Top 10 Greatest Rock Guitarists Ever

Your votes have been counted, and we can finally reveal UG's first-ever official Top 10 Greatest Rock Guitarists.

Top 10 Greatest Rock Guitarists Ever
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Who is the best rock guitarist of all time? UG readers placed their votes in our Wednesday question, which ended up with the biggest comment threads we've ever seen on this site. You had us in stitches laughing at some of the funnier replies, and there were plenty of great guitarist nominations too. We stacked up your votes and nominations, and as expected, you pulled off a definitive list of the greatest rock guitarists ever. There were a few surprise omissions - where is Slash? Steve Vai? Joe Satriani? How about Gary Moore or BB King? They deserve an honorable mention, but your votes say they don't make the cut. Consider it done! It's a serious list this week, but some of your joke entries were so funny that we decided to give them their own top 10 too. Check out our alternative list of Top 10 Rock Guitarists to see if your joke entry made the cut! For now, it's time to put your feet up, tune in to YouTube, and rock out.

10. Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath)

The Iron Man is often credited with founding metal, but fate played a big part in defining his sound. An accident at a sheet metal factory on his last day of work resulted in Tony losing the tips of two fingers, and he almost gave up playing - but was inspired to return. Tony tuned his guitar strings down to relieve the tension on his fingers, but the resulting deep sound was so huge that it became a template for metal guitarists ever since.

9. Eric Clapton

How many people can say they've been inducted to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame three times? No-one but Eric, who made it with Cream, The Yardbirds and as a solo artist. If you think that's good, he's also earned 17 Grammy awards and was honoured by the Queen of England for his services to music.

8. John Petrucci (Dream Theater)

If there were a chart for 'top 10 shredders', John would probably rank in every single place. He loves writing on a seven-string guitar to allow enough range for both heavy riffing and crazy solo runs up the fretboard, and even writes many lyrics for Dream Theater records. If you think some of his work sounds like the score for old Sega soundtracks, don't be surprised - he once scored two tracks for the Saturn game "Digital Pinball".

7. Eddie Van Halen (Van Halen)

Inspired by Eric Clapton, a young Eddie learned all the Cream solos note-for-note and went on to be one of the most exciting new rock talents in the late 1970s. Even Jimmy Page flagged him out as "dazzling". This video does a great job of showcasing the attitude and ability that made Van Halen a household name.

6. John Frusciante (Red Hot Chili Peppers)

John is best known for his time in Red Hot Chili Peppers, but he's released twice as many solo albums and has collaborated with the likes of The Mars Volta and even breakcore artist Venetian Snares. But after first leaving RHCP in 1992, he battled drug addiction and lost all his teeth to a serious mouth infection. By 1998 he had recovered, and was invited back by Flea. "Nothing would make me happier in the world," he said.

5. Chuck Berry

Berry's career could have gone in a very different direction after his arrest for armed robbery in 1944. Instead, he set his life straight and became one of the founders of rock n' roll as we know it. Alright, he didn't quite set life straight he was sent back to prison several times for offences including tax evasion - but he was one of the first inductees to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame on its opening in 1986, and continues to perform today at the grand age of 85.

4. Randy Rhoads (Ozzy Osbourne)

Rhoads made his mark on metal history as a guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne, but met a tragic end in a plane crash in 1982. After a tour date in Tennessee, a pilot friend talked him into a short plane ride despite his fear of flying. Little did he know, the pilot was jacked up on cocaine and tried flying dangerously close to Ozzy's tour bus to freakout its inhabitants. On the third time they tried pulling this dangerous stunt, the left wing clipped the bus and sent the passengers to a fiery death. This video shows Ozzy hearing an old master recording of Rhoads jamming over the end of a song. Watch Ozzy's face at 0:55 for what could be one of the funniest moments in YouTube history.

3. Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin)

He might have a penchant for stealing blues riffs from poor defenceless musicians and passing them off as his own, but his ability can't be disputed. Whether he's wielding a pick or a violin bow, Page knows better than most how to make a guitar weep, scream and soar.

2. David Gilmour (Pink Floyd)

Few have achieved as many record sales as Gilmour has through Pink Floyd. His strikingly introspective writing style and expressive lead guitar solos help mark him as one of the best rock guitarists of all time, but his musicianship doesn't stop there. He's a dab hand at bass, keyboards, banjo, harmonica, drums, and even saxophone - but they're all just a footnote next to his timeless blues-driven guitar work.

