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Great Guitar Players

Updated on November 9, 2020

Guitar - history of electric guitar

If you are new to guitar playing, you should really check out some of the history and background of the instrument. It will give you some ideas about the style of guitar you want to learn, and even the things that don't interest you much.

Check out the video, it's absolutely excellent as an 8 min introduction to guitar tone and guitar styles from the 1930s to the 1970s. You might think that guitar from the 1930s does not have much relevance today, but that isn't the case at all. Almost every great contemporary guitarist is a fan of Django Reinhardt, the original guitar superstar active from the 1930s to the 1950s.

The video

This video is by a Norwegian dude - Ketil Strand - respect to him for doing such a great job. The standard of playing is excellent - he is doing a demo of a Fractal guitar effects unit, which is basically a computer which covers lots of great sounds, about 300 presets. It is hideously expensive and also quite hard to find - but on the basis of the youtube demos, a really excellent bit of kit. The sound quality is amazing.

I really rate the choice of examples too. Every decade is represented, and the info on amp settings etc is useful. Each style has been carefully studied, with a great technique.

If you are looking for riffs to learn, Day Tripper, Little Wing and Layla are strong contenders. Stairway to Heaven is worth learning too, as it has elements of classical guitar technique that will improve your playing, especially helpful in building finger strength for barre chords.

Great guitarist shortlist

Here is a shortlist of some of the great guitar players - many of them are represented on the video, and generally you can find anything you want on Youtube, including some free lessons on classic guitar songs.

  • Django Reinhardt
  • Charlie Christian
  • Robert Johnson
  • Jimi Hendrix
  • Wes Montgomery
  • Jeff Beck
  • Carlos Santana
  • BB King
  • Robben Ford
  • Mike Stern
  • Jim Hall
  • Pat Metheny
  • Danny Gatton
  • Jimmy Bruno
  • Bill Frisell
  • Freddie Green
  • Larry Carlton
  • Bireli Lagrene
  • John Jorgenson

If you know a guitarist, Guitar Player magazine would make a great present - extremely good value on subscription, and always containing a lot of good lesson material. I get it on Zinio, a digital platform that is cheap and efficient.

For practising and learning jazz standards, and a wide variety of other songs, the iReal app is very handy, as the chord chart also has a playback function with backing tracks.

Practice routine

Here are some tips for improving rapidly on guitar:

  • Practice little and often. It's best to practice for 10 mins or so, then have a break. If your guitar is out of the case, practice is more likely to happen!
  • Divide your time between chords, scales, and riffs, and between new and old material
  • Try to sing along with songs, use a drum track if possible.
  • Record yourself, play with other people.
  • Memorize chord sequences and improvise on them.

Great Guitars

If you are new to guitar, maybe you won't be as opinionated as myself! The history of electric guitar has led to a situation where many guitarists are either really retro or conservative in their tastes. If you are aware of this fact, it can save you a lot of money when buying a guitar, as resale values of these guitars will tend to be higher.

  • Most of the classic guitar designs had already been arrived at and developed by the late 1950s. These still tend to be the most highly regarded designs, and include:
  • Fender Telecaster and Stratocaster
  • Gibson Les Paul, ES 335, 175.
  • The strong market for vintage guitars is an indication of how good they are - it's very difficult for new designers to improve on these originals.


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