I don't really trust a sane person. -Lyle Alzado
Question #56816 posted on 03/31/2010 3:01 a.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

Who is the best guitarist ever?

- Marduk, slayer of Tiamat

A: Dear Marduk,

Ugh.

This is one of those questions that is simply unanswerable. Really. "Best" is one of the most nebulous terms you could possibly use. It could refer to virtuosity, speed, depth of "feeling," ability to craft a solo, ability to craft a riff, ability to craft a unique chord progression, and many other things. Then you have to take into consideration the fact that a virtuosic blues guitarist can't fairly be compared to a virtuosic heavy metal guitarist, who in turn can't be compared to a virtuosic folk guitarist. That's the beautiful thing about the guitar--it can become almost anything it's needed for.

So...that being said, here are some of my personal selections. If you don't care about what Claudio thinks, then here's a list of Rolling Stone's Top 100. I agree with some of them, think some are far overranked and some are far underranked. Judge for yourself. As far as my list, I'm not even going to number them. These are in no particular order.

Jimmy Page - The guitarist of Led Zeppelin was a fireball of skill and artistry. He understood and loved the blues and could play them as well as anyone, but he wanted to see where else he could take their unique sound. His experimental mind helped create hard rock and heavy metal as we know them today. One need look no farther than "Stairway to Heaven" to understand why the band he played for earned the nickname "Hammer of the Gods."

Jimi Hendrix - There are few words to describe the things Hendrix did with the guitar. He created a new aesthetic entirely, one that has been incredibly influential, often imitated, but never equaled. The way he made the guitar sing and weep opened the eyes of the world to the potential of the electric guitar. He made what was an instrument of rebellion into something that could express emotions and ideas that were (until him) foreign to rock music.

Keith Richards - The seemingly immortal Rolling Stone is a riff factory. He has written and played some of the best riffs the guitar has ever seen. Though not always technically complicated, his brass...um..."guts" and bad-to-the-core sound provided a lot of the foundation for rock as we know it.

Brian May - Queen, for some reason or another, still doesn't get the props they deserve. Considering that they were one of the most innovative and technically skilled bands out there in the 1970s, they should be a bit more revered. Most of that reverence should be split between Freddy Mercury and Brian May. May, whose innovative and flexible playing complemented the ever-experimental Mercury, played some of the most memorable and epic guitar parts in rock history. Oh, and just for the sake of awesomeness, let me mention that he holds a PhD in astrophysics....awesome.

David Gilmour - Just go listen to Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb." I'll wait.

...

Yeah, that's pretty much all I need to say.

Jack White - Sweet holy Moses. If you want to hear what it would sound like if a guitar were walking home, minding its own business, when suddenly some weird-looking guy jumped out of an alley and started beating the living heck out of it, listen to the White Stripes. White, despite being a no-questions-asked master of the instrument, is a nuclear player who, when he really gets going, just starts ramming the strings and goes with whatever comes out. My description makes it sound bad, but in reality White's technique creates a primal and animalistic sound that is unmatched in rock. In a quote that I love from the above-linked RS Top 100, "Don't pay attention to the notes; White is not a clean soloist. He's a blowtorch."

These guys are my personal favorites. That's not to say that guys like Eric Clapton (who is, after all, God), B.B. King, Duane Allman, Alex Lifeson, Robert Johnson, Tom Morello, Joe Satriani, Mark Knopfler, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eddie Van Halen, Pete Townsend, and dozens of others shouldn't be on the list. They are. I just figured I'd give you the short version, as I'm not feeling like writing a 500-page treatise right now.

-Claudio, who loves him some guitar musics
A: Dear Mardy,

Claudio always outdoes himself with his answers that have to do with music. After his answers post, writers like me are intimidated to add our two cents to his million-dollar posts.

My personal votes go to Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, and Jeff Beck--the lead guitarists for the Yardbirds during their run in the 60's. If they'd all played in the band at the same time, I think the universe would have exploded into a giant fiery ball. It's conceivable that the Big Bang originated from those three playing in the same venue in another universe. The three split for a short period during the Planck era, but got together for one more gig during the grand unification epoch. Across every known and unknown universe, this period of time is regarded as the best 10-36 seconds of music in history.

Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, and Jeff Beck. So let it be written.

--Gimgimno
A: Dear slayer,

This guy.


Love from
Queen Alice
A: Marduk

Carlos Santana.

-Humble Master