This argument is common among guitar players all over the globe, as well as rock fans worldwide. It’s called “Who are the greatest guitarists ever?” Everyone has different preferences and definitions of the best skills.
Some people prefer shredding, while others prefer slower, more melodic playing. Some people want to master the basics, while others prefer jazz music theory.
It is important to put all this in the right context. This signals maturity. The player who cranks up the volume and attempts to shred incessantly is not liked by anyone. Nobody likes to be bombarded by 32nd notes in a ballad.
These are the greatest guitarists that have ever picked up a guitar. There are also a few runners-up who may be very close to being in the top spot. We also give honorable mentions to other greats (plus some shoutouts) at the end.
Surprisingly, one of these talented players is also one of the wealthiest guitarists in the. This shows how much people care about skill. Let’s now jump to the list – the top 10 greatest guitarists ever…
#10 – Brent Mason
TOP STRENGTH – THUMBPICKING AND CHICKEN PICKING
Brent Mason has recorded over 1000 albums for country stars as well as other genres. He was discovered by Chet atkins (also on this page). He has won numerous “guitarist” and “musician” awards. Mason can be found on nearly any country hit song.
Mason is well-known for his reliance on acrylic nails and thumbpicks to produce an uncanny, consistent tone and fast attack on the strings. It would be a terrible mistake to reduce his talents to that. He is a songwriter and guitar teacher who has created his own guitar models and effects pedals.
Trivia Facts Brent Mason, a member of The National Thumbpickers Hall of Fame almost lost his career after he pierced a hole in his thumb. In the 1990’s, he is credited with essentially redefining the country guitar style. At age 5, he began learning to play the guitar .
#9 – Stevie Ray Vaughan
TOP STRENGTH: STRING RAWING
Stevie Ray Vaughan, one of the most important guitarists in blues music is a leader in the revival of blues guitar in the 1980’s. This great guitarist will be on any list of the top 10 best guitarists. Or they will be wrong. Lonnie Mack is credited with a lot of his unique style. His style is unique, regardless of genre.
His music is influenced by rock, blues and jazz. Billy Gibbons, ZZ Top’s guitarist, gifted him a custom guitar he called “Main.” He was well-known for using extra heavy strings on his guitars, which he tuned half a step lower. He preferred an asymmetrical neck. He is a master of blues and Albert King’s protege.
Trivia Facts Stevie Ray Vaughan began playing guitar when he was 7 years old and quit high school to go into the music business. In 1989, he was the headliner at Madison Square Garden. Although his untimely death cut short his time in mainstream music, he was still a guitar legend.
#8 – David Gilmour
TOP STRENGTH – MATURE SIMPLICITY
David Gilmour, the guitarist and vocalist of Pink Floyd’s prog rock band, is David Gilmour. He has won every award, just like everyone else on the list. His simple, but powerful riffs and ambient chords are well-known. They’re full of blues phrasing and note bends. He also has a lot of sustain. Although he doesn’t get much credit for this, he can also play other instruments.
Although many people have attempted to imitate his sound and copy his equipment, it is impossible to duplicate his fingernails and his use of effects. He is able to do it in context which is why he ranks high on the most popular lists. He is the undisputed master of soloing lyrical guitar.
Trivia Facts Gilmour’s first guitar was not even received until his 21st Birthday. All of Pink Floyd’s gear was taken in 1970, including Gilmour’s iconic New Orleans guitar The Black Strat. This led to the cancellation and cancellation of the tour.
#7 – Eddie Van Halen
TOP STRENGTH – TAPPING AND WHAMMY BARB
These lists often feature Eddie Van Halen at number 1. He is that good. Although Eric Clapton is his main inspiration, he says that he is closer to Jimmy Page in terms of style. He is the type of player that Michael Jackson has tapped to play back tracks.
Tapping is one of his most distinctive techniques. He taps with both hands on the neck of the guitar to quickly fire off notes. This technique is credited with one of his greatest solos, if it wasn’t the second best. This skill he says he learned from Jimmy Page and Steve Hackett, both of Genesis.
