Guitar Players: Who's Better? Whose Best?

      • I dunno if this is quite for IMHO or CS, but anyway,
  • What’s the most difficult guitar pieces/songs to play? If it’s possible, what particular parts of the songs are the hardest? Not ever having known how to play, I am informed that some of the stuff I thought was sooo great isn’t much of a big deal… I am thinking mostly of mainstream rock in the Hendrix/Clapton/Vaughn area, but they can be from any genre. - DougC

DougC, might even be a Great Debate! :slight_smile: Seriously, there’s no one right answer, so it is definately all a matter of opinion. So, here’s the opinion of one long-time music fan and crummy guitarist:

I think that as far as sheer difficulty to play goes, the average classical guitar piece ranks much higher on the scale than most pop/rock music. As a corollary to the adage that 95% of everythign is crap, 95% of guitar parts are crap and not that hard to play. (Ok, maybe not 95%, but allow me some artistic leeway, it flows better. . .) But there are plenty of standout guitarists, some of them playing some pretty difficult stuff too. Eddie Van Halen is well known for his technical skill and many of his guitar parts are incredibly challenging to play, for example. Jimi Hendrix was incredible too, and some his stuff is very demanding.

But notice that I phrased everything in terms of ‘difficult’ rather than ‘good’. The two are not always related.

I agree that it can sometimes be hard for a non-guitarist to judge the difficulty of a particular piece, but you don’t have to be a musician to decide if it sounds great to you. For example, Van Halen doesn’t do anything much for me, even though I know how hard his parts are to play. Hendrix, on the other hand, I enjoy a lot. Other guitarists I love are Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits and solo) and David Gilmour (Pink Floyd). Some of Knopfler’s stuff is very challenging to play, but many of my favorite parts are not. Likewise, Gilmour’s parts are sometimes pretty straightforward. The thing that makes a guitar part like Brothers in Arms or Shine on You Crazy Diamond sound great to me is the emotion you can hear in the playing, not the difficulty of the part. I hope I haven’t completely sidestepped the point of your question here, but I think it’s important to draw the distintion between technical skill and artistry.

Slash is another good example of a guitarist who doesn’t play with a lot of technical pyrotechnics (although he can), but with tremendous emotion. I love his style.

On the other hand, fiery players like Joe Satriani and Yngvie Malmsteen don’t do anything for me at all.

Back to the OP: How about Van Halen’s “Eruption”?

I would have to nominate some of Buckethead’s work. Some of it is insane and would be really difficult to get down.

enigma, i recall reading somewhere (sorry, no cite) that the guitar is considered the most difficult classical instrument to play. more different than the clarinet, oboe, english horn, et al.

Dimebag from Pantera. I have no idea whether that is considered “good” playing or not, but he has to get 10 points for effort, and hair flailing.


The ‘hardest’ style to play is fingerstyle blues…not just picking, it’s veritably classical in that every note is picked, but in a rythym all of its own.
Listen to John Renbourne, Stefan Grossman, Duck Baker and then listen to John Williams, Jochen Schubert and other typically classical guitarists. (Sorry they’re Aussies…they’re the best!!)
You’ll agree!!!

Duane Allman. End of argument.

Steve Howe, Yes. I tried to learn “Mood for a Day” but gave up. (“Stairway to Heaven” was simple, by comparison.)

Also, Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath. Some of his licks are physically impossible for other guitarists to play, because he has only three fingers on his right hand.

Alex Lifeson of Rush: Most of his stuff isn’t terribly complex, but his style is so idiosyncratic that only his playing does his parts justice.

Stanley Jordan can make a guitar produce sounds I’ve never heard anyone else match.

As a blast from the past nominee – Les Paul.

Sorry, but :::laughing::: that is not true. Having played guitar for 20 years (I am 32) I can tell you that the blues is probably the easiest stuff to play. Fingerstyle or other wise. The Blues, while cool, is simple compared to classical and jazz. Classical and Jazz both require extreme left hand technique, change keys and time signitures often and take years to master. Blues, on the other hand usually doesn’t change key or the time signiture and uses a simple construct for a song. (Root, 4th then 5th) The only blues player I have had a hard time imitating was Stevie Ray Vaughn. SRV was-is the new god of blues.

If you really want to talk about the ‘hardest’ style to play I cannot give you one. I can name some players that are at the top. Steve Morse, Al DiMeola, John Petrucci, Eric Johnson, Manuel Barroca(SP?), Jennifer Batten, Michael Hedges(RIP) and Alex Skolnick. These players do everything they do well. They can play the blues as well as classical. Being able to play every style at an equal level is the true test of a guitarist.


For technically challenging pieces, a few names come to mind. Lots of pieces by Steve Vai are harder than heck to play Check out his work in the film “Crossroads” (the one released in the mid 80’s starring Ralph Macchio as an aspiring blues musician, not the recent Britney Spears debacle) or maybe the solo from “For the Love of God” or the tapping that he adds onto the end of songs in live performances (can also be heard at the end of the song “The Mysterious Murder of Christian Tierra’s Lover” (some of the fastest most fluid tapping I’ve ever heard).

Also, I recently came across a video of Jason Becker playing Paganini’s fifth caprice on the internet. It’s about 2 and a half minutes long, but it’s simply amazing technical ability, and this is from a person who loves the work of Satch, Vai, and Rush.

Huh? How would having less fingers on your right hand allow you to play stuff other guitarists couldn’t? Or was I wooshed?

I don’t think Hendrix was incredibly skilled, technically. He was very creative and could play with a lot of feeling, but none of his songs required exceptional skills and about any lead guitarist from the last couple of decades should have no problem playing his most difficult stuff.

I must agree that classical guitar is very hard to get down. I have tried a few of the “easier” pieces with little or no success.

I think flaminco is rather hard as well.

Blues is cake for the most part.

I play in a hardcore band and I will admit that it is rather easy to play. Prolly some of the easiest stuff to play actually.

Two words: Leo Kottke.

How 'bout the lead guitar player for Dream Theater? I don’t remember his name, but some of his playing just wows me, and a lot of it has some great feeling to it as well.

Any other votes for Phil Keaggy?

And by the way… since I am among guitar players. Anybody else sick of that perfect pitch guy. You know, the REO speedwagon-looking wanker with the guitar in one hand, tuning fork balanced on finger, cheesy grin and super-perm hair? I hate that guy!