What rock groups feature the most virtuosity among their members?

What I mean is this:

Take a given rock band … let’s use Queen as an example.

Then evaluate the virtuosity of each member of that band on their instrument(s) and/or voice,as applicable. Perhaps assign these evaluations to an arbitrary scale … the ever-popular 1-10 should do fine.

The add up the scores and average them.

So for Queen, I might score them as:

Mercury – 10
May – 9.5
Deacon – 7 (not a particularly confident rating, as I’m not a musician)
**Taylor ** – 7 (ditto)

Queen’s overall virtuosity rating, as an average of the ratings of its members, would be 8.375.

So, anyway, what bands would be on top of the heap of such a rating system? Would a band like Rush get a nice score for having two members of the group (Peart and Lee) who are legends on their instruments, and a third member (Lifeson) who appears on numerous “Underrated Guitarists” lists?

Might groups like the Eagles, Steely Dan, Toto, and Mr. Mister post solid scores? After all, most (or all?) of their members were (former) studio musicians who presumably relied on their musical virtuosity for their livelihoods (shifting lineups noted).

Songwriting should be a criteria as well.


Trey Anastasio --10.5 (ok, 10)
Mike Gordon – 9
Page McConnell – 8.5
Jon Fishman – 8

8.875 avg. Not too shabby. :wink:

Led Zep:

Plant: 7
Page: 10
Bonham: 10
Jones: 9 (extra points for versatility)

9.00. Solid.

The Classic Yes line up
Chris Squire Bass 10
Rick Wakeman Keyboards 10+
Steve Howe Guitar 9.5
Bruford Drums 10
Jon Anderson Vocals 9.5

ELP was also great

Yes Score would be 9.8

Someone else would have to break it down, But King Crimson was loaded with top talent.

Progressive Rock bands tended to have a lot of very good to great musicians to play the intricate music. (This would include Rush of course).

Greg Lake would pull ELP’s average down. Agree with you about Yes. Alan White, though, would be about 7.5 on drums, and he’s been on more Yes albums than Bruford.

How do you define virtuosity? Ability to play one instrument well? Or ability to play many?

If it’s many:

The Moody Blues

Justin Haywood - 10
John Lodge - 10
Mike Pindar - 10
Ray Thomas - 10
Graeme Edge - 8

All could play multiple instruments of different types (e.g., woodwinds and guitar, keyboards and guitar, etc.) at a professional level.

Agreed, I purposely picked there best line up to ensure a high mark. The Crew on Drama would score low. (My Bold of Alan White)


You Forgot the Rating but
Clapton 10+
Baker 9
Jack Bruce ??? I’m not sure, he was maybe a 7.5
Band Avg = 8.8333

Bruce’s rep on the bass is better than a 7.5, I’d think.

two highjack points - sorry:

  • Regarding ELP - Carl Palmer is not a good drummer. My drummer was the engineer on an Asia album featuring Palmer and said that the other musicians were constantly complaining about how Palmer couldn’t keep time - he could only play the fills. One of those insider bits of info you suspect goes on, but don’t normally hear about.
  • As a musician and music nut, I find myself drawn to this type of thread, but fundamentally disagree with its premise. I don’t mean to troll or disrespect the intent - it is an interesting topic. But I ask myself: How would I rate the Ramones, one of the best and most influential rock bands ever, on this scale? Johnny Ramone is a barre-chord chunker who only knew how to down-stroke, so on a virtuosity scale, I could rate him a 3 or so. But on the other hand, his playing was innovative at the time and has changed how rock guitar gets played - so within the context of creating his own form of virtuosity, he gets a 10. Same with the Edge of U2 - he basically created his own style, but started writing most songs on 1 string…

S’okay. There’s no real “premise” to the OP. A collection of reasonably informed opinions (from both fans and musicians) was the goal.

That’s why it’s not titled “best rock band” in analogy to, say, the “best guitarist” or “best drummer” threads. There are many avenues through which a musician / band can find success. To name but a few: virtuosity, energy, charisma, the knack for a mean hook, or just plain kismet.

