Who are your ten favorite guitarists? Everybody has different tastes, but guitar players tend to have a lot of similar answers to this question. A common list might sound something like this;
Realistically, the number of talented musicians out there is endless, especially for an instrument as popular as the guitar. There is a fair argument to be made that those aforementioned guitar players are often included in lists, because there are just so many that it's easier to just mention the legends.
There are people born today who may one day become virtuosos in their own right, and you can't discount the many wizard-like guitar players on the scene. So, without mentioning any of the legendary names, it would be near impossible to narrow it down to just ten great guitar players… so, we’re going to do it anyway!
We’ve compiled a list of guitarists who maybe aren't top-of-mind when you think of your guitar heroes, but deserve recognition for their mastery of the instrument. This is by no means a “best guitarists” list, rather a recommendation of guitar players you should check out. Who knows, maybe one of these guitar players will make their way into your top ten. So, here they are; Ten Guitarists you need to hear!
Possibly the most high-profile guitarist on the list, Nita Strauss is a fixture of the modern guitar landscape. Strauss was previously Alice Cooper’s touring guitar player, and now tours with Demi Lovato. For all the shredders out there, Nita Strass’ music should make its way onto your “shred playlist.”
Recommended Listening: Controlled Chaos (Album) - 2018
Andy is a session mandolin and guitar player on countless records, and was the touring guitar player for Rascal Flatts. He has a successful solo career, and regularly posts videos on his YouTube channel on all things guitar. He is the “guitar player’s guitar player.” He can literally do everything the instrument allows you to do. He is a true jack of all trades in the world of guitar.
Recommended Listening: Junktown (Album) - 2019
Justin Paul Hollis Shekoski
Justin is responsible for the guitar work on the early Saosin records. He is a master of using distortion, delay and reverb to craft tones and memorable riffs. He cites John Pettrucci and Paul Gilbert as his biggest influences, but he doesn’t quite play like that. He can rip when he needs to, but tends to favor dissonant chord voicings and ethereal effects pedals to create dramatic textural soundscapes.
Recommended Listening: Translating the Name (Album) - 2003
If you have listened to any pop music from the last 40 plus years, you’ve probably heard his guitar work.
David Bowie, Madonna, Dianna Ross, and Daft Punk are just a few of the artists that Nile had a hand in playing guitar for and producing.
Additionally, he is one of the founding members of the band Chic, and he is one of the most tasteful guitar players you will ever hear. Fender just released the Nile Rodgers Signature “Hitmaker” Strat this year, and it is out of this world!
Recommended Listening: Chic (Album) - 1977
You probably don’t associate Mr. A-Z with gnarly guitar chops, but he is incredible at taking complex chord progressions, disguised as simple chord changes, and turning them into catchy songs. You can really hear a Beatles adjacent influence come out of the chord choices he makes in his songs. Simple as they may initially seem on a first listen, it’s the nuanced way he composes on the guitar to fit with the instruments around him. There is a lot to analyze here with Jason’s guitar-work, so happy listening!
We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things. (Album) - 2008
Sister Rossetta Tharp
She is grossly under-appreciated in the guitar community as a whole. Despite her contributions to music, her legacy is often overshadowed by other Rock and Rollers of the 50’s and 60’s.
It can be argued that her brand of Gospel-based blues was the birth of rock music today.
Never mind her guitar playing, her voice was powerful, and her songs painted a picture of struggle characteristic of the Blues, but laced with optimism of Gospel music. However, as long as we’re talking guitar here, she is one of the first guitar players to use a heavy distorted guitar tone. Her style is often imitated but irreplaceable. Truly, western music as it is today owes an insurmountable debt to Sister Rossetta Tharp, the “Grandmother of Rock and Roll.”
Gospel Train (Album) - 1956
Yvette is a relative newcomer to the music industry, as there are only a few EP’s and Singles released online. She got her start posting covers on YouTube in her style, until eventually pivoting to releasing original music. She creates ethereal textures with clean guitar tones and is known for her use of tapping to build entire compositions on one instrument. She has a really cool signature guitar form Ibanez (YY10) and if you haven't played one yet, it is a treat!
A Map, a String, a Light (Song) - 2014
With the recent resurgence of Bluegrass in the mainstream, no guitarist quite shines like Molly Tuttle. She flawlessly melds bluegrass sounds with singer-songwriter sensibilities. When she wants to show off and blow the crowd away with lightning fast licks, it’s otherworldly, but she also composes stripped down emotive songs that would compel you to call your loved ones and tell them you love them.
When You’re Ready (Album) - 2019
María Rosario Pilar Martínez Molina Baeza (Charo)
Yep, that Charo. Now this is will come as a shock to many people to find out that she is a classically trained, and gifted flamenco guitarist. The fusion of traditional Spanish music with reggaetón beats is simultaneously dramatic and danceable. Her playing and mastery of minor keys and altered scales is refreshing in its uniqueness, and you don’t hear music like this very often.
In the 70’s, Charo was marketed as a ditzy party girl, but who knew she was as stone-cold master of the nylon string? Alas, as an 70's TV icon, she resides in the hearts of many as the bombastic blonde bombshell, Charo.
Charo: Charo and Guitar (2005)
Do you remember when you first started playing guitar? You would make grand statements like, “I'm going to be the best guitar player of all time!” You worked hard, you did your best, and hey, you might have even got pretty dang good. Then, somebody showed you an Aristocrats record, and after a few weeks of self reflection, a long introspective gaze at a pond during twilight hours and maybe at least one tear, you realize that being the “best” at this hobby of ours was never the goal, because Gutherie Govan exists.
We all know how good Jazz Fusion players are. They are a cut above the average guitarist, because they have studied music to a visceral degree of understanding. The way that Gutherie Govan improvises over chord changes is almost inhuman, and rare even amongst the best guitar players. Rick Beato recently released a video describing just what makes him such a mega-talented guitar player, and a lot of the reasoning is Guthrie’s mastery of improvisation. You’re in for a treat when you check out some of his music!
The Aristocrats - Culture Clash Live! (Album) - 2015
No list is complete without a separate list of honorable mentions, right? So, here are a few more guitar players worthy of anybody's list.
Paco De Lucia
Al Di Meola
What did you think of our list? Anyone we missed? Who are your top ten guitarists we need to hear? Leave a comment and let us know who we’re missing out on!