We all have an opinion on the best guitar solos of all time. These solos often make up the soundtrack of our likes and they have a way of sticking with you… you find yourself humming them or tapping a pencil to them without even noticing, they get stuck in your head for days, and more often than not they inspire some embarrassing air guitar extravagance. Most importantly, they are powerful.
Guitar solos are one of the reasons the guitar is so popular. When they are done right they ingrain themselves into the culture of that time. Ask anyone who was around in the early ’70s when Jimmy Page introduced us all to the “Stairway to Heaven”. Fast forward 20 years to “One” by Metallica. Yup, it’s stuck in your head now. We know your pain.
While it is impossibly difficult to name off all of the great guitar solos we’ve done our best to come up with a list that encompasses a wide range of tastes, music genres, and decades. With that being said…. on to the list!
The 70 Best Guitar Solos
Now, ranking 70 amazing pieces of music is just plain difficult. Especially ones that are this amazing to begin with. So we didn’t! You’ll find these solos organized by the year they were recorded.
We also have a list of easy guitar solos that is better for beginners to look through for the next song they can learn or for inspiration!
- “How The Moon” – Les Paul 1955
- “It’s So Easy” – Buddy Holly 1957
- “Johnny B. Goode” – Chuck Berry 1958
- “Wipe Out” – The Ventures (Bob Berryhill) 1963
- “Heartbreaker” – Led Zeppelin (Jimmy Page) 1967
- “Whole Lotta Love” – Led Zeppelin (Jimmy Page) 1967
- “Light My Fire” – The Doors (Robby Krieger) 1967
- “All Along The Watchtower” – Jimi Hendrix 1968
- “Voodoo Child” – Jimi Hendrix 1968
- “Little Wing” – Jimi Hendrix 1968
- “Crossroads” – Cream (Eric Clapton) 1968
- “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” – The Beatles (Eric Clapton) 1968
- “Sympathy For the Devil” – Rolling Stones (Keith Richards) 1968
- “Hound Dog” – Elvis Presley (Scott Moore) 1969
- “The Trill is Gone” – B.B King 1969
- “Soul Sacrifice” – Carlos Santana 1969
- “War Pigs” – Black Sabbath (Tommy ) 1970
- “Layla” – Derek and the Dominos (Eric Clapton) 1970
- “Machine Gun” – Jimi Hendrix 1970
- “Stairway To Heaven – Led Zeppelin (Jimmy Page) 1971
- “Highway Star” – Deep Purple (Ritchie Blackmore) 1972
- “Reelin’ in the Years” – Steely Dan (Elliot Randall) 1972
- “La Grange” – ZZ Top (Billy Gibbons) 1973
- “Time” – Pink Floyd (David Gilmour) 1973
- “Freebird” – Lynyrd Skynyrd (Allen Collins) 1973
- “Jessica” – Allman Brothers Band (Dickey Betts) 1974
- “Walk This Way” – Aerosmith (Joe Perry) 1975
- “Brighton Rock” – Queen (Brian Allen) 1975
- “Bohemian Rhapsody” – Queen (Brian Allen) 1975
- “Stranglehold” – Ted Nugent 1975
- “Cortez the Killer” – Neil Young 1975
- “The Boys Are Back in Town” – Thin Lizzy (Scott Gorham, Brian Robertson) 1976
- “Europa” – Carlos Santana 1976
- “Hotel California – The Eagles (Joe Walsh, Don Felder) 1976
- “Let There Be Rock” – AC/DC (Angus Young) 1977
- “Carry on My Wayward Son” – Kansas (Kerry Livgren) 1977
- “Shock Me” – Kiss (Ace Frehley) 1977
- “Eruption” – Van Halen (Eddie Van Halen) 1978
- “Sultans of Swing” – Dire Straits (Mark Knopfler) 1978
- “Comfortably Numb” – Pink Floyd 1979
- “Aqualung” – Jethro Tull (Martin Barre) 1979
- “Hey Hey, My My” – Neil Young 1979
- “Crazy Train” – Ozzy Osbourne (Randy Rhoads) 1981
- “I Love Rock N Roll” – Joan Jett and the Blackhearts (Ricky Byrd) 1981
- “Mr. Crowley” – Ozzy Osbourne (Randy Rhoads) 1981
- “Sharp Dressed Man” – ZZ Top (Billy Gibbons) 1983
- “Texas Flood” – Stevie Ray Vaughan 1983
- “Pride and Joy” – Stevie Ray Vaughan 1983
- “Fade to Black” – Metallica (Kirk Hammett) 1984
- “Black Star” – Yngwie Malmsteen 1984
- “Hot for Teacher” – Van Halen (Eddie Van Halen) 1984
- “Surfing with the Alien” – Joe Satriani 1987
- “Sweet Child O’ Mine” – Guns N’ Roses (Slash) 1987
- “I Could Never Take Place Of Your Man” – Prince 1987
- “One” – Metallica (Kurt Hammett) 1988
- “Cliffs of Dover” – Eric Johnson 1990
- “Cemetery Gates” – Pantera (Dimebag Darrell) 1990
- “Tornado of Souls” – Megadeth (Dave Mustaine) 1990
- “Alive” – Pearl Jam (Mike McCready) 1991
- “November Rain” – Guns N’ Roses (Slash) 1991
- “For the Love of God” – Steve Vai 1991
- “Smells Like Teen Spirit” – Nirvana (Kurt Cobain) 1991
- “Soma” – Smashing Pumpkins (Billy Corgan) 1993
- “Floods” – Pantera (Dimebag Darrell) 1996
- “Bulls on Parade” – Rage Against the Machine (Tom Morello) 1996
- “Killing in the Name Of” – Rage Against the Machine (Tom Morello) 1996
- “Paranoid Android” – Radiohead (Johnny Greenwood) 1997
- “The Bends” – Radiohead (Johnny Greenwood) 1997
- “Scar Tissue” – Red Hot Chili Peppers (John Frusciante) 1999
- “Ball and Biscuit” – The White Stripes (Jack White) 2003
What Makes a Great Guitar Solo?
