You are currently viewing 10 Best Metal Guitarists of All Time & Guitars They Used

Last Updated on March 2, 2024 by Teemu Suomala

Author: DL Shepherd

Darren has been playing guitar for over 23 years. He fronted the metal band Suddenly Silence in the early 2000’s, and also achieved recognition as an award-winning bluegrass guitarist.

A native of southwestern Virginia, and has shared the stage with many big-name acts from various genres. When he is not playing one of his many guitars, he can be found riding his Harley through the mountains of Virginia.

photo reveals owner of guitaristnextdoor.com

Editing & Research: Teemu Suomala

I first grabbed the guitar in 2009. I started this website in January 2020 because I couldn’t do window installation anymore due to my health problems. I love guitars and have played dozens and dozens of different guitars through different amps and pedals over the years, and also, building a website interested me, so I decided to just go for it! I got lucky and managed to get awesome people to help me with my website.

I also got lucky because I have you visiting my website right now. Thank you. I do all this for you guys. If you have any recommendations, tips, or feedback, just leave a comment, I would love to chat with you. I have also been fortunate to produce content for several large guitar websites, such as SongsterrMusicnotesGuitarGuitar, and Ultimate Guitar.

I spend my spare time exercising and hanging out with my wife and crazy dog (I guess that went the right way…).


If you’re a metal fan, you know what I mean when I talk about the intensely giddy feeling you get when you hear a nasty riff. It just makes you feel alive! It makes you want to grab the guitar and play it over and over again. In heavy metal, we take our riffs very seriously. But where did they start? How did they come to be?

They likely started with one of the guitarists that we’ll be discussing in this article. They are the greats that laid the foundation for the genre that we love. Whether their discoveries were intentional or by accident, they changed the face of music forever. 

I have been writing for a long time about music, guitars, and many other things. I have to say that this article will probably generate some disagreements with other guitarists in the community.

Why?

Because everyone has their own opinions on who deserves to be among the 10 best metal guitarists of all time. It is an incredibly personal subject for many people including myself. However, I think we can all find some common ground when we measure things by the same criteria. 

Note! Reveal your top 10 list in the comments down below, we would love to hear it!

Our other Top 10 guitarist lists:

10 Best Guitarists of All Time

10 Best Blues Guitarists of All Time

10 Best Rock Guitarists of All Time

10 Best Jazz Guitarists of All Time

10 Best Guitar Solos of All Time

How Did We Choose The Best Metal Guitarists

The criteria that I decided to use was based on how much of an impact they had on the development of heavy metal in general. They had to be players that were proficient but they didn’t have to necessarily be shredders. 

Once again, I asked my bandmates in Seronova to name their top 10 metal guitarists and they gave me some interesting insight into players that I had either dismissed or hadn’t thought much about. I love bouncing these ideas off of others because it helps me think outside the box. 

After some lively discussion, I came up with the list below. Here is the final list of the 10 best metal guitarists of all time.


10 Best Metal Guitar Players of All Time

1. Eddie Van Halen

displays Eddie Van Halen

Guitar of Choice – Frankenstrat

Eddie Van Halen is hailed as one of the best guitar players of all time. He changed the way that guitarists used the instrument and helped bring guitar leads to another level. He inspired shredders everywhere to pick up their axes and…well, shred! 

His technical prowess and ability to write monster riffs combined to make Van Halen one of the most sought after acts in the world. Not only was he a master of the instrument – he built his own. His most famous guitar was his “Frankenstrat” that he made from spare parts. It consisted of a Stratocaster body, a Strat-style neck, and a humbucker pickup in the bridge position. It had a myriad of parts changed out over the years including necks, bridges, and pickups. If you want to know more about the Frankenstrat, check out this comprehensive article

 He also invented things like the D-Tuna (a way to tune a Floyd Rose-equipped guitar to drop D and back very quickly). The list of innovations doesn’t stop there: he also developed amplification, and later developed his own line of guitars and amplifiers. 

In other words, Eddie Van Halen was more than just a technical guitarist. He was an incredible live performer, an inventor, an innovator, and a pioneer. He even used a power drill to play the opening riff of “Poundcake”. If that’s not metal, then I don’t know what is. This is why he is considered one of the greatest guitar players of all time

Check Van Halen’s energetic live performance:

Strengths

  • Technical ability – While he didn’t invent the tapping technique, he certainly perfected it. He revolutionized guitar playing with his technical prowess. 
  • Energetic Performances – He was a natural-born entertainer. Just check out Van Halen’s live performance above to see what I mean.
  • Unmistakable tone – Eddie’s playing style and tone are instantly recognizable. 

