Best guitarists

Guitar Player magazine’s 2010 (yes, the ballot paper did say 2009) Readers’ Poll.

Tricky one, this. In spending time thinking about it, whilst simultaneously compiling a list for one of next week’s topics in addition to a Favourite 50 Liverpool Goals countdown (the latter for personal amusement, although it did start as a kind of therapy), and unfortunately not knowing when the voting would cease, I’m now mentioning it too late to positively affect the votes. Unless you follow the comments and tweets, that is. I’m sorry.

To make matters worse, I’m none the wiser for the time spent pondering and have given up trying to confidently produce a completed form.

So I leave it to the experts to enlighten, secure in the knowledge that there are plenty of you who know much more about Country and Jazz guitarists than I ever will or indeed would care to admit. I look forward to your commendations, particularly if you could suggest a song or two to go with the name.

Now that this is just for fun and the nominations cannot be transferred to the voting form irrespective of Guitar Player’s far stricter rules, your choices do not have to exclusively reflect recent activity, either on the road or in the studio, so you need not limit yourself to the creative outpourings of the last year, nor to the 36 days of this one. I trust that makes it much easier.

Best guitarists in as many of the following fields as you can muster, please (I know, Best again; should be Most Popular or at least Most Respected): Acoustic, Blues, Classical, Country, Jazz, Metal, Rock, Slide, World.

Told you it was tricky, but remember: it’s good for the brain to strain and stretch for those names, faces, riffs and melodies that are so often tantalisingly out of reach. And far less monotonous than Sudoku, I like to think.

Joe Bonamassa has been claiming the Best Blues Guitarist accolade in recent years – I think it’s four in a row for him now.

Other 2009 winners include Eric Clapton, Kirk Hammett, Fareed Haque, Warren Haynes, Pat Metheny, Brad Paisley and Derek Trucks.

Who do you predict will be triumphant in 2010?

If you really know your stuff, there were also categories for Best New (Guitar) Talent, Best Outsider/Experimental Guitarist, and Best Overall Guitarist.

Author: FEd

Features Editor of David Gilmour’s official blog, The Blog (‘Features’ previously being its rather naff title), affectionately – or lazily – shortened to ‘FEd’.

67 thoughts on “Best guitarists”

  1. For me Vid is the best guitarist of any years because can play anything on any moment… classic, blues, pop, metal, jazz, rock and all the rest.

  2. I don’t know much about guitarists outside of rock & roll, but I think Frank Zappa deserves to be in there somewhere. He has a very distinct sound and style. Black Napkins, Muffin Man I think are great, but there are more.

    Brian May is the best at accenting a song all the way through, and he also was the first to successfully use echoes for harmonizing (if I’m not mistaken).

    Jeff Beck knows his instrument better than most anybody, and gets an impossible-to-mimic style.

  3. Hi FEd,

    it’s really tricky. I could name you a lot in Metal/Rock, but the other ones needed more efforts. Anyway, here is my list:

    Blues: SRV
    Classical: Paco De Lucia
    Country: Albert Lee
    Jazz: Frank Zappa
    Metal: Michael Schenker
    Rock: Eric Clapton
    Slide : Ben Keith
    World: David Gilmour (for he is in the top 3 players in quite a few categories of this list)

    …and as additions
    Bass: Pino Paladino
    Symphonic: Uli Jon Roth

    I’m sure another day my list would be a complete different one.

    Best regards and enjoy the weekend, all of you!


  4. Best guitarist? Easy: me and my awesome E-minor chord. We rock the boat everyday. The neighbors think it is so good that they hammer on my door/walls/ceiling to join in with my crazy, crazy beats. Don’t like their adlib. lyrics though, bit vulgar.

    x x x

  5. Howe can you pick a favourite guitarist.
    Who can say they are better than everyone.
    Pink is not my favourite colour.
    Mark that on your list too.
    Jimmy another chance!
    Jimi another one!
    Car lost Santana in parking lot.
    Venture that thought.
    I don’t wear Pailey shirts but they look good.
    Time Healeys.
    By George, I’ve got it.

    David Gilmour. :v

    1. Peter Frampton, Santana… B.B. King, Stanley Clarke…

      I feel I have blasphemed.

      You would need the wisdom of Solomon to make a list, I think we dare not.

