Ten Great Young Rock Guitarists
Rock guitar is in capable hands with these contemporary guitar slingers
These days many young “shredder” guitarists are blazing through the rock and roll scene, hoping to be the best of the bunch, if not the best ever. At any rate, these young guns, if you will, are destined to replace vintage axemen such as Clapton, Page, Van Halen and Beck, as they retire or pass on to the Promised Land. Judging from what I’ve seen and heard of these young pluckers, there’s hope for the future of rock and roll guitar.
Please note this list is in no particular order and doesn’t necessarily represent all the great young rock guitarists, because I certainly could have missed one or two. Let me know if I did. Incidentally, no guitarist on this list is over 40.
Please read my list of Ten Great Young Rock Guitarists:
1. Carmen Vandenberg
Carmen Vandenberg’s musical origins were academic; that is, she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree (with honors) in guitar from London’s Academy of Contemporary Music. Then she developed a love for the bluesy guitar chops of Buddy Guy. Soon, Vandenberg joined up with fellow Brit, Rosie Bones, playing lead guitar on such hits as “Girls Can’t Play Guitar.” Eventually Vandenberg and Rosie Bones joined rock virtuoso Jeff Beck, producing the album Loud Hailer, on which Vandenberg played much of the rhythm guitar, as well as some lead riffs using Beck’s Strat. Vandenberg also toured with Beck on the Loud Hailer tour in 2016. And, also appearing on the bill was Buddy Guy. Who else?
2. Alexi “Wild Child” Laiho
Man, there’s no doubt Alexi Laiho plays faster than a motherf*****! In fact, Guitar World magazine counted Alexi as among the 50 Fastest Guitarists of All Time, a list published in July 2008. Of Finnish descent, Alexi has played lead guitar in a number of bands, perhaps the most prominent of which is the heavy metal assemblage, Children of Bodom. Over the years Alexi has garnered much praise; Metallica’s Kirk Hammett has equated Alexi’s guitar prowess with that of Joe Satriani. Alexi’s style has been called black metal or death metal, a mixture of kick-in-the-gut distortion, frenetic trills, tenebrous power chords and whammy bar included at will. Alexi’s influences include Ozzy Osbourne, Steve Vai and Zakk Wylde. Alexi may not be faster than light, but he’s certainly faster than a blur!
3. Michael Paget
Michael “Padge” Paget is a Welch guitarist, singer, songwriter, who’s ripped over the fretboard while performing with the thrash metal assemblage, Bullet for My Valentine, which has produced many albums since its inception in 1998. Paget first began playing guitar when he was 17, and the first rock tune he learned was “Polly” by Nirvana. Paget plays more than a dozen guitars, particularly ESP Guitars, one of which was named for him – the ESP Michael Paget V. Perhaps Bullet for My Valentine’s greatest hit to date is the single “Raising Hell.”
4. Henry Garza
Who’s the young rock guitarist whose Texican blues/rock sound evokes the late Stevie Ray Vaughan? The answer is Henry Garza, of course. Henry is the lead guitarist for Los Lonely Boys, a trio of brothers from San Angelo, Texas. Emerging as a group from Nashville of the 1990s, Los Lonely Boys have produced chart-climbing singles and albums since 1996. Henry’s tasty licks highlight the band’s Tex-Mex, heavy blues and Latin rock style. Henry also sings, as does every other member of the trio. Henry’s musical influences include Carlos Santana, Willie Nelson, the Doors, Blind Faith and John Lennon, of whom the band does a notable cover for “Whatever Gets You through the Night.”
5. Synyster Gates
Brian Haner Jr., alias Synyster Gates or Syn is another heavy metal rocker who plays faster than a speeding electron, and is also included on the previously mentioned list of the 50 Fastest Guitarists of All Time. At the age of 18, Synyster became the lead guitarist for Avenged Sevenfold in 1999. Syn has also worked with the avant-garde assemblage, Pinkly Smooth. By the by, the year 2006 was a very good one for Synyster; he won the Metal Hammer “Young Shredder” award, as well as the Total Guitar magazine “Guitarist of the Year” award. On stage, Syn’s sartorial splendor evokes punk rockers, Axl Rose and Gothic theatricality. On the Internet, you can even buy Syn’s garish garb.
