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20 Best Guitarists in the World

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best guitarists in worldWhat does it take to be the best guitarist in the world? Every guitar player’s dream is to produce a lifelong legacy of good music, and these artists below have given us chills and tears when they perform with our favorite bands on stage. All guitar players have adored and watched them and you wouldn’t be a full pledge guitarist if you do not know even a single person in this list.

Dedication to music, passion, and expression are keys to being a good guitar player. But what makes a guitarist great? Do you need to perfect all scales? Do you need to understand theory and practice every technicality on the fretboard? These are questions that surround a guitar player’s mind. The answer is yes– yes you need to.

With that said, some people are exceptions to these rules. Others just pour out their hearts and connect to people. While some don’t need much time to get good, others need to practice exponentially to be better. So what does it take really? Below are truly exceptional guitar players that influenced many guitarists to this date. Let us check them out and see their different journeys.

So let’s find out the top of breed, best guitarists in the World.

20 Best Guitarists in the World

20. Derek Trucks (June 8, 1979 – Present)

Derek Trucks

Derek Trucks started when he bought his first guitar on a yard sale for $5 at the age of nine and since then became a child prodigy.  He then started on the journey of becoming a guitar player. He had his first paid gig at the age of 11 and had started playing alongside Buddy Guy and other blues players. He was born on June 8, 1979, in Jacksonville, Florida U.S. and made his name echo throughout the year by becoming the founder of the Grammy Award-winning band, “The Derek Trucks Band”.

He also became an official member of “The Allman Brothers Band” in 1999. Nowadays he is playing with “Tedeschi Trucks Band” with his wife, blues singer and guitarist Susan Tedeschi. He has also been featured on the Crossroads Blues Festival with Eric Clapton and has shared the stage with artists such as Joe Walsh, Stephen Stills, and Bob Dylan.

19. Django Reinhardt (January 23, 1910 – May 16, 1953)

Django Reinhardt

Jean (Django) Reinhardt was born in Belgium in 1910 and was a Romani-French jazz guitar player. He was known as one of the greatest influencer and musician of the 20th century. He invented the style of Manouche playing or Gypsy Jazz (hot jazz) alongside friend and violinist Stephane Grappelli. He formed the famous quintet “Hot Club de France in 1934. The group was made famous for introducing the guitar as a lead instrument.

His most popular composition have been standards within the Jazz scene, namely “Nuages”, “Minor Swing” and “Daphne”. Django has influenced and inspired every major popular guitarist around the world. He’s an inspiration for most guitar players because of his condition of which his hands were burned and deformed on a fire accident and still has the guts to play the guitar more passionately.

18. George Harrison ( February 25 ,1943 – November 29, 2001)

George Harrison

Who doesn’t know about the guitar man of The Beatles? George Harrison was a musician, film producer and had made international fame as the lead guitarist of The Beatles. He has embraced the Indian culture that helped broaden his musical journey, he has incorporated Indian instrumentations and aligned in Hindu spiritually with the Beatles.

Harrison’s influences where Django Reinhardt, Chuck Berry, and Chet Atkins. His style of playing is simple yet intricate. He has led the Beatles into folk rock through his interest in Bob Dylan’s music and also towards to Indian Classical Music. Some of his famous works “Here Comes the Sun”, and “Norwegian Wood” has the Indian culture taste in it. Overall George Harrison was an excellent composer and a loved musician.

17.  David Gilmour (March 6 1946 – Present)

David Gilmour

The man behind Pink Floyd voice and guitar, David Gilmour is a British guitarist,singer and songwriter and was born in 1946. By the early 2012, their band had sold over 250 million records worldwide and has become the most acclaimed musical acts in the music business. Before disbanding in 2014, they released three more studio albums.

16. Muddy Waters ( April 4, 1913 –  April 30, 1983)

Muddy Waters

McKinley Morganfield, known famously as Muddy Waters was an American guitar player, singer, songwriter and innovator of blues music in the States. He was often cited as the “Father of Modern Chicago blues” and has been a very important figure on the post-war blues scene.

Muddy Waters had influenced not only the rhythm and blues scene but also the rock and roll, folk music, jazz and also country music. His use of amplification bridges the link of rock and roll and Delta blues.

He had his first guitar by the age of 17 by selling his horse for $15. He gave seven dollars and fifty cents to his grandma who has raised him and kept the remaining for himself and bought a guitar worth two dollars and fifty cents. He then started playing songs in his hometown, mostly on plantations owned by Colonel William Howard Stovall. This was the start of his career and journey as a musician. He then toured England and Spain where he backed up Dixieland jazz musician including a member of Chris Barbers band and many more.