Weakness

  • Not the best at songwriting – Many argue that Eddie’s ability to come up with a plethora of interesting riffs may be his biggest weakness. He is more rhythmic than melodic in his approach to songwriting and composing in general. 

2. Randy Rhoads

Guitar of Choice – Jackson Flying V

Randy Rhoads was a founding member of Quiet Riot, but he is known mostly for his playing with Ozzy Osbourne on his albums “The Blizzard of Ozz” and “Diary of a Madman”. He was born in Santa Monica, CA on December 6, 1956. Growing up, he studied classical guitar which he later blended with heavy metal (some refer to this style as neoclassical metal). 

Rhoads was a fast and technical guitarist with the ability to compose amazing riffs as well. Songs like “Crazy Train” and “Mr. Crowley” are some of the songs that helped bring him to the forefront of heavy metal guitar playing. 

His life was cut short tragically by a plane crash on March 19, 1982. The band was getting an air conditioner repaired, and the repair shop had a small private airstrip. At first, Rhoads refused to go up in the plane because he strongly disliked flying. He finally decided to get onboard and take some arial photographs for his mother. 

The pilot had been up all night using cocaine and was trying to “buzz” the tour bus to awake the other members of the crew. The final pass clipped the bus and sent the plane colliding with a garage where it burst into flames. Rhoads, the pilot, and a touring makeup artist were killed in the crash. Rhoads was just 25 years old. 

His guitars of choice varied. He played a white 1974 Gibson Les Paul Custom as well as a custom-made polka-dot flying V made by California luthier Karl Sandoval. He also played Jackson “short V” prototypes in both white and black. The Jackson Randy Rhoads Flying V models were released shortly after his death and remain popular today with metal players. 

His legacy lives on today through the influence that he had on guitarists such as Zakk Wylde, Kirk Hammett, Tom Morello, Dimebag Darrell, John Petrucci, and many others. Jackson still makes several models of Randy Rhoads signature guitars to this day. 

Check the live performance of Mr.Crowley, which has one of the best solos ever:

Strengths

  • Riffs and leads – Rhoads had the ability to write monster riffs complimented with technical – yet melodic – leads. He put his emotions into his playing. He wrote many riffs that are now considered “standards” when learning heavy metal guitar. Soloing was like breathing to him. 
  • Drive – Rhoads’ playing drastically improved between “The Blizzard of Ozz” and “Diary of a Madman” which shows that Rhoads was constantly trying to improve upon his playing. This begs the question: What would he sound like today if he had lived? 
  • Technical ability – While he wasn’t the best at reading music, he knew his scales and how to use them. Combine that with lightning-fast playing and he became a human orchestra. 

Weaknesses

  • It is hard to nail down his weaknesses since we only got a small slice of his playing on record. If anything, his untimely death left us wondering what it would have been like if he had recorded a solo album or explored the acoustic and classical guitar more. Perhaps his weakness was that he was too confined to the ideas of what others (Ozzy, Quiet Riot) wanted. 

3. Tony Iommi

displays Tony Iommi

Guitar of Choice – Gibson SG

Ozzy Osbourne has always had amazing guitarists by his side, and it started back in 1968 when he, drummer Bill Ward, bassist Geezer Butler, and guitarist Tony Iommi formed the band “Earth”. The band later changed their name to Black Sabbath, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Armed with his Gibson SG, Iommi crafted heavy riffs at a time when few bands dared to explore the darker depths of music. He was one of the first to use down-tuned guitars and insanely overdriven amps to create simple but hard-hitting riffs. All of this doesn’t seem that incredible when compared to today’s standards, but one of the most amazing things is…

…he did it all while missing the tips of two fingers on his fretting hand (right hand, as he plays left handed). 

Iommi suffered an accident while working at a sheet metal factory when he was 17. The accident resulted in the loss of two fingers. The doctor told him that he would never play guitar again. After a friend let him listen to Django Reinhardt who was also physically limited in his hands, Iommi made himself a set of prosthetic fingertips and began crafting his own style. 

