Top 20 Most Underrated Guitarists

Guys that seriously need extra props, not 10, but 20 of them.

Ultimate Guitar

This week's Wednesday Question turned into a bit of a battlefield, as you guys have racked up 900 comments of suggestions, arguments and witty remarks.

So since such a big debate was stirred up, we decided to expand the traditional UG Top 10 for this week and bring you a Top 20 rundown. Check it out below.

20. Jonny Greenwood (Radiohead)

Apart from being a member of a major act such as Radiohead, Jonny Greenwood can also play viola, harmonica, glockenspiel, banjo, drums and more. Known for an aggressive style, Greenwood won a series of awards for his work, but still doesn't get enough props according to you guys.

19. Claudio Sanchez (Coheed and Cambria)

Up next is Coheed and Cambria frontman Claudio Sanchez. His band has a well-established fanbase, but Claudio himself doesn't get nearly as much kudos for his extraordinary guitar playing as he should.

18. Luke Hoskin (Protest the Hero)

Protest the Hero had quite a successful year with "Volition." The 2013 crowd-funded album earned them new fans and successful tours, hopefully the numbers will grow in years to come.

17. Kim Thayil (Soundgarden)

Despite performing in one of the biggest bands of the '90s, Soundgarden's Kim Thayil got far less recognition as an individual. Apart from a unique playing style, he's also the co-author of such tracks as "Limo Wreck," "Jesus Christ Pose," "Superunknown" and more.

16. John Butler (The John Butler Trio)

As one of the finest guitarists of the 2000s, John Butler simply had to make the list. An extraordinary player and an amazing songwriter.

15. Alain Johannes

As another multi-instrumentalist on the list, Alain Johannes performed with such class acts as QOTSA, Arctic Monkeys, Them Crooked Vultures, Eagles of Death Metal and more. He's the founding member of Eleven and mostly keeps a low profile, delivering amazing guitar work nevertheless.

14. Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree)

Did you check out "The Raven That Refused to Sing (And Other Stories)" yet? It earned a No. 2 spot on the best album of 2013 list on UG, making Steven a definite favorite around here. Active way back since the '80s, he definitely deserves more attention on the rock scene.

13. Billy Howerdel (A Perfect Circle)

You guys dubbed him David Gilmour of the 2000s, which is definitely saying something. Not too flashy, but more than capable of writing beautiful songs, and that's what it's all about, always has been.

12. Robert Fripp (King Crimson)

Believe it or not, King Crimson mastermind was tone deaf when he started his musical journey. But that didn't stop him in developing one of the most unique playing styles, giving birth to prog rock with his band and even inventing his own tuning, the you might know as the new standard tuning (C2-G2-D3-A3-E4-G4).

Despite being one of the most crucial figures in rock history, many fans, including those of King Crimson, don't even know what he looks like. Here's the clip you guys pointed at.

11. Rory Gallagher

"How does it feel to be the greatest guitarist in the world? I don't know, go ask Rory Gallagher." Whose quote is this? Just some guy named Jimi Hendrix. A guitar god we shouldn't let fall into oblivion and a definite axe extraordinaire, Rory deserves a full-on legend status for sure.

10. Wes Borland (Limp Bizkit)

With the amount of hate Limp Bizkit gets, Wes Borland often gets overlooked as a darn fine axeman, which he is by all means. Apart from Bizkit, Wes also fronts Black Light Burns, they're well worth checking out.

9. John 5 (Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie)

Performing with such striking frontmen as Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie, John 5 was bound to be left in the shadow to an extent. But he's a gifted gifted guitarist, have no doubt about that. Check out one of his solo tracks you guys pointed at below.

8. Chris Shiflett (Foo Fighters, No Use for a Name)

When you're in a band with Dave Grohl, it might be a bit difficult to stand out, even if you're a great musician, which guitarist Chris Shiflett definitely is. Check out his solo in "Rope."

7. Richie Sambora (Bon Jovi)

Similarly to Limp Bizkit and Wes Borland, but still with far less passionate rock-fan hate, Richie Sambora's guitar mastery tends to get diminished due to radio-friendly hit singles of Bon Jovi. His name is out there for sure, but not exactly among the axe gods.

6. Bill Kelliher and Brent Hinds (Mastodon)

Here's an awesome fact - Bill Kelliher and Brent Hinds received the same number of votes during the voting part. This calls for a killer Mastodon track. Also, make sure you've checked out our exclusive interview with Bill Kelliher.

5. Nuno Bettencourt (Extreme)

Often known as just the guy who wrote "More Than Words," sometimes not even that, Nuno Bettencourt is an amazing guitar player, once again underrated due to mainstream success and performing less guitar-oriented music, so to say. He also performed with Rihanna, which is definitely a double-edged sword.

