Who are some female guitarists that deserve to be up there?
I’m not a huge Prince fan but it’s hard not to be impressived with his musicianship. I mean, the guy’s a fuckin’ genius. And just watching him at the George Harrison Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame induction sold me on his guitar skills.
Regarding these lists, the Rolling Stone list from a couple years ago (I think they just redid it, right?) was kinda silly too. I mean, Kurt Cobain and Kirk Hammett were both in the top 20? Above Mark Knopfler and Tommy Iommi? Come on, get real.
Kirk Hammett doesn’t belong anywhere in the top 100 let alone 20. Hetfield wrote most of the best riffs in Metallica i’m sure.
I haven’t read the list yet, but as a muso oriented guy i tend to be a little biased towards more technical guitar players. metal players, hard rock players, fusion guys etc etc.
so for me a list without guys like Al Di Meola, for example, isn’t a particularly great or well rounded one. plus you have more fringe players like Marc Ribot that are incredibly inventive but almost never get mentioned. then you have guys that helped redefine heavy music in the 80’s and early 90’s, like Justin Broadrick(Godflesh,Jesu etc), Tommy Victor(Prong), and Page Hamilton(Helmet) that rarely, if ever, get mentioned either.
I think the lists need to be a little more specific, or at least more representative of guitar styles across a wide variety of genres, otherwise they just aren’t credible imo. I understand that quite often the focus is on who was influential in popular culture, but too often they ignore the smaller artists that created the initial ripple/s that eventually became watershed moments.
It’s not all about solos, but you need to be able to play with charisma. It needs to be something more unique and special than just playing all the notes in sequence.
Thurston Moore as #1? Seriously?
It’s fine if you want to counter the idea of classic guitar virtuosity, but then pick people who are seriously great at guitar, not people who played really easy guitar riffs in a really unique, original way.
More female guitarists
I actually know of more great female bassists. I wanted to post a video of Touchdown, featuring the incredible prowess of bassist Emily Powers, but nothin’ doin’…
The Minneapolis sound is a hybrid mixture of funk, rock, pop, synthpop and New Wave, that was pioneered by Prince in the late 1970s
Right—Prince’s music has a distinctive and identifiable sound (I think Prince was a Svengali to a lot of those other musicians mentioned in the list, but maybe I’m wrong about that.), but what about his guitar playing?
“…but what about his guitar playing?”
“…a hybrid mixture of funk, rock, pop, synthpop and New Wave…”
“…a hybrid mixture of funk, rock, pop, synthpop and New Wave…
Right, but does it result in something instantly identifiable? I’m thinking of musician who can instantly recognized by a few notes (well, perhaps that’s a more extreme definition). Hendix, Van Halen, Bill Frisell and John Scofield are guitarist I would put in this category (off the top of my head). I think there are many talented guitarists, but they may not have an original sound and approach. Steve Lukather of Toto is talented, but, I find his style pretty non-descript. I’m not saying Prince’s guitar playing is “non-descript”, but I’m not sure I’d be able to identify him in a blindfold test either. (I could probably identify him based on the music overall, but maybe not his guitar playing by itself.)
“Right, but does it result in something instantly identifiable?”
Prince’s music isn’t instantly identifiable?
See the problem I have with non-musicians judging musicians is they always argue that, somehow, great players shouldn’t be constrained by the music they might be forced into playing.
The reason one might not instantly recognize Prince’s guitar (other than not listening) is because the mixture of music he chooses to combine is dominated by rhythmic based forms and/or genres (funk, pop, New Wave, rock, etc.), as opposed to melody based forms and genres (jazz, blues, folk, ‘classical’).
That’s also the reason every single guitarist you named that has a supposed “instantly recognizable” sound has a definitive background in either blues (Hendrix), ‘classical’ (van Halen), folk (Frisell) or jazz (Scofield).
So, the corollary would be:
Who’s the greater bassist? Les Claypool or Paul Chambers?
Les obviously has the more instantly recognizable sound (because he combines a bevy of rhythm based forms (“My Name is Mud”), and plays melody (“The Ol’ Diamondback Sturgeon”), at the same time(“Bob”)), but Chambers’ knowledge and skill on his instrument is utterly undeniable, and probably exceeds Les by ten-fold.