Some say that the accident helped him develop Black Sabbath’s dark and heavy tones. He wasn’t able to play very quickly, but that didn’t stop him from playing melodic riffs – the likes of which can be found on the end of “War Pigs”

Iommi is recognized as one of the founding fathers of heavy metal due to his use of down-tuned guitars, distorted tone, and bone-crushing riffs. He is a legend who has inspired countless metal guitarists around the world. 

Check the live performance of N.I.B:

Strengths

  • Crafting monster riffs – Tony is the king of metal riffs. The sheer amount of riffs that he has written is staggering. Very few guitarists have been able to craft riffs as memorable as the ones found in Black Sabbath’s music.
  • Longevity – He’s been going strong for over 50 years on stages everywhere. There aren’t many metal players that can claim that.
  • Consistent – Tony hasn’t changed his playing style or his tone after all of these years.

Weaknesses

  • It is hard to pinpoint a weakness for Tony since he is an incredible all-around player. He can riff. He can play leads. He can say more in 3 chords than many other guitarists. Even his accident played a strong role in developing his sound.

4. Ritchie Blackmore

display Ritchie Blackmore and Deep Purple
Ritchie Blackmore is in the middle on the back.

Guitar of Choice – Fender Stratocaster

Ritchie Blackmore was the guitarist for Deep Purple and Rainbow. For some reason, he fails to turn up on many “Top 10” lists that I have read. After all, he is one of the first guitarists to mix classical scales with blues scales, and he is one of the first rock guitarists to use scalloped fretboards. To many people, he is responsible for inventing “shredding”

Blackmore’s father bought him his first guitar under the condition that he must learn to play it (my dad did the same thing with me). He then took classical guitar lessons for a year. After playing in several other bands in the 1960s, Blackmore formed Deep Purple in 1968. It was a mixture of psychedelic and hard rock driven mainly by Blackmore’s guitar and Jon Lord’s organ. The result was a thick, heavy tone with leads that leaned heavily on both blues and classical music. 

Blackmore’s weapon of choice is the Fender Stratocaster. Fender still produces the Ritchie Blackmore signature Strat to this day. One of his main guitars was a 1974 Fender Stratocaster with a scalloped fretboard. He played a Gibson ES-335 during his early years but switched to Strats in 1970. The middle pickup is never used on any of his Strats. He plugged them into his 200-watt Marshall Major amplifiers (a very loud guitar amp in those days) in the early days which created a huge wall of sound. Today, he plays Engl Amplifiers. 

Ritchie was the first guitarist to bring elements of classical music into rock. You can hear his influence in the lead work of countless modern guitarists including Unearth’s guitarists Buzz McGrath and Ken Susi. Yngwie Malmsteen was also majorly influenced by Blackmore’s playing. 

Highway Star displays Blackmores skillset really well:

Strengths

  • Draws from classical and blues influences – Ritchie’s guitar playing is filled with riffs and licks that lean as heavily on classical music as they do blues. This mixture is what created his style. 
  • Technical ability – Back in 1970, there weren’t a lot of players that could play as fast as Blackmore. He was bringing a totally new aspect to rock music, and his blazing-fast chops were part of the package. 
  • Monster riffs – “Smoke On the Water”, “Highway Star”, “Burn”…need I say more? 

Weaknesses

  • Dislike for rhythm playing – Ritchie stated that laying rhythm tracks in the studio bore him to death. This can be said for his live playing too. 
  • Poor memory – Yes, Ritchie can be heard playing the same guitar solo twice in some live versions. Sometimes the leads from songs will be switched around. Ritchie attributes this to his poor memory. 
  • Mood issues – Blackmore is infamous for his mood issues and they have oftentimes came into conflict with his playing. But hey, he once smashed a TV camera with his Strat, lit his amps on fire on stage, and then escaped via a helicopter. How metal is that?

5. Michael Schenker

display Michael Schenker

Guitar of Choice – Gibson Flying V

Michael Schenker is a German guitarist who played for the Scorpions, UFO, and the Michael Schenker Group (MSG). He grew up listening to the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix, and Led Zeppelin. These bands influenced him to pick up the guitar at a very young age. By the time he was 15, he was a member of the Scorpions, and he was a full-blown guitar virtuoso by the age of 19. 

His playing is very melodic and his tone is very mid-focused. He originally used a Gibson Flying V as his main axe until 2004 when he began a partnership with Dean Guitars and created his own signature Dean Flying V with a black and white finish. He plays through Marshall amps. 