15. Chuck Berry ( Oct 18, 1926 – March 18, 2017)

CChuck Berryharles Edward Anderson Berry, an American singer, guitarist and songwriter, is one of the most popular pioneers of the Rock and Roll music. He made fame with the hit song we all know as “Johnny B. Goode”. He had made the rock and roll music defined and distinctive, mainly focusing on writing music with lyrics that focused on consumerism and raging hormones of teen life. That also helped him to pave the way for awesome showmanship and cool guitar solos, in the music scene this was all new and hip!

His first big break was in may when he crossed roads with Muddy Waters, who helped him contact Leonard Chess of, Chess Records. He then Recorded “Maybellene” which sold over a million copies and having to reach number one on Billboard magazines RnB chart. Then the rest was history, without Chuck Berry Rock music would have been very different today.

14. Brian May ( July 19 1947 – Present)

Brian May Brian Harold May is an English musician, singer, and songwriter who has made fame by being known as the lead guitarist of the rock band Queen. He has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001 and has received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award recently this 2018. Brian made history alongside Freddie Mercury, Roger Taylor, and John Deacon with their hit song “Bohemian Rhapsody” on the album “ A Night at the Opera”.

Brian also uses a home built electric guitar he calls the Red Special. May was voted the 7th guitarist of all time in Planet rock and ranked no. 26 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of 100 Greatest Guitarist of All Time.

13. Carlos Santana ( July 20, 1947 – Present)

Carlos SantanaA Mexican- American musician whose popularity rose in the late ’60s to early ’70s, Carlos Santana with his band “Santana”, innovated the Rock and Roll music scene having to combine Latin and African Rhythm to Rock and Roll. The sound he and his bandmates did was an innovation and very different that time, incorporating timbales and congas not generally heard in rock music. He continued to work with this style and eventually got him 10 Grammy Awards and three Latin Grammy Awards. He is also number 20 at Rolling Stone magazine of 100 Greatest Guitarists in 2015.

Robert Johnson12. Robert Johnson ( May 8, 1911 – Aug 16, 1938)

Robert Leroy Johnson died of an early age of 27 and has given rise to many legends. He’s the influence of many blues musician and his landmark recordings in 1936 and 1937 displayed a combination of singing and superb guitar skills. Very few documentation to Johnson’s life had emerged and even myths are formed upon his story.

His works came to a wider audience in 1961. Eric Clapton has called him the most important blues singer that ever played and lived. Then he became recognized as a master of blues playing and singing particularly the Mississippi Delta Blues Style.

11. Tom Morello ( May 30, 1964 – Present)

Tom MorelloThomas Baptiste Morello is best known for his tenure with Rage Against the Machines and with Audio Slave, rock bands that made their name in the late ’90s. Morello is an American singer, songwriter and political activist. He was born in Harlem, New York and was raised in Libertyville, Illinois. He then became interested in music as well as politics and took a degree in Harvard in Social Studies.

He is best known for a very unique style of creative guitar playing which incorporated cool effects, feedback noise, and unconventional tapping and picking patterns. Morello’s influences were Led Zeppelin and the “ Bomb Squad and Public Enemy has had a large impact on his musical style and endeavor. In December 2015 Morello was marked 40 on Rolling Stone magazine’s 100 Greatest Guitarist.

10. Keith Richards ( Dec 18, 1943 – Present)

Keith Richards Keith Richards, an English musician and songwriter is also best known as the lead guitarist of the band Rolling Stones. He was known as the one who created “rock’s greatest single body of guitar riffs”. Ranking fourth on the list of 100 best guitarists in 2011, Keith both played the rhythm and lead on their songs, generally known as a “weaving effect”. Richards also did the backing vocals on many if not almost all of the Rolling Stones Songs as well as occasional lead vocal parts with the band.

9. Kurt Cobain ( Feb 20, 1967 – April 5, 1994)

Kurt Donald Cobain was bKurt Cobainest known as the lead vocals of Nirvana. He is remembered as one of the most prominent singers and influential rock musician in the history of alternative styled music. He was well known by the time with their hit song “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and has been the spokesman of the generation, however, it affected him.

The spotlight both features his personal problems and achievements and that made him weary and tired. On those times, he also suffered from addiction with heroin and has a chronic health problem which is depression. He was found dead on April 5 as he committed suicide by self-inflicting a shotgun bullet to his head. Kurt has changed the guitar music history with his heavy distortions and heavy strumming patterns.

8. Stevie Ray Vaughan ( Oct. 3, 1954 – August 27, 1990)

Stevie Ray VaughanStevie Ray Vaughan is an American musician, guitarist, singer, and songwriter. He is known as one of the most influential guitarists in the revival of blues in the ’80s. He started playing the guitar at the young age of seven and gained his fame on his appearance at Montreal Jazz Festival in 1982. He also released a debut studio album “Texas Flood” which has reached number 38 in 1983 and has sold over half a million copies. He also headlined tours with Jeff Beck and Joe Cocker between 1989 and 1990, his career ended on a tragic event. He died in a helicopter crash on Aug 27, 1990, at the age of 35.

