Rock is a broad church (just ask the Hall Of Fame) and its ability to future-proof itself is often cast in doubt. But your choices this year have recognised that newer talent made serious headway alongside familiar figures in 2022, and we think that speaks volumes.
1. Sophie Lloyd
We're not sure any guitarist's 2022 comes close to being as memorable as Sophie Lloyd's and her share of the vote reflected that – from successful YouTube sensation to straight in at the deep end with sold-out arenas after being chosen to join Machine Gun Kelly's live band, the UK guitarist earns every opportunity that comes her way.
Alongside that work ethic is Sophie's inspiring openness and willingness to overcome the relatable feelings of self-doubt she revealed to us earlier this year. The joy and positive attitude the British guitarist brings to her playing is undeniable – and she's now channelling her increased profile into launching her solo career. Her recent collaboration on with Inglorious vocalist Nathan James on Do Or Die is just a sample of the album that will follow in 2023.
"I was so honoured to just be nominated on this list alongside some of my favourite guitarists, let alone win!!" a shocked and delighted Sophie tells us.
"It’s been such an incredible year and this rounds it off so amazingly. Also a massive thank you to all of my supporters, I’m so lucky to have such an incredible community behind me."
- Sophie Lloyd interview: "The hardest thing to do is to post that first video because it’s putting yourself out there and it’s quite scary – I’d say forget all of that, you just need to do it!"
2. Chris Buck (Cardinal Black)
We said rock was a broad church – in the past Chris Buck was and could still be in a number of these categories, including blues, but this year was a big one for the Welshman; his band Cardinal Black came into their own with tours and a debut album that was 12 years on the making.
His solos can be soaring, soulful and heroic, but Chris is a humble band player at heart – serving the song is everything and melody dictates his approach. Perhaps that's why he continues to win fans.
He's also a showcase for what great gear can sound like in the right hands…
3. Mark Tremonti and Myles Kennedy (Alter Bridge)
Familiar faces here – still proving their place in hearts and minds with another strong album this year. Mark Tremonti and and Myles Kennedy don't rest. The former somehow managed to go full crooner this year too.
Now a full-fledged arena act in Europe (they're on tour in the UK as we write this), the band's connection with their fans and commitment to delivering singalong heaviness never comes at the price of thrilling guitar playing.
- Interview: "I don't know how people can perform without them because it really is a game-changer" – Myles Kennedy on using in-ears and how he faces the most underrated challenge in guitar playing
4. Steve Vai
An instrumental icon who can take on the Hydra and win, Steve's willingness to not only keep challenging himself but champion younger artists is inspiring.
He backed Polyphia early on, and their long-awaited collaboration of Ego Death was not a passing of the torch, but the recognition of mutual admiration and respect between creative guitar mavericks.
- Steve Vai: “Joe Satriani has an ear like none other. When I was a kid he would say, ‘No, don’t vibrate it out of tune. You’ll sound like an idiot!’”
5. Zach Myers (Shinedown)
Can you be an underrated guitarist in a hugely successful rock band? We'd say so in the case of Zach Myers – a player who always puts the song ahead of any need to showboat his own chophouse of licks. We're glad to see you're keen to pay him his dues too.
This year's Planet Zero doubled-down on Shinedown's commitment to huge anthems that connect in big venues as well as on record. But it also allowed Zach to stretch out with the heavier side of his talents significantly at times.
- Zach Myers: 10 albums that changed my life – “I wanted to play like Stevie Ray Vaughan and Freddie King, but I wanted to be Garth Brooks”
6. John Frusciante (Red Hot Chili Peppers)
Don't call it a comeback… though with two double albums and a stadium tour in one year that word barely seems worthy.
Were they essential entries in the RHCP canon? John Frusciante seems really happy to be back in the band playing guitar, and for a lot of his fans that's enough. While there's plenty of inspiring moments from him across Unlimited Love and Return Of The Dream Canteen, he's still a player we love to see lost in the moment onstage most of all.
But he's not even the most prolific musician of 2022 in this list.
7. Joe Satriani
Satch never disappoints – the OG when it comes to tones and phrasing, his influence and the benchmark he sets in guitar is evergreen.
Even so, this years The Elephants Of Mars was a highlight in his creative output. Satch getting intense and psychedelic across a strong suite of songs that was at least one upside to the terrible downs of the pandemic.
- Joe Satriani interview: "I just wanted to raise my bar – I just wanted it to be higher on every level"
8. Matt Bellamy (Muse)
Once heralded as a new school guitar hero, Matt Bellamy and Muse will be regarded as classic rock by the next generation. But the Teignmouth titan can still thrill with a monster riff and flurry more than any stadium band of his era.
This year's Will Of The People saw him flirting with metal more than he has in a long while, all mixed up in the unapologetic apocalyptic bravado that has become the Devon trio's hallmark.
9. Lari Basilio
We're really pleased to see newer players being recognised in your votes this year amongst more established icons because this is how inspiration moves forward, and Lari Basilio takes the influences of players like Satch into her own special approach.
Third album Your Love this year found Lari coming into her own as an instrumentalist with the emotion to match her technical prowess. Who needs vocals when you can speak with such strong melodies, incorporating her Brazilian roots alongside jazz and rock.
10. Ryan Adams
Three-hour solo acoustic sets on tour that see him playing up to 35 songs, two albums given away for free download (including a just-released cover of Springsteen's Nebraska in its entirety) and three other new studio albums – two of them doubles. All in one year.
Adams is a gifted songwriter but his actual guitar playing should not be overlooked – equally inspired as a deft Americana fingerpicker as a punk rock slugger and many areas between and beyond.