Reader’s Choice Top 10 Guitar Solos

dimebagGuitar solos can be both beautiful and tragic. Savage or sublime…or even scary. Sometimes in the same solo. They can serve the song, but should not distract from it. But over the last 40 or so years of heavy music there are some solos that have earned legendary status. You may not be able to hum some of them, but they’re stuck in your head like the simplest of melodies. Solos that inspire listeners to pick up instruments upon listening because they wonder “how did he DO that?” then find themselves compelled to learn the answer to that question.”Life-changing” guitar solos, there I said it. We surveyed the Seymour Duncan Facebook audience to find out what ranked as their top guitar solos of all time. Here’s how the Top 10 broke down:
 “Comfortably Numb” – David Gilmour/Pink Floyd
If one were to make a textbook of how to write the perfect guitar solo, this would be example one. It’s one of the most melodic, lyrical and impeccably played guitar solos in recorded history. It’s not about the notes Gilmour plays – he’s seemingly incapable of playing a bum one. It’s about the melody, the intensity, the emotion. It just fits. Not to mention there are actually two awesome guitar solos in this song when you take the amazing outro into consideration. Gilmour never ventures into the territory that could be called ‘flash,’ but he doesn’t need to.

“Mr. Crowley” – Randy Rhoads/Ozzy Osbourne
When Blizzard of Ozz debuted in 1980, there was only one name in jaw-dropping lead playing, and it wasn’t ‘Randy Rhoads.’ That quickly changed once the world heard what the classically-trained Rhoads could do in D minor (“the saddest of all keys” – Nigel Tufnel). This is another example of perfectly-placed melodic tension, with hammer-ons and whammy bar flourishes that are certainly flashy, but never stop serving the song. Legend has it, during the recording of this solo Rhoads wasn’t coming up with anything he liked. He was getting frustrated. Ozzy walked in the studio (allegedly hammered) and said “Everything you’re doing is crap. Get it together.” THIS was Rhoads’ musical “Oh, yeah?”. It would explain the ferocity with which he unleashes the solo’s opening salvo.

“Tornado of Souls”  – Marty Friedman/Megadeth
Dave Mustaine’s & Co. were looking for what would be their third lead guitarist in as many albums for their 1990 release. Fresh off his success with Cacophony, Marty Friedman was an excellent addition to, and the final piece in what is considered Megadeth’s ‘classic’ lineup. He is an absolutely stunning player, but as is the common thread in this list, he never forgets melody. This one runs the gamut of his style: precise, slinky bends, exotic note selection, artful arpeggios, and a vibrato that cannot be denied! One cool aside: Legend has it MegaDave insisted Friedman immediately install Seymour Duncan JBs in all of his guitars, reportedly so their rhythm tones would match.  If true, it seems to have worked…!

“Eruption” – Edward Van Halen/Van Halen
Not since Jimi Hendrix has anyone turned the guitar universe on its ear the way Eddie Van Halen did with this already arena-ready guitar solo. In the hypothetical “perfect guitar solo” book mentioned earlier, THIS would be the first example in the “Jaw-dropping” chapter. This is still amazing today, but in 1978? Utterly revolutionary. No-one else yet heard had the chops, the licks, the style, the (brown) sound. Further, Ed was beating people up on a guitar he built himself – also unheard of in the day. Nobody had a Strat with a humbucker in the bridge position, but suddenly everyone wanted one of those, too. In the years since its release this solo has inspired legions of kids (myself included) to pick up the guitar – and build ’em, too!

“Cemetery Gates” – Dimebag Darrell/Pantera
“Cowboys From Hell” set the metal world ablaze when it came out in July of 1990, and Dime asserted himself as THE shred guy in metal. Influenced by equal parts Van Halen, Rhoads and Ace Frehley, Dime was absolutely fearless on guitar. Known mostly for their brutality, this is one of Pantera’s more atmospheric songs, and Dime turned in a timeless solo as well as some of the coolest high-pitched harmonic squeals on record.

“Under a Glass Moon” – John Petrucci/Dream Theater
Petrucci pretty much took over as the top dog carrying the torch for heavy prog-metal guitar in the early 90s when Dream Theater grew in popularity. Never radio darlings (except for “Pull Me Under”), their loyal audience is there for their near superhuman technical precision and the complexity of their compositions. These guys can play anything, and this solo has it all: Speed-picking, arpeggios, hammered runs, wide interval jumps, whammy bars strangulation, harmonic shrieks, you name it. Even a couple of nearly bluesly licks, all in one mini-composition.