6. Jonny Lang
Another blues axeman with a viral vibrato is Jonny Lang. And as good as Jonny strokes the guitar, he may be an even better songwriter and singer, his voice being likened to that of an aging bluesman, perhaps the legendary Buddy Guy, with whom Jonny has toured and jammed. Out of Fargo, North Dakota, Jonny began playing guitar at 12. Another prodigy in the making, Jonny formed his own band, Kid Jonny Lang and the Big Bang, which produced its first album, Smokin’, when Jonny was just 15. From 1998 to 2003, Johnny dealt with “substance” issues but came out of the episode with an improved perspective, as the album, Turn Around (2006), may confirm. Jonny’s guest appearances over the years seem to show he’s played with just about everybody; and if he hasn’t yet, he’ll soon get around to ‘em!
7. Orianthi Panagaris
Some people think Orianthi Panagaris is the fastest lady gun in the West. Coming from Australia, this talented gal can play like a guy, if you will, and she sings like a young Pat Benatar. Orianthi began playing guitar at six and started performing in bands at 14, and was soon jamming with rock luminaries such as Steve Vai and Carlos Santana. Interestingly, the late Michael Jackson picked Orianthi to be his lead guitarist in his ill-fated tour, This Is It. The pretty Aussie sealed the deal when she played Michael the guitar solo in “Beat It.” In recent years, Orianthi has launched a solo career, pumping out singles and albums and appearing as a featured guitarist whenever called upon. Incidentally, Orianthi made the list of the 12 Greatest Female Electric Guitarists. Who says girls can’t play lead guitar?
8. Jake Pitts
Jake Pitts is a lead guitarist, songwriter, producer and engineer, who currently slings guitar with the metal band, Black Veil Brides, a decidedly glam metal (or hair metal) assemblage. Pitts began shredding the axe when he was about 13, after having heard the haunting power chords of Metallica. His mother, a classical composer, taught Jake musical theory. Pitts has also been influenced by other heavy metal artists such as Van Halen, Scorpions, Black Sabbath, Avenged Sevenfold, Mötley Crüe and Buckethead. Incidentally, Jake Pitts has won awards for being an exceptional young rock guitarist.
9. Jared James Nichols
Based in Los Angeles, singer/songwriter/guitarist Jared Nichols got his first guitar at 14 and began hitting the stage almost immediately. While still a teenager, Nichols performed with such blues legends as Buddy Guy, “Honeyboy” Edwards and “Big Jim” Johnson. Soon, Nichols was playing 12 hours per day, eventually opening with such stellar guitarists as Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Derek Trucks. By the age of 21, Nichols had performed in hundreds of gigs and had won many accolades and awards for his guitar prowess. In 2012, Nichols released his debut EP, Live at the Viper Room, highlights of which were the tunes “Let It Go” and “Blackfoot.” Moreover, Nichols likes to play songs by Mountain, thereby emulating the work of legendary guitarist Leslie West. Also, along the way, Nichols has gained the attention of such illustrious slicks as Guitar World and Guitar Player.
10. Naia Izumi
Per her Facebook account, Izumi calls herself as a singer/multi-instrumentalist, whose musical emphasis is the guitar. She describes her musical style as “elegant, intricate, bizarre, soulful, sensual and rhythmic, sometimes focused on etheric and ambient soundscapes.” Izumi claims she began her musical ways at the age of 5, playing a small keyboard. Izumi works as a solo artist, producer, stage musician and session player. She has also released many self-produced singles, including "Natural Disaster," "Don’t Ask Me," "Soft Spoken Woman" and "Ambient Improvisation," a Zen-like, acid trippy, excursion through space-time, while dancing with a flower between one’s teeth – or something like that. Anyway, Naia certainly has a lot going on in her mind and fingers!
Well, that’s it. Please leave a comment and let me know if I omitted some notable young guitar slingers. Then be sure to click on the link below and watch videos of these youthful rock musicians: