Skip to main content

Poll: The Greatest Guitarist of All Time, Round 6 — Eddie Van Halen Vs. Alex Lifeson

Welcome to the Final Four portion 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.

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.)

Round 6 — Today's Match

EDDIE VAN HALEN has had his mettle tested lately, coming out on top in marquee matchups with the likes of Randy Rhoads and Joe Satriani. With his triumphant return to the top of the guitar heap with Van Halen's new album, A Different Kind of Truth, the timing seems perfect for Ed to make a run toward the final round.

Standing in his way is Rush's ALEX LIFESON, who has added wins over a couple of heavy metal legends in Tony Iommi and Dimebag Darrell to his win belt after becoming the king of the prog world, defeating Steve Howe, Frank Zappa and Neal Schon in the tournament's early rounds.

Guitar World Staff Picks

JIMMY BROWN, Senior Music Editor

Pick: Eddie Van Halen

Lifeson's contributions to expanding the lexicon of rock guitar, in terms of creating original, innovative licks, aural textures and rhythm parts/compositions, are enormous and will be revered and imitated by players for generation to come. But what EVH did for advancing the sonic possibilities afforded by a hot-rodded electric guitar and "harmonically optimized" tube amp, plus effects, most notably phaser and stereo reverb, as well as raising the proverbial bar when it comes to elevating such playing techniques as tapping, finger vibrato, harmonics and whammy bar dips and dives, represents nothing short of an upward seismic shift that forever changed and enhanced the landscape or hard rock and metal.


JOSH HART, Online Producer

Pick: Eddie Van Halen

Like Jimmy, I feel like EVH has simply advanced the instrument in so many directions that it's nearly impossible to vote against him, even with this tournament showing just how powerful Lifeson's legions of followers really are.


DAMIAN FANELLI, Online Managing Editor

Pick: Eddie Van Halen

No offense to the great Alex Lifeson, his many followers, Rush and all of Canada (which, by the way, is the foreign country I visit most often; no matter how hard they try, American cookie companies can't make a good maple cookie), but this is a no-brainer. Eddie Van Halen is a freakin' genious, a revolutionary ... honestly, I don't think this needs more explanation.


PAUL RIARIO, Technical Editor

Pick: Eddie Van Halen

Do you remember those commercials many, many years ago with the Mac guy and the PC guy? For as long as I can remember, guitarists were nothing but mere PC drones being loud and derivative, and out of nowhere, this hotshot kid from Pasadena, California (not Cupertino) turned the guitar playing world on its head by intuitively modifying and tweaking his gear to make it work for him in the same way racers swap out components to hot rod their street machines. And in the same presumptuous manner that superstar athletes attack their last stretch to set a world record, EVH's effortless rhythmic sense and hyper-charged solos made guitar playing a competitive sport overnight. Eddie Van Halen is the Mac guy, and there's not one guitar player out there who hasn't borrowed at least one aspect of his influence.