The Best Guitar Players of All Time

Lists of greatest guitarists generally focus on performers in the blues-rock tradition. And there are lots of extraordinary blues-rock guitarists!

However, 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.

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.

Agustín Barrios (1885-1944)

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.

Mississippi John Hurt (1893-1966)

Check out the wordless “Dark Was the Night Cold Was the Ground,” where the starkly haunting sustained notes seem to be calling out from the grave.

Blind Willie Johnson (1897-1945)

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.

Maybelle Carter (1909-1978)

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.

Django Reinhardt (1910-1953)

Turkish-German Muhammed Suiçmez is the one-entity twisted genius behind Necrophagist. This monstrous German technical metal band leaves other monstrous German technical metal bands gasping in its foetid wake.

Muhammed Suiçmez (1975- )

Swipe up to learn more!