And, while I’m on the subject, Larry Lalonde is the most underrated guitarist of the last 35 years.
Prince’s music isn’t instantly identifiable?
See my comment to Robert.
Btw, I should say that I haven’t listened intently to a lot of Prince’s guitar work, so my comments should be taken with a grain(s?) of salt.
I don’t agree with some the choices you’ve made with regard to dividing the styles. For example, if I had to choose, I’d say jazz is more rhythm based than melody based (I’m not entirely clear what you mean by the descriptors, either).
Well, this seems like an oversimplification, but whatever.
Who’s the greater bassist? Les Claypool or Paul Chambers?
Well, I must admit that evaluating bassists in terms of greatness would be difficult for me, so I’m the wrong person to ask about this.
“I don’t agree with some the choices you’ve made with regard to dividing the styles. For example, if I had to choose, I’d say jazz is more rhythm based than melody based…”
I thought I might get shit for including blues, but jazz is pretty much definitively based on melody.
Hence, bebop being defined by its evermore complex chord changes (i.e. how one approaches melody), and post-bop/modal jazz being based in musical modes, phrygian, dorian, lydian, etc., (i.e., once again, based in melody). Even the work of free musicians was to open up the melodies they created to twelve-tone scales, or to get rid of chords entirely in favor of “free”-melodies.
The defining feature of rhythm in jazz is that the bass locks in with the cymbals, not the actual kit of the drummer. This downplays the interplay between the two, to quite an extensive degree (compare the modal-period work of Philly Joe and Paul to the fusion-funk work of Paul Jackson and Mike Clark), thus downplaying the overall rhythmic aspect of the music (hence, why Mingus is never criticized for playing about 3-5 basslines over, and over, and over again).
As this relates to the guitar…
The lead guitarist in a pure funk band plays chords. He outlines the rhythmic scope of the piece, while either vocalists and/or a horn section outline the melody, generally speaking.
The lead guitarist in a blues or jazz band will play single note lines, melodies, as well as providing some rhythm (more like a pianist).
The latter sticks in the head more, undeniably, and makes the playing more “recognizable” (pretty much all of Hendrix’s and van Halen’s famous lines are single note melodies), but not necessarily greater.
“I’m not sure I’d be able to identify him in a blindfold test either.”
I could . Jeez Jazz, next you’re going to tell us you didn’t realize it was him playing synths on the intro to Stevie Nicks’s “Stand Back”
. . . then again I think I could generally identify Steve Lukather (to me, the Luke stuff on “Beat It” is as identifiable as the Van Halen solo). One thing that complicates things a bit is that Prince generally shared guitar duties on his albums, so a lot of times you’re hearing, say, Wendy Mevoin or Dez Dickerson or Miko Weaver in addition to Prince on a Prince song.
Gosh, if we’re including blues and jazz guitarists, that’s a whole ’nother list (or lists).
OK, judging from the comments on Thurston Moore, Mubi needs a Glenn Branca thread.
When you look the different styles of jazz, I think you could make a case that rhythms separate the styles just as much as harmony. You mention the role of bass and drums, but if you just listened to the bass and drums from New Orleans jazz to jazz-rock there would be some significant differences.
But I think I have a better idea of what you mean by “melody based.” It sounds like you’re basically saying that guitarists in jazz and blues have more space to stretch out for their solos—hence, they’re able to create a melody. (Classical music also allows soloists this space for melody.) In rock, funk, country, folk, R&B—especially the more popular forms—there isn’t this type of space. Guitarists in these styles aren’t given a lot of room for these type of solos. Bands in the late 60s/early 70s (e.g., Cream, Hendrix’s various groups, Zappa’s various groups, Allman Brothers, etc.) featured long guitar solos, but these are exceptions, so in a sense the guitar playing was more rhythm or riff oriented. If that’s what you mean by melody and rhythm based then I can see what you mean
Well, seriously, you gotta understand I’m coming from a jazz perspective. I tend to think that jazz fans put a priority on an individual sound and approach—and while the notion of recognizing a player in a few notes may seem ridiculous, it is actually not far from the truth.
Maybe I haven’t listened to Prince enough, though, but, fwiw, my comments refer to mostly his soloing.
Is Lukather playing the rhythm parts on “Beat it?” I would have never known. The one or two riffs that dominate the song sound like Eddie to me.
