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Best in guitars 2021

Best in guitars 2021
(Image credit: Future)

As we barrel towards the end of another 'interesting' year, we're taking a moment to pause and reflect on the players, music and gear that has caught our attention over these past 12 months.

We've corralled shortlists detailing a cross-section of what we feel is the best in guitars 2021. Music is not about competing, but there is merit in recognising the amazing accomplishments of our nominees. Your votes will decide the most deserving winner in each of our categories.

Voting closes at midnight on 28 November and we’ll start announcing winners from the start of December. 

You know what to do…

THE PLAYERS

Best acoustic guitarist

The acoustic is simultaneously the most limited and freeing of all ways to approach playing the guitar and a look at this year's shortlist serves to remind us of the enthralling possibilities of this enduring instrument. But who is most deserving of your vote for the best acoustic guitarist this year? 


Best alternative guitarist

Our alternative category encapsulates the best of a varied selection of guitarists who swing the axe in truly unique ways.

Stretching across the worlds of alt rock, psychedelia, indie and heavier corners of the musical world, these players say something far more truthful, diverting and sonically ambitious than your average rock riffers. 

Best bassist

Bass players come in many forms, just take a look at the nominee list below for proof. The question is, which low-end legend has created the backbone for your favourite music this year?


Best blues or jazz guitarist

The players nominated below sit at the very top of the blues and jazz tables. Some are household names who have been laying down sizzling licks for decades; others are fresh faces taking the genre into bold new realms. 


Best guitarist-songwriter

It's time to shine a light on the most overlooked players – the singer-songwriters. Who has moved you with their music this year? Shed a light in the dark or offered some clarity in confusion. Because guitar isn't about showboating, not always. 


Best metal guitarist

Which guitar monsters have got your head banging with their sledgehammer riffs this year? Take a look at the shortlist below and cast your vote in our best metal guitarist category.


Best ‘new’ guitarist

The list below pulls together a small sample of the guitarists that we think are bringing something new, interesting and exciting to the craft. All of the players on this list have been active or releasing music in the last 12 months. 

Not all of them are on their first record, but this is about recognising those that have been breaking through and grabbing attention this year.


Best online guitar personality

There's an ever-growing wealth of brilliant guitar content online, but it takes a lot of work, perseverance and imagination to bring that material to people on a daily basis.  


Best pop, RNB and funk guitarist

This category recognises the renaissance of musicianship that more mainstream genres have witnessed in the last few years.


Best prog guitarist

Best prog guitarist is one of the most fiercely-fought categories in MusicRadar’s end of year polls, such is the unfathomable talent of the nominees, and the dedication of their fanbases. 


Best rock guitarists

2021 has been a fantastic year for rock music, reflected in this shortlist of fantastic guitarists who have released an album or otherwise made an impression in the last 12 months.  


THE GEAR

Best new amp/modelling pedal

Which amp/processing pedal deserves to take home the inaugural award for this fast-growing category?

Best new acoustic guitar

From ballads to busking, the acoustic guitar is a potent tool in any guitarist’s collection. From budget strummers to beautifully crafted works of art, this year has seen a huge range of fantastic acoustics hitting the shops.


Best new effects pedal

The tones you choose and the way you use them are of near equal importance to your sound as your hand movements. Arguably, effects pedals have never been so crucial to a guitarist’s sound.


Best new electric guitar

This is a very prestigious award and the guitars listed below are all leaders in their field, offering amazing tone and looks, and reliability on the road or in the studio. 


Best new guitar amp

The guitar amplifier innovations continue apace this year, with a huge array of analogue and digital noise-makers impressing across the past 12 months.


Best new signature guitar

Signature guitars can divide opinion, but the best of them combine a pro's insight and innovation, while maintaining the character of the original instrument.