One interesting thing that he does is that he plays with a wah pedal – he turns it on and leaves it in a half-cocked position. This, along with an EQ, boosts the mids and makes his tone stand out. It is one of the most unique and hard-hitting tones in metal. 

Check amazing live solo from Schenker:

Strengths

  • Melodic sense – Schenker is an incredibly melodic player, and this can be found from his earliest recordings through his present day recordings. His ear for melody was unlike any other guitarist, especially during his early years. 
  • Technical ability – His astounding alternate picking techniques are as quick and accurate as any German-engineered machine. 
  • Composition – He has crafted everything from incredible metal riffs to intricate acoustic pieces. Schenker’s ability to transcend genres with multiple-layered guitar tracks is nothing short of genius. 

Weaknesses

  • Michael’s inability to remain consistent over the years is probably his biggest downfall. He would come out rocking like a madman and then fade into obscurity for a while. This on-and-off behavior has been blamed on alcohol abuse in the past, but it is also said that he simply lacks inspiration. Call it what you will, but it adversely affected his playing. 

6. Dave Mustaine

display Dave Mustaine

Guitar of Choice – Gibson Flying V

Dave Mustaine was a founding member of Metallica and is currently the frontman and guitarist for Megadeth (which he also founded). He co-wrote 4 songs on Metallica’s “Kill ‘em All” record. He was fired from the band due to his extreme drinking and drug use before they recorded the album, thus making Kirk Hammett the new lead guitarist. 

Mustaine then went on to form Megadeth. As the lead singer, songwriter, and guitarist, he had complete control over the creative direction. He crafted riffs and leads that helped define what heavy metal guitar playing was supposed to sound like in the late 1980s. Mustaine, along with his former band, Metallica, helped carry metal through the grunge era and into the 1990s. Mustaine and Megadeth, however, remained more thrash oriented than Metallica and thus their music allowed for more blazing guitar solos. 

Dave now plays Gibson guitars – a Flying V signature model in particular. He began playing a BC Rich 10-string Bich strung up as a 6-string. He has used Jackson guitars, ESP, and Dean – all of which issued signature models. His new partnership with Gibson has allowed him to have signature Epiphone and Kramer models as well. 

He is certainly one of the pioneers of thrash metal. People will continue to compare him to Kirk Hammett for the rest of his life, but he stands out as the much more technical player between the two. He is also the only person to play in 2 out of the “Big 4” thrash metal bands. 

Check Holy Wars…live:

Strengths

  • Double duty – Being a guitarist and lead vocalist is taxing enough, but being a lead guitarist and lead vocalist is an entirely different level of difficult. Mustaine does both with surprising ease, seamlessly going from the mic to a guitar solo and back again. 
  • Playing Technique – Mustaine has often used techniques such as tapping and blazing-fast alternate picking. He is absolutely dangerous when playing below the 12th fret. Did I mention that he is fast

Weaknesses

  • Dave Mustaine’s biggest weakness is himself. He has battled substance abuse for many years, and it has negatively impacted his relationships with others. The lineup of Megadeth has changed more times than I can count due to his inability to get along with others. Perhaps it is a control issue more than a substance issues, but the end result has always been the same. 

7. George Lynch

display george lynch

Guitar of Choice – Various Modern Strats such as ESP Kamikaze

George Lynch is a monster! The Dokken and Lynch Mob guitarist is known for his unique style and approach to the instrument. He is also listed my some as one of the most influential guitarists in metal history. Listening to some of the outtakes from his recording sessions, it is easy to see why he deserves that title. 

George Lynch was also known for his flashy showmanship and outrageously painted guitars. He was known to have used many different brands in his career (Kramer, Charvel, Aria Pro II), but his relationship with ESP is perhaps his most famous. His signature ESP Kamikaze models are still available today. He also uses Seymour Duncan Screamin’ Demon pickups which were designed specifically for him. 

Check this “sensation” from George Lynch:

Strengths

  • Technical ability – His unorthodox approach and style are hard to imitate. He uses the entire neck when he solos as opposed to simply staying below the 12th fret.
  • Style – If for some strange reason you lose your mind and forget his name, you’ll remember his unique sense of visual style that he brings to the stage. 
  • Tone – His tone is one of the most recognizable guitar tones in history. No one sounds like George!

