Top 10 Best Rock Guitarists of All Time

The Top Ten
1 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.

Go find the best sound quality Zeppelin bootleg from their lean, mean early years (1969-1972) and just listen to Page's astonishing, eerily inspired, improvisational brilliance. There is good reason he has been called the Paganini of electric guitar. It's not about a zillion flawless notes per second (though Page was blisteringly fast in his prime). It's about what the sounds being produced do to the listener! Page has been called "sloppy perfection" because he would always reach for the inspirational sound rather than technical perfection.

I know it sounds a little strange, but musicians know exactly what I mean. Jimmy Page has deservedly eclipsed Jimi Hendrix in this otherworldly inspired playing category. Go find "Listen to This, Eddie," and see exactly what I mean.

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.

Hendrix was great because he was the first to turn up the volume, use the fuzzbox, etc., and changed the sound of music to come. He was a great player, to be sure. But Eddie also changed the sound of music, physically reinvented the guitar itself, and influenced its production moving forward. Furthermore, we all know he didn't "invent" tapping and hammering per se, but in 1978, with one solo, we all knew what it was, and then everyone was doing it. He also pioneered many other techniques. The first thing every young guitarist learns is how to do it. I think that speaks for itself. It's pretty hard to convince me that anyone else has done more - overall - to alter and progress the sound of rock music than Eddie.

3 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

Many people have different opinions on what makes a guitarist great. Some point to technical ability, while others highlight legendary bodies of work or the influence they have had on musicians who followed. Jimi had all of that and more. He defined his own generation and many after it. He cultivated a bluesy guitar sound into hard rock with jazz elements, creating a sound never heard before.

If you listen to his straight-up blues tracks, you will quickly come to realize that Stevie Ray Vaughan owes him every dime he ever made. He was heavy before heavy was even established, and still elegant in a way that few after have managed to capture. He was a pioneer and a legend. And he did this all in 27 years on Earth. Every rock guitarist since him is, to some degree, indebted to him. Long live the king.

4 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.

What?! Syn on 2nd!

Slash should be the 2nd greatest guitarist behind Hendrix. Page should be on 3rd, only because of "Stairway to Heaven". Synyster has technical skill but no feeling. If we consider speed, Syn can never be greater than Eddie Van Halen. However, feeling is what actually matters. So, Slash would be actually on 1st because Hendrix died soon and could not play as many solos as Slash did.

Here's my top 4:
1. Slash
2. Jimi Hendrix (may also be 1st)
3. Jimmy Page
4. Eddie Van Halen

Slash is like the best guitarist you can get. His style of playing is so melodic, compared to all the other rock guitarists. It can even impress people who have always denounced rock music! That's something even a legend like Jimi Hendrix couldn't do as well as this awesome guy.

5 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.

He is the second best guitarist behind Jimi, but he's my favourite! He is very diverse. He can move from the hard rocking songs of Layla and Sunshine of Your Love, to his technically brilliant, slow-paced work like Wonderful Tonight and Next Time You See Her. Eric doesn't just play the guitar. He is the guitar, and he lets it sing!

Slowhand is the absolute best ever! Consider where he came from, his tragic losses, and his personal demons.

Slowhand rocks!

He is, has been, and always will be the best for me. There are many talented guitarists and more evolving every day, but he is the best.

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

This guy doesn't just play guitar. He's an artist. He can take any of the beautiful, amazing songs Queen produced and come up with the perfect guitar solo that complements the music without dominating it. In my opinion, that's an incredibly important and admirable skill in a rock guitarist, especially when you see so many opting to steal the show with ridiculously overdone, overcomplicated riffs. Brian May was, and still is, dedicated to the music first and foremost, rather than just showcasing his own talent when it's his time to shine. Plus, he has an epic singing voice and can write absolute bops! Definitely my favorite rock guitarist!

7 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

You made me pick 10, so somebody had to round out my choices... NO SERIOUSLY! Angus Young is one of the best guitar players ever. Truthfully, go listen to any album with Bon Scott as the vocalist, and you will agree he is... And also a few albums with Johnson too, like Back in Black.

Angus Young isn't top tier, but he should definitely be higher up than he is now. Angus can play the guitar better than a lot of people on this list. However, his best quality that makes him an even better guitarist is how he plays the crowd. He doesn't just go on the stage, play his stuff, and go off. He goes onto the stage and plays his guitar while simultaneously playing his audience. It's amazing how he can run around like a lunatic, play his music, and play his audience all at the same time.

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.

