Women have been playing the guitar since it was invented, but it wasn’t until the late 1970s that they began to gain recognition in the music industry. Even though it is a male-dominated genre, many women have made significant contributions to the early development of the blues and rock genres.
These women have not only helped pave the way for future generations but have also broken gender barriers with their talent on stage. Their talent cannot be understated, and their ability to play guitar is inspiring for all musicians, regardless of gender.
This list will showcase some of the most notable, talented, and influential female guitarists in history.
Joan Jett, known as the “Queen of Rock and Roll,” is a guitarist, singer, songwriter, producer, and actress. She was one of the founding members of the all-female rock band, The Runaways, formed in 1975.
After leaving The Runaways, she released her first solo album in 1980. She is best known for her hits “I Love Rock’n’ Roll” and “Bad Reputation.” After her first stage with The Runaways, she released her first solo album in 1980. She is best known for her hits “I Love Rock’n’ Roll” and “Bad Reputation.” Other notable hits include “Crimson and Clover”, “Light of Day”, and “I Hate Myself for Loving You.”
Hailed as The Original Riot Grrrl, Jett has inspired the feminist punk movement and the Riot Grrrl culture, celebrating young women in punk rock.
She has also been a long-time advocate for animal rights and environmentalism, and is a supporter of the animal rights organization, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
Jett has released ten studio albums with the Blackhearts and has had chart-topping singles in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada.
She was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1988 for the song “I Hate Myself For Loving You” and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2016, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.
Lita Ford is one of the most acclaimed female guitarists in the world. She started playing guitar at 11 and was recruited to join the all-female rock band, The Runaways. She has released nine solo albums and tours the world, thrilling audiences with her blistering guitar solos.
She’s best known for her guitar work on songs such as “Kiss Me Deadly” and “Close My Eyes Forever.” Ford has been cited as a major influence on many other female guitarists, including Jennifer Batten and Courtney Love.
Ford is a master of many styles of guitar playing and is best recognized for her hard-rocking sound. She has been praised by critics and fans alike for her virtuosity and her unique tone. In fact, her sound is so distinct that in 2012 guitar company, B.C. Rich released the Lita Ford Signature Series Warlock guitar.
She was given the Certified Legend Award by Guitar Player Magazine in 2014 and is an inspiration to aspiring female guitarists everywhere.
Nancy Wilson is one of the best-known female guitarists in the world, lauded for her work with the rock band Heart, formed with her sister Ann, and has been making music for over 40 years.
Wilson started playing the guitar at a young age, and by the time she was in high school, she was already performing with her sister in a band. In the early 1970s, Heart released their first album, which became a hit and released many more albums, with the songs “Crazy on You” and “Magic Man” hitting the Billboard Hot 100.
Nancy is known for her soulful vocals, skillful guitar playing, and songwriting ability. She has released several solo albums and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013.
In 2016 Gibson Guitars named Nancy one of the Top 10 Female Guitar Players of All Time and in 2012 received a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Nancy is a true pioneer in rock music, and she has helped break down many barriers for women in the industry. She is a role model for young girls worldwide, and her music will continue to inspire future generations.
Bonnie Raitt is one of the best-known female guitarists in the world. She has played guitar and singing for over 50 years and is still going strong. Bonnie is known for her soulful voice and her bluesy guitar playing and has released over 20 albums, and she has won 10 Grammy Awards.
Raitt started playing guitar at 8 and soon began performing at summer camps and folk festivals. In the early 1970s, she released her first album, which was a critical success, but it wasn’t until her third release in 1977, Sweet Forgiveness, that she became a household name.
Her guitar playing is heavily influenced by the blues, and she is recognized for her skillful use of the slide guitar. She’s best known for her collaborations with other talented musicians like Jackson Browne and for her single “Something to Talk About.”
Bonnie’s music is soulful and emotional, and it has won her legions of fans around the world. She is also an avid environmentalist, advocating against the deforestation of Brazilian forests.
Rosetta Tharpe was an icon in music known as the Godmother of Rock’n’Roll and is credited as an inspiration for Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Little Richard and is best known for her song “Rock Me.”
She was a gospel musician who fused spiritual music with country, jazz, and blues styles, creating a unique sound. She was the first-ever black gospel singer and guitarist to cross over into mainstream white audiences. She was a pioneer for female guitarists and is still considered one of the greatest guitarists to have ever lived.
Tharpe was born in Arkansas in March of 1915 and raised in a family of singers. She was only aged 4 when she first started playing the guitar and, by the time she was 18, had become a renowned performer, traveling throughout the country to perform.
In 1938, she recorded her first gospel album, which was an instant success and released a dozen albums and toured all over the world throughout her career. Johnny Cash stated that Tharpe was his favorite singer when he was a child during his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction speech.
Rosetta Thorpe was posthumously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2007 and elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as an Early Influence in 2018.
She passed away in 1973 at the age of 58, but her music and influence live on, and she remains one of the most influential figures in music history.
The best female guitarists in the world are a diverse group. They range from bluesy and soulful to rock n’ roll pioneers, but they all have one thing in common: their skill on the guitar is undeniable.
These women deserve recognition for breaking down barriers throughout music today by being brave enough to play what they loved, no matter who it was for or how many people thought it wasn’t respectable enough.
By playing an instrument traditionally dominated by men, these ladies helped change the world of music.
The legacy that these amazing women left behind will continue to inspire generations of young girls worldwide who want nothing more than to pick up their first electric guitar, plug in, and rock out.
Eduardo Perez is a multi-instrumentalist with over 20 years of experience playing instruments such as piano, guitar, ukulele, and bass. Having arranged songs and produced music in a recording studio, he has a wealth of knowledge to share about analyzing songs, composing, and producing. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Musical Studies at Berklee College School of Music. Featured on Entrepreneur.com. Subscribe to his YouTube channel, or follow him on Instagram.