Trivia Facts – Eddie Van Halen didn’t learn to read music. He is also an inventor and holds several patents, including one that allows the guitar’s sound to be played as if it were a piano. Eddie and Alex, his brother, founded Van Halen with the superstar David Lee Roth.
#6 – Jimi Hendrix
TOP STRENGTH: INVENTING NEW TECHNIQUES
Jimi Hendrix made a profound impact on the world of guitar in just four years. He was the first to introduce effects and the whammy bars to the guitar world. His use of the whammy bar is a major reason for the Fender Stratocaster’s continued success.
He was influenced by early rock and roll artists such as Little Richard, Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley. Many of his “firsts” were the use of certain effects, rejection of the barre chord, and fretting with the thumb. His style is a blend of blues and American folk music, American jazz, jazz, and rock. He was an expert at soloing within chords.
Trivia Facts Jimi Hendeix started playing the guitar when he was 15 years old. He was one of the most highly-paid performers in the world at the time that he headlined Woodstock 1969. Hendrix used right-handed guitars that were turned upside down and re-strutted for left-hand play.
#5 – Derek Trucks
TOP STRENGTH: ELECTRIC SLIDE GUITAR
Derek Trucks is a member of The Derek Trucks Band or The Allman Brothers Band. He also tours with Eric Clapton. If you are brought into such operations, you know you are good. His music is a mix of jazz, Southern rock and jam band.
He prefers to play his guitars in open tuning, and prefers a Dunlop Blues Bottle Slide. He may have achieved his success partly by learning in ways that others don’t like sitar and sarod. He is a rising star on the guitar lists and is often called “the new guitar god”. He is a pioneer in Indian microtonal music exploration.
Trivia Facts: Even B.B. King said that Derek Truck’s guitarist work is “as good and as beautiful as anything I have ever heard.” He has been honored to play at the White House and has won almost every music award. All of his family members are in bands like Widespread Panic. His uncle was a MLB pitcher.
#4 – Steve Vai
TOP STRENGTH: TECHNICAL & HARMONIC PROWESS
Steve Vai’s distinguished career with Frank Zappa and Alcatraz led to his mastery. He has also grown in his solo work, which is a testament to his immense maturity. He is the king of the whammy bars, which is a plus. Many people would argue that he is the best by far. They could be right.
He is the co-designer of the JEM guitar, which has changed the way guitars have been designed since then. Eric Johnson and Joe Satriani are part of the G3 concert live only tours. Two-handed tapping, sweep picking and alternate picking are some of his guitar techniques. He also uses circular vibrato, whammy bars, and other advanced techniques that make him stand out technically.
Trivia Facts At age 13, he bought his first guitar and began taking lessons with Joe Satriani. Early on, his practice schedule included hours of 10 to 15 hours. It was a profession that he treated and made it his career.
#3 – Tommy Emmanuel
TOP STRENGTH: ONE MAN BAND
Tommy Emmanuel is the king finger-style solo guitar. He is a true one-man band and can even beat his guitar to create percussive sounds. At age 4, he was gifted his first guitar and, by six years old, he had heard Chet Atkins play with the Travis picking style. The rest is history.
While he draws inspiration from many styles, such as bluegrass, folk and jazz, his main focus is country fingerpicking. He employs a thumbpick, plectrum (a flatpick), and his fingers for what is called hybrid picking. To achieve his unique sound, he uses a variety of tunings and string gauges.
Trivia Facts Tommy was six years old when his father formed a band and sold their home. They then set out on the road. At six, he was a professional. Buddy Williams, an Australian country music star, took his brothers on tour after his father died to make some income.
#2 – Pat Metheny
TOP STRENGTH JAZZ VOICING AND PICKING
Although Pat Metheny is not well-known to many young people, you are looking at a world-class musician who tours the globe and makes a lot of money. His music theory knowledge and ability to apply it is unmatched.
