The 25 Best Guitarists of All Time
Jazz, funk, metal, country, gospel, experimental and more in chronological order.
Lists of greatest guitarists generally focus on performers in the blues rock tradition. And there are lots of wonderful blues rock guitarists! But the guitar is an amazingly versatile instrument, and any discussion of it should recognize that it’s not confined to only one style. So in chronological order, here are the best guitarists of all time, in blues and rock, but also jazz, funk, metal, country, gospel, experimental, and more.
1. Agustín Barrios (1885-1944)
Classical guitarist and composer Agustín Barrios recorded in his own day, but his music was mostly forgoten for 30 years after his death. Now, though, he’s widely celebrated for his virtuoso compositions which often incorporate South American folk melodies. This early recording gives a sense of his celebrated technique and his exquisite sense of timing.
2. Mississippi John Hurt (1893-1966)
John Hurt taught himself a unique fingerpicking style with intense syncopation. As you can hear on his classic “Candy Man Blues” he sounds like he’s playing two acoustic guitars at once—one carrying a gentle, rolling melody, and the other stabbing out stinging single-note solos.
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