“Beat It” – Edward Van Halen/Michael Jackson
One of the only two players to rank twice in the Top 10, this now-classic solo in one of the highest-selling, biggest crossover hits in history was a guest spot. Done on a lark, for FREE. In 1983 Quincy Jones called Ed out of the blue and asked if he’d play lead on the track (Steve Lukather is credited with the rhythm guitars), and he said “Sure, why not?” This too is a mini-symposium of all of Ed’s hallmark techniques, or as David Lee Roth put it at the time “the solo he always plays!” The collaboration was groundbreaking in several ways: It exposed R&B kids to rock guitar, and rock kids to R&B. It also ushered in the diversification of MTV’s programming and audience (back when they actually played music!).

“Over the Mountain” – Randy Rhoads/Ozzy Osbourne
In 1980, “Blizzard of Ozz” was an unexpected hit and expectations for the 81 follow-up, “Diary of a Madman” had been raised, the release date rushed. Rhoads, though pressed for time, did not disappoint, announcing to the world “Oh, I got this” on the opening track. This is epic not just for the excitement and attitude it exudes, or the fact that Rhoads double if not triple-tracked something so perfectly. The coup de grace his “Oh, by the way – BLACK SABBATH?” quote that opens the solo. That has been attributed to Rhoads’ wicked sense of humor. After all, Ozzy was supposed to have been washed up after being ousted from his former band in 1980. Barely two years later Ozzy’s fame was eclipsing theirs. Then, on the opening track of his much-anticipated second release, his new, critically acclaimed guitarist briefly quotes Sabbath’s signature riff before tearing the world’s collective head off? Well played, Mr. Rhoads. Well played.

“Stairway to Heaven” – Jimmy Page/Led Zeppelin
Another example that would be in the “perfect” textbook, and this one you CAN actually hum! It’s not flashy, but it’s got melody, and attitude for days. Jimmy is in the pocket on this one, and takes the listener with him. You don’t even mind that part where he repeats that one lick over and over like he got stuck for a second: he’s Jimmy Page, and he meant to do that. On top of that, it fits!  There’s currently some controversy over whether Zep “borrowed” the riff, but regardless of how that debate is settled, the solo – is and always will be all Jimmy. Sure it’s overplayed on classic rock radio; sure, you’re not allowed to ever play it in a music store as decreed in Wayne’s World; but you can’t deny its timelessness.

“Sweet Child o’ Mine” – Slash/Guns N Roses
To hear Slash tell it, this song may not have happened were it not for his bandmates. He was playing the repeating figure that opens the tune as a joke. They wanted to do something with it. Sometimes getting a second opinion is a good thing! It turned out to be one of their biggest hits and one of Slash’s most identifiable and memorable solos to this day. It was the world’s firstwide exposure to Slash’s signature tone, thanks in part to his Alnico II Pro humbuckers, by the way. Slash also made Les Pauls cool again after they’d fallen from favor during the pointy/all-must-have-a-Floyd Rose craze of the early-to-mid 80s. Supposedly you could find vintage Les Pauls for a few hundred dollars in pawn shops pre-GnR; today vintage Les Pauls can fetch six figures. Wait, maybe he made them a little too cool? Truth be told, he’s soloing all over this tune, so just take it all in:

So there you have it – Seymour Duncan readers’ Top 10 Greatest Guitar Solos. Other honorable mentions include: Stevie Ray Vaughan, Steve Vai, Judas Priest and Avenged Sevenfold. Several other Gilmour and Rhoads examples were cited as well. Almost needless to say, there were many other submissions, but that’s how the numbers broke down. What’s your personal Top 10?

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116 Comments

  1. Some great picks! I especially like David Gilmour’s Comfortably Numb off Pink Floyd The Wall, that would be my #1 pick, so tasteful, the epitome of the guitar as a solo voice. Also Eddie Van Halen’s solo on Beat It. I remember a Rock radio DJ introducing the song as, “Eddie Van Halen, featuring Michael Jackson on vocals.” lol

  2. What about the fact that every one of these solos derives from Hendrix’s solo on “All Along the Watchtower”? That includes, especially, “Stairway”. You’re talking guitar solos but no Jimi Hendrix? AATW is the textbook for all guitar solos that follow. Compare STH and you’ll hear how much Page lifted; he played the same solo in his own way.

