Most Innovative Guitarists

All these guys made major contributions to guitar playing, be it in terms of technique, tone, style or simply feel. They changed the way people would see guitar, over the years, and are very much responsible for what we see it as today.
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

No one proceeds Hendrix in this area in my book he literally rewrote the book on how to play the guitar in many ways not just flash but creating new audio landscapes, merging styles, creating new ones while apexing the old.

He created the sound you hear in every hard rock and roll song after 1967. A true legend.

Who else can make the guitar scream and still sound good?

2 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.

While many other influential guitarists made guitarists everywhere want to play like them, Eddie made people from all over the world go out and buy a guitar.

While other influential guitarists made guitarists everywhere want to play like them, Eddie made people all around the world go out and buy a guitar.

Hendrix did all of this too, and even possibly tapping. Listen to Hear My Train A-Comin', live at the Atlanta Pop Festival, you'll hear it,

3 Les Paul Lester William Polsfuss, known as Les Paul, was an American jazz, country, and blues guitarist, songwriter, luthier, and inventor.

He invented the solid body electric guitar. And a lot of other things, but that's all he needs to make this list.

He invented the les paul for crying out loud. He should be even higher

4 Frank Zappa Frank Vincent Zappa was an American musician, songwriter, composer, record producer, actor and filmmaker.

Y'all ever heard of another guitarist capable of incorporating elements of Bulgarian folk music into his guitar solos? I'm pretty sure you don't. And that's why my vote goes to master Zappa.

5 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.

When it comes to innovation we're talking about new ways to use the guitar. Nobody has done anything close to what he has in this list. That's not to say the other's are some of the greats, just that we're specifically looking at the guitarist on this list that has created some of the most groundbreaking style out of all of them.

This is innovation guys... No one can ever play like Tom Morello... Listen to the riff of "guerrilla radio" and solo of "bulls on parade".. No doubt at all

Listening to him play is the only way to get an explanation of how good his innovations are.

6 The Edge David Howell Evans, better known by his stage name the Edge, is an Irish musician and songwriter best known as the lead guitarist, keyboardist and backing vocalist of the rock band U2.

His tonal innovations are something which is very hard to achieve. He is the reason why it is so hard to make a U2 song sound right if anyone other than him plays it.

7 Dick Dale Richard Anthony Monsour, better known by his stage name Dick Dale, was an American rock guitarist, known as The King of the Surf Guitar.

I personally think that he was more important than Dave or Ray Davies for guitar distortion. They used broken amps and power chord to create "hard rock" type of sound but Dick Dale's tremolo picking was far ahead than "You Really Got Me'. It was heavy, loud and fast. Brought the Arabian piece on fire.

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... read more

Iommi could stand in 3rd place after Django Reinhardt and Hendrix.

The father of metal guitar. Enough said.

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

He might not have invented or popularized any techniques, but he sure did take Eddie Van Halen's works in a whole new direction. Vai made great innovations to many of the techniques made famous by Van Halen, especially whammy bar tricks and tapping. Even his tonal innovations are unbelievable.

10 Matt Bellamy Matthew James "Matt" Bellamy is an English musician, singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and composer. He is most famous for being the main vocalist in alternative rock band "Muse".
The Contenders
11 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

He is the bridge between Steve Vai, Eddie Van Halen and all other blues guitarists. Enough said.

12 Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal

This guy can multitask like anything, he invented the technique to make the highest note on the guitar infinity.

13 Robert Fripp Robert Fripp (born 16 May 1946) is an English guitarist, composer and record producer. As a guitarist for the progressive rock band King Crimson, Fripp has been the only member to have played in all of King Crimson's line-ups from their inception in the late 1960s to the present. He has also worked... read more

He loses out to some of the other greats based on his lack of showmanship. He is always innovating (not just guitar). As a U2 fan I'm still blown away that The Edge is ahead of him. The Edge has created more boring guitar in the last 15 years than anybody. The last three albums are awful.

Should be #1, for everything he's done, not least of which is basically single-handedly creating progressive rock (and constantly pushing those boundaries since). Not to mention New Standard Tuning, Soundscapes, Frippertronics, etc.

14 Buckethead Brian Patrick Carroll, known professionally as Buckethead, is an American guitarist and multi-instrumentalist who has worked within many genres of music.

The only guitarist out the who can play lullabies one moment, then make computer sounds the next.

15 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.

His guitar playing helped create the foundation of rock n' roll guitar playing, an he was one of the first to make hard rock music out of a bluesy style of playing.

Listen to any Led Zeppelin song and you will understand my vote!

16 Django Reinhardt Django Reinhardt is a famous guitarist in the genre of jazz. He lost 2 of his fingers in a fire but carried on with his playing. He later inspired Tony Iommi, the original guitarist of Black Sabbath, to continue playing after he lost his fingertips in a factory accident. His guitar is an acoustic gypsy... read more

Django invented bends, octave playing, guitar vibrato, glissandos, advanced sweep picking, solos with overdrive (check his late 1940's recordings) and a slew of techniques that did not exist till he did them. Him and Hendrix probably set the table for more players than anyone else.

He literally invented playing solos on guitar! Before him, the guitarist was in the rhythm section and that was about it. Django should be #1 on the list just for that. But wait, there's more... He invented to play swing on guitar and he could «standardize» any song or classical music into jazz. Innovative? While having two fingers paralyzed, he had to create his own chords which are widespread today and essential to many many music. He was Duke Ellington's favorite musician. He gave Tony Iommi the will to retake the guitar after his dramatic accident where he lost (him too) the use of two fingers. OK, enough said... vote to raise Django up the list!

17 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.
18 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.
19 Adam Jones Adam Thomas Jones (born January 15, 1965) is a three-time Grammy Award-winning American musician and visual artist, best known for his position as the guitarist for Tool.
20 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.

Before him, people used the wah pedal to do funky things. And then Slash used it in Civil War.

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

The fact that he was not already in this list is entirely preposterous. I mean.. James Hetfield... Matt Bellamy. Jesus. Brian May was granted the opportunity to perform the national anthem on the roof of buckingham palace and he's not in TheTopTens' list of innovative guitarists. Listen to his arrangement of God Save The Queen (as well as his band's multi-platinum albums while you're at it). His popularising of multi-layering guitar parts was innovative enough to take a top three spot.

22 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.

Who else can play heavy metal on a classical background?

Nah, come on, the kind of neo classical should be higher!

23 Jonny Greenwood Jonathan Richard Guy, professionally known as Johnny Greenwood, is an English musician and composer mostly known for his role as the one of the lead guitarists and the main keyboardist of the English alternative rock band Radiohead.

How jonny couldn't be there?
He is one of the most creative guitarists ever.

24 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.

The godfather of most modern metal, wether you like it or not. There's not one metal band after 2000s not influenced by his style. Unfortunately not many do it as good as him. Also widely known for his whammy bar tricks like dime-squeal and souful yet face-melting solos.

25 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.

Comfortably Numb, of course live, greatest song and solo, the only scandal: finidhing this solo after approx. 4 minutes!

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