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Poll: The Greatest Guitarist of All Time, The Finals — Eddie Van Halen Vs. Brian May

Welcome to the Finals of our first-ever Greatest Guitarist poll!

It all started a few months back, when 128 132 guitarists went head to head, round by round, in a bracketed format. We filled all but four of the slots with the names of incredible guitarists (dead and living) — players chosen for their technical ability as well as their importance and creativity, not to mention how influential they've been. We asked our readers to vote in the final four names, which you did, selecting Nuno Bettencourt, Chet Atkins, Malcolm Young and Jake E. Lee.

But now, several rounds later, we're into the final matchup, which is being brought to you by Sweetwater Sound.

Some things to take to consider before casting your vote:

Influence: Who inspired more kids to beg their parents for a guitar for Christmas? Who inspired a wave of copycats?
Chops/Versatility: Is the guitarist in question a one-trick pony or a master of many styles?
Body of Work: Who had the more consistent career? Who has played on more classic albums?
Creativity: Who pioneered new techniques? Who sounds the most radically different from what came before them?

You can check out the full results via our regularly updated bracket here and at the bottom of this story. (Click on the bracket to expand it.)

The Finals

EDDIE VAN HALEN may have earned the moniker "King Edward" from his virtuoso guitar chops, but he's just one match away from being crowned your choice for the greatest of all time. Slash, Randy Rhoads, Joe Satriani and Alex Lifeson have all fallen in his wake, with only one more guitarist needing to bite the dust for his reign at the top to commence.

With the Queen Army behind him, who can stop BRIAN MAY? Dr. May has beaten a path to the finals through a thicket of some of the biggest names in guitar, including Jeff Beck, George Harrison, Les Paul, Jimmy Page and Jimi Hendrix, proving that it's hard to beat a vibrant and dedicated fan base. May looks to play the part of the People's Champion if he can rock the cradle one more time today and walk away the winner.

Guitar World Staff Picks

JIMMY BROWN, Senior Music Editor

Pick: Brian May

This is a tough choice, as both guitarists did so much for advancing the art of rock guitar and breaking new ground, in terms of playing techniques, tones, riff writing and recording. I would have to choose May, due to the simple fact that he came first and did what he did without the benefit of the wonderful example of, well, Brian May.


JOSH HART, Online Producer

Pick: Eddie Van Halen

Ed was revolutionary on too many fronts to pick against him. Brian May is a tremendous guitarist, an excellent songwriter and has my eternal respect as a both a musician and astrophysicist, but I feel his ride should end here.


PAUL RIARIO, Technical Editor

Pick: Eddie Van Halen

Pop quiz: You're halfway through the finale of Gossip Girl and the annoying guitarist in your band asks, "Brian May or Eddie Van Halen?" Do you answer (A) "Can we wait till the commercial?" or "Is this really important?" (B) Brian May, because he built (with his dad) his first guitar that he used throughout his career out of a fireplace and most of his band's songs can be heard during sporting events and Simon Cowell shows, or (C) "Wait a minute, Jimmy Page and Jimi Hendrix are not an option?" Actually, the answer is (D) Eddie Van Halen. Because ... I know, without his influence in just about everything guitar-related, I wouldn't have a job.


DAMIAN FANELLI, Online Managing Editor

Pick: Eddie Van Halen

Friends and co-workers are starting to think I don't like Brian May because I keep picking against him. That's not the case at all. I have ridiculous amounts of respect for his playing and for the iconic stature of his band and the many, many impressive recordings they made back in the day. That being said, I, um, need to pick against him once again. I'll just cut and paste my paragraph from the Hendrix-Vs.-May contest, since my argument is essentially the same (I've replaced Hendrix's name with Van Halen's): "Brian May, certainly a very logical, intelligent, gifted human, would — obviously — pick Eddie Van Halen. As do I."


TOM BEAUJOUR: Editor-In-Chief, Guitar Aficionado

Pick: Eddie Van Halen

I am a 41-year-old man who, two days ago at a dinner party, spent 10 minutes explaining to a fellow guest that Eddie Van Halen is the most naturally free and and gifted guitarist in the history of rock music. I love Brian May too, but I can't say that I've ever embarrassed myself over aperitifs and hors d'oeuvres by singing his praises.