Most Skilled Guitarists – 15 Best

The world has seen so many superb guitarists that it is difficult to list the best ones in modern times. Be that as it may, I have listed in this article several luminaries who I think are the world’s most skilled guitarist – 15 best.

The world’s 15 best guitarists in our modern times, in my opinion, are the following:

  1. Brian May
  2. Jimi Hendrix
  3. Eddie Van Halen
  4. Steve Vai
  5. Jimmy Page
  6. Joe Satriani
  7. Jeff Beck
  8. Eric Clapton
  9. Carlos Santana
  10. Stevie Ray Vaughan
  11. B.B. King
  12. Ritchie Blackmore
  13. Chuck Berry
  14. Mark Knopfler
  15. Keith Richards

These magnificent guitarists have made our list because of their unique sounds, innovations, and style. Most of them are rock guitarists because they are the ones that captured the hearts of most people in the world today.

Read on to learn more about the 15 most skilled guitarists in the world and some of their interesting personal details that you may not know anything about.

Most Skilled Guitarists – 15 Best

Most Skilled Guitarists
Brian May

Never has the world seen the best guitarists than in recent years. All of these guitarists have the great technical ability at different levels. But those who made our list have great proficiency in creating melodic sounds that people can easily remember.

That factor, including remarkable stage performances, distinguished the guitarists in the list from the rest of the guitarists worldwide. With that said, here is my list of the 15 most skilled guitarists of our modern age:

1. Brian May

You may be surprised that I have placed Brian May on top of my list and not Jimi Hendrix, which most listings have placed on top. Brian’s way of producing unique tones and easily recognizable guitar riffs helped him top my list.

Brian admitted that he was blown away when he learned that he topped the list of the best guitarists in the world in one music magazine. He said he didn’t expect this kind of recognition. Being the lead guitarist of the British rock group Queen was the way he influenced many people.

Brian confessed that he never claimed to be a guitar virtuoso, but he just tried to play the instrument from his heart. And that seems to be the key factor that enabled him to create guitar solos that moved the hearts of many people. Look at this video and see how Brian can create memorable sounds with his guitar:

2. Jimi Hendrix

It can’t be denied. There is not a list of the best guitarists in the world without Jimi Hendrix’s name on it – at the top. Born on 27, 1942, Jimi has led a very colorful and unconventional life that led him to fame, fortune, and scandals.

He came to fame in the 1960s, when the youth were rebelling against established norms such as mandatory army enlistment. Jimi’s excellence in playing the electric guitar has been acknowledged by most of the great electric guitarists during his day.

He was among the first electric guitarist who experimented with distortion effects. He often used the ‘wah-wah’ pedal when he played standard rock. His sounds use elevated treble and electronic gain. One of his most famous records is “Purple Haze.” Here’s a video showing him performing this song at the Atlanta Pop Festival sometime in the 1960s:

3. Eddie Van Halen

Eddie Van Halen likes to combine pull-offs and picking to give the illusion of super-fast picking speeds. This is one of his secrets in impressing his audience worldwide. He admitted that he became a very rhythmic guitar player because of necessity. Not many people know that he was used to playing without the support of a bass guitarist.

He says that a lot of things happen in just a nanosecond. That’s why he is always ready to respond. He also knows his limits, so he will not do it if he thinks he can’t do it. The less thinking he does, the better he confides in him. Hear him play his guitar super magnificently in this video: 

4. Steve Vai

most technically skilled guitarists

As a rock artist, Steve Vai has already sold more than 15 million albums worldwide. He has produced most of these albums. A super-fast and super-precise guitarist, Steve is well known for his accurate ear, perfect pitch, and deep and rounded foundation on music theory.

He is a well-accomplished musical artist, having won three Grammy awards and being nominated for another nine Grammy awards during his musical career. At one time, he was voted as the Best Rock Guitarist and graced the cover of Guitar Player magazine. Have you heard some of his famous guitar riffs in “Lotus Fleet” and “For the Love of God?”

5. Jimmy Page

In the words of Jimmy Page himself, a guitar riff is hypnotic. That’s why when you see him play; it’s as if some spirit has taken over him – as it seems to happen with other super famous guitarists you see on stage.

Jimmy admits that one of the tricks he uses is to coordinate the sixth string palm to mute between the other notes. Another trick that made him an exceptional guitarist is that of alternate picking. He does this for the first three beats and then uses downstrokes for the remaining beats.

This must be one of the reasons why he was able to create that gorgeous riffs in “Stairway to Heaven,” his most famous guitar solo so far. Jimmy’s been included in the honor roll of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice. I’ll skip his “Stairway to Heaven” guitar licks. But here is a video that will show you how masterful he is with the guitar:

6. Joe Satriani

Of American and Italian lineage, Joseph Satriani got to see the light of day on July 15, 1956. An excellent guitarist, Joe can also play other musical instruments such as:

  • Keyboards,
  • Harp,
  • Banjo, and
  • Harmonica.

The best instrument that Joe can play and excels in magnificently is the electric guitar. It is not without reason that he is considered one of the best guitarists in the world. The proof of this is his 14 Grammy awards nominations.

That feat made him the second person in Grammy history that received the most nominations. As a recording artist, Joe has sold 10 million albums worldwide. You should hear him play the guitar in “Surfing with the Alien,” “Flying in a Blue Dream,” and “Summer Song.”

7. Jeff Beck

Jeff Beck is one of the longest-lasting guitarists to date. He has been wowing his fans for the past 50 years now. Some people say that Jeff has pushed the standard electric guitar to its boundaries. His style of guitar playing is unique and often beyond the expectations of his fans.

