- 1. All Along the Watchtower – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
- 2. Shine on You Crazy Diamond – Pink Floyd
- 3. Stairway to Heaven – Led Zeppelin
- 4. Maggot Brain – Funkadelic
- 5. Eruption – Van Halen
- 6. Hotel California – Eagles
- 7. Minor Swing – Django Reinhardt
- 8. Purple Rain – Prince and The Revolution
- 9. Sweet Child O’ Mine – Guns N’ Roses
- 10. Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen
- 11. Johnny B. Goode – Chuck Berry
- 12. Sultans of Swing – Dire Straits and Mark Knopfler
- 13. Beat It – Michael Jackson
- 14. Free Bird – Lynyrd Skynyrd
- 15. Crazy Train – Ozzy Osbourne
- 16. Comfortably Numb – Pink Floyd
- 17. Paranoid Android – Radiohead
- 18. Like a Hurricane – Neil Young
- 19. Crossroads – Cream
- 20. While My Guitar Gently Weeps – The Beatles
- 21. Europa – Santana
- 22. Sympathy for the Devil – The Rolling Stones
- 23. One – Metallica
- 24. Highway Star – Deep Purple
- 25. Kid Charlemagne – Steely Dan
- 26. Texas Flood – Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble
- 27. Still Got the Blues – Gary Moore
- 28. Voodoo Child (Slight Return) – Jimi Hendrix
- 29. Jessica – The Allman Brothers Band
Guitar solos are one of the most defining and exhilarating aspects of rock and roll music. They are a chance for guitarists to showcase their skills and creativity, to elevate a song from great to iconic, and to create moments that leave audiences in awe.
From the blistering riffs of Jimi Hendrix to the soulful playing of Stevie Ray Vaughan, the history of guitar solos is a rich and diverse one. Whether it’s a simple yet memorable melody or a technically complex display of skill, the best guitar solos have the power to transcend time and become etched in the memories of music lovers around the world. The guitar solo is not just a display of technical proficiency, but a moment of emotion and feeling that can make or break a song.
This list of the best guitar solos includes a wide range of styles and genres, from classic rock to blues to heavy metal. Each solo on this list has left an indelible mark on the world of music and continues to inspire generations of guitar players to push the limits of their instrument.
1. All Along the Watchtower – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
“All Along the Watchtower” is a classic rock song originally written and performed by Bob Dylan. However, it was the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s cover of the song that became the most popular and enduring version. Hendrix’s electrifying guitar riffs and soaring vocals take Dylan’s poetic lyrics to new heights, creating a sonic experience that is both haunting and exhilarating. The song has become a staple of classic rock radio and continues to inspire new generations of musicians with its innovative guitar work and passionate delivery.
2. Shine on You Crazy Diamond – Pink Floyd
“Shine on You Crazy Diamond” is a nine-part song by Pink Floyd that was released in 1975 on their album “Wish You Were Here.” The song was written as a tribute to their former bandmate, Syd Barrett, who had left the band years before due to mental health issues. The track features David Gilmour’s iconic guitar solos and Roger Waters’ poetic lyrics about the decline of a once-great musician. The song’s structure is unconventional, with extended instrumental sections and atmospheric sound effects that create an otherworldly atmosphere. “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” has become a fan favorite and a classic rock staple, with its haunting melody and emotional impact earning it a place among Pink Floyd’s most beloved songs.
3. Stairway to Heaven – Led Zeppelin
“Stairway to Heaven” is a legendary rock ballad by Led Zeppelin, released in 1971. The song is widely considered one of the greatest rock songs of all time, and has become a staple of classic rock radio. The song features Jimmy Page’s intricate guitar playing, Robert Plant’s soulful vocals, and John Paul Jones’ mellotron and bass work. The song’s structure is complex, featuring multiple sections, including an acoustic guitar intro, a powerful electric guitar riff, a calm interlude, and a dramatic ending. Lyrically, “Stairway to Heaven” is a mix of mystical, spiritual and philosophical themes. The lyrics invite the listener to “climb a stairway to heaven,” a metaphor for a spiritual journey, while also referencing Celtic folklore and mystical creatures like the piper, who “calls you to join him.” The song’s ending is particularly memorable, with Plant singing “And as we wind on down the road, our shadows taller than our soul,” over a dramatic guitar solo. Overall, “Stairway to Heaven” is an epic masterpiece that showcases Led Zeppelin’s musical and lyrical prowess, and has cemented its place in the rock canon for generations to come.
