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The greatest guitarist of all time named

Jimi Hendrix
(Image credit: David Redfern/Redferns)

When you're choosing the GOAT, you need to do it right. It's taken three eras of the greatest guitar players in history for you to to choose the overall winner, and the nine other greats who followed them in the votes.

We started with the heroes of the pre-1980 eras before moving to 1981-2000 and 2001-2021 before the final round; all the great and the good were among your selections. Now, let's see who made the top spot and the final 10.

Check out our greatest bassist and drummer of all time winners.  

1. Jimi Hendrix 

Who else could it be? Has any player burned so bright and lit a fire on inspiration so ahead of his time… of any time? 

Oh what could have been had Jimi lived, but what he achieved in songwriting, performance and sounds in the 12 years he spent with a guitar in his hands echoes for eternity, through the blues and far beyond. 

The ultimate Jimi Hendrix lead guitar lesson


2. Jeff Beck

Undoubtedly a great, but we're surprised and pleased Jeff Beck was placed so high in the final list; you placed true musicianship above hits here. 

And what musicianship, from Tele to Les Paul and the Strat, Jeff carries Jimi's flame as the heroes' hero; finding a level of freedom and expression with the instrument where playing and guitar are at one.   

Classic interview: Jeff Beck on his love of the Strat and working with Rod Stewart


3. Eddie Van Halen 

A legend of his time, a legend for all times. Has any player ever looked so joyful onstage? It shone in every note Eddie played and the shadow his loss cast was all the darker for it. 

His lead breaks were pure electricity but his rhythm playing was the foundation that drove his songwriting with brother Alex. Technique and tones that will take a lifetime to fully digest.   

"There are no rules" – Eddie Van Halen: the last guitar mag interview


4. Jimmy Page

A triple threat: maverick player, composer and producer. Zeppelin remain a benchmark of rock bands and Page their grand orchestrator. The player who took his session experience and created the ultimate rock n' roll story; with a widescreen vision of how it should sound.

Can you imagine any other player involved creating Kashmir? That solo in Stairway? The juggernaut drive of Achilles Last Stand? In terms of catalogue alone, Page is a golden god indeed. 

5 songs guitarists need to hear by… Led Zeppelin


5. Joe Bonamassa 

The guitar needs new heroes; who can respect the past while moving forwards and inspiring new players every day. Joe Bonamassa's journey from child prodigy to one-man industry is a lesson in hard work, talent and the prolific creation of a musical legacy. 

And he's earned every sing sell-out show, every chart placing and every vintage guitar in his jaw-dropping collection.

"I just stopped playing": Joe Bonamassa on his lockdown blues, new album Time Clocks, and why he doesn't care for TikTok


6. David Gilmour

We told you there were some surprises; we were expecting the Pink Floyd legend in the top three. But this is an embarrassment of riches and David Gilmour's treasures are some of the all-time great moments of guitar playing. 

Above all, Gilmour's gifts are melodicism and feel; he's the name we drop as a reference for true class that enhances the song. We all want his tone, but we need to study his fundamental approaches first. 

Want to play guitar like David Gilmour? These two exercises will get you started


7. Mark Knopfler

Another king of tone and taste, Mark Knopfler's fingerstyle touch is instantly recognisable in the players it has inspired. He brought his blues and rock n' roll influences to stadiums on his own terms with Dire Straits, and walked away from it with the same integrity. 

And like Gilmour, he's still delivering masterclasses in venues around the world. Where every note matters. 

Mark Knopfler pro tip and guitar warm-up exercise: "You've got to stop associating emotion with tension"


8. Stevie Ray Vaughan 

The '80s were a strange time for guitar; the rise of synths and leaps in studio technology saw to that. Adapt or fall? How about facing it all down with a Texas shuffle and tone that became the stuff of legend. 

SRV's story was all too short but we can hardly call him potential unfulfilled with the catalogue he left behind. Blues power indeed. 

Classic interview: Stevie Ray Vaughan talks Texas blues, Strats and addiction


9. Prince

Prince could probably make the list for a few musical disciplines but along with his many other gifts it bears repeating that he was a truly thrilling guitar player to witness.

The music seemed to flow through him – an effortless virtuosity to witness. He knew how and when to strike with a killer lick, and though less can be more - he also knew sometimes more is necessary! 

5 things guitarists can learn from Prince


10. Slash

Here's a thought, Slash might actually be in his prime as a player right now. Yes, he has an incredible start with the key part he played in 1987's Appetite For Destruction and he stepped up as a new guitar hero for millions then, but the sober Slash of today seems more driven than ever; at it shows in every note he plays. 

With new music from both his bands, he's showing no signs of stopping. 

 

Classic interview: Slash on the story of Guns N' Roses's Use Your Illusion I & II