Jeff is now 77 years old, born on June 4, 1944, but is still rockin’ and a-rollin’ so they say, with his guitar. He collaborated with other famous artists, including Rod Stewart, Ron Wood of the Rolling Stones, and George Martin (The Beatles’ musical arranger).

Jeff has an unconventional approach to fingerstyle. He cuts each diad short and then picks up the following notes with a reasonable force. Listen to how Eric Clapton describes how Jeff plays his guitar on this video:

8. Eric Clapton

Speaking of Eric Clapton, a list of the greatest guitarist in the world will not be complete if his name is not on it. Indeed, Eric is one of the most famous guitarists of today, even eclipsing the likes of other well-known and marketable guitarists of his caliber.

Eric has been very influential to other guitarists because he interprets and creates blues-style psychedelic pop. His being included in the Rock and Hall of Fame three times is more than enough proof that he belongs to this exclusive group of the greatest guitarist of all time.

Eric has collected other distinctions over the years: number 4 in the Top 50 Guitarists of All Time by Gibson guitars and number 4 in the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time by Rolling Stone magazine. Indeed, you know his soulful guitar solo in “Wonderful Tonight,” don’t you?

9. Carlos Santana

most skilled rock guitarist

Carlos Santana is still active in the music circuit. He and his band are currently touring and giving performances across two countries as of this writing. The total number of concerts they have in line is 60. That says so much about the long-standing power of this famous guitarist.

Carlos specializes in salsa, rock, and jazz fusion. He has created and developed his signature blues-based, melodic guitar solos. Carlos also performs Latin and African styles of music accompanied by several percussion instruments.

Who hasn’t heard of his run-away hit “Black Magic Woman?” This video will show you that Carlos has much more ammunition in his guitar licks arsenal:

10. Stevie Ray Vaughan

Why is Stevie Ray Vaughan included in my list? Well, it’s for the simple reason that he has amassed six Grammy Awards for doing what he does best – a well-accomplished guitarist. That’s not the end of it. Stevie was also nominated for 12 Grammy Awards in his music career.

He even had a double-platinum record with this “Texas Flood” album he released in 1983. Unfortunately, for some reason, he died on August 27, 1990, when he was just 35 years old. But his legacy lives on. Some of his most famous works are “Life Without You,” “Change It,” and “Crossfire.”

11. B.B. King

B.B. King was otherwise known as the “King of Blues.” He is an exceptional blues singer and guitarist, and songwriter. His style of guitar playing is said to be expressive, accompanied by intricate guitar riffs. He belongs to the older generation of blues guitarists.

B.B. King was also included in the roster of the prestigious Rock and Hall of Fame. Rolling Stone magazine has also included him in its list of the 100 greatest guitarists of All Time. Some of the songs that you may remember him singing and playing are “How Blue Can You Get,” “The Thrill is Gone,” and “Blues Boy Tune.”

12. Ritchie Blackmore

Who hasn’t heard of “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple? That’s Ritchie Blackmore on lead guitar with that characteristic style that is very prominent in the guitar licks and guitar solo. You will hear his guitar licks in the middle of the song. Ritchie likes to soup up his guitar sound a little, “with an extra output stage,” as he puts it.

He says that most guitar players today almost sound the same: thin, limited, and distorted. Ritchie seems to think that this style appears to be “wearing a bit thin.” See him produce solid sounds with his guitar on this video:

13. Chuck Berry

Chuck Berry was so famous that most of the rock legends of the early 60s looked at him as their idol. He is a singer and songwriter of African-American descent, born on October 18, 1926. That places him in the league of older rock and rollers.

Many of his guitar licks were copied by rock groups of the early 60s to early 70s. The Beatles were one of those who borrowed Chuck’s guitar riffs to record some of their hit songs. Chuck has been honored several times because of his super fabulous guitar style.

In 2003, Chuck came in number 6 in Rolling Stone magazine’s 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. A few of his songs made their way into the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, also by Rolling Stone magazine.

14. Mark Knopfler

The peculiar thing about Mark Knopfler’s guitar playing is that he does not use a pick whenever he is guitar soloing. Perhaps that is why his guitar playing sounds unique. The beauty of his fingerstyle playing is very noticeable in his hit record “Sultans of Swing.”

Mark admitted that he uses the guitar to help him with his songwriting. But he also realizes that being a musician is very different from being a guitar player.

15. Keith Richards

Although last among my list, the Rolling Stones’ lead guitarist Keith Richards is not the least of them all. His playing style is uniquely attractive. It is melodious and not so raucous. He gives attention to every note he plays and makes playing look easy.

Keith can construct guitar riffs that will stick in your mind. Remember his guitar intro in “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction?” That’s relatively easy to play. But no other guitarist has thought of doing that riff before him. And yet thousands have been copying that style ever since.

In 2003, Keith also landed in the top 10 of Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. The ABC network honored him with the “Living Legend Award” to appreciate his attractive guitar playing style.

Conclusion: Most Skilled Guitarists – 15 Best

In my opinion, the world’s 15 best guitarists in our modern times, because of their style and influence, are the following:

  1. Brian May
  2. Jimi Hendrix
  3. Eddie Van Halen
  4. Steve Vai
  5. Jimmy Page
  6. Joe Satriani
  7. Jeff Beck
  8. Eric Clapton
  9. Carlos Santana
  10. Stevie Ray Vaughan
  11. B.B. King
  12. Ritchie Blackmore
  13. Chuck Berry
  14. Mark Knopfler
  15. Keith Richards

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