Here comes a fun post! I'll be talking about some of my favorite guitarists, and attempting to rank them based on my personal preference. Some factors for the rankings include tone, songwriting abilities, innovation, technical abilities, persona, their feel, etc. This is mostly for rock guitar with a couple of exceptions. I'm SURE that I will forget some people too. This isn't just another generic "Rolling Stone Top 100" list. I'll probably change my mind about these rankings tomorrow, but here is my list as of right now!
10. Joe Perry/Brad Whitford - Aerosmith was the first band I really liked as a kid. After hearing a lot of their music, I decided I wanted to play guitar. Some of the first tunes I learned were from them. Joe Perry and Brad Whitford have created some of the best riffs in rock music. Their tones are always on point, the songs are memorable, and they rip out the solos (especially on the Rocks album). They work together in a call-and-response way that no other band does. I wouldn't be here today without these guys!
9. Brad Paisley - In the last few years I started digging into newer country music. The guitarist a lot of them seem to be imitating is Brad Paisley. His tone, and incredibly fast slapping licks are very innovative, yet familiar. Any guitarist who hears him play, has to learn some of his tricks. I saw him in concert a few years back and was blown away. His show was more like a Satriani show than a Tom Petty show! He takes the Tele to a whole new level with a seemingly effortless approach.
8. Ritchie Blackmore - Ritchie doesn't always get enough credit. His early rock contributions were awesome, and he basically made famous the 4 bar theme and variations riff style. Also his Strat/Marshall Plexi tone is something that many try to replicate, but few can achieve. I love his work with Deep Purple and Rainbow (my personal favorite of his projects). Listen to any live album he did with those bands, and he can solo for days without losing creativity. The only thing I don't like about him is how many awesome guitars he destroyed on stage in his early days!
7. John Frusciante - There is one Red Hot Chili Peppers album in particular that solidifies Frusciante on this list for me. Of course, it is Blood Sugar Sex Magic! One semester of teaching, me and a student of mine learned nothing but songs from that album. The guitar playing is more simple at times, than most would dare to go. The Strat sound is as pure as it gets. Frusciante plays a role almost like a bass player, locking in with drum fills with spank-like compression. He proves that less is more. That album is as funky as it gets!
6. Jimi Hendrix - Here is a guy that needs no introduction. Without Jimi, who knows where modern guitar playing would be? He created a smooth yet harsh way of playing that was way ahead of its time. He would play a chord and solo on top of it effortlessly, not to mention his physical treatment of the instrument and amps! Strat + Wah Pedal + Marshall Plexi = pure classic rock at its finest. Jimi accomplished more in his 3-4 years as an artist, than most do in a lifelong career.
5. Angus Young - Angus Young is THE rock star. The first thing I have to mention is his insanely energetic stage presence, coupled with his "rawer than life" Marshall/Gibson guitar tone. His playing is unmistakable (unless comparing it to his late brother Malcolm). Although his playing is mostly power chords and the pentatonic scale, he never seems to run out of creativity. Rock doesn't need to be complicated. AC/DC perfected rock, and haven't changed the formula ever since. His solos are based on the idea that they will end, but yet I can't get enough even after they end. And he STILL plays them live while doing his non-stop proprietary strut which would leave most other 60-something-year-olds with a broken hip before the end of the first song!
4. Stevie Ray Vaughan - When Stevie Ray Vaughan got on stage, he WAS the show. And listening to him 'live' seems like the only option that ever crosses my mind. A passionate entertainer, Stevie lets loose like no other blues player. I don't care how many times he plays 'that lick', he and the audience can't get enough of it. He always appeared to be in the zone, in his own world, captivated by the guitar as the audience was captivated by him. He was a true player, and although he did write some songs, he did a lot of covers and made them his own. Gone too soon, but never forgotten!
3. Joe Satriani - A lot of people copy Satch, but no one does what he does quite like him. He is an instrumental guitarist, but every single song of his has an unforgettable melody. While other "shredders" mostly care about playing fast, Satriani's phenomenal techniques are only a by-product of the carefully constructed masterpieces that he calls 'songs'. When he plays fast, it is still innovative. Tapping, slurs, whammy bar FX, tone, Satriani has it all. His song "Always with Me, Always with You" (especially the "Live!" version) is perhaps the only instrumental song out there that could make you cry.
2. Eddie Van Halen - Eddie added more techniques to the guitar than anyone else I can think of. In an era of players like Keith Richards and Eric Clapton, VH came along and was seemingly on another planet. The guitar tone on Van Halen I was monstrous, and he played like a madman with a gentle side. His carefully crafted riffs and solos somehow managed to speak to the audience even more than the lyrics. There wasn't a player out there after 1978 that didn't at least attempt to learn his style. His tapping techniques, slurs, and use of harmonics became necessary ingredients in every guitarist's bag of tricks. While most other guitar players of the time were beating the pentatonic scale to death, Eddie threw in major arpeggios and out-of-this-world technique. Eddie gets my vote for the most innovative guitarist EVER!
1. Jerry Cantrell - I told you this was my list of personal favorites! Jerry Cantrell never gets the credit he deserves. He is probably my favorite songwriter of all time. No other musician puts the kind of emotion into their songs like Jerry. He does it all: sludgy rock riffs, ambiguous open acoustic chords, layers of counter-melodies, sympathetic melodic solos... Every time I sit down to learn an Alice in Chains song, I say "damn, I NEVER would have came up with that". Although he clearly can play fast, that isn't what he cares about. He cares about the song above all else. If you play guitar, go learn any AIC song and you will look at the guitar differently than you did 3 minutes ago. His solo albums are also pure gold and his singing is almost as underrated as his playing. I feel like I need to say more about him, but I can't harness the words. Music speaks more than words ever can!
I'm sure I will get a lot of criticism for this list, and the guitarists that I forgot. As I said before these are my favorites, not "the best". Comment with your own Top 10 Favorites!