Top 10 Guitarists of All Time
Music is one of the purest joys in life. It can inspire us, move us and take us to new heights, allowing us to experience things we’ve never seen before. Guitar music is often considered some of the best in the world because of the variety of sound produced. It can be played solo, in a band and for a number of different genres. It’s no surprise that the top guitarists of all time are also some of the best musicians of all time.
Who the best guitarists of all time are a hotly debated topic. In fact, trying to limit the list to the top 10 is a challenge in itself. The versatility of the instrument means there are arguably several different musicians in the running so to keep it consistent there are a few key qualities that have been considered.
According to Guitarlisty.com, Firstly it’s about creativity. Many great players can cover songs, but the best guitarists of all time create original and impactful music.
Secondly, it’s about delivery as well as music. The best musicians not only record well but bring their very best to the live stage. Thirdly, it’s about a variety of music. The best guitarists are able to chop and change as needed and demonstrate a number of different disciplines on the instrument.
Finally, you have to consider the heart. The best guitarists put a bit of their heart and soul into their music which is ultimately what sets them apart from the rest.
So, now you know the characteristics we’re looking for let’s take you through our list of the top 10 guitarists of all time.
10. Chuck Berry
Chuck Berry lived between 1926 and 2017. In that time he had a profound impact on the music scene as a musician, singer, songwriter and true influential artist. American born and raised in St. Louis he created hits in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s in both the rhythm and blues and rock and roll scenes.
He really stood out by combining different musical genres together and created distinctive music that’s shaped guitarists for decades to come.
9. Keith Richards
Keith Richards is the English singer songwriter who rose to fame as a member of the rolling stones but has also had an impressive solo career. Richards plays both lead and rhythm guitar (sometimes within the same song) and his style has been quoted as ‘direct and unpretentious’.
He has said he prefers to focus on chords rather than being too flamboyant, but always bringing out the best from the music. Keith Richards has had a profound impact on the music and guitar world. He features heavily on top guitarist lists and in 2011 was named no.4 on the rolling stones top 100.
8. B.B King
B.B King was born in Mississippi and was undoubtedly one of the hardest workings in the industry. He started his musical career as a disc jockey, before turning his hand to blues and R&B guitar.
His first record was recorded in 1949 and he spent the following 30 years touring, with over 300 gigs a year. King won his 15th Grammy in 2009 and passed away in 2015. He left us hits such as ‘3 o’clock blues’, ‘sweet sixteen’ and ‘never make a move too soon’ and helped shape the music industry we know today.
7. Stevie Ray Vaughan
Stevie Ray Vaughan may have had a shorter lived musical career, but in that time he had a profound impact on the electric guitar industry. Born in 1954, Vaughan he became the lead singer of Double Trouble.
He later performed with David Bowie and Jackson Browne, creating hits such as ‘Crossfire’ and ‘Life without you’. Sadly, Stevie died in a helicopter crash when he was just 35, but in his short life, he had a great influence over the guitar music scene.
6. Carlos Santana
Carlos Santana electrified the guitar music industry from the late 1960s by combining genres like nobody before him. He used a combination of salsa, blues, and jazz to create unique music on the strings that challenged the rock and roll era of the day. Beyond the influences, Carlos Santana injected some real spiritualism into his music and created some timeless hits such as ‘Black Magic Woman’ and ‘Maria Maria’.
5. Eric Clapton
Eric Clapton was born in 1945 in Surrey, England. He was raised in a musical family and developed his love of the guitar at an early age. He began busking at 17 but by the mid 1960s, he was playing with John Mayall and then formed the iconic band Cream.
In the 1970s Clapton began his solo career and expanded on his mellow and melodic style to create some incredible hits. In 1991 Clapton sadly lost his son, Conor, and went on to write ‘Tears in Heaven’ in his grief. Clapton continues to show his exceptional talent on the guitar and features in many top 100 and 50 lists.
4. Jeff Beck
Jeff Beck actually performed with Clapton for a number of years in their band The Yardbirds where he developed his style. He focused his career on creating innovative sounds with records features blues, rock and roll, hard rock and some electronica.
Beck has not had the same solo success as some of his peers but his talent is renowned. He has influenced the guitar music scene for over 50 years and is currently ranked 5th in the Rolling Stones top 100 list.
3. Jimmy Page
Another member of The Yardbirds, Jimmy Page really found his stride in the 1970s after he founded one of the greatest bands of all time, Led Zeppelin. Page helped define the hard rock era with countless hit records and then went on to broaden his music by exploring different chords, harmonies, and sounds.
It’s this experimentation that allowed him to create and perform stairway to heaven. Jimmy Page has played thousands of gigs and is one of the greatest guitarists of all time.
2. Eddie Van Halen
Eddie Van Halen is a Dutch American guitarist who has written, produced and performed countless songs. Along with David Lee Roth, Mark Stone and his brother Alex he is a founding member of the Van Halen band.
Outside of Van Halen Eddie has written and performed with Michael Jackson and helped write riffs for Black Sabbath. His unusual two-handed tapping method and melodic preferences helped create something different that has inspired other artists for decades.
1. Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix needs absolutely no introduction and is widely recognized as an incredible artist. American born, Hendrix used to carry around a broom as a young boy and emulate playing the guitar. At 15 he got his first ukulele with only one string, and never looked back.
Every single Jimi Hendrix album did incredibly well and every performance had an intense energy that many have tried to mirror. His music combined blues and rock with a psychedelic twist that really made it unique.
Jimi Hendrix is widely regarded as one of the most amazing electric guitarists of all time and he created unique and memorable music that will last for generations to come.
Guitar music is never static and thankfully we have fresh talent constantly pushing the boundaries. All of the names on this list contributed to the music we listen to today and even though there may be debate over who is the best, we should all definitely agree that we’re lucky to have the opportunity to listen to so many great artists.