The best pop, R&B and funk guitarists of 2022, as voted by you

Cory Wong
(Image credit: Douglas Mason / Getty)

Rock and blues get the limelight but there's plenty of gifted players out there bringing guitar to the big stages, and often charts. There's also the funkateers – the sharpest school of chops out there.

Let's see who you tipped your headstocks to this year…  

1. Cory Wong 

Few guitarists are out there working as hard as Cory Wong – touring, recording, filming… he's the modern day model of a pro player making a living in a challenging industry. Impeccable rhythm chops included. 

This year saw the release of his Power Station album that saw him team up with a host of talented peers, including Billy Strings, Mark Lettieri, Lindsay Ell, Chromeo and musco icons Larry Carlton and Victor Wooten

He's also consistently excellent on social media; his Cory And The Wrongnotes series showcasing humour and insight as sharp as his right hand technique, and a love for putting the spotlight on his talented musician friends. 

2. Bob Lanzetti, Mark Lettieri, and Chris McQueen (Snarky Puppy)

When Snarky Puppy returned with a new album this year, we knew recognition in this poll would follow. 

And it's always earned – this trio are players' players who cross over because they're big picture guys who fit together so well. And they know how to groove.

3. Roland Orzabal (Tears For Fears)

Comeback of the year? Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith's return with The Tipping Point album reminded us that good things come to those that wait from Tears For Fears. Nuanced, starkly honest and wonderfully crafted pop, done their way. 

The live gigs that followed showed their instincts for selecting live band members are just as keen, but also allowed Orzabal's often underrated gifts of guitar playing and composition to get some spotlight.

Please don't leave it another 17 years, guys! 

4. Jonny Buckland 

It's that huge band / strangely underrated guitarist thing again. We doubt Mr Buckland loses sleep over it but the idea he's been coasting since the third play album is simply not true; he adapted to enhance band's changing sound and that came into stark focus during the band's spectacular 2022 stadium shows.

5. Ed Sheeran

We're still struggling to think of a more popular guitarist to emerge in the last 20 years; and whatever you think, Ed Sheeran's mostly got a guitar in his hands onstage driving his music (now one he designed with Lowden), just like he did when he was playing to virtually nobody working his way up as a songwriter with a Little Martin.

Quite how inspiring that is and will be on future budding songwriters is hard to gauge – but it matters. 

6. Jack Antonoff (Taylor Swift, Florence And The Machine, Bleachers)

Pop's man of the moment is also a guitarist – and frequently takes on that role with his A-list collaborators. He becomes that session minded chameleon – serving their vision of the song.

On his own with this band Bleachers he goes full Boss mode – bridging the generations. It didn't go unnoticed Bruce even collaborated with him a couple of years ago. 

7. Shawn Mendes

Mendes has placed guitar in the centre of his songwriting since the start the beginning, and he's won John Mayer as a supporter and mentor. 

Like Sheeran, we think it's significant in bringing the instrument to new young listeners who might start to untap its song potential as a younger Shawn did.

8. Nilüfer Yanya

Nilüfer Yanya's second record Painless was one of this year's standout albums, with the 25-year-old UK artist's fresh and freeing approach to melodic phrasing paired with ear-worm guitar hooks. A huge talent. 

9. Adam Hann and Matty Healy (The 1975)

Headlining Reading & Leeds and Madison Square Garden with their most theatrical show yet, it's been quite a year for the 1975. And the was a new album too.

Hann and Healey have leaned back into their '80s pop funk roots an Being Funny In A Foreign Language – to mantric crowd-pleasing effect on Oh Caroline, Happiness and Looking For Somebody (To Love), but they're not afraid to come back out with traps poetic acoustic folk either (Part Of The Band). They're only going to get bigger.  

10. Wayne Sermon (Imagine Dragons)

Like the 1975, Imagine Dragons are another band on the continuous ascension while inevitably drawing an increasingly vocal group of dissenters. But still the songs are connecting. 

He's a textural player, known for having effects built into custom Bilt guitars, and it's easy to overlook that a lot of the sounds on ID's records are Sermon and not synths. 

The 10 best rock guitarists of 2022, as voted by you 

Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.