4. Jerry Cantrell (Alice in Chains)

Alice in Chains mastermind Jerry Cantrell received plenty of love during the voting, reaching the No. 4 spot. To an extent, he is vastly acknowledged as a guitar master, but not exactly as an axe god, a status which he definitely deserves according to UG community.

3. Myles Kennedy (Alter Bridge)

Fans often tend to forget that Mr. Kennedy is more than just a lead singer, and how much underrated than that can one get? Fact is, the guy is an epitome of a well-rounded musician.

2. Alex Lifeson (Rush)

Getting us closer to the top, Alex Lifeson of Rush somehow always seems to be overshadowed by other guitar gods. With a career spanning over 40 years, there's plenty of Lifeson's guitar mastery to choose from.

1. Mike McCready (Pearl Jam)

And the No. 1 most underrated guitar player is - Mr. Mike McCready of Pearl Jam! Check out the clip you guys pointed at below.

376 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    How about overrated guitarists next week?
    10. Zakk Wylde 9. Synyster Gates 8. John Frusciante 7. Dave Mustaine 6. Jimmy Page 5. Angus Young 4. Kirk Hammett 3. Dimebag Darrell 2. Kurt Cobain 1. Slash How'd I do?
    John Frusciante should not be on that list. If you have really, thoroughly listened to his guitarwork, you should know that this for instance:
    He might not be the most technical player, but i can't think of anyone who expresses emotion better through guitar.
    Decent 10, though I think Page in particular is not overrated. He's amazing!
    Jimmy Page is one of the sloppiest guitarists I have ever seen. If you think his Stairway solo on Celebration Day is good, review your criteria. Great songs, but incredibly sloppy.
    The sloppiness is part of the reason why a lot of people like Jimmy Page. Few of my favorite guitarist are "clean" guitarist. So much of it is all in the attitude that they play it. It doesn't have to be pretty to be good.
    Certainly agree with Mustaine and Angus Young...bloody awful players that just happened to be in the right bands. Young's ten minute guitar solo at Download Festival a few years back was a horrendous, messy noise! I wouldn't say Cobain is overrated as a guitarist. People have never lauded Kurt for his guitar playing, but for his songwriting. He was one of the most incredible songwriters of our time, but never a great guitar player. Which is why I don't think he should be on your list.
    You're ****in crazy puttin the dimebag and jimmy page on there. **** off with that.
    Overrate: have a higher opinion of (someone or something) than is deserved. There are plenty of fans of both that are like that.
    Dimebag really is overrated. Not that he wasn't a monster player, but do you think he really wrote riffs and solos like Walk or Cemetery Gates to be called the greatest guitarist ever by every greasy-haired 12 year old ever? Most of Pantera's material is as much about writing music that's fun to play and listen to as it is about technicality, and as such musically little if any of it was hugely technical. Many fans fail to realise this. Therefore Dimebag is overrated. Amazing guitarist, but vastly overrated. Page is in an even more bizarre state of overratedness. Zeppelin were huge, and many of their songs are amazing. Nonetheless, they were not the greatest band of all time, and Jimmy Page, while a brilliant player and songwriter, was not a guitarist of vast finesse. Many a middle-aged man or middle-aged man's son will insist that all new music is terrible because it can't surpass Led Zeppelin. Which is wholly untrue on both counts. Page should, frankly, be higher up the list.
    Wait, your logic is... Pantera wrote fun music both to play and listen to, and it wasn't all that technical, therefore Dimebag is overrated? Uh, that makes absolutely no sense. First of all his solos are fairly technical and some of his riffs are too, see "Message in Blood" as an example. Dimebag is highly rated for a reason, the reason being that he did a lot with his guitar. He wrote great soft riffs like Cemetary Gates, great heavy riffs like I'm Broken, and even great weird riffs like Revolution is My Name. He had an overall great grasp of notation and rhythm that was not only lacking in the 90's, but is still lacking now. If more people actually stayed true to what Dimebag started then we'd have a million better guitarists around. Unfortunately everyone is stuck trying to be Misha Mansoor or James Hetfield and failing.
    Well no, the logic doesn't make the sense if you skip the part about fans thinking he was the most gifted musician since Mozart.
    Page's live playing ability is overrated because he is extremely sloppy live and just not that great a player. His songwriting and composing ability is most definitely NOT overrated though. Jimmy Page is a genius guitar composer he just cant pull it off live lol. Dimebag on the other hand, while I can understand what you mean, I disagree that he's overrated. That dude could shred and honestly could play anything. Dude was banned in Texas statewide guitar competitions at something like 12 or 13 years old because he was too good and would win them all.
    a sh1tload of guys from the glam era are always overlooked cuz the genre has a bad rep. reb beach, vito bratta, warren dimartini, vinnie moore, etc! also, that guy from Steel Panther can fukcin rip it too
    Yeah I will admit having difficulty acknowledging the actual talent of people who play hair metal just because I despise the genre so much.
    I would agree with your list apart from Dimebag.He was simply amazing.He was also self taught which makes him even more remarkable.I think we lost someone very special that night he was murdered.
    I'd disagree with Frusciante, I'd say he's probably praised about the right amount. And with Kurt, but because I don't think anyone really thinks he was a great guitarist
    How is Kurt Cobain overrated as a guitar player? I never see him rated as one of the best. Ever. He is considered one of the greatest song writers of our time.
    Pretty nice list, i disagree with Frusciante, who is not a great tecnical player but owns a lot of melody sense, and with few notes (just because he doesn' t need many to show his competence) can fill a melody better than anyone here, i bet. I don' t agree with Angous Young too, even if he always, ALWAYS play the same stuff and use penthatonic he has an original sound concept... Agree with Page
    just because John's playing style is very simple, doesn't make his playing overrated. Sure he isn't the most technical player, but when you see him touch a guitar he puts more emotion into his playing than anyone ive ever seen.
    1. Gates, 2. Cobain, 3. Hammett. DIMEBAG DARRELL OVERRATED? He IS without a doubt one of the best guitar players to have walked this earth.
    I am a Huge Pantera fan but yes even I will admit Dime is a little over-rated. He is a great guitarist yes I agree but he really lacks the musical aspect and theory which other guitarists have.
    Epi g-310
    I don't know anyone who'd say Kurt Cobain was a great guitarist. Absolutely not what he's known for. Slash, totally. I love the guy and his music, and he's a great gateway into technical playing, but he's got just a fraction of the technical skill of many, many guitarists.
    Jimmy Page is overrated? You did very badly. He is the reason half the people on the planet picked up guitar my friend, he is no technical wizard like Vai and yet guitar playing is much more than that. None of his solos are ever boring, and do I need to even bring up his riffs?
    "He is the reason half the people on the planet picked up guitar my friend" That's not what's up for debate. What's up for debate is whether that credit is entirely deserved. I agree he's a monster player, but when everyone and their dog says he's top 5, there's room to question. Also, what if I told you he didn't write a lot of those riffs?
    Actually Page did write most of Led Zeppelin's riffs. Most of their "plagarism" is about lyrics, not about music (though their first album was full of "stolen" riffs too).
    All you little kids got to understand that being able to play their songs does not make them overated... I believe all of the people who believe this guitarists are overated are like, look I learned how to play Stairway to Heaven, Jimmy page has nothing on me he is so overated. God those guitarists you mentioned are some of the best ever
    LOL yeah, Jimmy Page is overrated because I can play his shit, it shoulda been ME in the hall of fame. What a ****ing stupid argument. There is not a single guitarist on that list that I am better than (not even Cobain), and I think Jimmy Page is an amazing guitarist. The only reason I think he's overrated is because so many people think of him as some sort of untouchable god that no one who comes after can ever hope to touch. I think people can, and have.
    Dave Mustaine, Angus Young, Dimebag Darrell, and Kurt Cobain are not overrated. This is all pretty opinionated, but last I remember, Kurt Cobain was never praised for his "guitar playing," rather than his songwriting, which defined basically a whole genre and RESPONSE to that genre. Dave Mustaine helped PIONEER a genre. Angus Young and his brother created a whole sound in itself, and Dimebag Darrell just shredded hard as hell and was even probably one of the most important predecessors to todays metal scene. Zakk Wylde is an alright guitarist, but way overrated, Synyster Gates legitimately sucks balls, and don't say "can you play better" bullshit, because TONS of people can. It doesn't take much to sweep a minor arpeggio scale and just be plain boring. John Frusciante is a wicked musician and actually a great guitarist, he is just overly praised by people who don't know what the **** they are talking about, Page is way overrated, Kirk Hammett isn't that great, and Slash is a poser
    Only Jimi Page is overrated as a guitarist, since he mistakes the notes of his songs often. All the others have the right technique according to their purposes. Even Kurt Cobain was a great guitarist for the purpose of Nirvana. John Petrucci is amazing for instance, but he would probably never play Nirvana songs like Kurt did. This is all very subjective.
    2&4. As the lead guitar of Metallica,Kirk should be as good as Malmsteen,but he's not.As well as Kurt.
    I disagree with 7 6 4 and 3? I'm not saying the following are amazing but rather I don't believe they're overrated Slash is way overexposed
    You just made a list of your favorite guitarists, these all are by no means underrated...
