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100 Greatest Guitar Players of the 80s and 90s

Updated on August 17, 2015

Instrumental rock gained prominence in the 80s and 90s. A number of guitarists during the 80s released solo albums showcasing their guitar chops. A new breed of shred guitarists emerged taking guitar technique to unprecedented heights. The technical accuracy of guitar players in the 80s and 90s was at another level. Guitarists from various genres incorporated hybrid picking techniques that altered sound dynamics aesthetically. Guitar players that embarked on a solo career became insanely popular with guitar oriented music aficionados.

Guitar Tapping in the 80s and 90s

While guitar tapping was existent since the early 50s, it was rock guitar players in the 80s that resurrected guitar tapping techniques to mainstream. Hammer-on techniques, Pull off techniques, and two-hand tapping techniques of guitarists mesmerized audiences at live shows. Guitar tapping became a rage in the 80s and since then guitar tapping styles have evolved in a big way. With technological advances, the guitar sound in the 80s and 90s changed dramatically. Guitar effects processors did make a big impact with guitar players. A number of guitarists made their own pedal boards with the help of guitar technicians for their live performances.


Solo Albums in 80s and 90s

The 80s and 90s were decades that witnessed articulate guitar techniques being incorporated by guitar players. While playing with bands a number of guitarists also found time to release solo albums. The 80s and 90s opened new pathways for guitar players focusing on instrumental albums. When we talk about ‘Guitar Gods’ a number of guitarists from the 80s and 90s fathom depths in thoughts. The phrasing in guitar solos melted hearts, and the fluid runs on the fret board did make jaws drop in the glam metal era. Neo classical guitarists flourished in the 80s and 90s. Many neo classical shredders released solos albums in the 80s and 90s. Audiences of guitar music were floored by the compositional skill of neo classical guitarists. The 80s and 90s also witnessed a pool of creative jazz fusion guitar players emerge.


Record companies promoting guitar players in the 80s and 90s

While there were many record companies that promoted guitar oriented music in the 80s and 90s, it was Shrapnel Records started by record producer Mike Varney that was responsible for showcasing talented upcoming guitarists. A large number of virtuoso guitar players from the neoclassical genre, fusion genre, and jazz fusion genre have released albums on Shrapnel Records, making the record label the most popular record label associated with guitar music. The 80s and 90s catapulted instrumental rock to new heights thereby shaping the future of guitar music in various genres.


Hair Band Guitarists in 80s and 90s

Hair bands became insanely popular in the 80s and early 90s. Melodic guitar solos became an integral part in the AOR scene. The fiery passion of guitar solos in acoustic rock ballads and power ballads connected with listeners globally. Guitarists from hair bands in the 80s were worshiped by fans. A significant number of guitarists from glam metal bands in the 80s had successful careers with their solo albums. Guitar players in the 80s and 90s paved the way for many technical and experimental guitarists of the future.

Guitar Players of the 80s and 90s featured on Guitar Magazines

Over the years many guitar magazines have featured guitarists of the 80s and 90s. Guitar players of the 80s and 90s contribute columns and lessons on guitar oriented magazines such as ‘Guitar Player’ and ‘Guitarist’. Furthermore many guitarists from the 80s and 90s also offer lessons and contribute columns on guitar oriented online platforms. There is no denying the 80s and 90s are the most important decades in instrumental rock guitar. The future of guitar kingdom is bright, and we will be witnesses to a new wave of guitarists.

The list below encompasses guitarists from various genres.