4. Maggot Brain – Funkadelic
“Maggot Brain” is a 10-minute psychedelic masterpiece by Funkadelic, a seminal funk band of the 1970s. The song features a slow-building, guitar-driven instrumental intro that gradually transitions to a haunting, emotive guitar solo by Eddie Hazel. The solo, often considered one of the greatest guitar solos of all time, showcases Hazel’s mastery of the instrument and his ability to evoke a wide range of emotions through his playing. The lyrics of the song, which are minimal, serve as a platform for the guitar solo, conveying a sense of loss and despair. The title of the song refers to the P-Funk mythology, in which the character of Dr. Funkenstein brings a maggot-infested brain back to life with his music. “Maggot Brain” is a prime example of Funkadelic’s experimental approach to funk music, blending elements of rock, soul, and psychedelic music to create a unique sound that has influenced countless artists in the years since its release.
5. Eruption – Van Halen
“Eruption” is an instrumental guitar solo performed by Eddie Van Halen, the guitarist of the American rock band Van Halen. The track showcases Van Halen’s incredible technical abilities, as he shreds through a series of intricate riffs and arpeggios with lightning-fast speed and precision. The song is known for popularizing the use of two-handed tapping on the guitar, a technique that has since become a staple of rock and heavy metal guitar playing. Released as part of Van Halen’s debut album in 1978, “Eruption” has become one of the most iconic guitar solos in rock history, inspiring countless guitarists to try and replicate its technical feats. The track is often used as a benchmark for aspiring guitarists to measure their skills against, and it remains a testament to Van Halen’s immense talent and influence on rock music.
6. Hotel California – Eagles
The iconic “Hotel California” by the Eagles was released in 1977 and has become one of the most popular rock songs of all time. With its haunting guitar riff and lyrics that paint a vivid picture of a mysterious hotel, the song has captivated audiences for decades. The song’s lead guitarist, Don Felder, is responsible for the unforgettable solo that features some of the most intricate and technically impressive guitar playing in rock history. The song tells the story of a man who checks into a luxurious hotel that he soon discovers he cannot leave, despite his best efforts. The lyrics are filled with cryptic references and metaphors, making it a subject of much debate and interpretation over the years. The song has been covered by numerous artists and has been featured in countless movies and TV shows, cementing its place in popular culture. “Hotel California” remains a timeless classic and a testament to the incredible musicianship of the Eagles.
7. Minor Swing – Django Reinhardt
Django Reinhardt was a Belgian-born French guitarist and composer, and his influence on jazz music can still be felt today. “Minor Swing” is one of his most popular compositions, and it features his unique style of playing which combines jazz and Romani music. The song’s melody is played by Reinhardt’s guitar, while the accompaniment is provided by Stéphane Grappelli’s violin, Joseph Reinhardt’s guitar, and Louis Vola’s double bass. The song is characterized by its fast tempo and its use of the minor key, which gives it a melancholic yet lively feel. “Minor Swing” has become a jazz standard and has been covered by many artists, both in the jazz and non-jazz genres. It has been featured in films and television shows, and has been used as background music for commercials and other media. The song’s popularity can be attributed to its catchy melody, its fast pace, and its unique blend of jazz and Romani music, which creates a distinct sound that is instantly recognizable.