1. Jimi Hendrix

Did you expect anything less? Thanks to your votes, Jimi Hendrix is officially the UG greatest rock guitarist ever. Jimi frequently tops similar lists in all corners of the media, and deservedly so. Where previous guitarists considered amp feedback a problem, Jimi instead chose to bend it to his will; where others favoured subtle guitar tones, Jimi cranked up the distortion and showed the world how expressive a driven guitar could be. Couple those skills with a wah-pedal and his mighty songwriting, and you've got a musician whose work will stand the test of time for generations.
Thanks to UG readers for placing their votes and helping us build the ultimate UG top 10 best rock guitarists of all time. Remember to check out our alternative list of Top 10 Rock Guitarists to see whether fictional legends like Bill & Ted, Marty McFly and Skwisgaar Skwigelf made the cut!

504 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    Rebelloc
    arnolddrummer wrote: F*ck yeah, John Frusciante! love that guy! David Gilmour too! My personal favorite guitarist ever is Tom Morello, but I can see why he didn't make this list. There are a lot of amazing guitarists in the world.
    You're doing it wrong. You're suppose to call this list shit because he's not there.
    Set-Abominae
    Gibson0516 wrote: I still think Steve Vai is better than anyone on here. The problem is that no one knows who he is, kind of like Joe Satriani, because he was never part of a "mainstream" band.
    Steve Vai did guitar work for the music on Halo 2, millions of people know what he sounds like, even if they don't realize it.
    satansnachos
    ok, doing a list like this would be like doing a list of everyones favorite pizza toppings. Im reading all of these comments and Im picturing how that would go. Adus treth wrote "Yeah pepperoni!!!! at number one" Smittyanthrax wrote "I dont think pepperoni should be at number one, I think they were to unfair to sausage" the_locker wrote "you two can go an enjoy your sausage party you f$@^#&!s, mushrooms came in at #3!" rebelloc wrote "who are you to call anyone a f$@^#&! with a name like the the locker? which locker? jerry sandusy's?" the_locker wrote "YOU MOTHERF%@#*R, ILL KILL YOU!" ChucklesMginty wrote "I like ranch dressing"
    shredder3386
    Well at least Ozzy and I have something in common, that's how my face looks when I listen to Randy Rhoads too.
    PatVanHalen5150
    Gibson0516 wrote: I still think Steve Vai is better than anyone on here. The problem is that no one knows who he is, kind of like Joe Satriani, because he was never part of a "mainstream" band.
    Are you mentally challenged? Vai played with David Lee Roth from 1986-1988 & Whitesnake from 1989-1990 when both of those bands were selling out 15,000 seat arenas on a nightly basis.
    arnolddrummer
    F*ck yeah, John Frusciante! love that guy! David Gilmour too! My personal favorite guitarist ever is Tom Morello, but I can see why he didn't make this list. There are a lot of amazing guitarists in the world.
    DevonDude
    John Frusciante is a great guitarist and deserves to be on this list, BUT... better than EVH, Petrucci, Clapton, an Iommi? Come on...he's great but he didn't innovate quite as much like the others.
    Sho_Me
    "Greatest guitar player list" these ALWAYS suck, and its all a matter of opinion. I dont like it.....
    iommi600
    Gibson0516 wrote: I still think Steve Vai is better than anyone on here. The problem is that no one knows who he is, kind of like Joe Satriani, because he was never part of a "mainstream" band.
    Seriously? The guy is/was on the ****ing G3 and is a reference to 7/10 guitarists.
    CollyOBrien
    I'll always prefer passionate, distinctive players over virtuosos, this is a good list!
    Satrianifan281
    The problem with that is that a lot of virtuosos play with passion and techincal ability, I'm not saying these guys don't but Petrucci, Vai and Satriani all play with feeling.
    Slaytan666
    What, no Courtney Love? Kirk Hammett's wah pedal should have been top five, and Kerry King didn't even get a mention? This is an outrage.
    L2112Lif
    Oh wow, Hendrix is No. 1... I NEVER would've thought he'd get on the list in a million years.
    Set-Abominae
    Voodoochile711 wrote: Frusciante above Petrucci? Come on, guys...
    You can always tell when it's the Chili Peppers. I have have trouble distinguishing Petrucci from the rest of the virtuosos.
    Minivirus2
    Agent 00Awesome wrote: Is there ever a list where Jimi isn't #1?
    Nope, and for good reason too!
    Maiden95
    Vinushka wrote: I would put Paul Gilbert in there, and high up too. Not just because he can shred with the best, but because he has fun, he's a nice guy and he makes pretty simple songs. Petrucci needs to go since he's nothing but a wanky note***** in a band full of wanky note*****s and has absolutely no feeling whatsoever. Frusciante deserves to be above him, because Frusciante understands space, subtlety and feeling.
