Rank the Beatles solely upon their play of their instruments.

Forget singing and song writing abilities. I’m just interested in Dopers opinions of how well each Beatle played.

My order: George, John, followed very closely by Paul, Ringo.

Of course, YMWV.

Paul, George, Ringo, John.

Paul was one of the five best rock bassists of his era; Beatles base lines were always clever and innovative.

George was a fine guitarist, but no one would have put him in the top ten of the time.

Ringo is extremely underrated, since his greatness was subtle, but it’s clear he gave a lot to the group (Just listen to Paul’s drumming on “The Ballad of John and Yoko” to see how much the group depended on Ringo).

John was never more than a serviceable guitarist and piano player, no more distinctive than dozens of other pro musicians. It was his songwriting and singing that put him in the top rank.

Paul, Ringo, George, John

What Reality Chuck said.

1 - Ringo. The notion that he was an incompetent drummer is preposterous. He wasn’t flashy; he was tremendously musical. He was groovy and creative and always appropriate. There’s a quote on his Wikipedia page about how you can identify any Beatles song just by listening at the drums.

2 - Paul. Again, not flashy, but incredibly melodic. Also, like Ringo’s parts, Paul’s bass lines are always working for the song.

3 - George. As a lead guitarist he eventually developed his voice and a recognisable sound, but I think that early in the band’s career he was a bit… generic? At least compared to Ringo and Paul whose styles were rather distinctive from the start.

4 - John. He laid some great and creative parts, especially on the later albums, but strictly as a rhythm guitarist, I feel he would have been the most replaceable of the band.

I do not see how there can be any serious argument that Paul was far and away the best technical musician in the band. He more or less created modern rock bass playing, and although many other bass players who were his equal or even or his superior soon followed in his footsteps (certainly some who rocked harder, though very few, if any, with his stylistic range) he always remained up there in the first rank. What is more, he was no slouch on other instruments too. As good a drummer and guitarist as you would find holding down those slots full time in many decent enough bands, and a competent pianist too.

For my money Ringo is number two. Never flashy and out to impress, but always tasteful and steady as a rock. Ringo’s drumming is great because you don’t really notice it. It stays modestly in the background, giving every song exactly what it it needs. Not a virtuoso drummer, but the right drummer for the song-based band that they were.

George was sort of unlucky in this regard. In The Beatles early days he was at the forefront of rock guitar, blazing a new trail just like like Paul was doing on the bass, although even then George sometimes seemed to be striving for something a little beyond what his fingers could quite manage to pull off. He improved a lot, too, I think, over the short lifetime of The Beatles. The George of 1969 could have made what the George of 1964 struggled with, sound effortless. The trouble was, though, that over that same period standards in rock guitar playing just exploded, leaving poor George in the dust. He knew very well that he was not in the same league as people like Hendrix and Clapton and Beck (not that virtuoso guitarists of that sort would ever have been a good fit for The Beatles). Despite being at the forefront of his profession at the beginning of his career, despite always being able to supply what the songs needed (although only occasionally being able to give more than that), and despite his improvement as a player, by the time the band broke up he looked like a pretty mediocre guitarist.

John was the heart and soul of The Beatles. Without him we would never have heard of George or Ringo, and Paul would probably be known only a purveyor of trite pop and/or schmaltz: less than what he achieved with Wings. (Mind you, without Paul we would probably never have heard of John either.) At his best, John was a wonderful singer and a brilliant, highly original songwriter (not that he was always at his best, by any means), but as an instrumentalist he was nothing to write home about at all: just a reasonably competent rhythm guitarist who would not have stood out in many much lesser bands.

Of course, nobody (except maybe some bassists) really listens to The Beatles for their technical instrumental prowess. That was never really what they were about.

  1. Paul. He was a great bassist. Even at the lowest parts of the Lennon/McCarney feud (I’m thinking of the Rolling Stone interview with John where he went through the song list and said which song was whose) John said he thought Paul was vastly underrated and unappreciated as a great bass player.

  2. George. He was a rockabilly guitarist at heart. His skills certainly grew over the years.

  3. Ringo. He recently revealed his secret was that he was left handed playing a drum set right handed. He may never of had any formal training but he was always there with a proper beat and appropriate fill when needed.

  4. John. He was a good rhythm guitarist. Nothing spectacular but he provided what was necessary.

Both John and George played a form of a D major chord I’ve never seen anyone else use: 365343. You can see it in the movie “A Hard Day’s Night”.

I agree. During the brief time George quit the Beatles, there was talk about the others bringing Clapton in as a member of the Beatles. Never could have happened. The thing about virtuoso guitarists is besides bringing their talents and skills along, they also bring their egos. And there really wasn’t that much room in the Beatles for more than John’s and Paul’s egos.

