The future of guitar music is looking really exciting – and that's not always been a given. The musicians on this list occupy the worlds of country, jazz, metal and pretty much everything in between.
The guitar has always thrived because of its ability to span all manner of musical applications and, in 2021, we’ve seen a group of players emerge who truly encompass the instrument’s wide-ranging potential…
1. Best new guitarist, 2021: Tristan Thomas (Florence Black)
The melodic hard rockers released their barn-storming debut, Weight Of The World this year. Guitarist Tristan Thomas has an incredibly versatile sound that spans Dimebag grind through to clean country-like licks and shred freakouts.
2. Abigail Zachko
A finalist in our 2018 young guitarist of the year competition, Zachko has continued to wow us with her colourful, ever-evolving fusion of math’d up jazz and progressive playing. Currently studying at Berklee, you’ll find her playing with new band Spoons or posting clips of her jaw-dropping guitar jams over on Instagram.
3. Hannah Staphnill & Anna Papadimitriou (Hawxx)
The 2021 material from London metallers Hawxx feels like a big leap forward. The likes of Hologram and Death Of Silence see the guitar duo of Staphnill and Papadimitriou treading a great line between djent-tinged progressive metal jabs and Deftones-y sway. Ringing leads swirl over beds of tights riffs, but they always leave room for the song.
4. Ayron Jones
Jones’ debut solo album, Child Of The State, arrived in 2021 and it saw his playing has been compared to everyone from Hendrix to Kurt Cobain. Really, though, he is a guitarist who understands and channels the full breadth of rock’s long evolution – from rock ’n’ roll to RATM.
5. Igor Paspalj
Paspalj took the top prize in Guitar World’s prestigious Guitarist Of The Year competition at the close of 2020 and released his EP Striptease in 2021. His playing is deserving of the title. It is a melodic lead masterclass, recalling the likes of Paul Gilbert and Joe Satriani – names we don’t bandy about lightly.
6. Luke Mark, Isaac Wood (Black Country, New Road)
The London indie seven-piece have all the ideas. Their debut For The First Time arrived in 2021 quickly made end-of-year lists pulled in threads of everything from klezmer to post-punk. Follow-up Ants From Up There will arrive in February next year and feels more measured and soulful. Mark and Wood are the glue that meander between the poetry and somehow stick these disparate, melodic parts together.
7. Jack Cochrane, Joe McGillveray (The Snuts)
The West Lothian four-piece did the impossible on their debut W.L. – taking the tired template of swaggering post-Oasis UK indie and morphing it into something that has a place in the 2020s. It’s fuzzy, funky and knows how to make guitar the backbone in pop music.
8. Moriah Formica, Bella Perron (Plush)
US rockers Plush have had quite the year – opening an arena tour with Halestorm and Evanensence, chalking up over a million streams on their song Hate and releasing their self-titled debut. The riffs on the likes of Athena could move mountains and it feels like the band might be about to do the same…
9. Hannah Dasher
An overnight success 10 years in the making, the charismatic country singer/songwriter’s star is rising fast these days. She plays guitar, cooks up a storm on her Tik Tok show Stand By Your Pan and released her excellently-titled EP, Half Record, this year. She also loves her Fenders…
10. Jasmine Star
New 95.5 KLOS Jasmine Jams up now!! Had a ton of fun writing a solo to duet @foofightersofficial on Shame Shame 🤘 #foofighters #medicineatmidnight♬ original sound - Jasmine Star Music
Star’s energy-packed performances across her social media channels have gained her legions of fans. She has incredible ear for improvisation and the technique to shred her way through any situation – just listen to her incredible ‘duet’ on Foo Fighters Shame Shame. What’s more, on her recent solo tracks like Drive and The Cliff she’s showcased a stomping, pop punk-gone-shred sound that is all her own making.