Weaknesses

  • George Lynch has simply been a big fish in a small pond. He has never been able to get away from mediocre musicians (singers in particular), and that has held him back. We would love to see what he could do if he team up with the right people (Glenn Hughes, for example). 

8. Dimebag Darrell

display Dimebag Darrell

Guitar of Choice – Dean ML

Where would metal be without Dimebag Darrell? I don’t know, and I don’t want to know. Dimebag hailed from Texas where he founded Pantera with his brother, Vinnie Paul, on drums. He was a fun-loving, hard-playing guy who loved to laugh and make others do the same. His personality shines on Pantera’s “Vulgar Videos From Hell” – a collection of home videos recorded by Dimebag. 

When it comes to the guitar, Dimebag was a complete lunatic. He crafted riffs and leads that were pure Texas groove metal. His tone was mid-scooped and bone-crushing while his chromatic leads were executed with a surgeon’s precision. His personality was projected with each note that he played, and he became the guitar hero of the 1990s. 

Dimebag Darrell’s life was cut short when he was shot by a deranged fan while performing with his band, Damage Plan, on December 8, 2004. 

Dime was known for playing what became his signature guitar: the Dean ML. He switched to Washburn guitars briefly in the mid-90s before switching back to Dean. Each of Dime’s guitars had incredible finishes that are now easily associated with his playing. He used Randall and Krank amplifiers, and he was fond of the Digitech Whammy pedal. 

Check Dime’s live solos here:

Strengths

  • Revolution is his name – Dimebag was a revolutionary player that not only played guitar but made it seem like it was a part of his being. 
  • Technical ability – Dime was an incredibly fast player and utilized the whammy bar on his guitar to its full potential. This is due to a strong Van Halen influence. 
  • Unique tone – While some say that Dimebag’s tone was too scooped, there’s one thing about it: you’ll never forget it once you’ve heard it. 

Weaknesses

  • Perhaps his biggest weakness was a lack of diversity. His style and tone never changed much, and even the acoustic nuances that we heard on later records were dark and cold. We never knew his full potential outside of very heavy music. 

9. John Petrucci

display john petrucci

Guitar of Choice – Music Man Majesty

When I first heard Dream Theater, I thought that there was no way anyone could play like that without having 10 fingers on his fretting hand. The complexity and mastery of the riffs and leadwork were simply mind blowing. John Petrucci was the man behind those amazing sounds. 

John began playing seriously at the age of 12. He practiced up to six hours a day and never looked back. He formed Dream Theater while attending Berklee College of Music. He combined influences from Iron Maiden, Rush, and Steve Morse to craft some of the most incredible sonic landscapes ever produced. 

To say that Petrucci is a very technical player is an understatement. Sometimes he is accused of overplaying. One of the greatest things about Petrucci’s music is that there is always so much going on that it never gets boring. You can hear elements of classical, jazz, rock, blues…basically everything. 

John played Ibanez guitars in the 1990s but later switched to Ernie Ball Music Man guitars. Both companies have issued signature guitars. The Ernie Ball also makes more affordable seven-string models that are more accessible than his premium signature series. Mesa Boogie released the JP 2C Mark IIC+ amplifier that is built to his specifications. 

Check Petrucci’s famous live solo from Tokyo:

Strengths

  • Highly educated – His time at Berklee was obviously well spent since he uses complex patterns for both his lead work and his rhythm playing. He probably knows more scales than the internet. 
  • Serious chops – Not only does he know the mechanics and theory behind his playing, he can pull it off with pinpoint accuracy and precise timing. He is a fast player with loads of dexterity. 
  • Continually evolving – John Petrucci approaches the guitar with a lot of discipline much like a concert violinist approaches the violin. He continually adds to his reportoire and is always striving to be better. 

Weaknesses

  • Self-indulgent – Many of his pieces are complex and tiring to follow for many people, especially for casual listeners.

10. Zakk Wylde

display Zakk Wylde

Guitar of Choice – Gibson Les Paul Custom

Zakk Wylde is raw, unfiltered, unadulterated rock n’ roll. Thats it. There’s no substitution. He’s known for having a strong opinion on just about everything, and he says and does whatever he wants. Love him or hate him, he’s one of the best metal guitarists to ever live. 

He became an incredible player at a very young age. Ozzy Osbourne took him under his wing and hired him as his main guitarist. You have to have some major skills to be able to pull off solos by Randy Rhoads and Jake E. Lee. Zakk does it with ease. 

