The 15 best rock guitarists in the world right now, as voted by you

Angus Young
(Image credit: Barry Brecheisen/WireImage)

We asked and you voted, and can now announce who you have chosen as the best rock guitarists of 2020.

And unsurprisingly it's a real mix with comebacks, veterans and newer names. All  struck a chord with you musically this year, despite the restrictions on touring in the pandemic. 

With duos and one-guitar acts included here, here are the rock guitarists you have voted for as the 2020 standouts.

1. Angus Young and Stevie Young (AC/DC)

What a comeback – we didn't even know who was still in AC/DC at the start of 2020, or if we'd even hear them again. Now Brian Johnson, Cliff Williams and Phil Rudd are back and Angus is carrying the spirit of his brother Malcolm Young on with a superb new album and the prospect of gigs to come.

School of rock


(Image credit: Kevin Mazur / Getty)

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Nephew Stevie Young has proved the perfect choice as a rhythm engine, and late legend Malcolm's presence can still be felt on this year's Power Up album with co-writing credits throughout. What a tribute to the spirit of rock 'n' roll and what a treasure AC/DC are – and many still try but nobody sounds like Angus at full throttle.   

2. John Mayer

He hosted an impromptu online guitar masterclass, made a song about yachts (opens in new tab), played a socially distanced set with Dave Chappelle, collaborated with Leon Bridges, starred in a strangely engaging Land Rover Commercial (opens in new tab)… and released a watch (opens in new tab). Mayer is always making interesting moves.  

Some will debate this but it happens that one of the most famous guitar players on the planet right now is also one of the very best, a highly perceptive musician who is able to articulate overlooked guitar truths (opens in new tab) better than most. So play on, Mr Mayer. And we're hoping for some new music from you in 2021. 

3. Tom Morello 

With Rage Against The Machine unable to even start their reunion tour in 2020, Morello refused to mope. Instead he recorded an EP with some of his best music in years. He even brought in Slash (opens in new tab) to help and paid tribute to Eddie Van Halen (opens in new tab) too.

There was also the release of the Fender Soul Power Strat (opens in new tab) – Morello's first ever signature model, followed by a signature Jim Dunlop wah (opens in new tab)

But it's his own small but essential rig (opens in new tab)he'll hopefully be dusting down if Rage are able to return in 2021 – here's hoping.

4. Stone Gossard and Mike McCready (Pearl Jam)

The longest wait between Pearl Jam albums ever (seven years) became an anticlimax  only because there were no gigs to support it – including a whole European tour we'll now have to wait until 2021 for. 

Nevertheless Pearl Jam made their presence felt on Gigaton – a band of five songwriters with its guitarists offering plenty of fire for the creative furnace – Gossard and Jeff Ament even swapped instruments for lead-off single Dance Of The Clairvoyants

After the release of an additional song from the album sessions with Get It Back (opens in new tab), Gossard put his downtime this year to good use outside the band too; he formed Painted Shield with Mason Jennings, keyboardist Brittany Davis and former PJ drummer Matt Chamberlain.

Mike McCready also played guitar for us in his bathroom…

5. Tyler Bryant 

This is no veterans-only list; you gave deserved support to a young blues rock firebrand too. Tyler Bryant (opens in new tab) is a player who has grown from teenage prodigy (he won our blues guitarist poll (opens in new tab) in 2017) into a seasoned band leader with staying power.

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(Image credit: Press)

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This year's Pressure gave listeners enough tonesome riffage to chew on until Bryant and his band The Shakedown can return to the road. 

And in the meantime he's been honing his chops as a multi-instrumentalist creating backing tracks for his Patreon subscribers.

6. Bruce Springsteen / Nils Lofgren / Steven Van Zandt (Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band)

When The Boss makes the call, his E Street amigos always answer. Even if that means learning an album of songs and tracking them live in five days during November last year. Such is the telepathic ability between them that they finished it in four. 

The circumstances brought out their best; working together to bring these songs home. Springsteen even dusted down a 50-year-old song with If I Was The Priest (opens in new tab) to magical effect.

7. Andrew Watt (Ozzy Osbourne, Post Malone) 

Six years ago you voted (opens in new tab) Andrew Watt as one to watch when he was part of California Breed with Glenn Hughes (opens in new tab) and Jason Bonham, but surely few predicted the turns his career would take.

Recently Grammy Award-nominated as Dua Lipa's producer, he's also been Ozzy Osbourne's guitarist and the man who made his comeback album come together this year… then there's his role as Post Malone's right hand man. A true modern renaissance man – and let's not forget, a killer guitarist.

8. Jason Isbell 

A player's player and the admiration of songwriters, but Jason Isbell (opens in new tab) works for it. When he wanted to buy Ed King's old 'Redeye' '59 Les Paul he even played a bunch of corporate gigs so he could live with the expense

It's in very good hands – Isbell seems to get the best of whatever guitar he's playing on this year's Reunions album with band the 400 Unit. He's even spent some of his time off the road offering tone tips and lick lessons to his Instagram (opens in new tab) followers. And like all the best players, he makes it look so effortless. 

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9. Joe Langridge-Brown and Dominic Craik (Nothing But Thieves)

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Flying the flag for the Brits, Nothing But Thieves (opens in new tab) are now at arena level in the UK and once they open for gigs again, the Essex band can prove why with material from this year's third album, Moral Panic.

The duo mix a love of modern soundscapes away from the rock world with classic influences (Jonny Greenwood is most definitely one) and an uncanny ear for a huge hook. It's no mystery they're playing bigger venues every year. 

10. Dean DeLeo (Stone Temple Pilots)

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(Image credit: Michelle Shiers)

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Stone Temple Pilots (opens in new tab) are a big, established band and yet Perdida (opens in new tab) feels like one of 2020's most underrated rock albums – a huge surprise too with a more orchestrated, acoustic sound that finds Dean DeLeo (opens in new tab)'s versatility and nuance as a player cast in a new light.

We're glad you agreed in this year's poll, and it proves this band still has much to offer. 

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MusicRadar Team

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