Top Five Guitarists With Unique Playing Styles

by Rodrigo Sanchez, Jul 14, 2020 . 4 min read

Top Five Guitarists With Unique Playing Styles

Guitarists are a dime a dozen. Unique guitarists are not. And then there are those who stand in the rarified air of having their unique guitar playing styles widely imitated.

The very definition of the word “unique” goes beyond technique and into a special realm that can be hard to comprehend. But we can surely enjoy the beautiful music created by these outliers. Here are the top five guitarists with unique playing styles.     

Wes Montgomery

Arguably the most influential jazz guitarist ever, Wes Montgomery developed unique playing styles out of sheer desire and necessity. His wife and neighbors complained that his late-night practices were too loud – so he would play with his thumb instead of a pick. But the sound that came out with his thumb was not loud enough for him. To compensate, Montgomery started playing melodies in octaves and developed a unique playing style that became widely imitated over the years.  

Alan Holdsworth

An absolute master of the instrument, Holdsworth – referred to as the greatest technical guitarist to ever live. He developed a unique way of playing chords and in the process defied traditional harmony for the guitar. His unique playing style also involved wide stretches that would be unattainable by most hands. Holdsworth also had blistering speed with an angular melodic vocabulary. To be able to copy or imitate Holdsworth, a guitarist would need to command a very high level of proficiency on the instrument. And this is the only reason his playing could not be more extensively imitated. 

Eddie Van Halen

The album Van Halen (from the band with the same name) marked the arrival of a new prophet for rock guitar. Eddie Van Halen displayed a visceral technique and touch and made the world experience a ferocity rock had not seen. Through the unique use of tapping and other techniques, Eddie Van Halen showed the music industry that you could be a virtuoso guitarist and play extremely catchy rock songs at the same time. Van Halen single-handedly destroyed the dreams of droves of guitarists that thought they were good enough to make it.

Jeff Beck

Despite an odd way of approaching the instrument, Jeff Beck is one of the most imitated guitar players ever. The way he combines the use of the volume knob with his pick and thumb is truly unique. The ways in which he uses his pick are even more unique. Add to this an unorthodox use of the whammy bar, slide, and an extremely musical mind, and you have one of the most unique playing styles ever. Albums like Blow by Blow and Jeff’s Garage are a must-listen for any guitarist. Though I’d have to argue that nothing compares to seeing him live and being hopelessly in awe of a supremely gifted musician.

Jimi Hendrix

With Jimi Hendrix there is a before and after for the electric guitar. His use of feedback, distortion, wah, and even teeth were unprecedented when he exploded on the British scene in the Sixties. He is the guy that made impossible sounds become possible. And besides the technical stuff, Jimi Hendrix was also unusually charismatic (especially for a guitar player). To say he was a unique guitarist is a massive understatement. 

The contribution of each of these unique guitar players is immense. They all went well beyond chords and scales to develop their own distinctive voices. You can recognize their playing immediately. Their uniqueness has passed the test of time and guitarists will keep on learning from them for years to come. 

If you enjoyed this article on unique playing styles, check out one of our other pieces which features 5 of Today’s Best Fingerstyle Guitarists. 

Leave your comments below and let us know which guitar playing styles you enjoy listening to or playing most!



Get our free Alternate Tunings Guide!
Submit

Check out some other similar articles

Take advantage of our biggest backer-exclusive discounts and get your hands on this next-generation automatic tuner. Back the Kickstarter campaign today and be the first to receive the Roadie 3.

Recent discussion at tendermeets revolved around how romance inspires music and creativity for artists of all kinds.

Augusto Palmeri
Sep 15, 2020 . 5 min read

The best recording software today will work fine for experienced engineers and beginners alike. In other words, there is no such thing as the best recording software for beginners.

Rodrigo Sanchez
Sep 14, 2020 . 4 min read

Ah, good ol’ distortion lines! As someone once said: “There’s no such thing as too much distortion”, and I couldn’t agree more.

