Whether you are an artist, poet, writer, architect, or a musician it is essential to study the masters and classics to gain knowledge in your chosen field. Listening and watching great musicians inspires the guitar student to practice more and work harder to achieve his goals. Part of being a good musician is finding good music to listen to. Creating a library of music is very important for the guitar student. To do so, we need to dig much deeper than the local radio stations. Go to the roots of the tree. Find out who your favorite guitarists listened to. Read books and magazines about music. Many of the instruction books include discographies listing their favorite musicians. Online radio stations such as 365live.com are great sources for good music. With services such as CDBABY.COM and ITUNES it is easier and cheaper to create a music library than it was in the past.
Listed below are a few of my favorite guitarists that I consider to be essential listening. I hope you enjoy them as I have. If you have questions or comments send them to Brian Turner.
Howard is a swing and jazz guitarist. I fell in love with his playing after seeing the Woody Allen movie Sweet and Lowdown. Howard and Bucky Pizzarelli did the guitar work on the sound track. The sound track to Sweet and Lowdown is available on CD.
Oscar was a jazz guitarist from Argentina. He was a contemporary and friend of Django Reinhardt. If you like Django you'll like Oscar.
Chet is the maestro of solo fingerstyle guitar. He has influenced The Beatles, Tommy Emmanuel, Doyle Dykes, and just about every guitar player born since 1940. One of my favorite tunes by Chet is Yankee Doodle Dixie where he plays Yankee Doodle Dandy and then Dixie, and then both at the same time.
The Beatles (George Harrison, Paul McCartney, and John Lennon)
The most influential musicians of the 20th Century. I have the complete scores of all the songs they recorded. It is as big as a dictionary. Abbey Road and The White Album are my favorite recordings but they are all great.
Jeff mixes rock with jazz. He was one of the first players to popularize the style that came to be known as Fusion. His recordings, Jeff Beck Jeff Beck (his name written twice is not a typo) and Blow by Blow are my favorite.
Adrian is a rock guitarist that has played with King Crimson and David Bowie. However, his solo endeavors are his best work. The recording Young Lions is one of my favorite recordings. He uses a Roland guitar synthesizer, a Fender Stratocaster guitar, and a Roland Jazz Chorus JC120 amplifier to create some great sounds.
Richard is a session man that has been around for decades. He has played for Dire Straits, Neil Diamond, Steve Earle, Marty Stuart, and Emmylou Harris. His solo recording titled Themes from a Rainy Decade has the greatest guitar tone around. If you like the clean guitar sounds of Surf, Hawaiian and the old themes from western movies then you'll love this recording.
California Guitar Trio
These guys were students of Robert Fripp the guitarist of King Crimson. They do classical and instrumental versions of classic progressive rock songs such as Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen and Heart of the Sunrise by Yes. They use steel string 'flat top' acoustic guitars. I discovered them on XM radio.
Charlie played with Benny Goodman for a breif period in the late 1930s before his untimely death.. He was one of the first to play the electric guitar. He has influenced every major jazz guitarist that has come afterwards. In my opinion, he is the most influential of all jazz guitarists. My favorite songs of his are Flying Home, Till Tom Special, and Seven Come Eleven. They are on the Benny Goodman Sextet recordings.
Doyle does Chet Atkins style and much more. He can tear up a flat top.
Nokie Edwards (The Ventures)
The Ventures invented Surf guitar music. Walk Don't Run (the original version is a actually a jazz tune written by Johnny Smith) is one of the most recognized tunes of all guitar instrumentals. The Ventures were very popular in the 60s and are popular to this day in Japan. Just about every guitarist born during the last 50 years has tried to imitate Nokie.
Tommy is a solo acoustic steel string 'flat top' guitarist. He can play any style. This guy is phenomenal. I recommend a DVD of his live performance titled Live at Sheldon Concert Hall. If he comes to your town, do whatever you can to see his concert.
Danny has been called the greatest unknown guitarist. He could play jazz, blues, and rock on his Telecaster but Rockabilly was what he did best. My favorite song is his instrumental version of The Beach Boys song In My Room on his CD titled 88 Elmira Street.