  6. Mikael Akerfeldt- Opeth. (Acoustic, Classical, Jazz, Metal, Rock, and World)

    Mikael’s compositions often bridge these genres seamlessly, and with conviction to boot. For this reason I would nominate him for all the styles I listed- he is far from being the most accomplished in any single one, but the ability with which he blends them is very admirable. His guitar and the genres he explorers with it are at his command, very cool stuff.


    Face of Melinda

    Ghost of Perdition

  7. Jeff Beck and Joe Bonamassa are probably the two that stand out for me. Obvious choices.

    Happy Days,
    Simon J

  8. Oh, well done FEd, great topic today! 8)

    For me, how at Oscars Awards, “The Winners are”:

    Best Acoustic – Patti Scialfa – E Street Band

    Best Blues – Nick Becattini (Italian bluesman)

    Best Classical – John Williams

    Best Country – Chet Atkins

    Best Jazz – Stanley Jordan

    Best Metal – Jon Hudson – Faith No More

    Best Rock – Andy Summers – The Police

    Best Slide – Jonny Buckland – Coldplay

    Enjoy, and have a nice day to everyone. 🙂

    Bye, Hydrea

  9. Best guitarist for classic, rock, metal, blues, punk, acoustic, slide, world?

    That is simple, that’s the reason why this blog exists.

    But what a shame they don’t have an item for Prog-Rock, else I would have know a few great players.

    Have a great week!

  10. Hello there.

    I just found your Blog and I read that D. Gilmour follows it (but never writes).

    First of all I am from Greece

    Well, here in Greece we are huge fans of Pink Floyd and we love and support D.Gilmour. But we can’t understand, why he never comes to Greece for a concert? He is a legend and a god for some people. I bet that if he ever comes to our Country more than 50.000 fans will gather at the National Stadium in Athens to enjoy the concert.

    The last time David (Pink Floyd) came to Greece, it was 1989. Lucky those people who experienced that concert, but don’t we deserve one more time, after 21 years?

    I know that this is just an e-mail from a fan and probably Dave will not pay attention but I had to try. Hope dies last.

    (Sorry for commenting on this post, I just could not find the right place to do it.)


  11. I voted Best Overall Guitarist David Gilmour. I think there were a couple more votes I gave David on the list.

    I continue to be dismayed that the American Writers don’t give David the credit he deserves but one can’t argue with Fender, now, can one. With that I will continue to vote for David in the polls I’m able to vote in and try to influence friends and acquaintances to take a look at his skill and accomplishments.

  12. Jeff Beck
    Jimi Hendrix (next album coming soon…)
    Stevie Ray Vaughan
    Danny Gatton
    John Mayer

    …and first off all, the guy who plays guitar with Pin Floyd, I don’t remember his name… 😀

  13. My list would be as follows:

    Best Rock – David Gilmour
    Best Slide – Ry Cooder
    Best Blues – Kenny Wayne Shepard (His Trouble Is album is fantastic.)
    Best Metal – Donald (Buck Dharma) Roeser of Blue Oyster Cult (Most underrated player in my opinion.)
    Best Country – Chet Atkins (I am also putting him best in Classical, Jazz, and World. They did not call him Mr. Guitar for nothing.)


  14. for me the best of the best is mr david gilmour for electric guitar, acoustic guitar, lap steel guitar. david is a magician, a star, but david’s sound is unique!

    for the blues: stevie ray vaughan, buddy guy
    for heavy rock: eddie van halen
    for instrument guitar: jeff beck and joe satriani
    for metal rock: kirk hammett
    for gypsy guitar: jango reinhardt
    for flamenco guitar: manita del platta

    and i don’t want forget jimi hendrix, jimmy page, eric clapton, mark knopfler and mr steve lukather.

    but david is the best.

    thank you from france.

  15. – Slide: Why not – for once – a female guitarist? Bonnie Raitt. 😉

    Of course, best lap steel player: David Gilmour.

    – Classical: Andrés Segovia, Alexandre Lagoya.

    But I also love, for example, these – non conventional and unknown – guitarists playing Pachelbel’s Canon:

    Anthony Deaton
    Jerry C – He is from Taiwan.

  16. Hi FEd,

    so it’s changing the life: in Italy we have a lot of problems AS ALWAYS.

    DG is like G Clooney… no David, no guitar… what else in the world?

