History of Modern Guitar Playing

Timeline created by TomP1
In Music
  • Guitar Before 1920

    Before the 20s, guitar playing was mainly classicaly based; this had been pioneered by Spanish guitarists like Fernando Sor. But at the start of the 20th century a new style was coming into being, from the old slave songs and spirituals: the blues. This music, along with Jazz, would come to define and change the guitars music like never before.
  • Charley Patton

    Charley Patton
    Charley Patton- Spoonful Blues The ''Father of the Delta Blues'', Charley Patton channeled all the feelings of the traditional slave songs and spirituals into a new art form: the Blues. His style is what basically all modern guitar is based on, and while his protege Robert Johnson may have directly influenced more musicians, Patton still affects all modern guitarists whether they know it or not.
  • Django Reinhardt

    Django Reinhardt
    Django Reinhardt- Honeysuckle Rose As a teenager, Belgian Jazz guitarist Jean "Django" Reinhardt badly burned the tips of two of the fingers on his left hand; this rendered them basically unusable. For most people, this would hinder their chances of reinventing Jazz guitar; but not Reinhardt, who not only invented the "hot " Jazz guitar technique, but also helped introduce the music of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie to Europe, greatly influencing art-rock bands like Can and Neu! much later on.
  • Robert Johnson

    Robert Johnson
    Robert Johnson- Crossroads Quite possibly the most influential blues guitarist in history (possibly even beating Hendrix in that department), Robert Johnson's mysterious life has given rise to many a legend. Some say that he sold his soul to the devil in return for his guitar skills, rumours he helped spread in songs like "Me and the Devil Blues". But however he came across his ability, there is no doubt that modern guitar would be unrecognisable without him.
  • Woody Guthrie

    Woody Guthrie
    Woody Guthrie- This Land Is Your Land Really more of a songwriter than guitarist, dustbowl troubador Woody Guthrie nonetheless brought a folkier sound to a generation of blues and jazz guitarists, and is often credited by Bob Dylan as being his greatest influence. His greatest achievment, the now canonical anthem ''This Land is Your Land'' still resonates today, being played at the recent (as of December 2011) Occupy Wall Street protests.
  • T-Bone Walker

    T-Bone Walker
    T Bone Walker- They Call It Stormy Monday As the first musician ever to record the blues on an electric guitar, T Bone Walker is the clear predecessor to players like Duane Allman and Eric Clapton. Allman in particular acknowledged his huge influence, often covering Walkers ''I Must Have Done Somebody Wrong'' and ''They Call it Stormy Monday'' in concert.
  • John Lee Hooker

    John Lee Hooker
    John Lee Hooker- Boom Boom John Lee Hookers style was even cosidered to be primitive during his peaks in the 40s and 50s; a brand of primal blues that made his peers like Muddy Waters and Buddy Guy seem like sophisticated players. This kind of playing proved massively influential over the years to players like Jimmy Page and Jack White.
  • Muddy Waters

    Muddy Waters
    Muddy Waters: Rollin' Stone .Literally having learned at the feet of Charley Patton, you could say that Muddy Waters was always destined to master the blues. Possibly the most widely heard blues guitarist of his day, his music inspired a generation; his music deeply affected the young Jimi Hendrix when he heard it on the radio as a child, and his 1958 tour of Britain brought the blues to the young Keith Richards and Eric Clapton. He was really the first person to bring the power of the blues to the world at large.
  • Elmore James

    Elmore James
    Elmore James- Dust My Broom Elmore James' blues was similar to that of contemporaries like Muddy Waters and Howlin Wolf, but he had one defining feature; he used an acoustic guitar modified with electric pickups, creating a sound more powerful than anything heard before. Called "the Father of Slide Guitar" he used this sound in conjunction with a slide to create the sound later used by the Allman Brothers and Jimi Hendrix, who in the early stages of his career modeled himself as a tribute to James.
  • Les Paul

    Les Paul
    Les Paul- Sleepwalk Jazz guitarist Les Paul is less remembered for his actual playing than for the guiar that holds his name; the legendary Gibson Les Paul. The first solid-body electric guitar that was available to the general public, it has been used by icons such as Keith Richards and Eric Clapton, and to this day one of the most popular and iconic guitars in the world.
  • Scotty Moore

    Scotty Moore
    Elvi Presley (with Scotty Moore)- Heartbreak Hotel As Elvis Presley's guitarist on songs like ''Heartbreak Hotel'' and ''Hound Dog'', Scotty Moore's importance hardly needs to be explained. Basically inventing the art of rock guitar (along with Chuck Berry), he also redefinded the role of the lead guitarist in a band, finally bringing it to the fore whereas previously rhythm had dominated, changing how the instrument was played.
  • B.B. King