David Gilmour (Pink Floyd)
David is the guitarist for Pink Floyd. Dark Side of the Moon, The Wall, and Wish You Were Here as all fabulous recordings but my favorite is Animals. Enough said, we all know their great.
Steve Hackett (Genesis)
Steve was the guitarist for Genesis during the early days. Genesis, Yes, and King Crimson are the founders of progressive rock which is a mixture of rock, classical, and jazz. Groups such as Rush and more recently Dream Theater are heavily influenced by the progressive rock bands of the 70s. Steve used a Gibson Les Paul and a volume pedal creating volume swells that emulated a violin creating his own unique sound. My favorite recordings are The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, Trick of the Tail, and Selling England by the Pound. In fact, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway is my favorite recording of all time.
Steve Howe (Yes)
Steve was the guitarist for Yes, another monster progressive rock band from the 70s. Steve uses a Gibson ES175 hollow body arch top electric guitar which is unusual in the rock world due to feedback problems at higher volumes. However, he used it and used it well. He also used a Fender Stringmaster steel guitar which is normally heard on country recordings. He made some nice sounds using an echoplex (a tape echo device that predated the digital delay) with the steel guitar. My favorite recordings are Close to the Edge, Fragile, and Yessongs.
Michael played instrumental music on the acoustic 'flat top' guitar. I had the opportunity to see Michael in concert. It was a wonderful experience. He travels with a guitar tech whose main job is to tune his guitars while he is performing. He used a variety of altered tunings such as dadgad, open G, and drop D just to name a few. He was very creative and has done amazing things on the flat top guitar.
When Jimi Hendrix came on the music scene in the 60s it was as if the aliens came to earth and dropped off a guitar player. Even the great guitarists of the time such as Pete Townsend of the Who and Eric Clapton of Cream were intimidated by this gifted guitarist. No one wanted to follow his act at the festivals because his act couldn't be topped. Hendrix is known by the average listener as the wild guitar player that played Purple Haze and set his guitar on fire at Woodstock. But, Jimi was much more than that. He could play the blues like nobody and his chord soloing on ballads were unparalleled. Much is to be learned studying his playing. If you want to play rock guitar, learn All Along the Watchtower note for note. If you want to play the blues learn Red House note for note. If you like a clean soulful sound on ballads and rhythm and blues learn Little Wing, The Wind Cries Mary, May This Be Love, Angel, or Spanish Castle Magic note for note.
Eric studied all the greats of the first generation of electric guitarists: Jimi Hendrix, Chet Atkins, Jeff Beck, Keith Richards (The Stones), Wes Montgomery, Jerry Reed and so on. His playing is an amalgamation of all of the above. Not only does he imitate his heroes flawlessly but he has his own unique style and he is a great songwriter. The recording Tones is my favorite.
I had the pleasure to see Steve at a bluegrass jam recently. If you like flatpickin' old time and bluegrass fiddle tunes on guitar then you'll love Steve's playing. He is very good at what he does. He also has tons of instructional books. I have his Four Hour Bluegrass Jam book/CD. It is a great book.
Phil Keaggy is as good as they get. Whether he's rocking out on a Les Paul with his band or standing on stage by himself with an acoustic guitar he is amazing in either setting. Phil isn't known to the general population because he plays primarily at Christian venues. He has been recording and touring for decades. My favorite recording of his is The Master and the Musician.
Fire on the Strings! This guy could play fast, fast, fast, and in the days of Black Diamond strings as big as power lines (no Super Slinkys in 1960). How did he do that?
Rock, Classical, Jazz, Celtic, Swing, Bluegrass at the speed of light, you name it, he does it. Steve is from Mars. He has to be from another planet. My favorites are Verde Grande and Highland Wedding.
Tubular Bells came out in 1973. It was a concept album. The songs segued from one song to another. In 1992, he released Tubular Bells 2 which were the same tunes with the newest technology. I love this recording. Not just the guitars but everything about it. He uses a lot of compression on the guitar to create his sound.