    But also

    Carlos Santana for classic and electric
    Joe Meunier (Lords Orphans) for acoustic and electric
    Jimmy Page for rock
    John Paul Jones and Pino Palladino for bass

    Have a nice time

  17. Hi Fed! How are you?

    This is a crazy topic, I’ll give a try to write down a couple of names. I consider David the best guitarist ever, and nobody will change my mind! Nonetheless, if you read my list you’ll find great names to deal with, people who made history…

    Classical Guitar: Francisco Tarrega ( Give a listen to “Recuerdos De La Alhambra)

    Acoustic Guitar : Tommy Emmanuel

    Blues: Eric Clapton

    Hard Rock: Jimmy Page

    Rock n’ Roll : Chuck Berry and Jimi Hendrix

    Here is what I think. It’s not easy to make any type of classification, it varies according to everyone’s tastes.

    I’ll be in London next weekend, I hope to meet some of you!

    1. I will Fed, thank you. I’ll be very happy to invite you for a beer if you’re there, obviously.

      Johannes Moller’s touch is awesome… Give a listen to Jim Greeninger version, it seems so easy looking at them playing!

      See you soon!

  18. The best guitarist is… the one that moves me! …and the list would be too long!

    …David is one of them…

    …The only one I pray for is Jimi…

  19. This was a toughy. It took me a while to think carefully about this. But the below mentioned guitarists are what came to the forefront for me.

    I would have loved to place Jeff Beck somewhere, as he is a great all rounder who keeps up to speed with current trends too.

    Acoustic – Jimmy Page
    Blues – Stevie Ray Vaughan
    Classical – Mark Knopfler
    Country – Chet Atkins
    Jazz – Larry Carlton
    Metal – Randy Rhodes
    Rock – Angus Young
    Slide – Bonnie Raitt
    All Rounder – Jeff Beck
    World – David Gilmour

  20. Hi FEd,

    Good weekend?

    I know it’s early, but I can’t see Steve Howe on anyone’s list yet. I reckon he could fit in any category.

    Too bad [for you] about the rugby.

    1. It was a so-so weekend, you could say. Thank God for the round-shaped ball; all football results went Liverpool’s way making events concerning the oval-shaped one less painful.

      Wales deserved to lose, of course, playing so carelessly. You can’t give any team a 17 point lead. Those mistakes cost us dearly.

      The scoreline did flatter England, though.

    2. From where I was sitting, it was all due to a very careless right foot. Did he really think the ref would think he was just trying to get up?

      But you’re right about the flattering scoreline. We just made fewer mistakes.

    3. It really was careless, as was the blind, wayward pass from Stephen Jones that allowed England to steal possession and go over for their final try, but I can take comfort from knowing that we were back in the game by that point and looking for the try that maybe would have won it. As for Alun-Wyn Jones’ sin-binning, words fail to bring me any comfort – even the really rude ones.

      A good one for the neutral, then.

      I’m sure both sides will improve.

    4. And what an improvement!! Fantastic finishing few minutes!!!

      Well done, just hope your driving skills improve. 😉


  21. Hi,

    please! Can somebody tell me what is the pedal that David uses in “The Blue” solo?

    1. I personally know nothing about guitars/pedals and maybe it’s not what you’re looking for, but, please, have a look at this site.

  22. I went off on a tangent with this over the weekend and ended up listening to a lot of Django Rhienhardt & Stèphane Grappelli.

    Anyway (and everyone else probably knows this already – but I didn’t) apparently Stèphane Grappelli plays on ‘Wish You Were Here’. 😮

  23. I think im not able to decide about who is the best. But Gilmour has a big spirit what emerges in his music.

    I just want to know, when will you come to Mexico, David?

  24. David Gilmour will always be my favorite guitarist. For the sound, the technique, the expressions. World Class.

    Blues has to be Stevie Ray Vaughn and Johnny Lang.

    Also like Mark Knopfler but not sure what category he should really be in.


  25. Acoustic – Michael Hedges
    Jazz – Larry Coryell
    Rock – Alex Lifeson
    Slide – Leo Kottke
    All Rounder – Trey Spruance (from Secret Chiefs 3… can’t put any more links in, but search YouTube for “Secret Chiefs 3 – Fast Live at the GAMH DVD”)

    1. Check out Larry’s son Murali Coryell’s new album. Some nice playing and singing on it!


  26. My list.

    Acoustic: Ben Harper
    Blues: Eric Clapton
    Classical: Andrés Segovia
    Country: Albert Lee
    Jazz: John McLaughlin
    Hard Rock: Slash
    Metal: Toni Iommi
    Rock: David Gilmour
    Slide: Elmore James

    As for metal, I also like very much Daron Malakian from System of a Down.