    B.B. King
    B.B King- The Thrill is Gone While before blues guitarists had prided themselves on their riffs and earthiness, B.B King introduced elegance and fluidity into the genre, but also basically invented one of the keystones of the guitar craft; the solo. While jazz guitarists had been improvising solos and breaks for years, King introduced solos that fit into conventional song structures, and were integral parts of the song, an art that has been endlessly emulated by everyone from David Gilmour to Slash.
  • Chuck Berry

    Chuck Berry
    Chuck Berry- Johnny B. Goode Chuck Berry was arguably the first to combine the rock and roll style of Scotty Moore with the blues of Elmore James and Muddy Waters, creating a sound that appealed to the rock-loving white youth, but also to blues enthusiasts. He put together the virtuosity of the likes of B.B. King with the showmanship of Little Richard or Elvis Presley, creating a guitar icon with heavy pop credentials; later emulated by Keith Richards, and even Eddie Van Halen.
  • Curtis Mayfield

    Curtis Mayfield
    Curtis Mayfield- People Get Ready A heavy influence on Jimi Hendrix, particularly in his psychedelic balladry like Little Wing and Bold as Love, Curtis Mayfield was the guitar hero of the 60s Civil Rights Movement. His style was not overtly showy; instead, his melodies moved with a fluid grace, showing that you didn't have to show off in order to be an amazing player.
  • Jeff Beck

    Jeff Beck
    Jeff Beck- Beck's Bolero Jeff Beck is one of the few guitarists who can be regarded as a true original in his style; starting out in the legendary Yardbirds with Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton, he went on to work with the likes of Rod Stewart and Stevie Wonder. His style is unique, with almost constant rapid manipulation of the tremolo arm being one defining feature, one later used by Eddie Van Halen, and attempted by many, many others.
  • Keith Richards

    Keith Richards
    The Rolling Stones- (I Can't Get No Satisfaction) Live As the guitarist of the Rolling Stones, Keith Richards is the author of arguably the most enduring riff of all time: (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction. But thats only the beginning of his riffology: he is also responsible for Jumpin' Jack Flash, Paint It Black, Street Fighting Man, Rocks Off, Gimme Shelter.. and literally hundreds more. He was obsessed with Robert Johnson, Elmore James, and particularly Chuck Berry, but he gave their music a new anthemic quality, inspiring almost all who came after.
  • Jimi Hendrix

    Jimi Hendrix
    Jimi Hendrix- Voodoo Child (Slight Return) Born James Marshall Hendrix in 1942, Jimi Hendrix is generally considered to be the greatest and most influential guitarist in history. There is no end to the amount of techniques he revolutionised: his combination of lead and rhythm guitar was legendary, he was the first to truly harness the powers of feedback and distortion, and his blues guitar has influenced everything from shoegaze to heavy metal.
  • Jerry Garcia

    Jerry Garcia
    Grateful Dead- Dark Star The lead guitarist of the Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia set the bar for all future improvisational guitarists. When playing live, the Grateful Dead used the templates of relatively simple songs and stretched them out into psychedelic explorations, with Garcia's guitar leading the way.
  • Eric Clapton

    Eric Clapton
    Eric Clapton- Crossroads Eric Claptons electric blues style has become so commonplace, it almost sounds no longer revolutionary. But when Clapton was first revealed to the world via John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, the blues community had never heard anything like him. His burning lead lines were melodic like none before, setting the template for Slash and Van Halens song-defining solos. In his next band Cream, he solidified his status as one of the greatest of all time, and has continued to astound with solo work since.
  • John McLaughlin

    John McLaughlin
    John McLaughlin at Crossroads Fest 2007 Named as the greatest guitarist alive by Jeff Beck, jazz guitarist John McLaughlin (a.k.a Mahavishnu)'s work with Miles Davis and his own band has redefined jazz guitar in ways none thought possible. Along with other jazz icons like Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock, he was in Miles Davis' landmark late 60s - early 70s band, where jazz rock fusion was basically invented then taken into the stratosphere, in no small part to McLaughlins playing.
  • Duane Allman

    Duane Allman
    Allman Brothers Band- Whipping Post Live 1970 In his horrifically brief lifetime (he died in a motorcycle accident in 1971) Duane Allman broke new boundaries for blues guitar. As lead guitarist of the Allman Brothers Band, Duane incorporated elements of Jazz and Soul into his ferociously inventive improvised solos, while he took Elmore James' slide style to unprecedented new hights. He pushed Eric Clapton to a new level when he worked with him on the Layla album, and continues to inspire blues and slide players everywhere.
  • Nick Drake