    I don't think Slash is hugely overrated, maybe slightly overrated. But I disagree with Dimebag, Angus Young and John Frusciante. Plus I think the thing with Cobain is that, I think Nirvana as a whole is more overrated rather than singling out Kurt.
    It more a list of "Guitarist from bands people think its cool to hate". All these guitarist are incredible professionals and the only people overrating them are those that put to much hate on mainstream success.
    wouldn't put jimmy page on there and id have cobain as number 1 because slash can at least play good.
    Yeah. Slash is way overrated. Forget that he is one prolific artist and forget that he is still making great albums. He is obviously overrated because he doesn't play in an obscure hardcore deathcore multikillcore SuchEvilcore band. He doesn't even sweeping techinique all over his guitar in every song he composes. Chinese democracy wouldn't have been legendary if slash had participated in it. I hope he never dies, so he never becomes a legend
    link no1
    You're retarded, unless that was not sarcasm (further research says that it was indeed, sarcasm). Ask any random person on the street that doesn't play an instrument or know any bands in the guitar orientated music world who their favorite guitarist is and they'll likely say Slash. Even most newbie guitarists say their favorite guitarist is Slash, which usually changes when they get past the age of 16 and are somewhat proficient at the instrument. Give these people other examples of good guitarists and they'll dismiss them saying "pfft, no, Slash is well better" even if they don't know who the guitarist you mentioned is. Essentially anybody who has no actual interest in guitar orientated music seem to think Slash is a guitar God who writes solos only the Gods of Olympus would have the skill to recreate. That he is capable of any and all techniques and that he is able to vomit masterpiece songs on an hourly basis despite barely knowing the chorus to Sweet Child o' Mine (note: the chorus is the title of the song). I enjoy a lot of Slash's work and find a lot of his riffs and solos are pretty badass but I'm under no illusion that he is even close to one of the best guitarists (or composers) out there.
    Where's Hendrix? A bunch of squealing and squawking and very little substance coming from his guitar... vastly overrated and disappointing that more people don't hear his music for what it is, GARBAGE
    Sorry, but your critique is so completely wrong. Hendrix will always be considered one of the greatest guitar players ever. Deal with it.
    Actually, his critique is right on the money. The guy mostly just took existing songs and added gain to them, then proceeded to wank the shit out of the blues scale. People now revere him because he died early, but most guitar players know he's massively overhyped.
    Hendrix is the reason that rock n roll clichés exist. He did everything you can possible do to a guitar or on stage and did it before anyone else. He absolutely wrote the book on modern guitar. You may not be a Hendrix fan, but you can't deny his influence. Music is subjective, but Hendrix is not.
    Also, "most guitar players know he's massively overhyped???" If anything I hear the exact opposite by most guitarists.
    Most guitar players agree that he was incredible and one of the most influential musicians of all time. You're delusional.
    Slash overrated ? This guy is so down to earth and an amazing songwriter/guitarist, probably more underrated than over.
    He is bit overrated because alot people say he is their favorite guitar player even when they can barely name 5 guns n roses songs. But he is still great guitar player overrated or not.
    Ask any non-musician to think of the first guitarist that pops into their head and 90% chance they will say Slash. Your move.
    That would be infinitely more interesting list.
    Eric Clapton
    And that's why this list would never work. People would get too butthurt over suggestions like this.
    thats why it would work. UG seems to love getting ppl butthurt lol
    It'll just be another list where UG says 'except Fred Durst and Lil Wayne' and everyone will comment with Fred Durst and Lil Wayne
    and the people who call them illiterate will be downvoted for it...UG butthurt ftw
    Personally I disagree about Lil Wayne and Fred Durst. They can't be overrated when EVERYONE knows how shite they are. I think it could be an interesting list.
    I'm gonna need a lot of popcorn and a comfortable couch for this one. Bring it.
    the problem with this is that most people don't understand the difference between 'overrated' and 'not as 'talented' as their popularity'
    And the #1 title goes to Kirk Hammet!
    Listen to KIll em All through the Black Album. Kirk is clearly an amazing guitarist. Maybe not the #1 greatest technically nowadays, but back in the day he had a sense of melody and composition that a lot of speedy metal wankers don't have. The songs don't lie.
    What if i told you Kirk wasn't in Metallica with kill 'em all?
    I am a little fuzzy on this but I believe Kirk was on Kill 'em All but played some leads Mustaine had written. ie Mechanix by Megadeath which is pretty much The Four Horsemen