“At its best, the solo can tell a story, give us a sense of spectacle, and even offer a window into a player’s soul”: These are the best guitar solos of 2023

Towa Bird, Nuno Bettencourt, Nita Strauss, Synyster Gates
(Image credit: Getty Images)

This year is not like any other. The response to the 2023 greatest guitar solo poll nigh-on overwhelmed the administration at Guitar World. It was a record turnout, and once we collated the votes, and our editors meticulously weighed up each solo’s melodicism, influence and technical prowess, we had a truly formidable top 10 on our hands.

The number one spot will come as no surprise. This was the year that gave us this decade’s Heartbreaker, its Eruption. We might all debate the guitar solo’s place in composition, the form it should take and whether it is even necessary in the first place, but it’s not going anywhere.


EDITOR'S PICK: Rose City Band – Slow Burn
The Rose City Band features Wooden Shjips/ Moon Duo man Ripley Johnson and pedal steel player Barry Walker, and the two players spark off each other in superb fashion on Slow Burn. The verse sections are laced with magnificent, melodic slide flourishes from Walker’s pedal steel, but it’s Johnson’s central solo – making his Strat’s single-coils really sing with some soft picked clarity and a beautiful vibrato – that keeps us going back. – Matt Parker


EDITOR'S PICK: Tash Sultana – New York
The Australian singer-songwriter and Fender signature artist is a musician of many talents, quite a few of which are simultaneously displayed on New York, an immersive epic from 2023 EP, Sugar. You don’t name a song after the Big Apple without wanting to conjure visions in listeners of endless bright lights and skyscrapers, traffic and magic, running down the street to chase a lost love… you get the point. Sultana executes the assignment flawlessly, leading the song out with a cinematic lead break that gets Gilmour-like mileage out of each note. – Jackson Maxwell


EDITOR'S PICK: Unprocessed – Die on the Cross of the Martyr (feat. Tim Henson and Scott LePage)
When Manuel Gardner Fernandes recruited Tim Henson and Scott LePage for an Unprocessed track just this month, there was only ever going to be one outcome: a pure and uncompromising guitar masterclass. Be it the Polyphia pair’s curation of lightning licks or Fernandes’ own uniquely percussive approach to soloing, any of the trio’s individual lead efforts are worthy of inclusion on this list. The fact they appear in the same song is borderline obscene. A milestone track from three of today’s finest modern instrumentalists. – Matt Owen


EDITOR'S PICK: Baroness – Last Word
In Gina Gleason’s six-year tenure with the tonally adventurous Savannah metal collective, we’ve never heard the ex-Cirque du Soleil shredder unleash quite such an unbridled flurry of notes as in 2023, when she broke Last Word’s hard-rock dam with a rushing waterfall of fuzzed-out arpeggios more acrobatic than any of Cirque’s most death-defying routines. As she relayed to GW, the secret to her blazing technique is hybrid picking, which explains why there’s a country flair to her spotlight-stealing solo. – Michael Astley-Brown

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Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to publications including Guitar World, MusicRadar and Total Guitar. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.

With contributions from