A guitar solo can be an instrumental section, a melodic passage, or an entire piece of music performed by one person. A guitar solo can be played on any kind of guitar from an acoustic guitar, an electric guitar, or a good old bass.
Over the course of the 20th and the 21st century, there has been a boom in music styles which are placed in two categories- traditional music and popular music. Popular music includes genres such as jazz and jazz fusion, swing, blues, heavy metal, rock ‘n roll, and more. Every guitar solo is incredibly different from the next. A guitar solo can vary in many aspects such as technique, the degree of improvisation, simplicity, complexity, and so on.
A solo can either be unaccompanied works or compositions with the accompaniment of a number of other instruments or a big ensemble. The musicians that accompany a guitar solo can be a rock band or a jazz quartet, or a larger group such as a big band or an orchestra, for example. Folk music and classical music has been using unaccompanied solos n an acoustic guitar as far back as the acoustic guitar has been around. During the Baroque, musicians used the instrument as a solo voice in an ensemble such as the Baroque concerto.
What is more, each kind of guitar produces a completely unique sound and feel. Solos on a classical guitar, for instance, are typically used in the different forms of classical music such as concertos and chamber music.
The classical guitar is also known as the Spanish guitar. It is acoustical and made out of wood comprising six strings which are usually made of nylon. The more common way to play a classical guitar is by plucking the individual string with a fingernail. One can use the fingertips to do that, but it is more rare. A solo concert on a classical guitar is called a recital.
One of the most popular types of guitar solos is the one played on an electric guitar. An electric guitar is played through a guitar amplifier in order to make it louder. A guitar amplifier, however, is not just a sound increaser as it also has a preamplifier as well as tone controls. Some models even have overdrive controls that allow the user to make modifications in the tone of the instrument and how it sounds.
Electric guitar solos were all the rage in heavy metal and hard rock music during the 1980s. The solos were described as ”shredding” as the sound was rapid-fire and had an irregular yet rousing sound. In fact, a good lead guitarist doing virtuosic solos was often more prised than the led singer, which is rarely the case in modern times.
Advanced harmonics techniques became very widely used during that time. The subgenre of Nu Metal was extremely different from its predecessor. In fact, the genre completely abandoned guitar solos and only lead fills could be heard here and there. At the same time, grunge chose not to leave guitar solos behind for the most part, and so they were more common in that genre. Other subgenres such as pop and popular rock music either excluded guitar solos or trimmed them down significantly to a four-bar transition.
Electric guitar solos have become one of the most loved aspects of heavy metal and rock music. Some bands put their own twist on it, and others make it their signature. There are guitar solos in two-part where both lead and rhythm guitar take turns. There are also dual solos where the lead and the rhythm play complementary together.
In any case, guitar solos have been around for many a decade. Soloists and guitarists have been adding to the various techniques known before them and have been expanding the movement. Fortunately, marvelous guitar solos are now widely available to the public more so than ever before. Music enthusiasts can enjoy the plucking of a vast number of virtuous musicians despite the fact that they are no longer with us. They still inspire aspiring musicians, and their legacy serves as education for modern generations. These are some of the best guitar solos in history.
The Final Note
I think that we all recognize a great guitar solo, even if we don’t all agree on which is the best, or even if a solo qualifies or not. That being said, we are confident that we have found at least a few solos on this list that will match even the pickiest critics’ taste.
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