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Top 15 best guitarists in the world today (2024 update)

Nowadays, more than ever, you can hear a lot of the members of the old guard saying that there is no good music today. For the rock-tinged folk, that is synonymous with the assumption that there are no excellent guitar players today.

In reality, there is a whole new guitar revival going on, with some of the players spearheading a new, radically different approach to the sounds and technique.

In this article, I’m going to give you my picks of the best living and artistically potent guitarists of today.

About me

Djordje Lukovic, writer at Higher Hz

As someone who has been playing guitar since the age of 6, and for 26 years at the time of writing, doing an article such as this is one hell of a daunting task.

Having been through many phases of discovering the works of an almost infinite number of axemen of all eras – trying to make a list of only 15 is a bit heartbreaking.

Therefore, I had to define picking criteria to somehow narrow the near-infinite pool of today’s greats.

How I put this list together

What I’ve tried to do with this updated list is incorporate currently most relevant guitarists of various genres and different age groups.

Also, I have paid close attention to your comments since the time of the initial post. Since I mostly agree with your suggestions, I have expanded the list to 15 guitar players, making it more current and well-rounded.

I have also tried to incorporate some underrated guitarists, who I think deserve more attention from the general guitar-playing population.

In the oversaturated guitar scene of today, it seems as if being enormously good is not enough. You will see that some of the older generation representatives on the list were, first and foremost, great players whose influence grew as a consequence of their skill and their creative output.

Nowadays, it seems as if guitarists need to be their own marketing agents. Social media presence is a must to get enough exposure so you can show off your talents. It seems that being a great player is almost a given.

You may also notice that some in-between-aged guitarists on the list generally have some real innovations attached to their names. The spirit of those times dictated that great guitarists had to be both musical and equipment innovators.

Tosin Abasi

Main superpower: Sublime technical abilities with a surprising amount of uniqueness.

Tosin Abasi
Tosin Abasi of Animals as Leaders | Photo: Stefan Bollmann

The Animals as Leaders axeman Tosin Abasi has definitely cemented his place among the guitar-playing giants of today.

He set out on a mission to reinvent the technique of playing guitar, and my God did he do it! His addition of tapping, sweeping, thumping, and fingerpicking certainly left its mark on the modern guitar-playing style.

He is also well-known for some top-tier shredding abilities. When you add to that his usage of the eight-string guitars, you can’t even imagine the kaleidoscopic virtuosity of his playing style.

If you want to hear an incredibly unique guitar hero of today, you must check out Abasi’s work!

I own no pedals, and I need maybe two cables.Tosin Abasi

Derek Trucks

Main superpower: Out-of-this-world slide playing abilities.

Derek Trucks
Derek Trucks | Photo: Carl Lender

For me, the most inspiring fact concerning Trucks is the mere circumstance that defined his style. Namely, since he was a child guitar prodigy who became a professional at age 11, he quickly noticed he needed to do something about the discrepancy between his small hand size and the guitar size.

To compensate for that, he started using a slide, and voila – that gave birth to the greatest slide guitar player of all time!

According to him, he never practiced, he just kept playing a lot and listened to his inner compass to inform the crafting of his style and musical expression. An ultimate example of a curse metamorphosized into a blessing!

Genre-wise, his musical tendencies are best described as a blend of blues, southern rock, jazz, soul, and qawwali styles. You really have to hear it to believe it!

When you’re improvising, you connect with people in a way you don’t in normal life, strangely.Derek Trucks

Misha Mansoor

Main superpower: Unique style of shred that helped define a whole new music genre.

Misha Mansoor
Misha Mansoor of Periphery

Misha Mansoor has become such a towering figure in the world of current shred guitar that it’s hard to believe that he has only been on the scene for about a decade!

One of the most impressive feats of this shred overlord is the number of other musicians that he has influenced over the years. Namely, his signature sound helped define the modern-day progressive metal sound. But even more importantly, the guy helped forge a whole new music genre!

As a lot of you know, Misha is one of the major influences behind djent. His techy, thrashy, and surgically precise shred style helped define one of the most vital metal genres of the past decade.

Lastly, one of the coolest things about Misha Mansoor is his competence in different fields. He is a great songwriter, producer, and programmer, as well as a real gear aficionado.

If you want to hear some of Misha Mansoor’s chops, put on some Periphery. If you are a shredhead, be prepared to be blown away!

When you are a band in the music industry, you are always dancing between that line of art and commerce. You are trying to monetize your creativity as best and as efficiently as you can without destroying the artistic side. And it’s a dance that you do every day, but you have to manage the business side of it or it will go to crap and people will take advantage of you.Misha Mansoor

Adrian Smith

Main superpower: An incredible melodic sense combined with tasteful phrasing and immaculate sonic textures.

Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith of Iron Maiden

The Iron Maiden axeman is somewhat underrated in the larger-scale guitar world. I can safely say that it comes as a consequence of the fact that he plays in an extremely album and song-focused band.

However, for about 40+ years now, he has been churning out an epochal solo, one after another, as if it’s just for fun. Besides that, his reliable, groovy rhythm skills have been an incredible asset to Maidens’ legacy.

Aside from what you would normally expect from him, he is an incredible slide player and an extremely potent songwriter.

We try and stay out of the corporate side of it. The band has never compromised. At some point in our career, we could have made a certain type of record and sold millions of units, as they are called.Adrian Smith

Joe Satriani

Main superpower: A spectacular blend of tasteful phrasing and picturesque sounds.

Joe Satriani
Rock guitarist Joe Satriani

What’s to say about Joe Satriani that hasn’t been said already?

His impressive career saw him shaping the guitar-playing language of the 80s. As the years passed, he continued to release great albums.

The best thing is, he didn’t rest on his laurels! All his output, as of today, has been pushing the envelope within the guitar-playing world.

Besides all that, during the 80s, he was a guitar teacher to some of the finest guitar players of that era! Namely, Kirk Hammett, Marty Friedman, and Alex Skolnick (just to name a few) all learned the tricks of the trade from Satriani.

The most impressive thing about Joe is his continuing quest for groundbreaking guitar expression that has lasted since the 80s, with no dips in quality! He is a true legend and one of the all-time greats!

Relax. Be yourself. Play a lot.Joe Satriani

Matteo Mancuso

Main superpower: Incredible mixture of eclectic technical abilities, sonic textures, and harmonic diversity.

Matteo Mancuso
Matteo Mancuso | Photo: Marc Schnurbus

Matteo is one of the most impressive guitarists of today.

What I like most about him is the fact that I can see him using the superabundance of information given by our ever-developing technologies to craft a unique blend of musical vocabulary.

Whether it’s his jazz and fusion-inspired licks, his incredible flamenco-inspired picking techniques, or his incredible tapping proficiency, he somehow manages to make it all flow perfectly, making it accessible to the masses.

Everyone has their inner voice on the instrument… you have to work a lot in order to let it out.Matteo Mancuso

Jared James Nichols

Main superpower: Taking an old bluesy formula and elevating it to super-expressive and intensive heights.

Jared James Nichols
Jared James Nichols | Photo: Marty Moffatt

Although not as innovative as some of the other participants on this list, Nichols is just as impressive!

The fact that the guy managed to take classic blues and rock and do something refreshing with that – it’s just beyond comprehension!

The best thing is that he didn’t add anything truly new and groundbreaking, he just took what was already there and played it with such taste and authenticity. It really brings a whole new level of appreciation for those legendary genres!

What is unique about him is his “pick-less” playing technique. Better yet, his playing intensity does not suffer from that, but somehow he actually manages to reach a whole new level!

Be sure to check Jared’s Instagram page, there is really a lot of ear candy over there!

I love the fact that people would see me, especially on the guitar level, as someone who could carry the torch. But there’s more to it. I’m just starting to discover who I am and where I want to go as an artist. It’s great to be known as a guitarist. But it’s also a trap.Jared James Nichols

John Mayer

Main superpower: Godlike melodic sense in tandem with angelic guitar sounds.

John Mayer
Singer-songwriter and guitarist John Mayer

Mayer always had impressive chops. However, over the last decade, he slowly started getting away from this pop-tinged radio-friendly output and moved towards the guitar-nerd heaven-type stuff.

Both things he did masterfully, I might add. The taste, technique, and composition itself have all been a hallmark of his output in the past decade.

Since John Mayer is the quintessential mainstream guitar hero, I won’t waste much time introducing him to you. I will just reassert once more how truly great he is!

The courage to follow his own path in spite of the demands of the market and the public really shows his artistic integrity.

If you had started doing anything two weeks ago, by today you would have been two weeks better at it.John Mayer

Tim Henson and Scott LePage

Main superpower: Developed a whole new technical and compositional guitar vocabulary accompanied by incredibly sophisticated harmonic content.

Tim Henson and Scott LePage of Polyphia
Tim Henson and Scott LePage of Polyphia

Ah, the twin axe attack of Polyphia! These two have written some incredible songs, mashed together diametrically opposed genres, while still having some of the best chops in the guitar world of today.

Polyphia’s style is an eclectic mix of modern guitar shred, EDM bravuras, as well as hip-hop grooves. You really have to listen to it to believe it!

The guitar-playing duo of Henson and LePage claim that they had to tear down the shred style of old in order for it to continue to exist.