With his band, Black Label Society, Zakk tunes down and churns out even heavier riffs. The songs are often peppered with sweet licks and plenty of pinch harmonics. His solos are masterfully crafted and blur the lines of melody and chaotic. 

He is known for playing Gibson Les Paul Customs with a bullseye painted on the front. He also plays his own brand, Wylde Audio, while touring as the guitarist for Pantera. 

Check Wylde’s excellent performance over Andy James’s backing track:

Strengths

  • Versatility – Zakk has proven to be an incredibly versatile guitarist. From his melodic metal leads with Ozzy Osbourne to mimicking Dimebag’s leads nearly note for note, he has proven he can adapt to nearly any style of music. 
  • Riffs – He has crafted some monster riffs of his own over the years, and they’re absolutely brutal.
  • Composition – Zakk has proven himself a true songwriter. Check out “In This River”, a song he wrote after the death of his good friend, Dimebag Darrell. 

Weaknesses

  • While Zakk Wylde never influenced me as a player (yes, I know that sounds like sacrilege), the only thing that I can find that may be considered a weakness is the fact that he is a rather sloppy player. This is, of course, my own view, but he is not the neatest guitar player to ever play. 

Runner-Ups That Just Missed The List

Nuno Bettencourt – Extreme

Nuno Bettencourt is best known as the guitarist for Extreme, but he has also been working with Rihanna (yeah, I know…) for the past decade. While this move may make some wonder why he is on this list at all, you should listen to his work with Extreme as well as his solo album. 

His style is technical yet funky which makes him a unique character among dozens of other shredders. He just doesn’t show up on the radar for most people these days. He plays a Washburn signature guitar.


Kirk Hammett – Metallica

Whether you love them or hate them, Metallica inspired a ton of players to pick up an axe (including me). Kirk Hammett was responsible for the blazing leads that helped make Metallica famous. He played everything from a Fernandes Strat copy to a Gibson Flying V to his own ESP signature models, and is known to use a wah pedal extensively – perhaps too much at times.

He missed the list because while he has changed his style over the years, he still remains rather one-dimensional as a player. He is perhaps one of the more visible guitarists, however, and deserves a mention.


Jimmy Page – Led Zeppelin

displays Jimmy Page playing on stage

Led Zeppelin were one of the first metal bands to hit the stage, and it is all thanks to Jimmy Page and his Gibson Les Pauls. He played hard, partied harder, and changed the face of the electric guitar for many people. 

Some may take this personally, but I have always thought that Jimmy Page was overrated. However, he was a pioneer that helped shape the future of heavy music, so he definitely deserves to be mentioned.


Yngwie Malmsteen

Yngwie Malmsteen is a shredder who blends classical music with metal music to create masterpieces. He was also quite a showman on the stage. Malmsteen plays his own Fender custom Stratocasters with scalloped fretboards which make his tone bright, direct, and focused. 

In my opinion, Yngwie lifts a lot of his riffs from the book of Ritchie Blackmore. This isn’t a bad thing, of course, but his music tends to be self-indulging to the point to where it becomes too much to process at times. That’s one of the reasons that he missed the top 10 list.


Terrence Hobbs – Suffocation

Terrence Hobbs is the lead guitarist for the death metal band, Suffocation. His riffs are brutal and often written in unconventional time signatures. His leads are wailing and often punctuated with crushing divebombs or shrilling trills. Hobbs can be quite technical at times as well.

He plays a custom BC Rich Warlock guitar outfitted with a Floyd Rose and Dimarzio Super Distortion humbuckers. Hobbs isn’t a very visible guitar player for many people unless they happen to be fans of death metal. However, he definitely deserves a mention due to his unique style and technical abilities.


4 Runner-Ups From Editor

  • James Hetfield
  • Andy James
  • Marty Friedman
  • Chris Broderick

FAQ

Who Is Chosen to Be The Best Metal Guitarist Most Often?

Depending on who you ask, Jimi Hendrix may be the best metal guitarist. However, I don’t see him as a metal guitarist. My bet is that Eddie Van Halen or Tony Iommi gets that title most often. 

Who Is Technically The Best Metal Guitarist?

Again, that depends on who you ask. For technical skill, my vote would go to someone like John Petrucci. Technically speaking, he knows his stuff. 

Who is The Fastest Guitarist?

