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Top 10 Solo Guitarists

VO: Rebecca Brayton
The guitar is their weapon of choice. Whether or not they’ve been in bands, these guitarists are also musicians in their own right and made a name for themselves thanks to their solo skills. There’s no question that they’ll go down in history for their talents with the instrument. Join as we count down our picks for the top 10 solo guitarists of all-time.

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The guitar is their weapon of choice. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 solo guitarists of all-time.

#10 – Carlos Santana

Santana rose to fame thanks to his fusion of rock, jazz and Latin vibes. But, he distinguished himself with his bluesy and harmonious guitar-playing. He may have been influenced by the greats, but Santana has also become one of them by developing a smooth guitar tone that is all his own. You might even call his powers for wailing on the guitar supernatural.

#9 – Yngwie Malmsteen

By meshing classical music with hard rock licks, this pioneer of neo-classical metal paved the way for the subgenre’s explosion in the 1980s. Yngwie Malmsteen soon became the king of solo guitar. The fact that his outstanding abilities and rapid fire technique continue to dazzle today is a testament to his long-standing talent.

#8 – Stevie Ray Vaughan

With his passionate and expressive playing style, SRV brought life back into blues rock. He differentiated himself from those before him by blending blues, rock and jazz into his sound. A fatal helicopter crash may have taken his life, but the critically acclaimed guitarist’s music will continue to live on thanks to his work with Double Trouble and the impact he’s had on future generations of artists.

#7 – Steve Vai

While he may have played alongside Frank Zappa, Whitesnake and others, Steve Vai built his reputation based on his own merits. In fact, he altered our views about the way a guitar can and should be played, and made us believe the instrument can “sing.” As one of the few true instrumental virtuosos, he broke new ground and influenced an entire generation of shredders in the process.

#6 – Chuck Berry

We have Chuck Berry’s thrilling sound and remarkable playing style to thank for rock and roll’s growth and subsequent explosion. By bringing R&B and guitar solos to the genre, he became a huge influence on rock music. Meanwhile, his stage bravado and accompanying dance moves similarly shaped rock performances for the better.

#5 – Robert Johnson

He must have really traded his soul to the devil for his talents, because his guitar-playing style was so complex that few can match it to this day. In addition to his impressive technical capacities, Robert Johnson could express a wide range of emotions through his voice and this made him an all-around musical legend. Despite his early death at age 27, there’s no denying that the king of Mississippi Delta blues had a major impact on rock and roll.

#4 – B.B. King

The King of Blues did not only perfect the method of using the guitar as a voice, but he also demonstrated this feat on numerous occasions with his own guitar, Lucille. And thanks to his soloing style and exceptional vibrato, B.B. King has become the ultimate inspiration to many of the biggest electric and blues rock guitarists after him.

#3 – Eric Clapton

Slowhand developed an unmatchable style that he’s used both as a solo artist and as a member of bands like Cream and The Yardbirds. Eric Clapton even coined a signature guitar sound known as the woman tone. Plus, his ear for melody is untouchable. On top of that, Clapton is one half of the team behind one of rock’s greatest love songs, and he played its memorable riff with another one of the most innovative guitarists in history: Duane Allman.

#2 – Jeff Beck

Known for his technical brilliance and perfectionism, this guitar hero has played with The Yardbirds and The Jeff Beck Group, but established himself as a solo act as well. Jeff Beck’s innovative approach to instrumental music and his use of electronic distortion are what put him on the map. Thanks to his experimentation with different genres, he’s become one of the biggest influences on rock and heavy metal today.

#1 – Jimi Hendrix

As the original Seattle rocker, Jimi Hendrix was a musical innovator whose avant-garde musical ideas and incomparable guitar skills revolutionized music. The left-handed guitarist left us way too early at age 27, but in that short time, he gave us some of the greatest guitar solos in history. Let’s not forget the fact that he could also play a mean electric guitar – WITH HIS TEETH.

With so many incredible solo guitarists, we’re sure we’ve missed some of your favorites: let us know in the comments section.

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