From far-out pedalboard wizards and ambitious loopers to state-of-the-art shredders, there has never been a shortage of fearless creators boldly pushing music and guitar technology forward. Here are just a few of the players who have embraced gear to its fullest, innovating new sounds and styles in the process.
Jonny Greenwood, Radiohead
Behind the spacey soundscapes of Radiohead lies the guitar sorcery of Jonny Greenwood. One of the most experimental guitar players of his generation, the multi-instrumentalist and composer has relied on a rotating cast of gear to generate his radical sounds, including the Marshall ShredMaster, Digitech Whammy and Roland RE-201 Space Echo. But the oddest part of Greenwood's rig might be the Roberts R737 transistor radio that he manipulates during the intro of each live performance of "The National Anthem."
The Edge, U2
With his airy, trance-inducing riffs, The Edge forged an instantly recognizable sound for U2 and helped popularize delay effects with songs like "Where the Streets Have No Name" and "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For." The guitarist's lineup of delays over the years has included the KORG SDD, TC Electronic TC 2290 and AMS SDMX.
Vernon Reid, Living Colour
These days, Vernon Reid's setup looks closer to a NASA mission control center than a guitar rig, and the guitarist incorporates a wide range of effects to paint Living Colour's genre-bending sound. While Reid's equipment list would be too long to list here, he's a known devotee of Line 6 devices, including the company's POD HD500X and M9 stomp box modeler.
Tom Morello, Rage Against the Machine/Audioslave/Prophets of Rage
Launching on the scene with Rage Against the Machine in the early Nineties, Tom Morello instantly turned heads with his aggressive, groove-laden riffs and dizzying guitar solos that mimicked synths and DJ scratching. The guitarist uses a Dunlop Cry Baby Wah and Digitech Whammy as the source of many of his trademark sounds.
Tosin Abasi, Animals as Leaders
Tosin Abasi is carrying the art of shred and progressive metal into the future with his instrumental trio, Animals as Leaders. One of the early adopters of ergonomic, extended-range eight-string guitars, he has introduced both new sounds and techniques into the genre. Abasi is currently running a pedal-based setup — including his own Abasi Pathos distortion pedal — through a single-channel Morgan Amps SW50R. The guitarist also implements Line 6 Relay G70 and Relay G55 wireless systems, the Stagescape M20D mixer and, of course, his own Abasi Larada guitars.
David Knudson, Minus the Bear
While Minus the Bear called it quits late last year, guitarist David Knudson's inventive ability to take two-handed tapping techniques out of the realm of flashy solos and into the world of primary hooks hasn't been forgotten. Armed with four Line 6 DL4s and a collection of stomp boxes, his pedalboard savvy made his riffs sound less like traditional guitar and more like an orchestra of electronic artists. Where will Knudson's sonic explorations take him next? We're excited to see.
Sarah Longfield's latest single "Now" is an electronic-inspired, ambient sound collage emphasizing her unique mastery of the eight-string. With fluid two-hand tapping skills and an instantly recognizable sound, the guitarist is forging her own future for modern shred. Longfield is often seen with an eight-string Strandberg Boden axe and a Fractal Axe-FX rig — she also recently added a Line 6 HX Stomp to her setup.
Throughout his work with King Crimson, Talking Heads, David Bowie and Frank Zappa, Adrian Belew's guitar playing often sounds like…well, anything but the guitar. "My rig tends to get bigger almost every day," Belew told Guitar Player. "Because so many different things get invented all the time that change how we can approach the guitar. It's so hard to say 'no' to something new, because, well, I want that new toy [laughs]." Belew's equipment has changed quite a bit over the years, but various looping devices and Parker Fly guitars are standard in his rig.
Nick Reinhart, Tera Melos
Incorporating experimental rock, ambient electronics, alternating time signatures and start-stop dynamics, Tera Melos' sound is startlingly inventive. Guitarist/vocalist Nick Reinhart generates many of the band's unorthodox sonics through two-hand tapping, effect pedals, looping and samplers. The guitarist is a known fan of Nineties Squier guitars, the Roland GR-30 Guitar Synthesizer, and pedals from Line 6, Boss, EarthQuaker Devices, Digitech and more.
Matt Bellamy, Muse
Arena rockers Muse combine prog, electronica and pop into their own brand of epic, genre-shifting rock. Frontman Matt Bellamy gets plenty of cred for his showmanship and operatic vocal range, but it's his bombastic, electronic-inspired approach to guitar that keeps fellow players scratching their heads. Over the years, Bellamy's rig has included the DigiTech Whammy, ZVEX Fuzz Factory, custom Manson guitars and more.