Greatest Guitar Solos Of All Time

Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” is considered by many guitar and rock music aficionados to be the greatest guitar solos of all time.

One must consider that so many people have selected Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” to display their guitar skills, that it has unfortunately been banned from being played at most Guitar Centers when trying out an instrument. Seriously, there have been signs posted that anyone who dares to play one of the greatest guitar solos of all time will be asked to put down their guitar and leave immediately. Tough crowd.

However, let’s explore some of the other fantastic and memorable guitar solos that have touched both the ears and very depths of the soul.

The guitar has come a long way throughout history, whether it is acoustic or powered by electricity to bring out the richness of sounds that this instrument can emit when wielded by masterful hands.

So, without further ado, here are some of the greatest guitar solos of all time. The songs listed are by no means a total and complete list, but it is a great place to get started appreciating the music.

Freebird by Lynyrd Skynyrd

Lynyrd Skynyrd was a fantastic and slightly underrated Southern band. Although some people may laugh, when someone yells, “Play Free Bird!” as a cliché song choice, this song has garnered Lynyrd Skynyrd top honors when it comes to the greatest of guitar solos.

Despite the negative connotations attached to being a Southern band, and less sophisticated and deserving than other rock bands, Free Bird stands out for a couple of key qualities.

For starters, let’s understand that some people decided to criticize quite harshly lengthy guitar solos as being indulgent. However, the ability to pull off certain guitar licks and deliver a flow of music that immerses you in a
wave of melodic sound is indeed incredibly tricky to pull off well.

“Free Bird” is a rock anthem that starts of slowly as a piano ballad. When you reach the guitar solo that runs slightly over four minutes, you get to hear harmonizing lines using slide guitar, and an up-tempo guitar duel.

The rhythmic pattern of the solo uses a 3-chord jam that is played four times before another technique commences.

Little Wing by Jimi Hendrix

Before Jimi Hendrix, the way the world viewed the guitar solo was completely different. Jimi took improvisational skills, feedback, distortion, and the use of volume to an earth-shaking level with the music produced by an electric guitar.

The guitar solo that Jimi played in Little Wing had a robust and watery sound. To get the unique sound for his solo, Jimi had a miniature Leslie built, which was responsible for the effect produced.

The fact that this song additionally included Jimi playing the glockenspiel for Little Wing is yet another reason while Jimi Hendrix remains to be so inimitable.

Hotel California by The Eagles

When it comes to music, you can’t ignore the power behind improvisation. Don Felder admitted that the guitar solos within “Hotel California” were the result of improvisation.

When Don Henley and Felder were sitting together working on the song, Felder had forgotten the original recordings from the studio. As a result, the solo was a combination of coming up with something fresh and what was played over the phone on a demo cassette.

The dueling guitar solo is placed at the end of the song, utilizing a harmonic framework that pulls from the flamenco chord progression and descending ostinato pattern.

Sultans of Swing by Dire Straits

Sometimes, to get the perfect sound, a musician needs to be open to changing up their instrument to get the right sound. Such was the case for Dire Straits song “Sultans of Swing,” which initially was played using a National Steel guitar with open tuning.

When Mark Knopfler decided to switch over to a Strat and used a three-way selector switch placed in the middle position, the intense sound that was produced in the solo just felt more right. The melodic structure, that outro lick, and the use of successive notes, sweeps, and vibrato make this one of the best guitar solos ever.

Fade to Black by Metallica

When Kirk Hammett executed the guitar solo in “Fade to Black,” he used the neck pickup using a wah-wah pedal while in the up position. During the second solo, it was a bit more challenging because the pace was slow and there was a lot of space to cover.

To pull off the somber feel of the extended solo, Kirk played arpeggios over the progression using G-A-B and arpeggiated the three-note chords to pull of a sound that emulated that of Dire Straits.

Most of this solo was heavily improvised, as Kirk used his emotions drawing on depressing things. Considering that this song was written after the band lost their equipment due to theft, and the group was pretty obsessed with death, it’s no wonder the solos and overall song have such a down feel.

Mr. Crowley by Ozzy Osbourne

Occultist Aleister Crowley and a deck of tarot cards were the influence behind the creation of this memorable song by Ozzy Osbourne. After initially starting out with a solo on a keyboard by Don Airey, the guitar solo performed by Randy Rhoads is one of the most recognizable in rock music.

The use of technique, including the use of fast trills, quickly fired off pentatonics, and legato arpeggios create a sound and experience that mesmerizes with the melody and execution. The playing style of this guitar solo is structured well, and very few players can manage to accomplish the style and melody this solo brings to the table.

It’s no wonder that Guitar World and avid readers labeled the guitar solo in “Mr. Crowley” as one of the best of all time.

The Thrill is Gone by B.B. King

The inimitable B.B. King was considerably underrated during his music career until later in life. However, one song stands out among the rest of his creations.

After keeping the song around only in his head for nearly ten years, B.B. King’s “The Thrill is Gone” contains a memorable guitar solo worth imitating and learning from to improve guitar skills.

Blues ballads may not come to mind when thinking about stylish and improvisational solos, but B.B. knew how to use Lucille to the fullest with his masterful fingers. Known for the use of bent notes and a picking style in staccato notes, “The Thrill is Gone” was a smash hit in this musician’s legacy.

Sharp Dressed by Man ZZ Top

zz top

ZZ Top is another band that is memorable because of its combination of Texas blues sound and good old- fashioned boogie style. The album Eliminator stood out among the competition for its unique blend of swelling synthesizer, looped beats, and stand by roadhouse blues.

With the song “Sharp Dressed Man,” the guitar solo includes a part played by a slide guitar with open E tuning, and then there is a shift to Spanish electric tuning.

The guitar solo is a delight to play, and the fingering is fun to delivery with an explosion of energy. This song is not only a favorite of fans of guitar music, but the band thinks this piece is a definite favorite.

Light My Fire by The Doors

Created as a song that would have staying power and inspired by the element of fire, Robby Krieger was responsible for writing most of the lyrics and developed the melody.

A signature song of The Doors, this song jettisoned the band to stardom in front of enthusiastic mainstream audiences. However, because music critiques love to put their two cents in, the song was thought to be too long to play on the radio station.

Because of radio station interference, and a desire to still get their music on mainstream airwaves, the guitar solo in this song had to be cut to save time, as well as the entire song in itself. Despite the editing, the guitar solo still manages to be one of the best around. Thankfully, the full version was released on the album with the intact solo.

Krieger’s style was influenced by his training as a flamenco guitarist, and his solo emits sounds similar to that created by a sitar.

Stranglehold by Ted Nugent

A classic selection of rock music, Ted Nugent managed to successfully blend together the funky soul of Motown with an effortless form of Chuck Berry-style rock.

“Stranglehold” creates a sound that produces mesmerizing bass and drums and gives Nugent the freedom to fully explore the range of his guitar with spontaneity and masterfulness. The solo was a way to fill in the gaps in
the song, replete with rhythms that you can’t help but jam along because of the high energy.

The flow of the guitar solo and overall song is organic with an amazing flow to it, thanks to Ted’s uninhibited playing, and his belief in his vision for the music.

As a showman and for his excellent guitar playing, Ted Nugent should be highly respected.

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