Jimmy Page (Led Zepplin)
Is there anyone in this galaxy that hasn't heard Stairway to Heaven? The thing that impressed me most about Jimmy was his ability to get different sounds on his guitars in the studio. He makes the guitar sound like other instruments and has a large variety of sounds, tones, and timbre. He also does a great job using altered tunings as heard on The Rain Song, Kashmere, Black Mountain Side and Going To California. My favorite songs are The Song Remains the Same and The Rain Song.
Joe Pass is one of the most respected and emulated of all solo jazz guitarists. He also has an instructional video that is great for learning solo jazz guitar.
Jerry is the daddy of chicken pickin' guitar. Funny, funky country. He has a great since of humor. My favorites are Amos Moses and Alabama Jubilee.
Django is the man! He is the father of jazz guitar. Books have been written about the gypsy jazz guitarist. His left hand was terribly maimed in a fire in the wagon of his gypsy caravan. He overcame the handicap to become the most influential jazz guitarist of all time. He unknowingly created a school of virtuoso disciples. Visit Hot Club Radio and you'll see what I mean. (Django made his mark playing in the Quintette of the Hot Club of France. Anytime you see the two words 'Hot Club' in conjunction with jazz and swing it is music in the style of Django and Stephane Grappelli). A few of my favorites songs are Lime House Blues, Tears, Swing 42, Oriental Shuffle and Nuages.
I discovered Chris at The Kerrville Folk Festival in Kerrville, Texas. I was sitting far away in the beginning. As I was watching him, I kept hearing drums. I thought he must have a drum machine. I walked up to the front of the stage and the drums I heard were his feet tapping and shuffling on an old board with a mic pointed at it. Besides playing a mean board with his feet, he's a great song writer, singer and player. He has a down south bluesy style.
Joscho is one of the young gypsy jazz disciples from Django University. I discovered him at Hot Club Radio on 365live.com. My favorite song of his is Gypsy.
Pete Townsend (The Who)
Pete wrote some great songs. He also started the rock opera or concept album trend with the release of Tommy. The recording Who's Next is one of the greatest rock albums.
Merle started the alternating thumb style made famous by Chet Atkins. Most players refer to the style as "Travis picking."
Does anyone not like the guitar playing on Hotel California? I like Joe because he is fun to watch, he has a sense of humor, and he doesn't seem to take himself too seriously. He seems like the guy next door, the goofy ordinary average guy that can play a mean guitar. I love his phrasing on the solo of Life's Been Good To Me So Far. He's never in a hurry. He makes a few notes say a lot. I like his older stuff too such as The Bomber and Funk 49.
This is roots stuff. Muddy Waters is the father of electric blues. Along with Son House and Robert Johnson, they were Mississippi delta blues players that influenced Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Mike Bloomfield, Keith Richards, Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Winter, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Albert Collins, Freddy King, B.B. King, Lightnin' Hopkins, and many other players that followed in their footsteps.
Doc Watson is a very respected folk guitarist and singer. He flat picks old time and bluegrass tunes with lightning speed and he does Travis picking also. The Essential Doc Watson is a good CD to start with. He has many recordings.
Great Guitarists Timeline
Charlie Christian (Benny Goodman Sextet)
Django Reinhardt (Quintette du Hot Club de France)
Freddie Green (The Count Basie Band)
Oscar Moore (Nat King Cole Trio)
Nokie Edwards (The Ventures)
Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin)
David Gilmour (Pink Floyd)
Steve Howe (Yes)
Stevie Ray Vaughn
10 Great Recordings from 1965 - 2000
1. The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway Genesis 2. Tubular Bells 2 Mike Oldfield 3. Abbey Road The Beatles 4. Trick Of The Tail Genesis 5. Who's Next The Who 6. The White Album The Beatles 7. Riverdance Riverdance Orchestra 8. Master And The Musician Phil Keaggy 9. Young Lions Adrian Belew 10. Animals Pink Floyd