100 Greatest Guitar Players of the 80s and 90s

  1. Greg Howe (Fusion/Jazz Fusion/)
  2. Paul Gilbert (Rock)
  3. Stanley Jordan (Jazz/Jazz Fusion)
  4. Eric Johnson (Rock/Pop)
  5. Vinnie Moore (Rock)
  6. Shawn Lane (Fusion/Jazz Fusion)
  7. John Petrucci (Rock/Progressive Rock)
  8. Joey Tafolla (Rock)
  9. Stevie Ray Vaughan (Blues/Blues Rock)
  10. Yngwie Malmsteen (Neo Classical/Rock)
  11. Eddie Van Halen (Rock)
  12. Joe Satriani (Rock)
  13. Michael Angelo Batio (Rock/Hard Rock)
  14. Tony MacAlpine (Rock/Neo Classical)
  15. Jason Becker (Rock/Neo Classical)
  16. Richie Kotzen (Rock)
  17. Marty Friedman (Rock/Thrash/Speed Metal)
  18. Steve Vai (Rock)
  19. Michael Lee Firkins (Rock/Bluegrass/Country)
  20. Dimebag Darrell (Rock/Thrash Metal/Groove Metal)
  21. Emily Remler (Jazz)
  22. Randy Rhodes (Rock/Hard Rock/Heavy Metal)
  23. Jennifer Batten (Rock)
  24. David Chastian (Rock/Neo Classical)
  25. George Lynch (Rock/Heavy Metal)
  26. Slash (Rock/Hard Rock)
  27. Mike Stern (Jazz/ Jazz Fusion)
  28. Michael Romeo (Progressive Metal/Rock)
  29. Nuno Bettencourt (Rock)
  30. Alex Skolnick (Heavy Metal/Jazz)
  31. Andy Timmons (Rock)
  32. Kirk Hammett (Rock/Speed Metal/Thrash)
  33. Brett Garsed (Jazz Fusion/Rock)
  34. Michelle Meldrum (Rock/Heavy Metal)
  35. Buckethead (Rock/Heavy Metal/Avant-Garde-Metal)
  36. Rob Marcello (Rock/Neo Classical)
  37. Mattias Eklundh (Rock/Experimental)
  38. Bireli Lagrene (Jazz Fusion/Gypsy Jazz)
  39. Frank Gambale (Jazz Fusion)
  40. Ron Jarzombek (Progressive Metal/Technical Death Metal)
  41. Bill Frisell (Jazz/Jazz Fusion)
  42. T.J. Helmerich (Rock/Jazz Fusion)
  43. Joe Stump (Neo Classical/Hard Rock)
  44. Jeff Healy (Blues/Blues Rock)
  45. Dan Huff (Rock/Country/Pop)
  46. George Bellas (Rock/Neo Classical)
  47. Torsten de Winkel (Jazz/World Music)
  48. Reb Beach (Rock)
  49. Tom Morello (Rock)
  50. Scott Henderson (Jazz Fusion/Blues)
  51. Alex Masi (Rock)
  52. Neil Zaza (Rock)
  53. Akira Takasaki (Rock/Heavy Metal)
  54. Doug Aldrich (Rock/Hard Rock/Heavy Metal)
  55. James Murphy (Rock/Thrash Metal/Death Metal)
  56. Tak Matsumoto (Rock/Hard Rock)
  57. Vivian Campbell (Rock/Hard Rock/Heavy Metal)
  58. Shaun Baxter (Jazz Fusion/Rock)
  59. Gary Moore (Rock/Blues Rock)
  60. John Frusciante (Rock/Funk)
  61. Jake E. Lee (Rock/Heavy Metal)
  62. The Great Kat (Rock/Heavy Metal)
  63. Vito Bratta (Rock)
  64. Robert Cray (Blues/Blues Rock)
  65. David Torn (Fusion/Jazz)
  66. Steve Lynch (Rock/Hard Rock)
  67. Rik Emmett (Rock)
  68. Wayne Krantz (Jazz Fusion/Jazz)
  69. John Sykes (Rock)
  70. Frank Hannon (Rock/Hard Rock)
  71. Timo Tolkki (Power Metal)
  72. Andy McCoy (Rock/Glam Rock/Hard Rock)
  73. Blues Saraceno (Rock/Blues Rock)
  74. Steve Lukather (Rock)
  75. Duke Robillard (Blues/Jump Blues)
  76. Warren DeMartini (Rock/Hard Rock)
  77. Chris Impellitteri (Rock/Neo Classical)
  78. Ted Nugent (Rock)
  79. Danny Gatton (Rock/Blues/Rockabilly)
  80. Ronnie Earl (Blues/Blues Rock)
  81. Gary Hoey (Rock)
  82. Zakk Wylde (Rock/Heavy Metal)
  83. Alex Lifeson (Rock/ Progressive Rock)
  84. Kee Marcelo (Rock)
  85. Lee Ritenour (Jazz)
  86. Dave Meniketti (Hard Rock/Rock)
  87. Carl Verheyen (Jazz/Rock)
  88. Vernon Reid (Rock/Funk)
  89. Brian Setzer (Rockabilly/Rock n Roll)
  90. Glen Tipton (Rock/Hard Rock/Heavy Metal)
  91. Brent Mason (Country)
  92. Ty Tabor (Progressive Rock/Rock)
  93. Brad Gillis (Rock)
  94. Sonny Landreth (Blues/Country Blues)
  95. Darren Householder (Rock/Neo Classical)
  96. Warren Haynes (Southern Rock/Country)
  97. “Fast” Eddie Clarke (Rock/Heavy Metal)
  98. Rick Nielsen (Rock)
  99. Walter Trout (Blues)
  100. Ronni Le Tekro (Rock/Hard Rock)


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