Alexis Baydoun
Sep 11, 2020 . 5 min read

The best online jamming websites are a godsend. First, they are a great way to practice. Second, they are fun. Third, they are especially useful in a time of pandemic and limited social contact.

Rodrigo Sanchez
Sep 7, 2020 . 3 min read

Is lo-fi the smooth jazz of the new generation? No. It is not. Lo-Fi is not the smooth jazz of the generation. But what is Lo-fi after all?

Rodrigo Sanchez
Sep 4, 2020 . 3 min read

On the evening of August 28, the sad and devasting news emerged. Black Panther actor and on-screen legend: Chadwick Boseman tragically passed away at the age of 43. The actor was fighting a private battle with colon cancer since 2016.

Frederik Nielsen
Aug 31, 2020 . 4 min read

Nothing can make us travel back in time like music. We all remember those special songs that we heard in special moments. Songs and albums that touched our lives uniquely.

Rodrigo Sanchez
Aug 28, 2020 . 4 min read

Guitar pedals are a dime a dozen. There are just so many types, variations, blends, and flavors. I could write an encyclopedia on guitar pedals available.

Rodrigo Sanchez
Aug 25, 2020 . 4 min read

Chris Cornell was one of the architects of grunge in the early 90s. He is one of the three most important figures in this movement, the other two being Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vedder.

Rodrigo Sanchez
Aug 24, 2020 . 4 min read

Some might say country music has a way of telling stories, unlike any other genre. And once you get past trucks, football, and bourbon references, you can truly hear it.

Rodrigo Sanchez
Aug 18, 2020 . 4 min read

Turning your hobby into your profession is quite a leap. There is very little pressure in playing for fun. But for a professional guitarist, every gig is a serious matter. After all, you will be getting paid according to your abilities and the realities of the market you’re in.

Rodrigo Sanchez
Aug 17, 2020 . 4 min read

The ukulele has seen a considerable popularity surge in the past years. This surge has been so pronounced that even major brands like Fender and Cordoba started producing ukuleles.

Rodrigo Sanchez
Aug 14, 2020 . 5 min read

Roadie Music has followers ranging from eager beginners to seasoned professionals. Whatever your level of skill, it’s always good to aspire to become better.

Frederik Nielsen
Aug 12, 2020 . 4 min read

The notoriously resilient Lebanese. Within a single lifetime, they have been victims of civil war, foreign invasion, foreign occupancy, militia war, the assassination of leaders, the slaughter of citizens based on religion, the kidnapping of our youth.

Tamara Habchi
Aug 11, 2020 . 4 min read

A flat-six chord is a great tool to spice up a chord progression. It is one of the most common non-diatonic chord choices used in popular music and beyond.

Rodrigo Sanchez
Aug 7, 2020 . 4 min read

Tuning is crucial. And it turns out, no one is more obsessed with tuning than a guitarist. Guitar players check their tuning excessively and for good reason. If a single string is out of tune, it can completely ruin a song (as well as your reputation).

Rodrigo Sanchez
Aug 4, 2020 . 4 min read

The bass might be the most underrated instrument in the band. It might also be the most important. Don’t believe me? If the guitar player, drummer, keyboardist, or singer makes a mistake, you might not even notice.

Rodrigo Sanchez
Aug 2, 2020 . 4 min read

Bob Dylan has been a staple of music and culture for over 50 years. He’s considered by many one of the greatest songwriters to ever live.

Rodrigo Sanchez
Jul 30, 2020 . 4 min read

There are countless underrated rock legends who don’t get the recognition they deserve. But imagine actually receiving critical acclaim for your work… and still not being remembered.

Frederik Nielsen
Jul 27, 2020 . 4 min read

Some guitarists tend to focus solely on improving their left hand. The dirty little secret is that the left hand can only be as good as the right hand allows. Good hand synchronization is imperative for any guitarist.

Rodrigo Sanchez
Jul 17, 2020 . 3 min read
We'll be bringing you recommended tabs and plenty of interesting quotes from guitar legends along the way!