    1. “Every one of these solos derives from Hendrix’s solo on All Along the Watchtower”?
      Sheesh….Jimi fans have no shame when it comes to exaggerating Jimi.
      Yeah….Eruption sounds SO much like that Jim solo. (eye roll)
      We need to just appreciate Jimi for what he REALLY was instead of this absurd “greatest to ever look at a guitar” nonsense.
      Nice to see a guitar list that isn’t motivated by the Rolling Stone Baby Boomer bias. (Cause everything in the 60s was SOOO superior)

    2. Every song played today derives from some guy playing flute under a tree 10 000 bc. Don’t get me wrong, maybe Jimi should be mentioned but such statements are simply meaningless…

  3. Those are some great solos… Slash’s sound is AWESOME! i think jimmy paige has even more iconic solos than the one in STH…

  4. Sorry, I would pick at least five Jeff Beck solos over some of these, get real. Cause we’ve ended as Lovers, Going down, the “Live” Highway Jam, Big Block and Brush With the Blues.

      1. This goes without saying but such a tragic loss Dime was. He was by far the coolest player of his time. Tough to pick out just one of his solos but I wouldn’t have picked Cemetary Gates. If I had to pick just one, not sure what it would be but top contenders include Walk, Floods, Domination and Becoming.

        1. Definitely agree with your list. I would personally put Primal Concrete Sledge as my top choice though.

      2. Mother. Fucking. Thank you! I swear, I’ll bring up “The Sleep” and some people have never heard it! I’m not a huge Pantera fan… But the first time I heard that solo, I rewound it about 4-5 times… Couldn’t get over how good it was!

    1. Floods was amazing, I also really liked the domination solo. If you watch the live version in Moscow is so sick!

    2. Taste is like an ashole – everyone got their own. You know shit man, Dimebag made a ton of great solos, cementary gates solo is also amazingly-awesome, he got only good stuff. Discussion about that author knows shit and your taste is the only key to understand universe is ridiculous.

    3. Floods has always been my favorite. It was what I had hoped to see on this list, but I’m assuming the people making the list aren’t as familiar with all of his solos as the rest of us are. That assumption might be confirmed simply due to the fact that they chose something off of CFH as opposed to… well… any other album.

  5. Wow. I dont know here to begin. Hotel California? Reelin’ in the years?
    Time? The Song Remains the Same? All Along the Watchtower? All these lost out to Pantera?

        1. No, if you’ve ever seen them live, they really do suck. You can’t tell when one song ends and the next begins…and even Herman Li can’t play his own music live without missing literally HUNDREDS of notes. They are impressive studio musicians, but it’s mediocre music.

  6. I’d say Marty and Gilmur are quite on the same level. They both know the feeling and the techique. Second to that is Slash, although I hate that G’N’R glam shit. The rest is just crap, no feeling, just trying to be very techicalsophysticatednoonecandothis crap. Yes, even Van Halen.

  7. Dirty Laundry. Peter Koppes’ & Marty Wilson-Piper on Reptile. Free Bird. How Soon Is Now? James Honeyman-Scott on Middle of the Road. Just to name a few

    1. I have to say I agree here. I think that some of the most moving stuff was on Metallica Ballads…. Fade to Black, Sanitarium, Orion…. Then I wonder why I don’t see anyone ever talking about Deep Purple “Lazy” which is just a wonderful feeling that goes through the body

    2. Yeah I agree, someone above did mention Fade to Black, but for me the most emotive solos by those guys are Nothing Else Matters (Hetfield) and Unforgiven (Hammett), even though they’ve got much more technical ones.

  8. 1. Light Up The Sky – Eddie Van Halen
    2. Fade To Black Outro – Kirk Hammett
    3. Gridlock – Dan Spitz
    4. The Wizard – Tony Iommi
    5. Abigail – Andy LaRoque
    6. I Want Out – Kai Hansen
    7. Achilles Last Stand – Jimmy Page
    8. Little Dolls – Randy Rhoads
    9. Avoid The Light/The Sleep – Dimebag Darrell
    10. Crying In The Rain – John Sykes

  9. Sultans of Swing. Welcome to the Boomtown. Mama Let That Boy Play Some Rock n Roll. Walk this Way. Who Do You Love? Hiroshima Mon Amour. Adrian Vandenberg on This Burning Heart. Rik Emmett from Triumph on Magic Power. There are just so many!

    1. Angus Young is great, but he’s not technically amazing. AC/DC are like the Ramones of metal. That’s not a dig at either band.

  10. Alex Skolnick of Testament, in “Practice What You Preach”. Andy LaRocque in Death’s “Trapped in a Corner”. Johnathan Donais of Shadows Fall, in “Of One Blood”. These are just a handful of great, incredible guitar solos that i personally can’t get enough of! There is really no such thing as the greatest solo of all time. It’s so apples and oranges. Every solo is different, and there are many solos that just blow me away!!!