Well, Yes of course. I’m a huge fan. Aside from my deep bias, they are all trained.

Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman AND Alan White AND Chris Squire come from families of trained musicians who performed.

The good foundation of classical music has always served them well. They compose with depth because of their training.

As for Alan White not quite measuring up to Bill Bruford, I have to agree. ABWH was a stellar bit of work, even though Chris was not involved. Tony Levin and Bill Bruford held down an excellent rhythm section.

I’d love to see them again.


p.s. A drummer who cannot count?? :eek:

As song writers 10’s but as musicians?
John ?
Paul ?
Ringo ?
George ?

Cartooniverse - with your comment “a drummer who cannot count?” I assume you are referring to my comment about Carl Palmer. I think it was more of a pacing thing, not a count thing - he would speed up and slow down, seemingly at random. It is a problem for most drummers, but apparently a real issue for him.

jrfranchi - as for the Beatles, my favorite band, btw - my take is that Paul is the best musician - playing guitar, bass, keyboards and drums - so while he can’t read music, his skills are extremely high. Virtuoso? In my opinion, yes - he innovated rock bass playing. John is extremely underrated as a rhythm guitarist (actually, most rhythm guitarists are underrated - it is much harder to “lock in” with the rhythm section than it looks; Angus Young became the lead guitarist for AC/DC because he simply couldn’t play the rhythm bits). Anyway back to John - great guitarist for what he needed to do. George - well, IMHO and as a guitarist - frankly, he’s not so hot. Maybe a 6 on your 10-point scale. He played what the song called for excellently and used cool jazz chords in nice places, but his chops were not much. As for Ringo - there are a number of threads about this on the SDMB already, but I think it is a brilliant drummer for what he needed to do…


Paul = 9
John = 8
George = 6
Ringo = 8

Not all that great - but it’s the chemistry and songs that counts.

For just total talent I’d go with the following bands:

Dream Theater:

John Petrucci: 10
James LaBrie: 9.0
John Myung: 9.5
Mike Portnoy: 10
Jordan Rudess: 10

They are all extremely talent players. Most are Berekley grads.

Alex Lifeson: 9.9
Geddy Lee: 11 (Hey, the man plays mulitple instruments at the same time live)
Neil Peart: 10

It’s Rush, enough said.

The Steve Morse Band

Steve Morse(guitar): 10
Rod Morgenstein(drums): 10
Dave LaRue(Bass): 10

Steve won the ‘Best Guitarist’ reader poll by Guitar magazine so many times that the magazine ‘retired’ him so he isn’t eligable to win it anymore.
Rod is a powerhouse and a Associate Professor of Percussion at Berklee College of Music. I also believe he has a bunch of Modern Dummer awards.
Dave has landed in the top 10 of Bass Player magazines ‘Best Overall’ catagory a bunch of times.


There are too many lineups to go through a full list (in other words, I don’t have the time) but he continutally has some of the best in the buisness. Randy, Tommy Aldridge, Don Airey, Zack Wilde. The list could go on for a while.


The key is to not think of the bass as merely “plunk-plunk-plunk-plunk,” which any chimp can do–I mean, Paul McCartney got a 9 from WordMan! :wink: Bruce treats the bass as a jazz player does, as an instrument that can stand on its own. If you listen to Live Cream you will hear three masters of their instruments who all think, and play, like they were the lead. All bassists can be appreciated better when you wear headphones because they tend to fade into the background.

The Who:
Townsend - 7 Okay guitarist but nothing distinctive. Very good songwriter when he isn’t feeling too sorry for himself.
Daltrey - 10 Lousy singer but a terrific rock vocalist (two different skills)
Entwistle - 9 Does (did) nice work. He can hold his own with…
Moon - 0 or 10 Either the worst drummer ever or a brilliant musician. After forty years I’m still pondering that one. Averages 5.0

Final score: 7.75

The Moody Blues, on the other hand, were not and still aren’t much as musicians go. Their live work is barely competant but the chemistry and catalog are good.

Does his singing drop him down at all? He’s perfect for Rush … but in raw vocal virtuosity, if Freddie Mercury is a 10, what is Geddy Lee?