Clapton!

I agree that Hendrix and Page should be number 1 and 2, but Chuck should be right above Eric Clapton in third, not 20!

Just listen to Roll Over Beethoven, My Ding-a-Ling, and most notably Johnny B. Goode. You'll see I'm not kidding when I say he deserves the bronze.

He introduced guitar solos to the industry. Even Marty McFly played Johnny B. Goode right before the Van Halen-styled solo. And the '50s crowd loved it!

The OG of all OGs, he's one of the people (you can count them on your fingers) who literally turned the music industry on its head forever. Chuck Berry started it all and did it brilliantly while being a fantastic showman and breaking barriers all over the place. Number 16 is, frankly, flat-out disrespectful to his legacy and talent.

16 Jeff Beck Geoffrey Arnold "Jeff" was an English rock guitarist. He was one of the three noted guitarists to have played with The Yardbirds (the other two being Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page). Beck also formed The Jeff Beck Group and Beck, Bogert & Appice.

Superior guitar player. Next to Hendrix, a notch ahead of Page, versatile, extraordinary technical skills. Will go down in time in the top 3 ever.

Jeff Beck listed at #74 on this list shows just how little most music fans know about the history of the electric guitar. As one reviewer stated earlier, Page, Clapton, Brian May, David Gilmour, and Slash have all stated that Jeff Beck is the best guitarist on the planet. You can add Joe Perry and Steve Lukather to that list.

He plays with a fire that nobody else can match, and his technique is stunning, equal to anybody on this list. Many of this generation's greatest jazz musicians have recorded with Jeff, including Stanley Clarke, Jan Hammer, John McLaughlin, and Lenny White. He has toured with Stevie Ray Vaughan, Carlos Santana, B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Steve Lukather, and Kenny Wayne Shepherd.

In 1966, when Chas Chandler was trying to convince Jimi Hendrix to move to England, Hendrix agreed but only if Chandler promised to introduce him to Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton. If you don't know who Jeff Beck is, pick up a copy of Blow by Blow or Wired and give it a listen.

17 Carlos Santana Carlos Santana is a Mexican and American musician who first became famous in the late 1960s and early 1970s with his band, Santana, which pioneered a fusion of rock and Latin American jazz.

I saw him outdoors at the World's Fair Park, and though I liked most of the songs, Samba Pa Ti was unbelievably magical. It was perfection as it floated through the air during dusk. Hearing it live made it become one of my top ten songs. Too bad the friend I took for her birthday kept calling the band Chicago. Getting a secondhand mild high from all the dope smoke going on around us definitely didn't hurt the effect either.

Every time I play or hear the song, I'm right back on that hillside on a mildly muggy night with that song floating on a gentle breeze. I could almost see the notes floating through the air. It was an unbelievably magical experience that will stay with me forever, and no, I hadn't even hit being stoned.

18 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

He is the person responsible for the early success of Metallica (nobody can deny). He then created Megadeth, which turned out to be better than Metallica, if not as good. He influenced guitarists like James Hetfield, Kerry King, Marty Friedman, Chris Poland, Chris Broderick, etc. He is a great composer and songwriter and has also proven to be a great vocalist for his band. His music and voice are aggressive and have a fast tempo. He mostly writes meaningful songs about society, politics, nature, relationships, etc. He is a better rhythm guitarist than Hetfield and a better lead player than Hammett. Most of Metallica's hits were written and composed by Mustaine before he was fired, namely: The Four Horsemen, Phantom Lord, Metal Militia, Jump in the Fire, Motorbreath, Ride the Lightning, The Call of Ktulu, and many more.

19 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.

Being a good guitarist is more than just playing the song. It's about writing music. Everyone on this list is a fantastic guitarist. What makes some stand out more than others are the songs they write, and for me, the riffs Keith Richards wrote were the reason The Rolling Stones are so famous.

Even today, 50 years later, they are still very catchy and energetic. And there are so many good ones! The guitars in Satisfaction, Gimme Shelter, Jumpin' Jack Flash, Brown Sugar, Sympathy for the Devil, Start Me Up, Paint It Black, Beast of Burden, and countless others are all amazing. Very few other guitarists have the creativity to create so many masterpieces.

20 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.

When I need a good laugh, I always come here to see this absurd list. Alex Lifeson at 23? Eddie Van Halen called him the best guitarist around.