    John Petrucci has no feeling??? What?! You obviously haven't heard much of his playing. Paul Gilbert is phenomenal though, he should really be on this list, but to say that John Petrucci plays with no feeling is absolutley ridiculous.. Listen to The Spirit Carries On, Breaking All Illusions, Under A Glass Moon...come on.
    ibanez124
    Would like to have seen Alex Lifeson, but happy to of seen Frusciante and Gilmour make it
    frusc91
    Frusciante plays with more passion and feeling than any guitarist. He's not my favourite guitarist, but he more than deserves to b on this list. Fuckin legend.
    thkoby
    Ultimate Guitar's blueprint for a new's article: ask its readers to write the article, or just copypasta something they read in Rolling Stone.
    theboss123
    Gibson0516 wrote: I still think Steve Vai is better than anyone on here. The problem is that no one knows who he is, kind of like Joe Satriani, because he was never part of a "mainstream" band.
    Nobody knows who he is? You make me laugh.
    iommi600
    Ok, I'm pretty sure I'm going to get shit for this, but I'd like to see Thurston Moore, J Mascis or Jerry Cantrell in this list. Didn't really expected it to happen, though... but props for Iommi, Clapton and Gilmour.
    Fuzzface16
    No Jeff Beck? Richie Blackmore?? And has the world forgotten about an Irish lad by the name Rory Gallagher?? Hendrix credited him as the best guitarist in the world in an interview in the 60s. I mean there's so many great guitar players out there in the artistic community of music that I think you can't throw them on a 'list', there's just too many. And all are great respectfully. I think Hendrix deserves #1 though in this case as a he was so ahead of his time and his influence has touched EVERY guitarist to come after him.
    satansnachos
    one-dead-cop wrote: smittyanthrax wrote: one-dead-cop wrote: smittyanthrax wrote: one-dead-cop wrote: what about flea?? omgIsnt he a bassist?This is for guitarists.Try reading the article before making silly posts. oh i'm sorry, for a second there i thought the bass guitar was a guitar. sorry.And where does it say anything about bass guitars or bassists in the opening few paragraphs?Nowhere thats where. oh, i'm very sorry.
    come on you two, just be thankful that you got through a UG top ten list that didn't go something like 10. Noel Gallagher 9. Noel Gallagher 8. Noel Gallagher 7. Noel Gallagher 6. Butt sex with Noel Gallagher 5. Noel Gallagher 4. Noel Gallagher 3. Noel Gallagher's genitals 2. Noel Gallagher 1. Being raped by Noel Gallagher in a dark alleyway
    Root Beer
    Bad Kharmel wrote: Vinson wrote: Vai? Johnson? Malmstein? Satriani? Broderick No? But PAGE, Gilmore, Berry,and Iommi?!?!?! Ultimate fail. this, UG proves once again that 90% of the site is beginner to intermediate level guitar players that vote for things they can play rather than anyone actually good
    No, YOUR comments prove that you only care about virtuosos with little to no feel.
    Vinushka
    I would put Paul Gilbert in there, and high up too. Not just because he can shred with the best, but because he has fun, he's a nice guy and he makes pretty simple songs. Petrucci needs to go since he's nothing but a wanky note***** in a band full of wanky note*****s and has absolutely no feeling whatsoever. Frusciante deserves to be above him, because Frusciante understands space, subtlety and feeling.
    Abacus11
    Bad Kharmel wrote: Vinson wrote: Vai? Johnson? Malmstein? Satriani? Broderick No? But PAGE, Gilmore, Berry,and Iommi?!?!?! Ultimate fail. this, UG proves once again that 90% of the site is beginner to intermediate level guitar players that vote for things they can play rather than anyone actually good
    This made me laugh. So you think the guitar players on this list appeal to "beginner to intermediate" guitar players and that only advanced players know how to appreciate Vai, Satriani, Malmsteen, etc? You're going through a phase where you don't quite understand the guitar as an instrument or even music in general. Lots of kids go through it. You think that people who can play scales really, really fast but have no imagination are somehow better than players who play with passion AND skill. Maybe you'll get over it and maybe you won't. I suggest opening your mind and at least trying. Discovering how amazing the guitar is is so much more rewarding than being a mediocre, boring guitar snob. The comparison I always make is this - Who would you rather read a book by - a brilliant author or someone who can type 200 words per minute?
    Skullivan
    Not big on the order, it's okay though. Just wish they included Brian May in here. He's just as good as Page if not better.