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The 10 best female guitarists of all time

Now, this was a tough list to make! Over the decades, there were so many great female guitar players. What makes this list even more difficult is the members of the female population have been getting more involved with the guitar than (almost) ever before.

So, without much further ado, let’s get into our top picks!

These are the greatest female guitarists of all time:

Ana Popovic

singing guitarist Ana Popovic
Image: Francis Bourgouin

Born and raised in Belgrade, Serbia, Ana Popovic started playing guitar very early on. She gained her love of blues and guitar from her father, who was a huge blues guitar enthusiast.

She formed her first band when she was 19 and toured the Balkans extensively. After three years, she disbanded the group and went to study guitar in the Netherlands.

After that, she started her solo career during which she built an impressive back catalog of music. Every album she has put out has pushed her playing envelope further and further, while still retaining her signature touch.

Watch this cool video of Ana Popovic performing live

Nita Strauss

rock guitarist Nita Strauss
Image: Frank Schwichtenberg

Nita Strauss has become a certain type of cultural icon over the last few years! Her hard rockin’ shred guitar playing made her one of the most prominent heavy metal guitars of the last decade.

Besides releasing some top-tier solo stuff and playing with the Iron Maidens, she also became a part of the legendary Alice Cooper. One of the main hallmarks of her playing style is her technical dexterity which does not undermine her melodic sensibility.

If you want to check out some sick Nita Strauss licks, make sure to take listen to the song “Mariana Trench”, and be prepared to be blown away!

Watch this video of Nita performing at The Basement East

Sister Rosetta Tharpe

singer and guitarist Sister Rosetta Tharpe
Image: James J. Kriegsmann

The most influential artist on this list, bar none! Sister Rosetta Tharpe single-handedly (well, not really, but in a way) made a crucial influence on the first generation of rock and rollers, namely, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, and Keith Richards.

Her gospel-type songs featured some rudimentary distorted guitar sounds and proto-rock and roll licks and motifs.

Her life story is equally incredible. She was born into a religious family on a cotton plant in Arkansas. As a young girl, she toured with her mother, as a part of a traveling evangelical troupe. All of that was happening at the time during which racism was at an all-time high in America.

From today’s viewpoint, her style is best summed up as a mixture of jazz, blues, and gospel. And her performing and songwriting talent made a huge impact on the following generations!

Watch this archive video of Sister Tharpe performing live in 1964

St. Vincent

American musician Anne Clark (St. Vincent)
Image: Greg Noire

Annie Clarke, better known as St. Vincent, is a really eccentric artist in every possible way. Not only in terms of her idiosyncratic image but also in terms of her playing style.

Her skilled indie-rock-influenced licks and songs have made some serious waves since the early 2000s. In the meantime, she released six albums and toured the globe extensively.

If you want to hear a truly unique artist who mastered her craft, check out St. Vincent!

Watch this video of St. Vincent performing live at Life Is Beautiful

Joan Jett

guitarist frontwoman Joan Jett
Image: Stephane Mahot

Now, you may notice that Joan Jett isn’t really the most technically proficient guitar player on this list. And you will probably be right!

However, when it comes to Jett, that’s not what it’s all about. Her guitar playing was never meant to be flashy or virtuosic. Her playing is meant to be rock solid and fierce, which it most definitely is!

Her songwriting, her playing style, and her appearance all contributed to her being one of the most iconic rock frontwomen ever!

Watch this video of Joan Jett performing with Miley Cyrus at Super Bowl

Nancy Wilson

rock musician Nancy Wilson (on the left)
Image: Michael Sierra

Nancy Wilson is best known for playing in the band Heart, along with her sister Ann Wilson. She started playing guitar in her teenage years and played at several events at her college. When she started she played acoustic guitar predominantly, and then gradually moved on to rock, with some flamenco touches.

Along with her sister, she rocked the world of popular music with a string of popular tunes and albums. As of today, Nancy Wilson sold over 35 million albums worldwide!

Watch this video of Nancy Wilson performing live with Heart

Bonnie Raitt

singing guitarist Bonnie Raitt

Ah, Bonnie Raitt… What can be said about this music legend? After 50 years in the music industry, she has written so many legendary songs that it is almost unparalleled. She released 18 studio albums to her name and won 14 different awards for her achievements in the field of music.

Technically speaking, one of her most impressive characteristics is her phenomenal slide guitar playing. Pair that with her soulful singing style, and you have yourself one of the biggest singer-songwriter legends of the past 50 years!

Watch this video of Bonnie Raitt performing live

Joni Mitchell

musician Joni Mitchell
Image: Paul C. Babin

Joni Mitchell was, and still is a legend of the acoustic guitar world. However, as her career progressed, she slowly started moving towards a more electric guitar approach, which ended up in her having to call in session guitarists to do the overdubs.

Eventually, her idiosyncratic writing style started to become really challenging for her session guitarists, who were the best in the business. As they consistently had issues, she slowly started taking over all of the recorded guitar parts and pushed the envelope on her own technical boundaries.

Joni Mitchell ended up being one helluva great all-around guitar player of that generation, and beyond!

Watch this video of Joni Mitchell performing live in 1970

Kaki King

female guitarist Kaki King
Image: Tammy Lo

Probably the most innovative guitar player on this list! As a beginner, Kaki King was wondering if she should start playing drums, or guitar. Eventually, she did opt for the guitar; however her percussive tendencies were not going anywhere!

She developed a style so unique, that her percussive sensibilities made their way into her guitar-playing style. As a result of that, she ended up having custom guitars made to suit her utterly unique playing style.

She did an impressive run of albums between 2003 and 2015, where she released an album every year. To add to an already impressive resume, we must add that she won the Golden Globe Award for the best original score!

Watch this video of Kaki King performing at TEDxNavesink

Poison Ivy

badass female guitarist Poison Ivy
Image: Masao Nakagami

Poison Ivy is one of the most recognizable guitarists in all of punk rock. There are not that many guitar players that you can identify after hearing just a few bars.

She is primarily known for her legendary riffs that defined the genre. Although a prolific riff writer, she became more and more skilled as a soloist as the albums went on.

One of her more distinguished feats is her legendary use of reverb. The things this lady could do with that fine effect… You really have to hear it to believe it! She is an underground legend!

Watch this video of Poison Ivy performing live

Conclusion

This was our list of the best female guitarists of all time. Unfortunately, we feel a big deal of discontent with the fact that we had to leave out so many incredible guitar players. However, that shouldn’t stop you from exploring them yourselves, right?!

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