13 Guitarists You Should Start Learning From
Lots of people argue about the best guitarists ever, as well as the most technical and the best songwriter/guitarists.
My philosophy is to not restrict yourself when it comes to guitar playing.
You can both build up your chops, and learn how to make better music.
Those two things are not one and the same!!!
It’s just a simple fact that a lot more people listen to David Gilmour than Joe Satriani. Taylor Swift and John Mayer have sold out more concerts than Black Label Society.
You don’t have to choose sides. Learn from everybody!
However though, I have a list of guitar players that everyone should take the time to at least appreciate……..
I’m putting Chet first in this list because he is criminally ignored in the guitar community as a whole I believe.
There’s not mention of him anywhere in my collection of Guitar World and Guitar One magazines……
Some of the other names in this list have gotten a whole lot more credit than Chet has gotten, and I at least am gonna try to change that!
Just look at the video above of his solo rendition of Vincent by Don McLean:
Chet does have plenty of flashy licks, but his main focus is on the melody and the harmony.
Then of course, the bass!
You need to study Chet if you’re looking to do more with your guitar than strum chords and blaze through scales.
His work is a blueprint for how to make your own solo renditions of your favorite songs, as well as an example of just what the guitar is capable of doing.
Marty is my favorite guitar player! There’s very very few players out there who have a great command of both flashy technical lead playing as well as creating great melodies.
I know lots of people prefer Jason Becker (Marty’s best friend in case you didn’t know). My preference for Marty is just a matter of taste.
However he also played on Rust In Peace, which is one of my favorite metal albums ever.
So why should you study him?
Well he has a solid command of exotic scales, his funky rhythm timings can give you a way out of 16th notes , and you can learn a lot about soloing over tricky harmonies and riffs..
Plus he can shred the hell out of the pentatonic scale in some amazing ways!
We’ll get to the more important guys to study I swear, but Nuno is another underrated player who deserves a lot more attention.
Nuno is the guitarist for Extreme, whose album Pornograffiti is a must listen. And yes, that’s the album with “More Than Words.”
He’s also the guitarist for Rihanna……..which is awesome!
Nuno, to me, is one of the best players who has a solid command of both rhythm playing and lead playing.
That’s the ultimate reason to study him. There are so many examples from Pornograffiti where he seamlessly goes from lead to rhythm and back again that have become standard moves for myself.
And yes, he’s got lots of cool tapping, legato, alternate picking, and string skipping licks too.
Wes was a guy I kept hearing about when I started playing, but like lots of guitarists I was just not into Jazz.
After studying him, another guy down this list, and a lot of Jazz chord progressions I still don’t consider myself a huge fan of the genre.
However, if you can learn a few things about how Jazz guitarists think and approach a chord progression……
Or if you just learn how to improvise over some of these intimidating progressions……
You can shred the hell out of any blues, country, or rock riff/progression.
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Finally! I’m going to talk about a true giant of rock n’ roll guitar!
Jimmy is the guy to study if you want a crash course in writing riffs and creating epic song structures.
His influence can be heard in pretty much every sub-genre of rock that came after Led Zeppelin (his band in case you didn’t know).
I can’t add much more about him that hasn’t already been said, but this list would be totally incomplete without his mention.
The king of soulful, melodic guitar playing should be a mainstay in every guitar player’s journey at some point.
While so many guitar players rely on flash and overwhelming the listener with tons of notes……
David knows how to pick the right ones at the right time to deliver a powerful emotional effect on you.
Any player who can do that is definitely worth studying.
Now for someone who is mostly the exact opposite of the previous guy (yes sorry for having mostly white dudes on here).
His repertoire is stocked with patterns, patterns, and more patterns in a variety of rock music contexts.
Every guitar player needs a stockpile of patterns to create licks from and riff off of, and this is the biggest reason to study Paul.
I first heard of James Burton when I browsing Amazon years ago for Hot Licks videos, probably of Marty Friedman.
However I read a little about him, bought his video, and am very glad I did.
James Burton was the guitarist for Ricky Nelson, Elvis in his later career, and Emmylou Harris amongst others.
He can shred in many styles obviously, as well as effortlessly go between them when necessary.
The main reason I’m including him on this list is not only to highlight the influence he’s had on most every player, one way or another…..
But also because, by studying his style, you can start see how to create your own unique style.
Maybe you want to be just a rock player or just a blues player. That’s fine.
However you must learn how to be yourself at some point…….
Along with Chet, this guy is probably the most advanced you’ll find in this list as his use of bass lines, jazz chord substitutions, and voice leading is quite sophisticated.
Like with Wes though, if you even take on a little bit of his repertoire and learn how he approaches a few of the progressions he works through…..
You can handle anything that comes your way!
There isn’t much I can add about Zakk that hasn’t been said before.
His mastery of the pentatonic scale, his meticulous organization of his solos, and the countless amount of patterns he’s created……
Are three of the biggest reasons to study him. If nothing else his repertoire is a great compilation of the sounds and tricks of Ozzy’s other guitarists, as well as the 70s & 80s heavy metal standard riff moves.
Eddie Van Halen
EVH has done more for the progression of the guitar than most of other guitarists other than Jimi.
He completely revolutionized the sounds of the electric guitar and the potential for what it could do.
Other players on this list are fantastic no doubt, but how many guitarists started shredding, tapping, and making pinch harmonics and whammy bar dives once he came along?
Quite a few. His work is the link between the old style of playing guitar and the newer style, and understanding why is absolutely necessary to becoming a well-rounded player.
Supposedly a lot of people don’t get the big deal about Eric Clapton, and that’s because his style is mostly built from the great blues players who came before him like Albert King, BB King, Buddy Guy, Hubert Sumlin, and Robert Johnson to name a few.
All of those guys deserve a place on this list, but to make it easier for us all I’m just going to include Clapton.
The best reason you should learn from Eric is because he may have the best sense of melody than anyone else on this list.
The other great reason to study him is because you get a shortcut to learning from all of those blues greats I listed earlier. Unfortunately it’s still kinda hard to find great tablature of their material.
And of course no list is incomplete without this guy!
It’s becoming cliche and some of you may be rolling your eyes, but his influence is still great today.
For instance, before he came along that high gain distortion he used was thought of as a bad thing. Now distortion is prevalent nearly everywhere in every genre of rock music and beyond.
Beyond that he introduced new sounds, new pedals, and new guitar techniques that were not as widely used before that time.
It can be argued that he and Eric Clapton really helped the guitar become more of a lead instrument than it was before. In Jazz that’s a different story with Wes Montgomery and Django Reinhardt, as well as in Country and Blues guitar.
If nothing else, his rhythm and lead playing is a master class in chord and scale techniques in the rock genre.
Guitarists You Thought I Forgot But Didn't
Slash, Eric Johnson, John Petrucci, Yngwie Malmsteen, Angus & Malcolm Young, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Stevie Ray Vaughan, etcetera etcetara…….
I know many of you are reading this and are outraged I forgot your favorite player!
My goal with this article was to highlight a few guys who are underrated, as well as put a spotlight on the most influential players ever.
Do you think I’m full of shit? Do you disagree and feel that there’s someone who really needed to be included?
Well comment below and tell me so!