The guitar has been around for centuries, and with each decade that passes, more amazing guitarists are born to add their unique talents to the guitar’s storied history. While there will always be room for debate about who the best guitarist of all time is, these seven guitarists are good bets for inclusion on any shortlist of greatest guitarists alive today.
Who are the best living guitarists? The list of greatest living guitarists today includes Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, Jeff Beck, Pete Townshend, David Glamour, and Derek Trucks. These best living guitarists had unique guitar playing styles and massive influence on other musicians. They also displayed longevity in the world of music.
Top 7 Living Guitarists
7. Derek Trucks
Derek Trucks is a Grammy-winning slide guitarist from Jacksonville, Florida. He is known for being one of the American blues-rock group The Derek Trucks Band, which he formed along with his wife, Susan Tedeschi. Derek also plays lead guitar with his own band and plays lead guitar for Eric Clapton’s touring band.
Trucks has got a long, storied career. At the age of nine, Trucks bought his first guitar for $5 at a yard sale and went on to become a child prodigy. By the time he was thirteen, Trucks had already performed with Buddy Guy and toured with Thunderhawk. At 20 years old, Trucks had already played with everyone from Joe Walsh to Bob Dylan. Truck’s musical style is diverse, and he has twice been named to Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time list. He is the nephew of Butch Trucks, the late Allman Brothers drummer.
6. David Gilmour
David Jon Gilmour is an English guitarist, singer, and songwriter who was a member of the progressive rock band Pink Floyd. He has sold over 30 million albums worldwide and was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March 2005. He is also ranked 10th on Rolling Stone’s list of 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time, 19th on Gibson’s Top 50 Guitarists of All Time, 5th in a similar list by Spin Magazine, and 23rd by Paste Magazine.
In addition to his work with Pink Floyd, Gilmour has worked as a producer for various artists and has enjoyed a successful solo career. In 2003, he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his services to music.
5. Pete Townshend
Pete Townshend is an English musician, singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist, best known as the lead guitarist and songwriter for The Who. His career with the Who spans over 50 years, during which time the band grew to be considered one of the most influential bands of the 20th century.
Townshend has a signature sound and style that is instantly recognizable. Like many great rock guitarists, he balances technical proficiency with great songwriting and a unique sound. Townshend has been part of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame since 1990. In 2016, he was included in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time.
4. Jeff Beck
Jeff Beck has been called one of Rolling Stone magazine’s greatest guitar players of all time. He was ranked 5th in the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time list compiled by Guitar World magazine in 2009. He is also known for his innovative guitar-playing techniques such as hammer-ons, pull-offs, and tapping, which have influenced many other guitarists after him, including Steve Vai (who claims that he would not be alive today without Jeff Beck’s influence).
Jeff was a member of the Yardbirds, which featured Jimmy Page before Page joined Led Zeppelin. Jeff was also a member of the power trio Beck, Bogert & Appice and recorded two albums with Rod Stewart. Beck has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice as a member of the Yardbirds (1992) and once as a solo artist (2009).
3. Keith Richards
The lead guitarist of the Rolling Stones, Keith Richards, is thought to be one of the best living guitarists in the world. He has a very distinct guitar sound, and his style is influenced by Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, and Scotty Moore.
Rolling Stone magazine said Richards had created “rock’s greatest single body of riffs” and placed him as the “10th greatest guitarist of all time”. Richards wrote fourteen songs with the Rolling Stones lead vocalist Mick Jagger are listed among Rolling Stone magazine’s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”. The Stones are generally identified as one of the co-founders of rock and roll.
2. Jimmy Page
Widely regarded as one of the most influential rock guitarists alive, Jimmy Page is known for his amazing riffs and solos in songs like Stairway to Heaven, Kashmir, and Rock and Roll. He started playing lead guitar for various bands around London before forming Led Zeppelin, which became one of the most successful bands.
Jimmy was voted number two on Gibson’s “Top 50 Guitarists of All Time” list in 2010. In 2007, he was ranked fourth among the “100 Wildest Guitar Heroes” by Classic Rock magazine. He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame twice, once as a member of the Yardbirds in 1992 and again as a member of Led Zeppelin in 1995.
1. Eric Clapton
Considered by many to be one of rock’s greatest guitarists, Eric Clapton defined what it meant to play from your heart. His influence and legacy are felt in virtually every guitarist that came after him. From his work with Cream and Derek & The Dominos to his solo career, he has written some of rock’s most powerful songs, including Layla and Tears In Heaven.
Although Clapton is often labeled a blues player, he started playing guitar in a rock and roll band. He eventually developed his own style, which has drawn on many different genres of music, including blues, country, and pop.
These guitarists are ranked not only on technical ability but also on influence and impact, combined with musical skill and creative output. The greatest guitarists in history span a variety of music genres and countries. The world’s top guitarists on all instruments come in all shapes and sizes, but they all have one thing in common: they all have that spark of creativity that makes them great musicians.
Michaela Jyra Melo is a freelance writer, music obsessive, and professional content creator with a passion for sharing her experiences and knowledge with the world. Michaela is a music lover first and foremost. She's passionate about new music and artists, but she also loves to dig into musical instruments and equipment. Michael studies communication at the University of the Philippines. When she's not writing or listening to new music, she can be found reading on her Kindle or traveling somewhere new with friends.