One way to understand the personality of Kirk Hammett is to listen to two tracks that, I suppose, depict him perfectly. They are: 1) One and 2) Welcome Home (Sanitarium). I have also seen many people criticizing Kirk simply because he is a metal guitarist. Just become mature and stop being cynical. He was a student of Satriani, along with Vai. Rolling Stone didn't give him a place in their top 100. Though he is not what he was, let's not forget what he did from 1984-1992! The whole world said Wow! He was much better than Page in his initial years. Kirk played in Seattle at 27. Listen to that solo there. Then listen to Page's solo at 27 at Royal Albert Hall. That had such a rough sound. So, respect Mr. Hammett!

9 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.

The best. He plays with his feelings and doesn't try to play a lot of notes in one second. This doesn't mean he is bad technically. Try to play "Dogs" for instance. He would make you cry with "Comfortably Numb", "Time", or "Shine On". You would hear his guitar speak on "Money", "Pigs" (the long one), or "Keep Talking", and discover his rage on "The Nile Song" or "Have a Cigar". He is very influential too: John Petrucci, Andrew Latimer, Steven Wilson, Frederik Åkesson, or Steve Rothery all quote him as an influence. Dave Mustaine praised his guitar skills too.

10 Synyster Gates Brian Elwin Haner, Jr., better known by his stage name Synyster Gates or simply Syn, is an American musician, best known for being the lead guitarist and backing vocalist of the band Avenged Sevenfold.

Synyster Gates is hands down an amazing guitarist. Of course, he is mostly known for being able to shred faster than most guitarists, a fact even his haters have to admit. However, Syn was classically trained and can do so much more. He can write and play upbeat riffs like in "Scream" and "Nightmare". He can go all out like in "Hail to the King", where he plays an incredibly difficult beat throughout the entire song and pairs it with an even more difficult solo. But he can also slow it down and play songs like "Seize the Day," "So Far Away," and "Dear God." He is still so young and has loads of time left to make an even bigger impact. The fact that a guitarist from Avenged Sevenfold is on a list with guys from all these legendary bands is proof enough for me!

The Contenders
11 Brennan Dylan

In my opinion, this guy is one of the best rock guitarists alive today. Why, you ask? Objectively, most modern electric guitar players have a large pedal board in front of them, plus other FX gear, to blow an audience's mind with a killer sound. This dude doesn't and uses only an overdrive pedal, choosing to get his sound the old-fashioned way, from his guitar. He has been compared to guitar virtuosos like Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, and Joe Bonamassa for years.

He gets a ton of press, constant terrestrial and internet radio play, is a published songwriter, and can play at the speed of light with the best of them. His one-off guitars are made by his sponsor, Gary Kramer Guitars, and he fronts the 3-piece rock/metal band Men Without Armies. Just Google him or MWA if you want to see what I mean.

He's not backed by a label or an agent, so what you hear, see, and read about Dylan is all unbiased, grassroots information and opinions. He doesn't have a PR agent blasting the company line about him all over the net. The information I've found about Brennan Dylan is purely objective, with the only agenda being to offer an unbiased opinion and introduce the world to a hidden gem.

12 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.

The first time I heard Randy was on Crazy Train and a thunderous performance of Paranoid live, the likes of which I've still never heard anything like. I've been a rock fan for a long time, but I've always thought since hearing him that Randy is the best guitarist I've ever heard. He's unlike any other player. You can't really compare him to Eddie Van Halen because Randy has a sound that's very unique to him.

He had a beautiful ear for music, very melodic, and he brought this to rock and metal. His playing is a privilege to listen to. He's often overlooked in polls on the greatest guitarists, so it's great to see him get to No. 12 here.

13 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

Famous because he's a great guitarist. Kirk Hammett should not be anywhere near here because he uses a wah pedal, and is only famous because of the band he's in.

14 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.

I can't believe Pete isn't even on the list. He is a top ten guitarist, anyone with a decent music taste knows that. The Who is legendary, and Pete made them so.

Helped revolutionize feedback before Hendrix, and he's incredibly skilled and influential.

Name any other guitar player who has written two Rock Operas?

15 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.

Tom gets my vote because, despite not being the most traditionally "talented" on the list, he brings so many new things to the table. What he does is all new and hasn't been done by anyone else. He's completely original.

I don't know how he's not number 1.

He's amazing. This man is nice as can be. I say it's between him and Slash, and I say Tom beats Slash by a hair. He was born to play guitar for Rage Against The Machine. His skills are unbelievable.

This guy is just amazing! His skills are different, and he plays amazingly in Audioslave.

16 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

The ONLY modern guitarist that can touch the sheer RANGE that Blackmore has done well is Clapton - who is more of a blues guitarist than a rock guitarist.

