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Thirty Great Guitarists — Including Steve Vai, David Gilmour and Eddie Van Halen — Pick the Greatest Guitarists of All Time

Thirty Great Guitarists — Including Steve Vai, David Gilmour and Eddie Van Halen — Pick the Greatest Guitarists of All Time

Who is the greatest guitarist on the planet?

On the face of it, that question is a no-brainer: It's Hendrix. Or Clapton. Or Page. Or Beck. Or ... is it?

In 2010, as Guitar World was celebrating its 30th anniversary, we picked 30 guitarists and asked them to name their guitar heroes — and the results will surprise you.

ANGUS YOUNG by Joe Perry

Apart from the usual suspects—Page, Clapton, Beck, Hendrix and Peter Green—one of my favorite guitarists is Angus Young. I first saw him when AC/DC opened up for Aerosmith in the Seventies.

They played about 25 dates with us, and I was just overwhelmed by his energy and ability to do his acrobatics without missing a note. He definitely had an influence on me inasmuch as his solos always had a purpose. Instead of using all the traditional tricks, he found a way to get inside those licks and be inventive. My favorite AC/DC song is probably “Sin City.”

For me, the essence of a good guitarist is someone who plays what the song calls for. It’s about listening to the music as a whole and then doing what you need to do. Sometimes it’s not even what you play; it’s what you don’t play. Which brings us back to Angus Young.

CHUCK BERRY by Angus Young

When I was growing up, everyone used to rave about Clapton, saying he was a guitar genius and stuff like that. Well, even on a bad night, Chuck Berry is a lot better than Clapton will ever be.

Rock music has been around since the days when Chuck Berry put it all together. He combined the blues, country and rockabilly, and put his own poetry on top, and that became rock and roll. And it’s been hanging in there.

AC/DC’s whole career has been playing rock and roll, and I’m sure you still get a lot of people tuning in to bands like us and the Stones. Younger bands will be plugging into it and taking it into the next realm. There’s always going to be another generation that will take it and give it to a new, younger audience, so I think it will just keep going on.

STEVE VAI by Tom Morello

Some instrumental guitar players are lost in a muso fog. Steve Vai is not one of them. He’s an artist, and one of the greats.

I’ve certainly learned from him, especially from his work ethic. I started playing guitar very late, when I was 17 years old. I felt really behind, and when I read about Steve’s practice regimen it really encouraged me. It also nearly killed me! While doing my college studies I was also practicing eight hours a day to amass the kind of technique that I admired in players like him and Randy Rhoads.

Once, Steve was doing a presentation at GIT, and he asked me to do it with him. He told me he’d also invited Steve Lukather, Stanley Jordan, Joe Satriani. I said, “No, bro, it sounds like it’s gonna be a shred-off.” But he said, “We’re not even gonna play; we’re just gonna discuss our craft.” So I said, “Okay, I’ll do it.”

A couple of days before the event, he says to me, “Just bring your amp and guitar along in case we have to demonstrate techniques.” So of course, I get there for soundcheck, and my worst nightmare has come true: it was six of us in a row with our guitars, and it was nonstop shredding the whole time.

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