7. B.B. King ( Sept 16, 1925 – May 14, 2015)

B.B. KingAn American blues singer, songwriter, and guitarist, Riley B. King was born on a cotton plantation in Berclair. He was attracted to the guitar at a very young age. He is well known for his sophisticated style of guitar soloing and shimmering vibrato techniques which has influenced many guitar players to this date. He was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, as he is considered as the most iconic and influential blues musician of all time. He’s been hailed as “The King of the Blues”.

6. Jeff Beck ( June 24, 1944 – Present)

Jeff BeckGeoffrey Arnold Beck was famous with his all-star group The Yardbirds with Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page. He is an English rock guitar player. Most of his songs are loved by many other musicians and guitarists, mainly focusing on instrumental and innovative sounds he produced music from rock to hard rock and even electronica. He then played guitar with the likes of Rod Stewart, Mick Jagger, Tina Turner, Brian May, and many others. He is a very versatile guitarist and the Rolling Stone magazine ranked him in the 100 Greatest Guitarist of all time (fourth). For six times, he has gained a Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance.

5. Slash ( July 23, 1965 – Present)

SlashSaul Hudson, known as Slash, is a British- American guitarist of the hard rock band Guns N’ Roses, with which he achieved global success as a guitarist in the late 80’s and early 90’s.

He has released four solo albums after he separated ways with the band. He has received critical claims and is also considered one of the most influential rock guitarist of all time. He also proved to be an iconic character in the scene with his top hat and Les Paul guitar as a signature. The Rolling Stone magazine ranked him 65 on their list of “The 100 greatest guitarist of all time”. He is also well known for the riff of the hit song “Sweet Child o’ Mine”.

4. Eddie Van Halen ( Jan 26, 1955 – Present)

Eddie Van HalenEdward Lodewijk Van Halen is a guitarist and founder of the hard rock band Van Halen.

He is a Dutch- American singer, songwriter, and producer. He has reached number 8 at the Rolling Stone magazine of 100 Greatest Guitarist in 2011. He has innovated the guitar with his distinctive tapping style, vibrato and fast tremolo picking it is also combined with his melodic and backed with a very rhythmic approach.

 

Jimmy Page3. Jimmy Page (Jan 9 , 1994 – Present)

James Patrick Page is an English guitarist, songwriter and record producer who made fame and international success as the guitarist of the rock band Led Zeppelin. He is a professional musician in London in the mid-’60s and has played session for many artists. He was one of the most sought out session guitarists in Britain. He is also a member of the Yardbirds with Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton in 1966 to 1968. He is ranked three on the Rolling Stone magazine of the “100 Greatest Guitarist of All Time”.

2. Eric Clapton (March 30 , 1945 – Present)

Eric ClaptonEric Patrick Clapton is an English blues guitarist, singer, and songwriter. He is one of the most iconic figures of the guitar world, having teamed up with famous guitarists of their time, with the likes of Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck. He is also the only three-time inductee of the Rock and Roll of Fame. He influenced many musicians to this date in electric guitar playing and is ranked third on Rolling Stone Magazine of 100 Greatest Guitarist of All Time. He is also known for the hit pop songs “ Tears in Heaven” and “Wonderful Tonight”

1. Jimi Hendrix ( Nov 27, 1942 – Sept 18, 1970)

Jimi Hendrix Number one on the list is James Marshall Hendrix, who was rock guitarist, singer, and songwriter. He has gained global fame as one of the most influential guitar players of all time but had lived shortly with his career only spanning four years. He is regarded as the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

He was discovered by Linda Keith and Chas Chandler of the Animals by becoming his manager. Since then, he released three UK top ten songs namely Purple Haze, Hey Joe and The Wind Cries Mary. He then became famous in the States by performing on the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 and Headlined the Woodstock Festival in 1969. He died from barbiturate-related asphyxia or lack of oxygen on September 18, 1970, at the early age of 27.

All great guitar players here had dedicated their lives in making and playing music. They inspired and reached many people throughout the years. They also spent a lot of time honing and practicing their crafts. They loved what they do and often gained strength in music.

Understanding this will surely give us time to ponder and be inspired with our own playing. It might also give us the inspiration to continue on playing the guitar and see the value of what a great guitarist really is.

Conclusion

As you can see, all great guitar players here had dedicated their lives in making and playing music.

They inspired and reached many people throughout the years. They also spent a lot of time honing and practicing their crafts. They loved what they do and often gained strength in music.

Understanding this will surely give us time to ponder and be inspired with our own playing. It might also give us the inspiration to continue on playing the guitar and see the value of what a great guitarist really is.

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