His unique phrasing and voicings are a big hit with listeners. He even uses MIDI guitars to mimic the sounds of synthesizers and other instruments. Steve Vai is a professional and disciplined player. We love his excellent picking and willingness to use heavy compression.
Trivia Facts Pat Metheny has been the only person to win Grammys for 10 categories. Mike Metheny, a jazz flugelhornist, is his brother. He occasionally plays a 42-string Pikasso guitar. He was the first person to use a guitar synthesizer. Some of his masters were lost (thankfully digitalized) during the 2008 Universal Studios fire.
#1 – Guthrie Govan
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TOP STRENGTH: ALL-AROUND TECHNICAL VIRTUOSO
Guthrie Govan is the greatest guitarist of all time. While others may be amazing, Govan is the best guitarist. He not only has the highest technical ability, but can also use it in any style. Govan’s talents are limitless. He loves to share the love and spends much of his time teaching masterclasses in guitar clinics around the globe.
He’s been a member of many successful bands, including Asia. He was also the lead guitarist for Hans Zimmer Live. He claims Clapton and Hendrix are his influences, but he also says he has the passion and imagination of Yngwie malmsteem. His mind is different from ours. He can imagine complex songs before composing them or playing them.
Trivia Facts Guthrie Govan states that he is “wary” about 1980’s shredding. This is a sign of maturity, but he can do it. Guthrie Govan sees the guitar as a tool for delivering a musical message.
Runners up: Who is almost a best guitarist?
It is difficult to choose ten guitarists to be the greatest of all time. We have made room for four runners-up. These guys might be in your top 10, but we didn’t make it to our top 10. We recognize their extraordinary talent and skill.
TOP STRENGTH: MASTER TECHNICIAN IN BLUES
George Benson, a top-tier guitarist, is well-known for his rest-stroke playing style that Django Reinhardt (and other gypsy jazz musicians) use. His 1976 debut solo album Breezin’ was triple-platinum. Leon Russell and Bobby Womack helped him to win a few Grammys.
Benson’s mastery of blues and ability to layer it over complex jazz structures is what guitarists love about his work. This makes for an original and rich composition. He was very approachable and vulnerable with his smooth vocals. It’s impossible to argue with people!
Trivia Facts George Benson’s first gig was at an unlicensed club at age 8. Benson appeared on the 2018 Gorillaz song, “Humility”. Even has a star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He is now considered a child prodigy by psychologists.
TOP STRENGTH – INDISPUTABLE MASS
Eric Clapton is a household name. He is considered the number-one or second best player of all time, and he has been inducted three times into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Even if Clapton isn’t your favorite, you will still like his bands like The Yardbirds and Cream, Blind Faith and Derek and the Dominos.
Clapton had once said that he was going to join The Beatles. The question was about who was more influential at the time. Clapton’s love for everyone is what matters most, besides his talent. If you are able to touch so many hearts, then you must possess a level mastery that few others can match.
Trivia Facts Eric Clapton considers Robert Johnson, Buddy Holly and Muddy Waters to be some of his influences. Music historians credit Clapton for creating the mythology and cult following the guitarist.
TOP STRENGTH: SOLO GUITAR & THUMBPICKING
Many people on this list have been given nicknames and titles, but Chet Atkins only has two: Mr. Guitar” and “The Country Gentleman.” He is one of the few people who are responsible for creating the Nashville Sound. He was not only a master guitarist, but also a master record producer at RCA Victor.
For his immense influence, he has received more awards than any other person on this list. His smooth jazz recordings are still played on radio today, while commercials feature other songs. He was a guitar king thanks to his use of Travis picking.
Trivia Facts Chet Atkins was born in Luttrell in Tennessee in 1924. He grew up in poverty, isolation, and without electricity. As a result of asthma, he fell asleep in a straight-backed chair holding a guitar. This was something he did all his adult life.