I love Django, but, as Matt said, if we include non-rock guitarists, the list would be significantly different, I think (and even more difficult).
Thanks for the youtube clip of Prince. It was nice (although I wish the mix/back-up playing didn’t drown out the solo so much.)
I agree with Jazz that Prince’s guitar playing is not all that distinctive. However, his sound is distinctive, or at least was, but the guitar is part of a greater whole. I think his soloing is pretty lame really. just sounds like a flurry of notes. Only proper shredders can get away with doing that. He just isn’t precise enough to make it work.
Larry Lalonde is an excellent player, particularly on those 90’s Primus records. His solos on ‘Tales From The Punchbowl’ and ‘The Brown Album’ were incredibly impressive. I guess because he is so minimal in style, and essentially providing support for Claypool’s thunderous bass riffs, that he is easy to overlook. But what’s interesting about Primus’ sound is the way that Lalonde moves in and out of the supporting role and occasionally steals the spotlight for a brief moment, only to recede in the background. It’s that tension that made Primus so great in their heyday.
re:Glen Branca. I like him, at least his earlier work, but he always struck me as one of those ‘moment’ kind of artists. He was important for like a second then faded away, yet he was also quite influential. A lot of the ideas taken up by fashionable ‘post-rock artists’ of the late 90’s/early 00’s that delved into guitar orchestration can probably be traced back to him in some way.
“I guess because he is so minimal in style…”
But that’s what makes his playing so powerful. How many guitarists hear a bassline like the one in “My Name is Mud” and think, “okay, I’ll just play an F#, then,” and make it work?
The thing that makes him interesting, to me, is that tension you mention (that rhymes). Lalonde is always experimenting with tritones and amps up the treble on his guitar (as well as preferring the so-called ‘Leslie’ effect over the ever-present crunchy overdrive and distortion of 90’s rock guitar). He has such an angularity and inventiveness in his playing; I don’t think any other guitarist has cut through Les’ bass as well. Though Huth came close on the Sausage album, and Belew did as well on his Side One and Side Three albums (and I’d guess Belew is a huge influence on Lalonde).
“Is Lukather playing the rhythm parts on “Beat it?” I would have never known. The one or two riffs that dominate the song sound like Eddie to me.”
Yeah. The main guitar riff of the song is Lukather . . . and actually the bass, too. Only the solo (about 3:10 into the song) is Eddie’s.
“Well, seriously, you gotta understand I’m coming from a jazz perspective. I tend to think that jazz fans put a priority on an individual sound and approach—and while the notion of recognizing a player in a few notes may seem ridiculous, it is actually not far from the truth”
No, I agree, jazz takes soloing, for example, a lot more seriously that rock does, generally speaking. But a lot of rock players have a more or less instantly recognizable style—Keith Richards, all three original instrumentalists for the Who, Neil Young, Hendrix, Angus Young, George Harrison,. Chuck Berry, the Edge, Rick Nielson, Lindsey Buckingham, John Fogerty, Joe Walsh, Ted Nugent, David Gilmour, Peter Green, Dick Dale, Julianna Hatfield, Mike Campbell, Roger McGuinn, Duane Allman, Steve Wynn, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jimmie Vaughn, Slash, Ace Frehley, Prince Steve Lukather, Robert Quine, Richard Thompson, Richard Lloyd, Neal Schon, Carlos Santana, John Bonham, Randy Rhodes, Neal Giraldo, Steve Howe, Steve Hackett, Andy Summers, Andy Taylor, Brian May, Peter Buck, the Radiohead dude, Waddy Wachtel, Marc Bolan, John Sykes, Steve Cropper—not that all of those are even great players per se, by they’re certainly recognizable.
“re:Glen Branca. I like him, at least his earlier work, but he always struck me as one of those ‘moment’ kind of artists. "
Fair enough, I’d say he’s more of a niche artist—I’m not really especially interested in Branca himself, but what I meant was that the suggestion that Moore is playing stuff that anyone could play shows a lack of appreciation for, alternate tunings, repetition, drone, and other things not typically explored in popular music. Members of Sonic Youth, the Swans, and Paige Hamilton of Helmet have all passed through his ensemble, so he sort of is to Thurston Moore et al as La Monte Young and Tony Conrad were to the Velvet Underground.
