Way back when I was younger, I played the bass guitar. I had some really high-level heroes too. The late Cliff Burton was my primary hero….I want to play like Cliff. I never really got there. But recently, I decided to take up an instrument again…this time, I moved over to the acoustic guitar. So, since other folks are tossing out their top tens of this, that or the other…I figured I would toss out my top ten favorite guitarists….or, if you prefer, the guys I would love to emulate – if I manage to get better with this….
And while I would populate this list with guys like the late Randy Rhoads and the amazing Alex Lifeson…I’m limiting this to guys that play acoustic guitar for the most part…though there’s a few that play electric guitar as well. I just don’t want to populate my list with shredding masters…though I do admire their technique and ability quite a lot.
- Declan Sinnott – Declan is here because he just has a way of making a guitar sing whatever emotion he’s trying to emulate for you. He mostly plays support for Christy Moore, along with a few others – but he’s quite awesome on his own.
- Trey Anastasio – Trey makes stuff fun. He is not the most accomplished player on any list, but he is definitely an excellent player. I keep watching for Trey or Phish to come to somewhere near me. Apparently, north Texas ain’t a usual stop.
- Damh the Bard – Damh is fun to listen to. His playing is always a perfect harmony to his voice. And for all I know, he can shred right along with Adrian Smith of Iron Maiden.
- Allan Holdsworth – this guy is just downright amazing to watch. He’s got some freakishly long fingers and some very deft ability on the fretboard. I have watched a few videos that he has on YouTube, and he is just mesmerizing with his ability. I could never aspire to be as good as this guy.
- Pat Metheny – no surprise here, especially if you know me well enough. Pat is not only an incredible player but an out-of-this-world songwriter. Another one of those players I could only dream of being as good as.
- Pete Townsend – now, I did say I didn’t want any shredders on this list but I have to include Pete. Not for his lead guitar work but for his rhythm guitar work. Listen to any song from The Who or any of his solo albums, and you will find that guitar riff that all the rest of the music just holds on to. I’m particularly fond of his work on the album “Face Dances”.
- Tommy Shaw – another master of the rhythm guitar. Again, listen to his solo work or what he has done in Styx, and you will hear some wonderful work. It is this rhythm work that I really aspire to learn. Maybe one day, I could emulate what Shaw and Townsend do in their rhythm work.
- The Edge – this guy is just sheer genius. None of what he does is overly difficult, and yet the phrasing is just amazingly distinct for what U2 does. He is a study in how simple riff work can be magnified into excellence when done in an understated manner.
- Craig Chaquico – sure, the stuff he does in Jefferson Starship sounds great, but its his guitar work on his solo albums that is just out of this world. These are jazz albums, so there’s not a ton of singing (if it all) to the tracks – unless you count the way he makes the guitar sing his “voice”. Much like Sinnott, Holdsworth, and Metheny – his styling is other-worldly for me.
- Bran Cerddorion – I just cannot make a list without adding the guy that inspired me to get back to playing an instrument – even if I am not that great with it. I’ve seen Bran live plenty of times…and he has a way of playing his instrument in a way that makes you believe that the guitar is the same instrument as his voice. One without the other just does not sound complete.
So, there’s my top ten….its not a list of people that I think are absolutely out of this world with a guitar. There’s a whole host of players I would have in this list, such as Rhoads, Abbott, Moore, Santana, Satriani, Vai, May, and so many more. This list is about the people that inspire me to continue to get better with the guitar….and have fun doing so….as with any top ten list – people will likely disagree with me on many of the choices. Yeah, I get that. And I am so very alright with that. Hopefully, you will be alright with my list being different from yours. 🙂