A rock guitarist since the 1970s, Kelley has been a fan of rock, blues, and jazz since the 1960s.
Best Young Rock Guitarists Today
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 this author has 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, and no guitarist on this list is over 40.
Please keep reading!
1. Carmen Vandenberg (27)
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 (2016), on which Vandenberg played much of the rhythm guitar, as well as some lead riffs using Beck’s Strat.
Currently, Vandenberg plays lead guitar for BONES UK, a rock duo from London, England. She also released her signature amplifier, a Blackstar CV30, and is the first girl to do such a thing!
2. Mac DeMarco (32)
Born in British Columbia, Canada, Mac DeMarco, guitarist, singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, plays music that’s hard to describe; it’s been called blue wave, slacker rock, indie rock, psychedelic rock, jangle or off-kilter pop, or, as he labels it, “jizz jazz.” Go figure!
Just listen to his tune “Ode to Viceroy” and see what you’d call it. The chords DeMarco plays in this song seem to be from another planet! But a more down to earth description would pin his vocal style to that of John Lennon or Damon Albarn of Gorillaz.
DeMarco’s first studio album is Rock and Roll Nightclub (2012), and his other albums are Salad Days (2014), This Old Dog (2017) and Here Comes the Cowboy (2019).
3. Davy Knowles (35)
A blues guitarist from the Isle of Man, Davy Knowles began performing with the band Back Door Slam in 2006; their first studio album was Roll Away (2007). A lead guitarist, singer and songwriter, Knowles has drawn inspiration from such artists as Peter Green, Jeff Beck, Dire Straights, Robert Cray, Rory Gallagher, Eric Clapton and Joe Satriani.
Knowles also claims to be influenced by Celtic music, as shown in the song “Roll Away.” Interestingly, in 2009, Joe Satriani said Knowles is his “new favorite modern bluesman.”
After becoming the obvious headliner with Back Door Slam, Knowles began a solo career, releasing such albums as Three Miles from Avalon (2016), 1932 (2017) and What Happens Next (2021). It seems safe to write that with great players such as Knowles around, the blues will never go out of style!
4. Quinn Sullivan (23)
Another guitar prodigy of note, Quinn Sullivan began taking guitar lessons at the age of—3—and began appearing on TV at age—6—and released his first album, Cyclone (2011) at age—12!
Sullivan gained even more attention when Buddy Guy, who champions guitar prodigies, introduced him at the Zeiterion Theater in New Bedford, Massachusetts, in 2007. Sullivan has also appeared on many TV shows: The Today Show, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Late Night With Jimmy Fallon and The Oprah Winfrey Show.
Sullivan released his first single “Summer of Love” in 2009. Notably, Sullivan’s third studio album, Midnight Highway (2017), climbed to #3 on Billboard’s Top Blues Albums Chart. And Sullivan’s latest studio album is Wide Awake (2021).
5. Abigail Zachko (18)
Presently doing gigs in NYC, Abigail “Abby” Zachko plays jazz-fusion as if she invented it. A phenom, Zachko was runner up for Music Radar’s "Young Guitarist of the Year Award" in 2018.
Zachko generally plays slowly but suddenly erupts with runs that would make many older guitarists grin with envy. Influenced by legendary artist Jimi Hendrix, Zachko is particularly fond of his signature riffs in “Spanish Castle Magic.”
She began performing with the band Lunatic Fringe and now leads a power trio whose new album, This Was Planned, spawned the song “Seafoam,” which has impressed many folks who must wonder, How can she be so good while still just a fledgling? It seems youth has no bounds!
6. Brandon “Taz” Niederauer (19)
Is Brandon “Taz” Niederauer a latter day Jimi Hendrix? Both had (or do) have impressive nicknames; Hendrix was the Wild Man from Borneo, while Niederauer’s moniker is Taz, a reference to Looney Tunes’ Tasmanian Devil.
Taz is also a blues guitarist who can rip at a young age, as could Joe Bonamassa. Remember him? Anyway, Taz has played guitar on many TV shows such as The Ellen Show, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Good Morning America, The View and She’s Gotta Have It, and he starred on the School of Rock on Broadway.