I was going to rank Ringo number one to be contrary, but since jovan already explained why he was go great I’ll say it goes Paul, Ringo, George, John. John was a solid rhythm guitar player and George played some tasty guitar licks, but Paul and Ringo were pioneers on their primary instruments. They changed the way bass and drums were played in rock and pop music and they influenced tons of players who came later. Although I don’t think it’s true that Paul’s playing wasn’t flashy. It wasn’t always flashy and it’s not always the first thing you listen to, but he managed to put himself front and center on songs like Paperback Writer or Hey Bulldog. Ringo didn’t demand attention the way the other three did, but he always came up with something distinctive that suited the song. And hey, there’s Rain. He’s fantastic on Rain, and it’s that much more impressive when you consider that they played the song faster in the studio and slowed it down later on.

Paul (bass)

John (terrific rhythm guitarist)

George (the weakest instrumentalist in the band, although he has always been my favorite Beatle, for teenybopper reasons in the Beatlemania years, and personality and philosophical since the late 60’s.)

In my book, Paul seemed to have it all: great bass skills, solid guitar playing, from acoustic fingerpicking on the White Album folk songs to shredding solos on "Taxman, “Good Morning,” and “The End,” the piano parts on “Hey Jude” and “Let it Be” and even drums on a few tracks.

John doesn’t get nearly as much respect, but his rhythm guitar was very distinctive, and his style was idiosyncratic. He had a really choppy, almost nasty lead style on a few songs like “You Can’t Do That,” and “The End,” but also had some really tasteful solos on “Get Back,” and “I Want You (She’s So Heavy).” He also had some keyboard skills, the organ solo on “I’m Down” isn’t great art, but its solid rock.
Ringo’s drumming style was a great match for John’s guitar, both were not technically great, maybe but they gave the songs a distinctive drive and texture.
George is harder to assess, I think his greatest talent was creating a sound, he started out as a solid rockabilly guitarist, created early folk rock textures, brought Indian music into rock, and ended up as a very skilled slide player. His playing was rarely flashy but it was often very studied and intricate.
By the end of the group, he had moved up in the rankings.

I’m not a musician by any stretch. But, like everyone has an asshole, this one has an opinion.

Paul. Tremendously good bassist. And the more you notice the bass in Beatles songs, the better it sounds, without getting in the way of anything else.

Ringo. Kept the songs moving and fun, delightfully creative and doesn’t like drum solos, although the one he did was the best in all rock for its brevity and catchiness and how it actually fit what they were doing.

George was a very enjoyable lead guitar, again, never insisting on solos that didn’t go anywhere.

John was a good rhythm guitarist, but the least standout on his usual instrument. But boy did he kick ass and get this band in gear. In their first real recording session, after an exhausting day, he then completely owns “Twist and Shout”. John was the driving force of the band.

And Paul also played piano, drums and guitar. If he had owned a guitar when Stuart Sutcliffe died he may not have been forced to become the bass player. His lead guitar on Taxman was very cool at the time.

I wasn’t aware of their use of it, but that’s a C Chord formation used as a barre chord.
Not used all that often, but not unique. I use it in a few songs.

However, if they really are playing D as 365343 then they had the guitar tuned a half step down. With standard tuning, 365343 would be Eb.

I’m basically here, for most of the reasons already articulated.

I agree with the Paul, Ringo, George, John sequence for most of their career, but I would say it was George, Ringo, Paul, John for the first couple of albums. Watching the TV show of their debut in the US last night, I was struck once again by the guitar solo in All My Loving. It’s a Chet Atkins style solo, based around some jazz voicing of the chords, using hybrid picking, it’s just outside of the vocabulary of everyone else playing rock and roll at the time. The solo in Till There Was You is in another style entirely, but is also very good and very different from what everyone else was playing at the time. In the same period, of course, George was also playing rather stiff solos like the Chuck Berry stuff in Roll Over Beethoven.

By the time they recorded the Help album, Paul had moved to the front, IMO.

Without reading others’ responses, I’ll say “Paul, Ringo, John, George.” Paul truly was an innovator of melodic bass playing (WHILE singing well), and could play other instruments decently as well. Ringo kept the beat really well, and there are examples of serious creative drumming sprinkled throughout his career, but he was not, say, a top-10 drummer of all time. John wasn’t a great guitarist, and he could play a bit of piano, but of course he was a brilliant composer (and quite a good singer). George was a surprisingly bad guitarist (I base this partly on what engineer Geoff Emerick wrote in his book), although he did come up with a few sweet (but simple) solos late in the Beatles’ career. (Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE George, but for other reasons.)

What did he say exactly? Is it on the Beatles Bible website?

Done before seeing other lists…


Though George was the one Beatle who seemingly struggled most with his instruments, he at least tried to expand his musical horizons with the sitar.

Tally so far(I don’t know enough about the Beatles or musicianship to comment myself.):