11 Legendary Guitarists With Bad or Weird Technique

Is mind-boggling technique really that important?

11 Legendary Guitarists With Bad or Weird Technique
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The technique vs. soul discussion has been around guitar aficionados for almost as long as the modern axe. One side likes their heroes skilled in all forms of guitar shredding, while others only care for the soul aspect. But ultimately, it all comes down to basic music preferences. So right now we'll check out some of the less skilled guitarists icons who still managed to reach superstardom. We'll also add some top-notch technical axemen with great skills who found their way to guitar proficiency using the most peculiar, you might say weird techniques. Anyhow, join us for the rundown below.

Robert Johnson

It's always fitting to kick off lists with early greats or proto-rock icons, and what better example than legendary Robert Johnson. By today's standards, Mr. Johnson's skills were bare minimal, but back in the day they were enough to spark the story about Robert selling his soul to the devil in exchange for out-of-this-world guitar skills. His technique didn't prevent him from delivering a solid set of true blues standards either.

Bob Dylan

The fact that he wasn't much skilled in neither guitar playing or singing didn't stop Bob Dylan on his road to superstardom. He firmly stands as one of the ultimate music icons, but his skills were far from advanced nevertheless.

Keith Richards

The Rolling Stones axeman Keith Richards comes from the time when advanced guitar technique was an entirely different term. So by today's standards, Richard's technique comes as mediocre at best. However, pretty much the same can also be said about The Beatles and their playing.

Kurt Cobain

Late great Kurt Cobain irreversibly changed the music world with Nirvana, that's just a fact, but his guitar skills weren't exactly masterful. Cobain is often bashed as an amateur-skilled guitarist and a sloppy player, which takes things a bit too far, but the fact remains that playing technique just wasn't his strongest point.

Noel Gallagher

At one point of their career, Oasis were at the top of the world, selling out arenas and dominating the music industry. Having a guitarist with merely average technique didn't slow them down and in all fairness, Noel Gallagher's technique can only be described as such.

C.C. DeVille

With his frequently-bashed live guitar solo off "Swallow This Live" record, Poison axeman C.C. DeVille earned his spot on the list. Often described as amateur shredding, the solo even earned C.C. a No. 1 spot on Guitar World's list of "100 Worst Guitar Solos."

Billie Joe Armstrong

When you think of bad musicians in terms of playing technique, punk is likely to pop up to your mind first. And one of the guys who took the pop punk genre to somewhat of a new level is Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong. He delivered numerous hit numbers despite not being too skilled on the axe in the first place, deserving nothing but kudos.

Johnny Ramone

Another punk rock great. You probably know Johnny as the axe-wielding Ramone holding a guitar way down, almost on his knees while playing and jamming away in a manner your guitar teacher specifically told you not to, but the guy still made the big league and achieved superstardom in his own manner.

"Honorable" mention: Jimmy Page

This one's a bit of an iffy matter, but Jimmy Page is occasionally mentioned as a poor player in terms of guitar technique. There's no doubt that Mr. Page is perhaps the greatest of the greats, but several examples of his sloppy playing do exist, even on Led Zeppelin's studio recordings. Just check out "Heartbreaker" solo off "Led Zeppelin II" (around 2:00 in the clip below) - the sloppiness is truly undeniable. You might have come across people defending the song's middle section as "raw" or "recorded on the go" and therefore not technically sloppy, but in all fairness, most just seem childish and simply denying the obvious.

Weird Technique

Now that we've covered the low-technique domain, we'll focus on the peculiar players. These guys are all virtuosos in their own right, but just seem to have discovered their own ways of properly wielding the six-string.

Marty Friedman

The man who delivered some of the finest solos in the history of metal, Megadeth's Marty Friedman, has a really weird way of holding the guitar. It comes as strikingly obvious at the very first sight, as Marty curves his hand in a strange manner, but still never fails in delivering some monster chops.

Jeff Hanneman

The late Slayer mastermind Jeff Hanneman looks like a guy who stood up against every guitar teacher's advice to loosen up his arm while playing and just went for the stiffest possible approach when it comes to the right hand. But at the end of the day, Jeff managed to include some of the fastest riffs of all time to his rich opus.

Michael Angelo Batio

How can Michael Angelo Batio deliver super-speed shredding while anchoring his right hand ever so firmly remains an unsolvable mystery to this very day.

Can you think of any other big-name guitarists with weird or plain bad technique? Let us know in the comments.