  11. Craig Chaquico on Jefferson Starship’s Jane. Dave Meniketti from Y&T on Black Tiger. Anything from Carlos Santana. Neal Schon on Be Good to Yourself. The above list is a good start, but really needs some diversity.

  12. Comfortably Numb – fantastic.
    Can’t argue with Mr. Crowley
    Holy War was a better solo.
    As great as Eruption is I don’t really consider it a solo. Secrets off Diver Down is his best
    Dream Theater: nice solo. Steve Vai does it much better.
    Beat It can beat it. It’s terrible.
    Over the Mountain is good, Flying High is better but Diary of a Madman is the BEST.
    Stairway is perfect.
    Rocket Queen is better

    1. …but the “Beat It” solo fits the song and its story, overall. Unlike Ed’s writing fluffy “Jump” that charted next to “Karma Chameleon” in the pop charts 1985 and cramming some wanky solo into it. Just because, eh. Thats when the music really died

  13. Neal Schon on Lights, Wheel in the Sky, Stone in Love, Majestic. Megadeth – Ashes in Your Mouth. Stevie Ray’s version of Little Wing. Jimi on Voodoo Chile. George Lynch on Mr Scary. Randy on Revelation Mother Earth. A ton of Mikael Akerfeldt and Fredrik Akesson on any Opeth song.

  14. Eric Clapton’s solo on Crossroads by Cream was recorded live and spontaneous. None of the aforementioned performances even come close

  15. It’s Duncan artists solos that’s why no hendrix or mark knofpler or Angus. Must agree dimes solo on floods is epic well the whole song after the vocal part is amazing would put that up over any Floyd song.

  16. I was just waiting to get mad about Petrucci being left off so i could go on a rant about how under-appreciated “Under a Glass Moon” is. . .

  17. Mentioned a lot of Ozzy&Randy, but no Zakk? Without No More Tears? Hands down best lead in any Ozzy tune, more balls then just about any lead I’ve ever heard… I’ve always hated these “lists”, don’t even mention Bonamassa, Brian May, or Billy Gibbons, countless others, Etc? GnR without civil war? VH without Mean Streets? I mean come on, how biased can you get?

  18. Comfortably numb and Mr crowley definitely my favorite solos on the list! Listen guys, just listen to the feels in both solos.

  19. I´ll change OVER THE MOUNTAIN solo for Marty´s Symphony of Destruction or Kirk HAmmet One or And Justice for all or Blackened.. or Skolnick Discples of the watch.. or another one of Dimebag.. anytime… I mean, I love Randy Rhoads but…

  20. No Lynch? ‘ll take “In My Dreams” thank you very much. “Sultans of Swing” Is easily a top 10 on ANY list.. No Billy Gibbons? C’mon! La Grange is epic soloing! Petrucci is unique and technical but soul-less. “Reeling in the years” is an incredible piece.. I LOVE Randy Rhoads( My all time fav. player) but he did MANY solos better than OTM.. Hell… Jake E Lee did MANY better solos than Over the Mountain as well.. And if we HAVE to pick an Ozzy Hitman, HACK Wylde’s “No more Tears” KILLS!

  21. THIS IS A GREAT LIST….BUT….only problem with it is there are A MILLION GUITARISTS…so none of them should have made the list twice…and by the way…if anyone in the world really delved into the world of JUDAS PRIEST, you would probably find 100 of the 200 best guitar solos of all time hahahah seriously though

  22. Totally agree with “tornado of souls” in the list, the best metal song ever. Too bad Hendrix is not listed here, i mean Slash is first but Jimi is not even mentioned?

  23. Hoped to see a solo from Jeff Hanaman or Kerry King of Slayer. Especially one from Seasons In The Abyss. Truly masterful, especially when leading into each other.

    1. Sorry but as good as Slayer is with riff-writing, their soloing is definitely not “masterful.” It gets the job done as far as filling the space between the second chorus and third verse but tremolo picking galore, making up your own scales and overuse of the whammy bar do not constitute great lead playing.

    2. I love Slayer, but those guys really only know how to shred scales and do harmonic dive bombs. Personally, I think they’re better songwriters than they are soloists. That’s just my take.

    3. I don’t think much of Slayer’s solos. They’re frantic, and often good technically, but they don’t often fit the songs and they’re generally devoid of emotion.

  24. Wow… this is a tough list to create. So many deserve mention. Lots of stuff by Stevie Ray Vaughn could be mentioned. Surprised no Jimi or Metallica. I absolutely love the Comfortably Numb solo… one of my favorites. Not sure why someone below mentioned Angus… he’s pretty basic. I think the Stevie Ray or Hendrix solo’s are universally known and agreed upon. A lot of good Metallica solos missing from Ride the Lightning and …And Justice… but let me throw one in there that not many people would immediately think of from them… Kirk Hammet’s solo on “Outlaw Torn.” Not the fastest or most technical but gives you chills. To me, a good solo gives you those goose bumps. A few of those above do that… so does this one.