    Nick Drake
    Nick Drake- Three Hours Folk guitarist Nick Drake received almost no critical or commercial attention in his short lifetime (he died at the age of 26 in 1974), but with his remarkable songwriting and his even more impressive acoustic guitar skills, his influence has steadly spread across the realm of popular music. REM's Peter Buck and The Cure's Robert Smith were some of the first to credit his geius in the 80s, but to this day, he has never received the full credit his talent deserved.
  • David Gilmour

    David Gilmour
    Pink Floyd- Comfortably Numb Live 8 Responsible for some of the most iconic solos of all time, Pink Floyd's guitarist David Gilmour is almost unique among guitar icons. His solos are not overly complex or fast; Gilmour takes his time, focusing more on the tone and the sound. This may not sound very impressive on paper, but when put into practice, this works like none other. Just listen to his solos on "Comfortably Numb" and "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" for proof.
  • Jimmy Page

    Jimmy Page
    Led Zeppelin- Heartbreaker Many of Jimmy Page's iconic riffs for Led Zeppelin (eg, Whole Lotta Love, Dazed and Confused) are in fact old blues riffs electrified and blown up to stadium-sized proportions. This shows how Page looked towards the past while still heading for the future, by mixing these kinds of classicist riffs with his mold breaking solos on songs like Heartbreaker and Stairway to Heaven.
  • Rory Gallagher

    Rory Gallagher
    Rory Gallagher- Bad Penny When Jimi Hendrix was asked what it was like to be the greatest guitarist in the world, he replied "I don't know - ask Rory Gallagher". Gallagher played blues guitar in the style of Clapton and Allman, but added to it a power and tone never heard before, cementing his place in Rock history.
  • Johnny Ramone

    Johnny Ramone
    The Ramones- Sheena is a Punk Rocker While there were arguably punk guitarists before him (The Stooges Ron Asheton, MC5s Wayne Kramer), Johnny Ramone was the first to set the rigid code of the genre: fast, hard barre chord/power chord riffs, no flashiness. In the Ramones, Johnny crafted incredibly simple riffs and melodies, yet they were still some of the most groundbreaking things heard at that time. His code still stands; just listen to anything that bands like Green Day have ever done.
  • Tony Iommi

    Tony Iommi
    Black Sabbath- Iron Man Live 1970 With two metal fingers due to an industrial accident, it's kind of ironic that Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath is arguably the first true metal guitarist. With his monumental riffs in songs like "Paranoid", "Iron Man" and "War Pigs", he set the blueprint for the genre.
  • Robert Fripp

    Robert Fripp
    King Crimson- 21st Century Schizoid Man It has hard to sum up just the amount of things that Robert Fripp has innovated in; from inventing progressive rock with King Crimson to inventiing ambient music with Brian Eno, it is harder to find modern music that he hasn't influenced than it is to find any he has. If that wasn't enough, he also provided David Bowie with his legendary riff on "Heroes".
  • Tom Verlaine

    Tom Verlaine
    Television- Marquee Moon In his group Television, Tom Verlaine, along with rhythm guitarist Richard Lloyd, changed the way guitars interact with eachother for good. The basic idea behind their sound was that one of them would set up a small rhythmic motif, and the other would play a laed melody that intertwines with it. This way, the parts do not work when seperated, but form a full melody when together. This has been copied by hundreds of modern indie bands, such as the Strokes and the Libertines.
  • Keith Levene

    Keith Levene
    Public Image Ltd.- Death Disco Keith Levenes angular and abrasive melodies as part of Public Image Ltd. resonated for many years through post-punk, inspiring Bernard Sumner of Joy Division and, surprisingly considering how experimental and uncommercial PiL were, The Ege of U2. He played using a metal guitar, creating a scratchy and sharp sound, and used feedback in a way that would inspire the Reid Brothers of the Jesus and Mary Chain and Kevin Sheilds of My Bloody Valentine.
  • Eddie Van Halen

    Eddie Van Halen
    Van Halen- Eruption While several guitarist (notably Duane Allman and Jimmy Page) had used the tapping technique before Eddie Van Halen, none had quite put it to use quite as he did. His use of the technique on songs like Eruption and Spanish Fly opened up new possibilites for heavy rock guitar, almost single handedly creating the hard rock sound of the 80s.
  • Ry Cooder

    Ry Cooder
    Ry Cooder- Vigilante Man Predominantly playing slide guitar, Ry Cooder's music has evolved to combine rock, blues, and just about all roots music from all over the world. Starting out as a teenager in the 60s, the young Cooder astounded people like Keith Richards with his natural ability (he was in fact the first to teach Richards about open tunings). But he mainly acheived recognition from the wider world later on, especially with his work with Buena Vista Social Club, and his soundtrack for the film "Paris, Texas".
  • Stevie Ray Vaughan