155 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    thenextkirk92
    Tosin Abasi's right thumb gives me nightmares.
    Defnist47
    As I felt Jimmy always had a "sloppy" characteristic in some of his playing. But is also impossible to deny that he could have cleaned it up if he wanted to(heartbreaker).
    K!!LsWiTcH
    i like to think that page has one of the most wonderfully "dirty" and semi pseudo sloppy styles of playing and soloing. and as far as the 70s rock goes its a really cool and attractive thing to hear in my opinion
    p_a_morgan
    If by 'sloppy,' you mean ripping off classic blues licks and claiming them as your own, then sure. But, no, really. Page isn't all he's cracked up to be. He's a good player, don't get me wrong, but that's about it. Zeppelin is just so highly regarded for being the most amazing band in the universe, that Page is penned as the greatest guitarist in the universe. There are better and more original players.
    jeffy777
    Robert Johnson's skills "were bare minimal"? Yeah right. Good luck trying to nail his style and chord voicings. It's much easier said than done.
    thelosah36
    Eddie Van Halen has a really weird way of holding his pick.
    Insanity ninja
    As does Mr Hetfield
    Satrianifan281
    Hetfield also uses very little alternate picking, only when he absolutely has to really, he's still one of the top 3 rhythm guitarists alive.
    thelosah36
    Once again, UG, being a good guitarist is about creativity and variety, not technical ability. Calling Keith Richards and most of the others in the first list "unskilled" doesn't make any sense.
    crazysam23_Atax
    Actually, it does, if you read the article. Also, let's be honest. Richards never was that great of player, even in the '60s, when technique wasn't as advanced as it is now.
    jonnyzeviking
    "comes from the time when advanced guitar technique was an entirely different term. So by today's standards, Richard's technique comes as mediocre at best." How are you not getting this?
    SGofawesome
    Jimmy Page's guitar solo in Heartbreaker is quite sloppy, yes, but it's on the spot and immensely raw which makes it one of my favorite solos of all time.
    Alpha_Wolf
    You just parroted almost exactly what the article said defenders say, and I laughed when I read this.
    OneHappyCamper
    Exactly what Alpha_Wolf said, you just made yourself look a right dumbass hahaha
    RealUnrealRob
    Not really. The guy who wrote the article thinks that it isn't a valid statement, but that doesn't mean it isn't actually valid. Considering the other solos Page has written and played, I'm pretty certain he played that solo exactly how he wanted to.
    alberto.soares44
    Exactly! what's the point in making a perfectly great sounding solo if it comes out poor or bad tasted? Page's solos (at least the studio ones) always "speak".
    MetalNick
    So, basically none of them have bad technique, but are on this list because they're not capable of playing sweeps and Arpeggios from Hell? I wonder how often people go 'Bob Dylan? Can't listen to him, he only plays Beatles chords. I only listen to solo outtakes by Jeff Loomis.'
    EnChains
    I would disagree that the Heartbreaker solo was sloppy, or raw for that matter, but I guess that goes back to the technical vs. soulful debate. I was also upset that Hendrix was not mentioned, having about the most unconventional style in the history of electrics.
    jonnyzeviking
    Dear lord, are you people ****ing retarded? The article clearly states, several times, that the people in the first half of the list BY TODAY'S STANDARD would be considered mediocre. Nowhere does it say that they are bad guitarists. It's just a matter of advancement in music over the past few decades have caused those techniques to become so simple. Think of it this way, if half of these guitarists were playing the same things today, most people would say that they have a long way to go before mastering the guitar. Also, has anybody seen Eddie Van Halen's weird picking style?
    stevopar
    "So right now we'll check out some of the less skilled guitarists icons who still managed to reach superstardom." Where does it say that? Did YOU even read the article? Also, I have no idea how anyone can listen to the Jimmy Page solo and not think that it's sloppy. It's ****ing terrible. It doesn't matter if it's raw or on the fly, it's still awful.
    spiff-corgi
    What the hell is this article? I thought this was going to be about Clapton using his thumb and the like, not just "this guy was considered good at the time, but he's not that good, funny huh?" for almost every single one. EDIT: OK, you did kind of tackle that with the weird technique bit, but most of the article is utterly inane. How is Billy Joe Armstrong bad? Actually explain why.
    l0ld4v3
    How is he good? Explain that.
    jof1029
    I have heard (from a fairly reliable source) that every guitar track on Dookie was done in a single take. While there is nothing overly complex on the album, it is still a huge achievement to be able to do that. It shows at least some level of skill to be able to play cleanly and in time enough to do an albums worth of songs in one try each. Also, if you listen to some of his stuff outside Green Day, or live stuff, he is much better than he comes across. Not saying he is some fantastic guitarist, but lots of people thing he is not as good as he actually is.
    trashbeast
    This whole thing is hilarious.. Jimmy Page.. sloppy..? OK? Maybe when he tries to shred....? But.. his rhythm guitar technique is absolutely one of the best in the world.. that's just one example...
    Insanity ninja
    What about J Mascis? Incredible guitarist, but he plays guitars with action nearly as high as him.
    pete-c
    Hah yeah. He said he prefers it that way to actually stop his playing sounding too clean, I think. And about Kurt Cobain: I'm sure he was a lot better than he came across - part of the grunge sound is just that way, perhaps as part of the rebellion against the super polished/produced stuff of the 80s (to put it simply, there's more to it than that I'm sure). The Nirvana track Mr Moustache definitely takes at least some skill to play the riff consistently at that speed (still, not crazy amounts of skill, but just an example), he wasn't as amateur as the article seems to say.
    HitmanJenkins
    Yeah, Kurt Cobain was actually a pretty tight guitarist from what I've heard, he apparently used to practice along to a drum machine, when it came to playing live, especially towards the end of Nirvana's career, he just didn't care so much. Personally I rate him more as a songwriter than a guitarist.
    HitmanJenkins
    Stuff like that is just a matter of preference, he probably finds it more comfortable to play like that, but his actual technique isn't unusual or that bad by any means.