We've written many, many words about guitars this year but we prefer for the playing and people to do the talking. So here's a rundown of our favourite guitar videos of the year – performances, demos and interviews featuring names, including John Mayer, Tosin Abasi, Yvette Young, Eric Gales and Rick Beato, that have inspired us. And we hope they've done the same for you.
Eric Gales let rip with Gary Clark Jr
Two of the greatest bluesmen around are always going to be a hot ticket, but Gales proves here why he's a player's hero as he's handed the second half of an eleven-minute jam on Gary Clark Jr's, When My Train Comes. And boy, does he run with it. No wonder you placed him high in your blues guitarists of 2021 list.
Rhett Shull's grade A evaluation of the Neural Quad Cortex
Shull is a working player as well as an excellent presenter, and as he gets to grips with the year's benchmark guitar multi-effects and amp modeller over the course of 28 minutes, his honestly and critical, unbiased ear come to the fore. And so does the Neural Quad Cortex's quality.
Pete Thorn entered Van Halen mode
Thorn sets the benchmark for gear demos on YouTube and Eventide's MicroPitch delay pedal gave him the green light to enter Van Halen mode (Eddie Van Halen used the effect from the 1984 album to around 1997).
What we love isn't just the playing here, it's Thorn's background on EVH's history with the effect that explains its special quality so succinctly.
But it wasn't the only time in 2021 that Thorn got his Eddie on…
Nili Brosh, Laura Klinkert, Irene Ketikidi, Anouck André, Lari Basilio and Gretchen Menn united
A Portishead-style backing track provided the perfect foundation for an incredible showcase of guitar talents who collaborated on International Women's Day, with very different playing approaches.
Eric Haugen had a refreshing philosophy on practice
A recent video that really hit us – because Eric has a great, calming approach to things and makes some really important points about practice here that aren't often talked about by guitar players. Check out more of his lessons on the Eric Haugen YouTube channel.
Cory Wong and The Dirty Loops joined forces
There's in the pocket, and then there's just beyond – pop funky glory from Wong and super Swede trio The Dirty Loops on Follow The Light from their collaborative EP Turbo. Where superlative musicianship meets the sharpest '80s hooks around. Shout out to Henrik Linder here, one of your worthy bassists of the year.
John Mayer embraced the extended guitar solo
Because even John Mayer loves soloing in the minor pentatonic like the rest of us.
Chris Buck took flight
Your pop / funk / r'n'b guitarist of 2021 (he also plays a mean rock and blues), Chris Buck shines here on the first single with his reanimated band, Cardinal Black. The solo at 2:30 is a masterclass in taste and tone.
Interview: Chris Buck on his new band Cardinal Black, '62 Strat, Klons and going down the pedal rabbit hole
A J Ghent played masterful slide on an Abasi Concepts guitar
Making the guitar sing is an easy complement to throw around but how many players really take it to this level? And on a cutting edge Abasi Concepts Space T mode, no less. Support AJ Ghent 's music on Instagram, YouTube and Facebook.
Rick Beato's interviews become must-see events
Ok, few of us will ever get close to Emmanuel's level but that's not the point; his experience, humility and joy for the craft of making music and performing is full of great lessons to learn in this chat.
The phrase 'boomer bends' became a thing
We told you Rick Beato's interviews were becoming events. When Polyphia's Tim Henson sat down for a contemporary guitar summit with Beato alongside Animals As Leaders' Tosin Abasi and Polyphia's Misha Mansoor he raised the boomer bends debate. It caused enough furore to justify a whole follow-up interview between Beato and Henson.
Tosin Abasi revealed all to Kiko Loureiro
The growth in pro guitarists making their own content has been our gain; new insights into playing and the life of a touring musician. Here is a candid fly-on-the-wall view of Megadeth guitarist Kiko Loureiro and Animals As Leaders talking technique – no interview agenda, just two world class players digging into Abasi's approaches.
Steve Vai played a whole song one-handed
Just in case we forgot how good Steve Vai is, he performed a whole new song called Knappsack while recovering from shoulder surgery. Knappsack being the name his surgeon gave to the sling Vai is wearing… the surgeon being Dr Knapp.
The song will feature in rerecorded form on the new Steve Vai album, Inviolate.
Matteo Mancuso making fusion fire with a Yamaha Revstar and Helix
Some supreme right hand technique going on here, folks!
Gibson raised the guitar broadcasting game again
As Dave Mustaine joined Gibson (and recently released his first signature model), they gave the Megadeth man the full Icon treatment and the best interview we've seen with him. They just let Mustaine talk and we were happy to listen.
Interview: Gibson's Cesar Gueikian on the past, present and future of the guitar giant: "We care about the quality, we care about the legacy that we will leave behind"
Yvette Young had some fun with her new Ibanez signature model launch
Being a seriously good guitar player and not taking yourself too seriously is not only possible, but positively encouraged by Yvette Young.
We saw the Beatles creating magic
The Beatles Get Back film enabled us to see the Fab Four in new ways; joking, rehearsing and creating together, with some tense moments, over a whopping eight hours of edited and restored footage from 1969. It was enlightening and inspiring stuff.
"For the first time, John and Paul knew that George had risen to their level" – Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick track-by-track interview on Abbey Road
Mdou Moctar played a stunning live session
A beautiful setting by the river Niger and the sublime, hypnotic sounds of a guitarist and his band coming into their own this year. Mdou was also your pick for alternative guitarist of 2021.
Julian Lage gave another masterful performance with his signature Collings
A new Julian Lage album gave us the chance to talk tone with him and enjoy the wonderful breadth of his playing. He's becoming one of the contemporary greats.
Julian Lage: “I bought a stethoscope and taped it to the back of the Telecaster. I could only handle it for about a day and thought, ‘This is abusive!’“
And speaking of excellent instrumentals…
Lari Basilio's playing is wonderful on her recent collaboration with Ester Na here.
We became obsessed with Jay Nelson's Fender Custom Shop spraying videos
Watching a master at work is strangely relaxing.