Alex Lifeson isn't just a technically good player, but he's a better songwriter than most people on the list. He knows how to play with many tones. He is a great riff writer (ex. A Passage to Bangkok) and he is comfortable with using both chords and licks to write riffs (something that not all guitarists understand). He has no problem coming up with a great solo (ex. Limelight). He has both emotion and shredding skills. He is an expert of arpeggios.

Outside of the guitar world, he's not as popular as Hendrix or Page, but for a guitarist, studying his guitar parts in Rush (from the hard-rock days to the more progressive albums) will show you how great and complex he can be and will, without a doubt, shape your musical brain to be a better, more creative, and interesting guitarist in the future. He is at least top 5.

21 Duane Allman Howard Duane Allman was an American guitarist, session musician, and co-founder and leader of the Allman Brothers Band until his death in a motorcycle crash in 1971, when he was 24 years old.

I don't care who plays the fastest, has the best technique, the slickest... whatever. It comes down to telling an emotional story, note by note, and Duane could do it better than anyone. Add Dickey, and they weaved a story untouched by any duo.

Then Duane adds slide to the mix and just takes your heart and mind to places no guitarist has reached. Just listen to Live At Fillmore, considered by many (Rolling Stone, Playboy, and others) as the best live album ever recorded. After that, get a beverage, a couple of hits, headphones, and put on Mountain Jam from Eat A Peach for the ride of your life.

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

If mastery of the guitar is the criterion, then the number one spot can only go to Steve Vai. I've been playing for almost 50 years, and he is the hardest to replicate. Every time I try to learn one of his songs, I end up frustrated and just listen in awe of the speed and soul of his music.

I've seen him live a dozen times and am floored by the precision and absolute lack of mistakes. He also happens to be one of the nicest people you could ever meet. I saw him in a bar once in Pompano Beach, Florida. One night, he let an amazingly talented 12-year-old sit in and play Steve's parts. The kid's mother sent him a video, and Steve let him come up and play. Number 1 in my book every time!

23 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

Smoke On The Water, Stargazer, and Child In Time are three of the greatest tracks ever. They probably have the greatest riff as well.

Blackmore's live performances were incredible. I've never seen or heard anyone extract so much emotion from an instrument. Beck was technically perfect, but Blackmore truly moved his audience.

The first shredder in rock. Great technical abilities compared to other rock guitarists at the time. Amazingly talented improviser. Riff machine. Oh yeah, and he popularized using harmonic minor and other exotic scales in rock, which in turn laid the foundation for neo-classical metal.

He's also responsible for Dio's fame.

24 George Harrison George Harrison (1943 - 2001) was an English guitarist, singer, songwriter, and music and film producer who achieved international fame as the lead guitarist of the Beatles.

A lot of people think the only reason George Harrison is mentioned on these lists is because he was in the Beatles. That's pretty misguided. He's mentioned because he is one of the greatest.

Do you know how old Harrison was when he joined the Quarrymen (the band that evolved into the Beatles)? 15! And that's not because they were desperate. That's because he was that good! He was only 27 when the Beatles broke up. If you listen to the Beatles' hard rock songs, his skills come through. And he further demonstrated those skills in his solo career after the Beatles broke up.

It's a shame a lot of people don't respect George Harrison as much as he should be. He is definitely in the top 20, maybe even the top 10. He was good.

25 Tom Morello Thomas Morello is an American musician, singer-songwriter and political activist. He is best known for his tenure with the band Rage Against the Machine and then with Audioslave.

Before 1991, I don't think a guitar has ever been manipulated in the way that Tom Morello has managed. He may not be the most technical, fastest, or knowledgeable, but he is definitely one of the most insanely great-crafted guitar players ever. Just watch the solo in Bulls on Parade or the riff in People of the Sun played by scratching one string. He uses screwdrivers to make chopper propeller sounds and a multitude of effects to give his guitar that unique, Tom and Rage sound.

Frusciante above Tom Morello?! I love RHCP, but seriously? You can't even compare Under the Bridge to Fistful of Steel! A lot of the people on this list use 20 pedals to get an above-average signature tone out of an array of varying boutique guitars. Morello uses only six pedals to get sounds nobody has ever heard of from a few modded Strats, an old Tele, and an Artstar.

His riffs are downright simple on the fretboard, but his genius and almost comically complex picking techniques - using a pencil to make helicopter sounds on strings, striking strings above the nut for squeals, volume swells, precise harmonics, scratching, heavy trem use, and proficiency with a kill switch - make Tom Morello one of the most creative and diverse players alive today. He deserves at least to be in the top 20!

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