Skip to main content

100 Best Guitar Players of the ‘80s and ‘90s

I have been an online writer for over six years. I am passionate about books, philosophy, music, and the music industry.

100 Best Guitar Players

100 Best Guitar Players

Instrumental rock gained prominence in the ‘80s and ‘90s. A number of guitarists during these decades 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.

The list below showcases guitarists from different genres. If you are passionate about guitar, you will have something to say. Feel free with your views, opinions, and suggestions in the comments section.

Top 10 Best Guitar Players of the ‘80s and ‘90s

  1. Allan Holdsworth (Jazz Fusion/Progressive Rock)
  2. Paul Gilbert (Rock)
  3. Greg Howe (Fusion/Jazz Fusion)
  4. Eric Johnson (Rock/Pop)
  5. Vinnie Moore (Rock)
  6. Shawn Lane (Fusion/Jazz Fusion)
  7. John Petrucci (Rock/Progressive Rock)
  8. Al Di Meola (Jazz Fusion/Rock)
  9. Stevie Ray Vaughan (Blues/Blues Rock)
  10. Yngwie Malmsteen (Neo Classical/Rock)

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 the 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 on guitar players. A number of guitarists made their own pedalboards with the help of guitar technicians for their live performances.


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)

Scroll to Continue

Read More From Spinditty

20. Steve Morse (Jazz Fusion/Progressive Rock)


Solo Guitar 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 these decades 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 these decades. 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.


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. Neil Zaza (Rock)

35. Buckethead (Rock/Heavy Metal/Avant-Garde-Metal)

36. Rob Marcello (Rock/Neo-Classical)

37. Mark Knopfler (Rock/Country)

38. Bireli Lagrene (Jazz Fusion/Gypsy Jazz)

39. Frank Gambale (Jazz Fusion)

40. Ron Jarzombek (Progressive Metal/Technical Death Metal)


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.


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. Robben Ford (Jazz/Blues)

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)


Hair Metal Guitarists of ‘80s and ‘90s

Hair metal 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 of hair metal bands in the ‘80s were worshiped by fans. A number of guitarists from 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.


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. Dimebag Darrell (Groove Metal/Heavy 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)

Over the years many guitar magazines have featured guitarists of the ‘80s and ‘90s. Guitar players of these decades contribute columns and lessons on guitar oriented magazines such as Guitar Player and Guitarist. Many guitarists from the ‘80s and ‘90s also offer guitar 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.


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. Frank Zappa (Rock/Experimental)

87. Carl Verheyen (Jazz/Rock)

88. Vernon Reid (Rock/Funk)

89. Brian Setzer (Rockabilly/Rock n Roll)

90. Rex Carroll (Hard Rock/Rock)

91. Brent Mason (Country)

92. Ty Tabor (Progressive Rock/Rock)

93. Brad Gillis (Rock)

94. Sonny Landreth (Blues/Country Blues)

95. Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal (Hard Rock/Heavy Metal)

96. Warren Haynes (Southern Rock/Country)

97. “Fast” Eddie Clarke (Rock/Heavy Metal)

98. Carlos Santana (Rock)

99. Walter Trout (Blues)

100. Ronni Le Tekro (Rock/Hard Rock)

What Guitar Processor Is Ideal for a Beginner?

While there is a wide array of guitar processors you can choose as a beginner, I highly recommend the Zoom G1X FOUR Multi-Effects processor with expression pedal. Whether it’s a gig, practice session, or a home recording, this compact guitar processor is ideally suited for varied requirements. Look no further!

Other Notable Guitarists of the ‘80s and ‘90s

  • Dave Meniketti (Rock/Hard Rock)
  • Rick Nielson (Rock)
  • Timo Tolkki (Power Metal)
  • John Norum (Rock/Hard Rock)
  • Frankie Sullivan (Rock)
  • Lee Altus (Heavy Metal)
  • Joey Tafolla (Rock)
  • Kiko Loureiro (Heavy Metal/Hard Rock)
  • Frank Solari (Rock/Hard Rock)
  • Dave Martone (Heavy Metal/Hard Rock)
  • Paul Hanson (Rock)
  • Borislav Mitic (Rock)
  • Edu Ardanuy (Heavy Metal)
  • Gary Holt (Thrash Metal)
  • Andre Olbrich (Power Metal)
  • Michael Denner (Heavy Metal)
  • K.K. Downing (Rock/Hard Rock/Heavy Metal)
  • Chris DeGarmo (Progressive Rock/Hard Rock/Heavy Metal)
  • Joe Perry (Rock/Hard Rock)
  • Kim Thayil (Alternative/Rock)
  • Chris Holmes (Heavy Metal)
  • Tony Iommi (Heavy Metal/Rock)
  • Jeff Waters (Thrash Metal/Speed Metal)
  • Glen Tipton (Rock/Hard Rock/Heavy Metal
  • Rudolf Schenker (Rock/Hard Rock)
  • Adrian Vandenberg (Rock/Hard Rock)
  • Tracii Guns (Glam Metal/Hard Rock)
  • Michael Schenker (Rock/Hard Rock)
  • Kenny Wayne Shepherd (Blues/Blues Rock)
  • Jeff Watson (Rock/Heavy Metal)
  • Darren Householder (Rock/Neo Classical)
  • Hank Shermann (Heavy Metal)
  • Denis D’Amour (Speed Metal/Thrash Metal/Heavy Metal)
  • Russ Parrish (Heavy Metal/Rock)
  • Jeff Loomis (Heavy Metal)
  • Mick Mars (Glam Metal/Hard Rock)
  • Johnny Hiland (Country)
  • Carlos Cavazo (Heavy Metal/Hard Rock)
  • Steve Stevens (Rock)
  • Dave Murray (Heavy Metal/Rock)
  • Joe Bonamassa (Blues)
  • Bill Steer (Extreme Metal)
  • Dave “The Snake” Sabo (Hard Rock/Heavy Metal)
  • Jim Matheos (Heavy Metal)
  • Uli John Roth (Rock/Hard Rock)
  • Phil Collen (Hard Rock/Rock)
  • Oz Fox (Hard Rock/Glam Metal)
  • Jeff LaBar (Glam Metal/Hard Rock)
  • Richie Sambora (Rock/Hard Rock)
  • Chris Oliva (Heavy Metal)
  • Butch Walker (Glam Metal/Hard Rock)
  • Jerry Cantrell (Alternative/Rock)
  • Karl Sanders (Technical Death Metal)
  • Angus Young (Rock/Hard Rock)
  • Brian Tatler (Heavy Metal)
  • Ronni Le Tekro (Hard Rock)
  • Chris Risola (Hard Rock)
  • John Christ (Rock/Heavy Metal)
  • Michael Bruce (Hard Rock/Heavy Metal)
  • Kai Hansen (Power Metal)
  • Mark Kendall (Hard Rock)
  • Nick Bowcott (Heavy Metal/Hard Rock)
  • Wolf Hoffman (Heavy Metal)
  • Michael Wilton (Progressive Rock/ Hard Rock/Heavy Metal)
  • Jason Bieler (Hard Rock)
  • Ace Frehley (Rock/Hard Rock)
  • Glen Buxton (Hard Rock)
  • Mattias Eklundh (Rock/Experimental)
  • Stanley Jordan (Jazz/Jazz Fusion)
  • Rich Ward (Heavy Metal)
  • Vinnie Vincent (Heavy Metal/Hard Rock)
  • Tomy Victor (Groove Metal/Thrash Metal)

© 2015 Ansel Pereira

Related Articles