The greatest guitar songs of the 21st century

The greatest guitar songs of the 21st century – 2006

Knights Of Cydonia – Muse

How to choose Muse’s greatest guitar track? It’s a near impossible task, if we’re honest. You could argue cases for Plug In Baby, Stockholm Syndrome, Hysteria, Reapers and plenty more, really.

We’ve opted for the space-rock-cum-spaghetti-western brilliance of a track that owes as much to Misirlou and the theme from The Good, The Bad And The Ugly as it does to prog rock circa 2006. The guitar parts that kick off at 0:20 outline the western vibe. 

Theory buffs will recognise the exotic sounds of the harmonic minor scale (in E) here followed by a shift to C harmonic minor at 1:10. Matt Bellamy’s rapid-fire tremolo picking at 1:32 is pure Dick Dale.

Don’t worry about how many notes you’re playing – just try to keep it even. All in all it’s a two-minute frenzy of fiery playing before verse 1 even kicks in. We love it... But we might change our minds!

Redneck – Lamb Of God

Dimebag died less than two years earlier. Redneck suggests Pantera’s groove metal torch had been safely passed on.

Super Colossal – Joe Satriani

Few strike such a perfect balance between pentatonic and diatonic lines as Satch. This 2006 title track would win the guitar hero his 13th Grammy nomination.

Wonderful Slippery Thing – Guthrie Govan

It would be the making of a legend, earning him the title of Guitarist Of The Year in 2003 and establishing himself as the world’s finest.

Slow Dancing In A Burning Room – John Mayer

Continuum was a breakthrough album for John Mayer. Sure, 2003’s Heavier Things saw him top the US Billboard Chart, but his later work marked a change of direction towards something altogether bluesier and guitar-focused. 

Gentle ballad Slow Dancing In A Burning Room is one of the high points. The opening guitar line implies a chord progression of C#m, A and E, and provides a bed for the harmony lines played over the top. 

We say ‘implies’ because John uses diads (two-note shapes) in the main, with only one or two examples of full chords. You can judge for yourself whether that’s easier or harder to play – the point is, it’s a mix of both melody and harmony. There are a bunch of diads to learn. 

The trickiest part comes when John applies vibrato – easy on one string but potentially troublesome with two. We recommend trying both up/down and side to side finger movements to see which works best for you.

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Total Guitar editors

Total Guitar is one of Europe's biggest guitar magazines. With lessons to suit players of all levels, TG's world-class tuition is friendly, accessible and jargon-free, whether you want to brush up on your technique or improve your music theory knowledge. We also talk to the biggest names in the world of guitar – from interviews with all-time greats like Brian May and Eddie Van Halen to our behind the scenes Rig Tour features, we get you up close with the guitarists that matter to you.