Oh, and he can play the “Star Spangled Banner” like, uh, Jimi Hendrix! Maybe you saw Taz play the National Anthem at the NFL’s AFC Championship game in January 2021.
7. Orianthi Panagaris (37)
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, in 2009, Orianthi made Elle magazine’s list of the 12 Greatest Female Electric Guitarists. And her latest solo album is O (2020), which features the single “Sinners Hymn.”
8. Jake Pitts (37)
Jake Pitts is a lead guitarist, songwriter, producer and engineer who, since 2010, has played lead guitar for 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, that is. His mother, a classical composer, taught Jake musical theory.
Pitts has also been influenced by other heavy metal artists: Scorpions, Black Sabbath, Avenged Sevenfold, Mötley Crüe and Buckethead. And Black Veil Brides latest album is The Phantom Tomorrow (2021).
9. Jared James Nichols (33)
Singer/songwriter/guitarist Jared Nichols got his first guitar at 14. While a teenager, Nichols performed with Buddy Guy, “Honeyboy” Edwards and “Big Jim” Johnson. Nichols was playing 12 hours a day, eventually opening for such stellar guitarists as Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Derek Trucks.
By 21, Nichols had performed hundreds of gigs and had won many accolades and awards. In 2012, Nichols released his debut EP, Live at the Viper Room, highlights of which were “Let It Go” and “Blackfoot.”
With his power trio, Nichols likes playing songs by Mountain, thereby emulating guitarist Leslie West. Nichols has gained the attention of such illustrious slicks as Guitar World and Guitar Player. And, in 2018, Nichols released his second studio album Black Magic.
10. Naia Izumi (36)
Per her Facebook account, Izumi calls herself 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,” the latter of which a Zen-like excursion through space-time, while dancing with a flower between one’s teeth. Anyway, Izumi certainly has a lot going on in her mind and fingers!
11. Ayla Tesler-Mabe (21)
Playing the guitar since the age of 12, Ayla Tesler-Mabe has been performing and recording since 2015 and is currently a member of the jazz-fusion trio, Ludic, for which she plays lead guitar and sings; she’s also played with Calpurnia. Ayla is well-spoken, fresh-faced, charming, affable, and her musical talent seems boundless.
Coming from Calgary, Alberta in Canada, Ayla has uploaded videos of her guitar virtuosity on YouTube, on which she also provides free guitar lessons, all of which very well done. Obviously possessing a great ear, Ayla seems able to play many classic rock tunes by Jimi Hendrix, Carlos Santana, Jimmy Page and Stevie Ray Vaughan. And Ludic's latest single is "Want U" (2020).
© 2010 Kelley Marks
Estron7 on May 13, 2016:
This should be titled Ten-Great-Young-Shreaders, music is about the feels.
Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on August 19, 2013:
Thanks for the link to Midnight Messiah, Soundapp. Yes, indeed, Dave Strange can certainly hit the high tones. Later!
Soundapp on August 19, 2013:
You probably didn't check him out so...
Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on March 02, 2013:
Thanks for the tip, randu. I'll have to check out Brandon Jarod the next time I visit YouTube. Later!
soundapp on December 14, 2012:
Chk out Dave Strange of 'Midnight Messiah'
jvdd on October 20, 2012:
those list r gr8 thnk u...........
money4lunch on April 28, 2012:
don't forget priyono nyoto from indonesia. He ie a fuc*in speed metal guy the best from indonesia. he can beat alexi laiho
Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on February 21, 2012:
Thanks for the comment, Fullerman5000. I'm sure I missed a great young rock guitarist or two, and perhaps Jack White is one of them. Later!
Ryan from Louisiana, USA on February 21, 2012:
This was a great list. I would have added Jack White, I think he is amazingly talented and has that 60's and 70's classic guitar sound. But then again, I really dont know how old he is. Great work.
Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on February 21, 2012:
Thanks for the comment, TheHeavyReview. All players on this list are under 40; in fact, I think most - if not all - are under 35. Is that young? To me it is. Anyway, I'll have to check out Vektor. Later!