ALWAYS underrated - just listen to his work on the Rainbow Live version of "Catch the Rainbow", where he does more styles in ONE SONG than most guitarists manage in a career.

Honorable mention to Hendrix as the most INNOVATIVE electric guitarist.

Purple's sound morphed several times over the years, and Ritchie knew how to add all the right touches to make it work, not to mention his work with Rainbow and Blackmore's Night. From the quiet smoothness of When a Blind Man Cries to the lightning speed of his Highway Star solo, Blackmore's axe was instantly recognizable.

17 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, by any measure, was one of the greatest guitar players who ever walked the planet. The dude was astonishing, just one killer player. He unleashed fury and was a fearless player who attacked the fretboard. This may offend some, but in my opinion, he was a better player than Eric Clapton could ever hope to be. Eric is just too measured a player. Watching him is like watching caution perform. Sure, Eric's solos are great, but he strikes me as a guy who leaves nothing to chance and therefore improvises nothing. Dimebag is the man!

18 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.

Ace at this number? Again, I wonder what the heck you are listening to? He was Dimebag Darrell's idol. Have you ever listened to Ace on many KISS classics like Cold Gin, Do You Love Me, Dr. Love, Shock Me, and so many others? Listen to Ace's work on his new single Gimme A Feelin'. Open your ears.

Ace might not be the best, but his solos are always very catchy, and when he does them live, they're the same as on the album and always suit the song part perfectly. But for me, Page is 1st, Blackmore 2nd, and Ace and Angus Young are in the top ten somewhere.

19 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.

People tend to think that because George was in the Beatles, he is overrated. Well, because of this, I have to say he is incredibly underrated. No one had a feel for a guitar like George did. He wasn't flashy or necessarily fast, but he played in a way that made you want to sing along to his guitar. Everything he played was just perfect for the song. Just think about his playing in Something, You Can't Do That, I Saw Her Standing There, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Cheer Down, and the list goes on and on. Maybe he's not the greatest, but he deserves to be in the top ten at least.

20 Leigh Stephens
21 Mark Knopfler Mark Freuder Knopfler is a British singer, songwriter, guitarist, record producer and film score composer. He is best known for being the frontman of the British band Dire Straits.

What's to say? Pure brilliance - smooth, inventive, versatile, lyrical, bell-like tones. He put it all out there on 'Sultans...' and only got better.

The Dire Straits guitarist who pretty much invented his own style of guitar playing, which turned him into a success by the early 80s. However, he isn't recognized by many as a great guitarist, but I know his skills have never been similar to other guitarists.

Surely the greatest of the greats. Just beyond compare and can play a wide range of styles.

22 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

How is someone who basically invents a genre like heavy metal not in the top 10?

He changed the music genre, he created a new genre, he's the god of metal.

23 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.

One word sums up Carlos. "Taste". His playing has it for days.

You can keep your flash-in-the-pan shredders.

Speed kills, especially when what you're playing is crap.

Also, how can you have a list of top-flight guitarists and omit Duane Allman, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and have Ritchie Blackmore down in the weeds?

Ace Frehley? Lindsey Buckingham? Are you kidding me?

Longevity has a lot to do with guitarists. This guy should be in the top ten. No way Dylan should even be on the list. Ace Frehley, Tom Morello, Synyster Gates, or Kirk Hammett. And talk about Jimmy, Randy SRV. And some would say Duane Allman. And when you have Hetfield on the same stage, that doesn't hurt. Dylan, great writer, but not a guitar Morello, Gates, or Frehley, nope, not even close.

24 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.

What, Alex Lifeson in the top 10? Yes, I'm not being an idiot. I'm being honest by putting this talented, underrated guitarist where he belongs. Rush had huge success, not just because of Peart and Lee. If you listen to La Villa Strangiato by Rush, it shows you what Lifeson is capable of playing.

Alex Lifeson is SO underrated. He IS one of the top ten rock guitarists of all time. Rush is still going strong after 40 years... and there are only 3 guys in the band making all that awesome sound! Enough said.

Definitely belongs in the Top 10, if not Top 5. No guitarist has the creativity that Lifeson has. It's awesome that every solo is different and unique in its own way. So many classics.

25 Lindsey Buckingham Lindsey Adams Buckingham is an American musician, singer, songwriter, and producer, best known as lead guitarist and one of the vocalists of the musical group Fleetwood Mac from 1975 to 1987, and then 1997 to the present day.

Number 30! What a joke. Lindsey Buckingham is a guitar god who could hold his own against anyone who ever picked up a guitar, past or present.

Always overlooked in this category.

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