  27. Hi FEd,

    off topic: what a tender evening was yesterday! MTV Italy aired “Pink Floyd Story” (in English), so vivid and full of “quite sadness”… the story is ended and the legend remains, the band is over but the music is still everywhere in the world.

    It’s not so important a name or a day or a moment: Pink Floyd is art, is music and dream… I’m sure the band will be (is) as Bach or Beethoven in the future. We people who lived there in those years, near the stage – IN the music – were lucky, really lucky. So now I don’t WANT to remember a single face or smile or hand, Pink Floyd was a miracle and we can enjoy just music, only music.

    David is an artist and was a great (huge) part of them: today I love him FOR HIS PRESENT MOMENT with a brilliant future behind his shoulders.

    Farewell my young guys.


  28. My Fav Guitar Players:

    – Brian May (great on his Red Special)
    – Brian Molko
    – David Gilmour
    – Phil Manzanera
    – Jimmy Page
    – Pat Metheny
    – John Scofield
    – Robby Kriegger

    Hey Fed, on David’s Facebook last status post says he is jammin’… have something to say about it?

    1. Apologies for the delayed response, Tiago.

      David is not on Facebook. He doesn’t blog, chat, tweet or sift through his (many, thank you) friend requests at MySpace, either. He does dip in and out, here and there, to see what’s going on, of course. Whereas I’m employed to update those on his behalf, Facebook has no genuine connection to David at all. So whoever has been jammin’ lately and wanting others to know about it, I’m afraid it’s not David.

      That’s not to say that David doesn’t jam, of course. He jams often. He just doesn’t feel the need to announce the fact by way of a status message on a social networking site.

    2. He just doesn’t feel the need to announce the fact by way of a status message on a social networking site.

      Which is a very healthy attitude. Everyone needs some privacy, all the more if you are David Gilmour…


    3. Speaking of MySpace, I can no longer watch any of the five videos on David’s page. I constantly get the message “Intégration désactivée” (=?)

      Please, is it just me? 😕

    4. Michèle, it’s not just you. It seems there’s just the one Official David Gilmour YouTube channel now and embedding the videos elsewhere is a no-no.

      All videos can be seen here.

    5. Thank you for the info and the link.

      So ‘they’ prevent an official site from using official videos… Silly.

  29. Flamenco: Vicente Amigo / Paco de Lucía

    In YouTube: Vicente Amigo Tres Notas Para Decir Te Quiero

  30. FE’d:

    I hope it is OK to mention this.

    The Olympics are due to start in just a few moments and there has been some discussion about the relationship between Canada and the U.S. on TV.

    May I thank all the Canadians who were involved with housing and feeding the many U.S. citizens who were allowed to land in Canada after the 9/11 tragedy. It seems a good time to remember this huge kindness to thousands.

    Thank you from our hearts.


  31. Every guitarist is paling against David… where is the wub smiley from the chat, LOL.

    I´d say… the only other one I like a lot is Steve Stevens, playing with Billy Idol. He rocks for sure and is congenial.

  32. Hi,

    Regardless to the above, when do you plan to hold the next live show in London or any other place across Europe?

    Many thx

  33. Well, I don’t have the time for a full list, but would like to say that growing up in the 70s there were two guitarists that I can say changed my life and to this day hold the foundation for those to follow for decades or longer. Of course David Gilmour, there is plenty about him said here, but I will tie into the other artist.

    The Second would be Robin Trower. I can not think of any other guitar solos, with pure guitar that I could listen to and not care if I ever heard a lyric or any other instrument.

    Anyhow, with all respect I throw out Robin Trower as Rock, Gilmour in the God category.

    1. Tony,

      I absolutely agree with you. Trower is incredibly underrated for some reason. He stands as one of the very few (and I mean VERY few) guitarists out there that plays with the same level of soulfulness, passion, and intensity as David. I’ve seen him close to 20 times now and… like David… his talent has not diminished.