TOP STRENGTH: SCALE CONCEPTS & MIDI GUITAR
Allan Holdsworth is best known for his work with British jazz fusion, progressive rock and where he used his advanced knowledge in music theory to create scales and chords. Many of the greatest guitarists have cited him as an inspiration, and most agree that he is the most fascinating player ever. His solo work was mainly instrumental, which highlights his talent.
Holdsworth refused to play an acoustic instrument until he created his legato style of playing to imitate the sound of a guitar’s saxophone. Holdsworth’s signature sound is his fingerpicked chords, which are accompanied by delay, chorus, reverb, and chorus.
Trivia Facts Allan Holdsworth longed to play the saxophone, but couldn’t afford it so he settled on the guitar. John Coltrane, Charlie Parker and Charlie Parker were both among his influences as saxophonists. He was the main figure associated with the SynthAxe, a guitar synthesizer.
Honorable Mentions to the Best Guitarists Of All Time
It’s hard to limit yourself to just a few runners-up. Let’s quickly list some honorable mentions. We’re sure to find one of your favorite runners up. If they didn’t make it, then they will be in the shoutouts.
- Charlie Christian was the original electric guitarist. This lead role did not limit him. He was a jazz leader and it sounded more like a horn than a guitar.
- Joe Satriani was the one who taught Steve Vai, Kirk Hammett and others how to play. Is there anything more?
- Andy Wood, an aspiring player, has won technical picking championships and is the guitarist-for-hire at Rascal Flats. He also builds his own discography.
- Paul Gilbert has a unique alternate picking technique that is staccato-like and makes him one of the best guitarist shredders.
- John Scofield is a musician who has collaborated with many greats of many genres and made many appearances on many amazing albums. His professionalism and talent make him a favorite guitarist.
- Wes Montgomery is well-known for his unique technique of plucking the strings using his thumb.
- Randy Rhoads had a major influence on neoclassical music while playing for Ozzy Osbourne. He is best known for his Flying V guitar.
- Steve Howe was named “Best Overall Guitarist” five times in a row starting in 1977 by Guitar Playermagazine. His playing styles include both country and classical styles.
- Steve Morse was also named “Best Overall Guitarist” by Guitar Playermagazine for five consecutive years. He is the founder of Dixie Dregs, and has been the lead guitarist for Deep Purple since 1994.
This is very difficult. Many guitarists deserve at least a shout-out. Let me at most give a shout out to the guitar gods, at least by reciting their names.
Shout outs: Zakk Wilde, John Petrucci and Joni Mitchell. Brian May, Tony Iommi. Frank Zappa. Carlos Santana. George Harrison. Pete Townshend. Duane Allen. Chuck Berry. King, Jeff Beck Keith Richards, Curtis Mayfield John Petrucci, Curtis Mayfield, Curtis Mayfield, Angus Young Julian Lage, Les Paul Tony Rice, Django Reinhardt Roy Clark, Al Di Mela and so many other…
That’s all she wrote. When compiling this list, we included all types of music theory, technique, pure enjoyment, and maturity. You should keep your eyes open for new musicians and changes in music. You might also enjoy our Top Ten Richest Rock Stars of the World List. A few of these guys also make an appearance…
The Top 10 Most Influential Guitarists of All Time
This table lists the top 10 most influential guitarists of all-time. It includes their names and highest strength.
|1||Guthrie Govan||All-Around Technical Virtuoso|
|2||Pat Metheny||Jazz Voicing & Picking|
|3||Tommy Emmanuel||One-Man Band|
|4||Steve Vai||Technical & Harmonic Prowess|
|5||Derek Trucks||Electric Slide Guitar|
|6||Jimi Hendrix||Inventing New Techniques|
|7||Eddie Van Halen||Tapping & Whammy Bar|
|8||David Gilmour||Mature Simplicity|
|9||Stevie Ray Vaughan||String Raking|
|10||Brent Mason||Thumbpicking and Chicken Picking|