Hmm, I’ve been listening to a bunch of Toto songs, and my feeling is that the riffs sound more like Van Halen than Lukather. But seeing your list of guitarists makes me wonder if I have listened to these guitarists carefully enough. Some of them I haven’t really listened to since I was a kid, and I didn’t really pay close attention to details, so…Still, how can you separate the guitar playing out from the music as a whole? The music is recognizable, but I’m not sure about the guitar playing by itself? For example, if Nugent, Angus Young and Ace Frehley played solo guitar, you think you’d be able to pick them out? I haven’t listened to Nugent or Ace since I was about eleven years old, but I would think they’re not so original or distinctive that you could easily pick them out. I’m not talking about them playing their well-known riffs, either. Suppose they played something unfamiliar.
Well, first of all, let’s put them side by side from roughly the same period.
First of all, I’d listen for the sound of the guitar itself. Frehley almost always plays a Gibson Les Paul, Angus Young almost always plays a Gibson SG, and Nugent often played a Gibson Byrdland (which, unlike the other two, is a hollow-bodied guitar). The difference between the sound of a Les Paul and an SG is that the (heavier) Les Paul has a sweeter low end tone, while the (lighter) SG has a sweeter high end tone. The Byrdland has yet a different tone because the hollow body fattens the sound of the vibrating strings. Also, Ace usually plays with a delay pedal and an octave pedal (something Hendrix used to use quite a bit), while Young and Nugent don’t really use pedals at all.
Stylistically, the Nuge (who I dislike immensely, by the way) does a lot of string-bending and vibrato. Ace is pretty straightforward—he uses a toggle switch stutter or a bit of tapping here and there. Young is even more straightforward. His playing is more of a percussive sound than either of the above, and you get hammer-ons and –offs and the occasional arpeggio.
Wu:agree but i think Buckethead did a respectable job on that Bernie Brain project he did with Claypool. Buckethead can play just about anything though. Did you like that last Primus record?
oh and Swans > anyone on this forum’s fav band! hehe
@JAZZ “Well, seriously, you gotta understand I’m coming from a jazz perspective. I tend to think that jazz fans put a priority on an individual sound and approach—and while the notion of recognizing a player in a few notes may seem ridiculous, it is actually not far from the truth.”
Being a jazz afficionado I tend to have the same experience. With just a few notes I can easily tell Wes Montgomery apart from Grant Green, Kenny Burrell or McLaughlin, Django or Joe Pass, Benson, Klugh, Ritenour or Metheny. It’s not just the sound but the phrasings and spacing as well.
On the other hand there are those guitarists who aren’t in the ‘soloist’ category but have a distinctive established sound- BB King, Bo Diddley, Albert King, John Lee Hooker…
Blues guitarists would be yet another list.
Speaking of Lukather and Ritenour
I know Jann Wenner has made the magazine a Bruce Springsteen fanzine to a fault but to put him on the list, even at 96, ahead of Lindsey Buckingham, Alex Lifeson (good God does RS and Wenner hate Rush), and Steve Jones is nuts. I feel a lot more strongly about Springsteen’s inclusion then where Cobain is ranked. I never thought guitar riffs with Bruce Springsteen and I never even thought of him as the guitarist of The E Street Band.
I stopped reading the SPIN list at Skrillex.
Springsteen’s not the most virtuosistic player certainly, and he’s always had very much a band concept to his music, so he doesn’t typically feature his own playing on record or live, and I don’t know that I’d rank him ahead of any of those guys, but he a good guitarist. As evidence, his playing on Warren Zevon’s “Disorder in the House”:
It’s not just the sound but the phrasings and spacing as well.
Yep, good point.
Another aspect is the ability to play in a way that interacts in interesting ways with the other musicians one is playing with. If it were all about individual virtuosity, Yngwie Malmsteen would show up on these lists.
Lindsey Buckingham is amazing.
I’ll take this over Springsteen any day of the week (including Sunday!).
Yeah, he is.
“Another aspect is the ability to play in a way that interacts in interesting ways with the other musicians one is playing with. If it were all about individual virtuosity, Yngwie Malmsteen would show up on these lists.”
Which is precisely why Al Di Meola is more of a well rounded musician than 95% of ‘shredders’.
But ultimately i think shredders have a place in the guitar canon. esp if they were influential.