  25. These ARE some great solos, but they are mainly built on popularity of the group and the songs themselves, which technically puts them in the category of being biased. I can think of several guitarists who are world class soloists, such as Yngwie J. Malmsteen, Joe Satriani, John Sykes of Whitesnake, George Lynch of Dokken, Eric Johnson, Jeff Healey etc. the list goes on and frankly after getting burned out on Halen, Zeppelin and other icons, I welcome getting my eardrums torn by soloists who would now almost be considered obscure or even “one hit wonders”.

  26. Ugg MTLheadz living in your moms basement. Let’s add to your list… How about the solo from “ease” solo from the Public Image LTD. generic “Album”. I won’t tell you who it is but Ginger Baker was on drums. After that your on your own to find better music, I recommend John Adams, mabey Prodigy and check out Scrubbious Pip and Dans le Sac from you-tube. Good luck.

    1. I love all kinds of music. Metal being high on the list. If you think that just because you find the vocals “inaudible” or the music “too angry,” then you are pigeonholing an entire genre and have no idea what you are missing. I can totally respect that some people just can’t get into it, but to deny the absolutely insane amount of talent that many metal musicians possess only serves to highlight your ignorance concerning a genre you don’t actually listen to. We could both sit here and fire off solos from artists that the other has never heard, but what does that prove? There are plenty of metal bands that I’m sure you’ve never heard that are far more impressive than what you seem to be willing to give credit for. Yes, classic rock is great, but talent in music doesn’t begin and end in the 1960’s and 70’s.

  27. Great ones for sure but seriously…..no Yngwie Malmsteen. How about Free Bird…All Along the Watchtower….Maggot Brain…Texas Flood….Cliffs of Dover….Notingham Lace….Highway Star….just to name a few. Plus Floods is Dimebags greatest. Also..if we include technicality as an important ingredient….where the hell are Gilbert, Impelletteri, Satriani, Vai and especially Buckethead.

  28. Why the frack isn’t Judas Priest on this list, with only ‘honourable mentions’? Painkiller is the most epic of all metal solos.
    Also, no Iron Maiden, seriously?
    The solo for Mr Crowley is ok, but Over the Mountain should be higher on list & Jake Lee’s solo from Bark at the Moon should also be up there.
    Just about any Joe Satriani track tops most of the solos on this list.
    in conclusion, stop compiling polls from readers or hacks, and get in touch with people who are actually musicians.

  29. #1 jimmi #2 eddy/dimebag (face it .. Its a toss up) and y’all can’t compare rock to metal. 2 totally different styles. But bottom. Line none of these awsom guitarest would exist if it weren’t for all the old jazz and blues players from back in the day. Bb king has more talent in his pinky then randy and satriani put together ….. Just saying.

  30. Since I’ve Been Loving You – Led Zeppelin blows Stairway To Heaven away, it has some of the greatest playing ever recorded… as does Call It Sleep – Steve Vai off the Flexable album. Sweet Child O’ Mine… are you freaking serious? Not even close.

  31. As a kid I too learned to play the omnipresent if odious “Smoke on the Water” but I soon found playing a la early Neil Young in “Live Rust” much more gratifiying as I could do whatever I wanted.

  32. I am a Metal Drummer raised on Led Zep and Black Sabbath and of the generation of Dime and Vinnie born in 1968. Dime is my personal favorite guitarist of all time period…. But where in the name of God is a solo from one of the greatest players of all time…Stevie Ray Vaughn… No top 10 guitar solo listing should ever be made without an SRV solo…. pick one…..Like Dime… they are most all worthy. EVH’s Beat it? really?…..

  33. Picking guys TWICE isn’t fair. What about Blackmore (Hard Lovin Man, DP in Rock), Don Felder (One of These Nights, Eagles), anything by Steve Morse (Dixie Dregs, SMB, Deep Purple), John Godsall of Brand X (Deadly Nightshade, MASQUES)

  34. Hi,
    I read blog carefully i got some important point that aware less by it but still i have one question is that for solo songs competitions which guitars is good either best acoustic guitars or electric acoustic guitar? Please suggest me for it thanks.Keep it up…………

  35. Yeah, I like a guitar solo, according to my experience the Best acoustic guitars are too good for solo music. But still I am searching an online guitar lessons for it, So please can you suggest me where to read it???????

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