The fastest guitarist in the world at the moment is Sergei Putyatov

What Metal Bands Had Only One Guitarist?

-Black Sabbath
-Pantera
-Queen
-Led Zeppelin
-Deep Purple
-Van Halen
-Motley Crue
-Quiet Riot
-Dokken
-Poison
…to name a few

Which Are The Big 4 Metal Bands?

Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax form The Big 4.

Are Metal Guitarists The Best Guitar Players?

While this could certainly be surmised, it depends on the context, genre, and style that you’re looking at. For example, Alan Holdsworth is considered to be one of the greatest in the world but doesn’t play metal. The same could be said for Doc Watson or BB King. 

Metal guitar does require a lot of dexterity, speed, and precision – especially if you are playing lead guitar. These are typically hallmarks of what is needed to be an excellent guitar player. But you don’t need to play metal to be considered a good guitar player. Make sense? 


Conclusion

I realize that I am going to upset some people with my picks, but Top 10 lists are really a matter of personal preferences. I tried to set aside my personal preferences and listen to what others had to say about their favorite players. In doing so, I found some newfound respect for them and realize that they brought a lot to the table. 

Honestly, this article was exhausting to write. It is so hard to narrow down such a large group of great guitarists into one definitive list. The fact of the matter is that we all have different preferences based on who has inspired us over the years, and that can vary depending on what generation you are. I grew up in the 90s, so I looked at people like Kirk Hammett and Dimebag Darrell as major influences. People who grew up in the 80s will have a different list; the same goes for people who grew up in the 2010s. 

Ultimately, my choices were made from consulting my bandmates and blending that with my own preferences. I also took a good look at each player’s history and listened to their music while I was writing. We’d love to hear your thoughts on this one! 

Thanks for reading, and happy pickin’ from all of us here at guitaristnextdoor.com! 

DL Shepherd

Darren has been playing guitar for over 25 years and teaching guitar since High-School. He fronted the metal band Suddenly Silence in the early 2000’s, and also achieved recognition as an award-winning bluegrass guitarist. A native of southwestern Virginia, and has shared the stage with many big-name acts from various genres. When he is not playing one of his many guitars, he can be found riding his Harley through the mountains of Virginia. Expertise: teaching guitars, electric guitars, acoustic guitars, guitar amplifiers, guide pedals, flatpicking, bluegrass, metal, rock, and blues.
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Chris

Wow the disrespect to chuck shuldiner and alexi lohai.

Teemu Suomala

Hi Chris! Both Schuldiner and Laiho are amazing players! Thanks for pointing them out!

JD

Ace Frehley NEEDS to be on this list..PERIOD… He is easily once of the most INFLUENTIAL metal guitarists ever….. just ask Dime, Friedman, Mustaine, Slash, Ian, Szabo, McCready, Deleo, etc, etc, ETC… there are too many to count!
https://youtu.be/cjJUUqCyGCA

Teemu Suomala

Hi! Ace Frehley just missed the list, but he is an amazing & influential player, don’t get us wrong. Thanks for linking to that great solo! Take care!

Kenny Perkins

The Bass is a guitar also so that is another guitarist.. just saying

Teemu Suomala

Thanks for commenting Kenny!

Magnus Persson

Why not Jeff waters from annihilator??? He’s fast groovey and a great person who really kicks most of all guitarists in my opinion. So he really deserves to be one of the numbers of the best guitarists of the list 😉😉😉

Teemu Suomala

Hi Magnus! Great pick, thanks for sharing! He personally didn’t came to my mind, probably because he is a little less popular. But of course that doesn’t mean that he isn’t an awesome player…he absolutely is. I would personally place him in the runner-ups. Take care!

Joan Francom

Have you ever heard of Matthias Jabs?

Thanos Lar.

How about Jason Becker who managed to do so much in so little time?
He pushed guitar forward.

Teemu Suomala

Hi!
Absolutely, he did much in a little time. Sadly his career was cut so short. Thanks for commenting and take care!

Tracy

Glenn Tipton! I read your disclaimer about choices but damn.

Teemu Suomala

Hi Tracy! Glenn Tipton just missed the list. Thanks for commenting and visiting!

A Me

Thank you for not including Kurt cobain

Teemu Suomala

Hi! We didn’t consider Kurt Cobain a metal guitarist. He is a great guitar player and awesome songwriter & singer for sure.

