The 25 Best Guitarists of All Time

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, jazz, funk, metal, country, gospel, experimental, and more. 

Agustín Barrios (1885-1944)

Classical guitarist and composer Agustín Barrios recorded in his day, but his music was mostly forgotten for 30 years after his death. Now, though, he's widely celebrated for his virtuoso compositions, which often incorporate South American folk melodies. 

Mississippi John Hurt (1893-1966)

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. 

Blind Willie Johnson (1897-1945)

Robert Johnson is widely lauded as the greatest early bluesman. But Blind Willie Johnson's eerie, soulful slide guitar work is just as influential and even more intense. 

Maybelle Carter (1909-1978)

The hugely influential country music trio the Carter Family played many traditional folk tunes. But guitarist Mother Maybelle was an innovator, playing the melody with her thumb on the bass strings and he index finger for rhythm. 

Django Reinhardt (1910-1953)

Despite the fact that two of the fingers on his left-hand were badly burned, he played with unsurpassed technical mastery, using fleet arpeggio runs, tremolo chords, and innovative, dissonant improvisations. 

Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1919-1973)

Her raucous 1944 hit “Strange Things Happening Every Day,” featuring boogie-woogie piano, is sometimes cited as the first rock and roll record.

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