      Another one that shares this God-like level of immense talent is Jeff Beck. I’ve witnessed him live about as many times as I have Robin and he is just jaw dropping! Flashy and wild and then extremely melodic and emotive within the blink of an eye. No wonder David has named him HIS guitar hero!

  34. Top Guitarists in the World? There are three… David Gilmour, David Gilmour and David Gilmour.

    At one time Rolling Stone mag showed David at # 87 or some ridiculous number. Rolling Stone evidently wouldn’t know a great guitarist if one broke a Strat over their heads. Now, there is a long list of legendary guitarists who are known for their ability to play and other great guitarists who are known for other things such as singing or songwriting.

    I’ll tell you this, I once saw Barbara Mandrell take a Strat and a slide and how she played just blew me away completely. I mean she burned it up. That country gal can flat rock&roll when she wants to. I thought, Jeez, I wish Clapton could see this. I wrote a letter to her fanclub, telling her I had watched her brilliant and amazing performance and she actually wrote me back and sent a really nice autographed photo. I could listen to her play the slide all day.

    If she could get together with Jon Carin, I’m sure they could make some beautiful music.

    1. David is in a different league than the other guitarists, IMO. There’s little comparison. Go ahead and call me a homer, but I totally agree. David is past them all.

  35. There are so many great guitarists it is so hard to narrow it down to the best, but my opinion is No. 1 blues guitarist: ERIC CLAPTON.

    No. 1 in his own category (because no one can compare) is DAVID GILMOUR, then Carlos Santana, Jimmy Page, Chuck Berry (legend) Buddy Holly (legend), Justin Hayward just to name a few.

    But Eric and David are a tie in my book.

    Rock on forever David Gilmour, you are a master and a wizard at that guitar.

    Love and peace,

  36. I have about 1000 albums and CDs with the best music… So it’s hard to decide a list with the top 10 guitarists.

    In any case the ones I like are:

    E. Clapton, J. Hendrix, F. Zappa, S. Howe, J. Page, R. Blackmore, J. Beck, P. Townshend, J. Healey and my all time favorite (perhaps because it is the guitarist of my favorite band…), D. Gilmour!!

    Go on Dave…

    Special mention to G. Lake, a fine guitarist in the acoustic section.

  37. Prog rock : David Gilmour, Steve Hackett, Mike Rutherford, Alex Lifeson, Steve Howe, Roger Hodgson, Robert Fripp

    Hard rock : Jimmy Page, Brian May, Eddie Van Halen, Angus Young, Ace Frehley, Rik Emmett, Ritchie Blackmore

    Heavy metal : Tony Iommi, Randy Rhoads, Kirk Hammett, Kerry King

    Melodic rock : Neal Schon

    Hard rock/Metal guitar duos : Glenn Tipton and KK Downing, Adrian Smith and Dave Murray, Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson, Chris DeGarmo and Michael Wilton

    Prog rock/melodic rock/rock : Rich Williams and Kerry Livgren, Don Felder and Joe Walsh, Tommy Shaw and James “JY” Young

    Blues : Stevie Ray Vaughan, BB King, Freddie King

    Rock : Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler, Jimi Hendrix

    Slide : Duane Allman, Rod Price of Foghat, Lowell George

    Jazz : Stanley Jordan

    Bass guitar : John Deacon, John Entwistle, Cliff Burton, Chuck Panozzo, Geddy Lee, Jack Bruce, Greg Lake, Chris Squire

  38. I believe there are many guitarists out there at the moment that are not as good as a lot of people think they are. They’re just rated because they are well known and that’s it. People seem to be just reeling off their names because they have heard of them, not necessarily because they have really listened to them.

    Note to a previous comment: Stanley Jordan is a bass guitarist.

    Mark Knopfler is a singer who plays guitar, and nothing special on the board, with all due respect (he’s a nice guy!). John Mayer and Joe Bonamassa are being lauded far more than they deserve. Eric Clapton has been lucky, and Santana has his own special sound, but always sounds the same.

    Jeff Beck is clever. John McLaughlin is faultless but very intense. Al di Meola is brilliant. so is Paco de Lucia, Eric Johnson, and Manitas de Plata.

    Chris Dair is one of the greatest guitarists on earth, not just for faultless playing, but limitless technique, he has fire, passion and sensitivity in his playing, a combination rarely heard. The man can play.


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