Paul

You forgot Dave Murray and Adrian Smith, Vivian Campbell

Teemu Suomala

Hi Paul! All 3 are awesome players. If all 3 of those greats were born in America, they most likely would be even more popular. But as I said, all 3 of those players are amazing, no matter the nationality. Thanks for visting and commenting Paul!

Yorum

Best best best..

John

You cannot have a best metal guitarists of all time list without the great Dave Murray and Adrian Smth of Iron Maiden or KK Downing and Glenn Tipton of Judas Priest.

Teemu Suomala

Hi John! Yes, many will place at least a couple of those greats to the list. Thanks for pointing them out!

Kim

Good article but jimmy page?

Teemu Suomala

Hi Kim! Page deserved a runner-up position since he is one key pioneer of Metal.

Jeff

Eddie couldn’t play as well as Randy. I wouldn’t call what Van Halen did metal.

Teemu Suomala

Hi Jeff! Thanks for revealing your opinion. EVH’s impact on guitar playing, and especially to rock and metal playing is so huge that he can’t be ignored. In our opinion, though most Van Halen’s songs can be put in hard rock category nowadays, they did metal too, check Running with the Devil and Mean Street for example. Van Halen was also considered a metal band back in the day. Take Care!

A

Eddie is one of the greats, but in no way shape or form was he a metal guitarist. Straight up rock star.

Teemu Suomala

Hi and thanks for commenting! I quote my another message a little “EVH’s impact on guitar playing, and especially to rock and metal playing is so huge that he can’t be ignored. In our opinion, though most Van Halen’s songs can be put in hard rock category nowadays, they did metal too, check Running with the Devil and Mean Street for example. Van Halen was also considered a metal band back in the day” – So this is way he sits at the top of our list. All the best to you!

Steven

As always no love for Ace Frehley⚡

Teemu Suomala

Hi Steven! We do love him (amazing player for sure), but he just missed the list…take care!

Doug

I don’t know who put this list together but the order is completely not right! You have dime at number 8 which is insane!! Kirk hammet didn’t even make the list but George Lynch did!!

Teemu Suomala

Hi Doug! Article did reveal who put this list together (right at the top). Thanks for revealing your opinions, and we do respect them a lot. Take care!

Captain howdy

Great list.
I’d just like to add Russ Parrish’ ( Satchel) name here.
He is an amazing and versatile guitarist and his stage presence is nearly too big.

Teemu Suomala

Hi! Thanks for pointing Russ Parrish out! Really skilled guitarists for sure.

Aaron

No way is Dave Mustaine more influential than Hetfield. Respect to Dave for everything he’s been able to do in his career but James and Metallica are quite literally the biggest heavy metal band to date. List seems a bit botched without them.

Teemu Suomala

Hi Aaron! Hetfield is more likely more influential than Mustaine (hard to measure this tho). But many consider Mustaine a better guitar player. Take care!

Jason

OK first blackmore and van Halen are not metal 2xtony iomie is the riff master ask any real metal head 3 Dave half the others don’t belong in tip 100 let alone top ten I respect opinions but there is a point where metal is defined and none metal

Teemu Suomala

Hi Jason! Deep Purple and Van Halen were considered to be metal when they released their “heavier” material back in the day. Sure, many don’t consider them metal nowadays, since there’s so much heavier stuff nowadays.

Mike Hunt

Slash not in the top 10 for either Rock or Metal?

Have a word!

Dave Morris Sr.

DIMEBAG DARRELL Should have been #1 on this weird lists of your’s. I can’t believe that you would put Dave Mustaine on this list but not DIMEBAG DARRELL!!!! Rest in peace VINNIE PAUL AND DIMEBAG. Still Sorely Missed & Never Forgotten!!!

Justin Thomas

The comment on George Lynch concerning his collaboration with high quality musicians and vocalist has me itching to post about KXM.

This is:
K for ‘Korn’ with Ray Luzier on drums (not sure how much better it can get!)

X for ‘Kings X’ with dUg Pinnick on bass and vocals (for those that still aren’t sure about his credentials as a vocalist, he stood in for Corey Glover in Living Colour when Corey was on Broadway).

M for ‘Mob (Lynch Mob) with George Lynch on guitar.

Check out
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UvTnzne69Ts

for an introduction. That riff almost defies time and space! Try pulling that off with Luzier and Pinnick pinning it all down for you!