Friday, January 30, 2015

Top 10 Guitarists

The keyboard is my go-to instrument now, but the guitar will always have a very special place in my heart.  It’s the first instrument I learned how to play, and, as an amateur musician, I had spent years being primarily engrossed in the instrument, playing it, and – most importantly – listening to talented musicians who wield the guitar.  From the many guitarists I’ve listened to, I developed my own personal taste on guitar musicality – what styles or philosophies can produce the most pleasurable and rousing music from the guitar.  Of course, this “personal taste on guitar musicality” is not at all dependent on an actual definitive, objective standard, but merely on the preference that grew on me during my exposure to different guitarists. 

My “personal taste on guitar musicality” is reflected from my picks for this top 10 list of guitarists.  These guys aren’t picked by being the fastest, the most skilful, the most successful, the most technically savvy, or even the most awesome.  They are picked for being the ones that I am fond of listening, whose music has enthralled me, and had made an effect on my own thinking regarding how to play guitar.   

Honorable Mentions: Prince, Paul Gilbert (Mr. Big), Steve Vai, Carlos Santana, John Frusciante (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Brian May (Queen), Steve Lukather (Toto), Matthias Jabs (Scorpions)

9.) & 10.) DON FELDER & JOE WALSH (Eagles)

There are many better guitarists than these Eagles duo, but they have earned spots in my most favorite guitarists list for being the ones behind the greatest guitar duet ever in “Hotel California.”  Individually, both of them are capable of some slick guitar solos.  But they are truly special when their guitars respond to each other, like in the two versions (original and acoustic) of “Hotel California.”  They also did a swell job in “Life in a Fast Lane.”        


My first encounter with his guitar talent was with Extreme’s famous acoustic ballad, “More Than Words.”  I found Nuno’s guitar work throughout the song very unique, catchy, and complementary in expressing the meaning of the song.  I was already impressed.  Then it got to the last part, and the shredding blew me away.  As I got to listen to more of his solos – with the electric  guitar – I learned that there is more to his talent than “More Than Words.”  I’m not really an Extreme fan.  Aside from “More Than Words”, no Extreme song really stuck with my playlists.  But I’ve always enjoyed Nuno.  He is a phenomenal guitarist; his solos consistently retain musical definition while being done through extremely (pun intended) fast, rousing shredding.    

7.) SLASH (Guns & Roses)

It was with Slash where I got my first understanding of what a lead guitarist is.  I was auditorily mesmerized (if that’s a term) by “Sweet Child O’ Mine” back then. Guitar playing in hard rock is often associated with distortion-heavy noise.  But as the lead guitarist of a legendary hard rock band, Slash is different.  There is elegance in his riffs – there is a real sense of priority for making comprehendible scales (listen to “November Rain”) over cathartic hard rock expression.  Thus, Slash, for some time, was my definitive guitarist.


He’s not exactly the most liked musician out there with his reputation as a big jerk.  But with regards to his talent, after watching his “Where the Light Is?” live album, nobody can deny that John Mayer is an extremely versatile player of both acoustic and electric guitars.  I’m awed by how he can sing and execute complex guitar riffs at the same time without losing a step.       


Hendrix is considered by many guitar enthusiasts and critics as the greatest guitarist in history.  Personally, he’s not my most favorite guitarist, but I nonetheless acknowledge his musical genius.  His riffs are natural, versatile, and melodically flawless.  He revolutionized guitar playing, giving us an idea – if not completely showing us – what more can be done with the guitar.  Every guitarist should listen to him for he will definitely find something to learn.

4.) JIMMY PAGE (Led Zeppelin)

Jimmy is a legendary guitar player, but I don’t really consider him as the most, er, “efficient.”  Nonetheless, the most awesome thing about him is how he’s always totally in control in every musical situation.  There is always an innate awareness in him on what needs to be done with his guitar.  He wobbles a bit, but his guitar playing is just oozing with charisma and smart melodic choices.  And that’s probably why many consider the guitar solo in “Stairway to Heaven” as the greatest ever.                  


He doesn’t do fast, flashy shredding or complicated sequences.  His style is simple but unforgettable and delightful.  He effortlessly knows what notes to utilize, and executes them with beautiful musical clarity.  It’s with listening to Clapton that taught me that guitar playing doesn’t need to be fancy, fast, and complicated.  What’s most important is producing good, pleasurable music – and simplicity and good musical taste can accomplish that.    


Back in my early teens, I found myself getting to really, really like Bon Jovi.  And, understandably, I developed an affinity to Richie Sambora’s guitar playing.  Since then, I’ve always believed that Sambora is underrated and underappreciated as a guitarist.  He is extensively “fluent” in the different guitar styles and genres.  He also did the most stirring solos I’ve ever heard.  Just listen to “Livin’ on a Prayer”, “Keep the Faith”, “Always”, “Wanted Dead or Alive”, etc., and let them do the talking regarding Sambora’s awesomeness.      

1.) NIGEL HENDROFF (Hillsong)

Nigel Hendroff is my most favorite guitarist ever since I learned how to play guitar.  This is, of course, primarily because of my Christian preferences.  Music is a terrific avenue in giving glory to God, and I appreciate and admire musicians who choose to dedicate their talents for the Lord.  The ‘Droff is a lead guitar and musical director for Hillsong, the largest producer of Christian Contemporary Music today, and is probably completely unknown outside Christian music circles.  He is nonetheless a gifted musician – proven to be impressive in playing both the acoustic and electric guitar.  He has proficient technical know-how in using effects to produce distinctive, more sophisticated guitar sounds – just like U2’s The Edge.  But unlike The Edge, who primarily relies on effects to hide his lack of depth and mediocre skill, the ‘Droff possesses a legitimate well-rounded skill-set.  

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