They have come up with their own lick vocabulary that often mimics some EDM sounds rather than relying on (in their own terms) “boomer bends.”

If you want to hear what the future of guitar sounds like, try Polyphia!

The guitar is a means to an end, the end being good music. The average music listener and enjoyer probably won’t give a shit about the things guitarists do.Tim Henson

Mateus Asato

Main superpower: Idiosyncratic phrasing which helped create the neo-soul guitar genre.

Mateus Asato
Guitarist Mateus Asato

Imagine this: you haven’t released any album at all, but you have helped create a whole new genre! Ladies and gents – Mateus Asato!

The way he gained stardom in the world of guitar was mostly through his social media presence. His content often displays him playing some tasty licks in a very unique way. He and a couple of other guitarists have helped create the genre of neo-soul guitar.

Much more than a one-trick pony, Mateus often posts some incredible, short videos in which he demonstrates his shred, funk, and finger-picking chops.

His social media prowess really made him one of the best-known guitar heroes among the younger generation!

Head over to Asato’s Instagram page. You will not regret it!

I have a big feeling that we are losing the essence of musical interaction, establishing patterns based on the same 4 bars chord progressions to start the vibe. It’s all about the views!Mateus Asato

John Petrucci

Main superpower: An all-around great virtuoso guitarist and composer.

John Petrucci
John Petrucci of Dream Theater

The Dream Theater axeman John Petrucci has been a fixture in the realm of virtuoso guitar playing for almost 40 years now.

Best known for his incredible alternate-picking ability, he is the name pretty much synonymous with the genre of progressive metal. His incredible technique, songwriting, and producing skills are nothing short of legendary.

One of his most unique characteristics is his dedication to gear development. He has been a real trailblazer in the world of guitar manufacturing, amplifier development, guitar electronics innovation, and last but not least, guitar pedals.

I remember feeling for the first time going somewhere where I was part of a community where I didn’t feel like an outcast. I felt like I belonged. Everyone had a guitar strapped to their back.John Petrucci

Ichika Nito

Main superpower: Incredible two-hand tapping skills and math rock-inspired concepts.

Ichika Nito
Guitarist and producer Ichika Nito

The self-described “bedroom guitarist” is a real internet guitar superstar. The Japanese-born virtuoso boasts a 2.7-million subscriber YouTube channel.

The genre Ichika mainly focuses on is math funk. He is also known for playing some jazzy pieces as well.

His format would be a one-minute-long video in which he plays an innovative self-composed lick or does an imaginative cover of a well-known song.

Ichika Nito is a representative of a whole new generation of guitar players who take guitar playing to some new conceptual heights!

To me, being authentic is crucially important.Ichika Nito

Guthrie Govan

Main superpower: Using his eclectic taste in music to create an impressive playing style which he made accessible to the masses.

Guthrie Govan
Guitarist and teacher Guthrie Govan

“Professor Shred” is probably one of the most versatile guitar players to ever grace the six-stringed planks of wood.

His eclectic mix of different styles includes prog-rock, shred, blues, jazz, fusion, and funk, just to name a few.

Guthrie Govan manages to mix all that in such a seamless way, that you would be completely justified if you said that he plays his own type of music genre.

He is well-known for his globetrotting guitar masterclasses that are attended by many.

Besides the vast plethora of musical and guitar-related knowledge you can pick up from him, his masterclasses feature his own brand of whimsical humor which makes the whole experience a really unforgettable event!

Speed is a byproduct of good, slow practice.Guthrie Govan

Steve Vai

Main superpower: Unreplicated virtuosic guitar playing style.

Steve Vai
Guitarist and songwriter Steve Vai

Save the best for last, huh? I don’t feel as if I have to talk too much about Vai’s legendary legacy. The man is one of the undisputed champions of the golden era of the guitar.

However, I want to focus more on his recent output. His newer albums are as daring as all of his classic-era output.

Besides that, he had been spearheading the incredible Generation Axe combo while igniting his Vai Academy camps and releasing his book on music theory, Vaideology.

If that wasn’t enough, the guy has been touring the globe over and over, delivering his trademark shows that are the guitarist equivalent of shamanic initiation ceremonies.

It is only the most elite of elite musicians whose unconventional approach becomes convention.Steve Vai

Final thoughts

I can safely say that we are living in the era of the electric guitar renaissance.

The new generation of guitarists has been standing on the shoulders of previous guitar giants and seems to be consistently pushing the creative and technical envelope!

With the advent of social media platforms, our beloved six-string has gathered the most exposure it has had for quite some time now.

So, don’t worry about the future of the guitar – just pick up that guitar and start jamming away!