    Stevie Ray Vaughan
    Stevie Ray Vaughan- Texas Flood Stevie Ray Vaughan's playing was like a combination of almost every blues guitarist that came before; he combined rhythm and lead like Jimi Hendrix, but used a clean, B.B. King-esque tone. The Texan was generally considered to be the heir to the throne left vacant by Hendrix and Allman as the greatest of all time; but like both of them, he died tragically young in a helicopter crash.
  • Johnny Marr

    Johnny Marr
    The Smiths- The Boy With the Thorn in his Side Live The guitarist of British indie legends The Smiths, Johnny Marr's colourful, Byrd-inspired melodies revitalised British rock in the 80s. Although he rarely played solos, his melodies were highly complex and dense, and arguably invented the sound that rules the sound of British indie bands to this day.
  • The Edge

    The Edge
    U2- Where the Streets Have No Name Live As the guitarist of Irish band U2, David Evans aka The Edge, redefined the guitar sound of a generation. The origin of his unique sound was his obsession with New York band Television; he sought to recreate the sound of Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd's twin guitars on his own, with the use of a ridiculous amount of reverb ond delay and an enormous collection of effects pedals. The huge sound this created brought stadium rock to a generation raised on synth-pop.
  • J. Mascis

    J. Mascis
    Dinosaur Jr.- Freak Scene Live As the leader of Dinosaur Jr., J. Mascis had the melodic soloing sensibilities of Neil Young and Jeff Beck, but added the avant-garde noise of Keith Levene and Sonic Youth to create a new, artistic yet anthemic sound. His songwriting was remarkably poppy, but most of the time they ended up as extended explorations of noise and feedback on Mascis' guitar, proving massively influential on the alternative rock of the 90s.
  • John Squire

    John Squire
    The Stone Roses- One Love Taking what Johnny Marr began probably as far as it could possibly go, Stone Roses guitarist John Squire's spiralling, psychedelic melodies brought in influences both from the psych and folk rock of the 60s, and the acid house and indie of the 80s. On songs like "One Love" and "Fools Gold", he played basically psychedelic solos for the entire length of the songs, while he also created perpetual motion riffs for "Waterfall" and "What the World is Waiting For."
  • Tom Morello

    Tom Morello
    Rage Against the Machine- Bulls On Parade The spectacularly inventive guitarist of Rage Against the Machine, Tom Morello's chief innovation is that his influences do not mainly come from the usual rock and blues guitarists, but from the world of hip-hop and producers like Grandmaster Flash and the Bamb Squad. Using the guitar like a turntable, his style can most clearly be seen in the legendary solos from "Bulls on Parade" and "Killing in the Name".
  • Kevin Shields

    Kevin Shields
    My Bloody Valentine- Only Shallow Guitarist and mastermind behind Irish band My Bloody Valentine, Kevin Shields was without doubt one of the most creative and influential guitarists of the 80s and 90s. He created a sound like nothing heard before; an incredibly thick, enveloping sound more akin to the sound of a full orchestra than a solitary guitar. MBV have not made any music since 1991, but Shields has continued to work on film soundtracks, being nominated for a BAFTA in 2003 for Lost in Translation.
  • Kurt Cobain

    Kurt Cobain
    Nirvana- Come As You Are LiveKurt Cobain was not the best technical player by a long way, but that is partly what made him so influential. Mainstream rock was dominated by hair metal like Bon Jovi and Mötley Crüe, whos flashy but emotionless solos were considered to be the standard. But then Cobain's economical playing brought guitar music back down to earth, showing that simple but emotional playing carries infinitely more power than any shred solo.
  • Billy Corgan

    Billy Corgan
    Smashing Pumpkins- Hummer Live Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins was notoriously difficult to work with; his endless perfectionism and reluctance to listen to anyone elses ideas may not have made him popular with those close to him, but it did result with one of the most unique guitar sounds of recent times. He used endless amounts of overdubs (over 100 guitar parts on some of his songs) to create a layered, psychedelic sound closer to 70s art rock than his 90s contemperaries.
  • Jack White

    Jack White
    The White Stripes- Ball and Biscuit In the White Stripes, Jack White filters the primal blues of John Lee Hooker through punk and garage guitar to create a sound that keeps blues rock alive in the present day. His breakthrough into the mainstream allowed other blues-based bands like Queens of the Stone Age, the Black Keys and My Morning Jacket to thrive.
  • Period: to

    Blues Guitar

  • Period: to

    Jazz Guitar

  • Period: to

    Rock Guitar