TheHeavyReview on February 21, 2012:
Very cool hub, as always! I smiled when I saw Alexi Laiho, he is pretty awesome. I would also suggest on the metal side of things Jari Maenpaa, Gus G (is he young?), or one of the guys from the thrash band Vektor (I'm not sure of their names, but Vektor is a mindblowing band). I feel like I'm forgetting someone really big, but that's all I can think of at the moment.
Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on February 04, 2012:
Oh my god, you collect musicians! Glad I can be of assistance, iamaudraleigh. Every one of these guys and gals can really rip on the guitar. Later!
iamaudraleigh on February 04, 2012:
Thank you...I am looking for musicians I have never heard before to add to my collection!
Bound in Blood Bass player on December 23, 2011:
synister gates is the best one on here.
Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on October 30, 2011:
I really like Garza's guitar work. He sounds like a latter day Stevie Ray Vaughan. With him on lead guitar, Los Lonely Boys is one of the best trios around. Thanks for the comment, TTC12. Later!
TTC12 on October 29, 2011:
Great list! Henry Garza is a fantastic guitarist. Very impressed with the work Joe Bonamassa is doing. Good to see him getting more popular.
Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on August 26, 2011:
Thanks for the comment, Caterino. Joe can certainly wail on the fretboard. Later!
Caterino from Greenville South Carolina on August 26, 2011:
I listen to Joe all the time on my internet radio station. wont say it here or be sited for spam.
Dude on April 01, 2011:
Well,out of those I only heard of Alexi Laiho and Synyster Gates(the latter being in a band I hate)and I can certianly say you missed a few shredders:
First there's Mikael Areknfeldt from Opeth,maybe you might think that Opeth is an old band,but they are 2 years newer than Children of Bodom.His dissonance is masterful,he is extremely varied,playing a mixture of Acoustic Folk,Soft Rock,Progressive Rock and Brutal Death Metal(most of them in one song),he is also the singer/growler.I would recomand you Ghost of Perdition and The Grand Conjuring as far as soloing goes.
Also there are two very unknown guys,from a Swedish Melodic Death Metal band called Scar Symmetry,very fast and incredebly precise tapping.
Also,I don't think that they qualify as young(both well into their 40s) but Megadeth's Chris Broderick and Nevermore's Jeff Loomis(who played live with Chris on some Nevermore gigs) are mind blowing!
Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on December 05, 2010:
I hadn't even heard of Koichi Hayakawa until a week or so ago. I listened to some of his guitar work on YouTube and then decided to write a hub about young rock guitarists, and here we are. Thanks for the comment, and I'll read your guitar hub. Later!
Christina M. Castro from Baltimore,MD USA on December 05, 2010:
Wow Kosmo, I just completed this course in Famous Guitarists 101, and I only recognized the "name " of one (Jonny Lang)but I am sure I have heard several others. I am truly interested in hearing the music of Koichi Hayakawa. One of my guitar instructors, Kazwo Watanabe, is Japanese and for a very short period of time he was living in my State in the USA he was my classical guitar teacher. I have one album I found in the thrift store that is all Japanese, so it will be good to hear this guitarist style. I myself am a guitarist who never had the door open to become famous and I have some fond memories of performing in the past. Therefore, I commend you on your research here and hope that maybe my dream will come true one day. Check out my hub, " My Gift of Music with My Desire To Create More". Thumbs up!!
Chip from Cold Mountain on December 03, 2010:
Joe Bonamassa was involved with Lee Ritenour's Six String Theory project his year. Great stuff!
Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on December 03, 2010:
Hey, Rita S, I wish Hendrix were still young - and alive. Of course Jimi will always be young in the minds of many rockers! Thanks for the comment. Later!
Rita_S on December 03, 2010:
You forgot to mention Henry Garza's favorite guitarist--Jimi Hendrix!
Joyus Crynoid from Eden on December 01, 2010:
Cool, thanks Kosmo. I have only heard a couple of these folks before now. I will be sure to check them out!
Wesman Todd Shaw from Kaufman, Texas on November 30, 2010:
Cool hub! I used to be all up in this sort of thing, but nowadays I've not followed new music so much. I'm more into bluegrass/flatpicking now, but I don't get into that as much as I should either.