8. Purple Rain – Prince and The Revolution
Purple Rain is an iconic song that was written and performed by the legendary musician, Prince, alongside his band The Revolution. The song was released in 1984 as the title track of Prince’s sixth studio album and also served as the soundtrack for the movie of the same name. The song’s lyrics are filled with emotion and tell a story of heartbreak and loss. The powerful chorus, “I only wanted to see you bathing in the Purple Rain,” is a poignant and unforgettable line that has become a classic in popular music. Prince’s vocals are raw and emotive, adding to the intensity of the song. The instrumentation in Purple Rain is also noteworthy. The song features a soaring guitar solo, played by Prince himself, that has become one of the most iconic guitar solos in music history. The piano melody is haunting and adds to the melancholic feel of the song. The combination of these elements creates a powerful and unforgettable musical experience. Purple Rain has become an anthem of sorts, with its message of hope and resilience resonating with generations of fans. The song has won numerous awards and has been covered by countless artists over the years. It has cemented Prince’s status as one of the greatest musicians of all time, and his legacy continues to inspire and influence artists today.
9. Sweet Child O’ Mine – Guns N’ Roses
Sweet Child O’ Mine is a timeless rock classic by the American rock band, Guns N’ Roses. The song was released in 1987 as the third single from their debut album, Appetite for Destruction, and quickly became a massive hit worldwide. The song features a distinctive guitar riff, played by lead guitarist Slash, that is instantly recognizable and has become one of the most iconic guitar riffs in rock history. The lyrics, written by lead vocalist Axl Rose, are an ode to his then-girlfriend and now ex-wife, Erin Everly. The chorus, “Where do we go? Where do we go now? Where do we go?” is anthemic and has become a sing-along favorite for fans worldwide. The instrumentation of Sweet Child O’ Mine is also noteworthy. The song features a memorable guitar solo by Slash, a catchy bass line by Duff McKagan, and powerful drumming by Steven Adler. Axl Rose’s vocals are dynamic and emotive, adding to the overall impact of the song.
10. Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen
Bohemian Rhapsody is an epic rock masterpiece by the British rock band, Queen. The song was released in 1975 as a single and later appeared on their fourth studio album, A Night at the Opera. The song is a six-minute-long opus that defies traditional song structure, with its multiple sections and dramatic shifts in tone and tempo. The lyrics, written by lead vocalist Freddie Mercury, are enigmatic and surreal, telling a story of love, betrayal, and death. The song features Mercury’s incredible vocal range, from his delicate and vulnerable opening lines to his powerful and operatic finale. Bohemian Rhapsody is also known for its iconic music video, which features the band members in elaborate costumes and makeup, performing the song against a black background. The video’s surreal imagery perfectly matches the song’s enigmatic lyrics and has become one of the most famous music videos of all time.
11. Johnny B. Goode – Chuck Berry
12. Sultans of Swing – Dire Straits and Mark Knopfler
Sultans of Swing is a classic rock song by the British rock band, Dire Straits, led by frontman and guitarist Mark Knopfler. The song was released in 1978 as their debut single and became a surprise hit, reaching the top 10 in several countries. The song’s lyrics are a tribute to a group of talented musicians playing in a jazz band in a local bar. The chorus, “And the Sultans of Swing play just for me,” is a nod to the power of music and its ability to transport listeners to another world. Knopfler’s vocals are understated but powerful, perfectly complementing the song’s laid-back and groovy vibe. The instrumentation of Sultans of Swing is also noteworthy. The song features a memorable guitar riff, played by Knopfler on his signature Fender Stratocaster, that has become one of the most recognizable guitar riffs in rock history. The song also features a melodic and intricate guitar solo by Knopfler that showcases his incredible talent as a guitarist.
13. Beat It – Michael Jackson
Beat It is a classic pop song by the King of Pop, Michael Jackson. The song was released in 1983 as the third single from his sixth studio album, Thriller, and quickly became a massive hit worldwide. The song features a distinctive guitar riff, played by Eddie Van Halen, that has become one of the most iconic guitar riffs in pop history. The lyrics, written by Jackson, are a call to arms against violence and gang culture. The chorus, “Beat it, beat it, no one wants to be defeated,” is an anthemic and powerful message of self-empowerment and standing up against oppression. The instrumentation of Beat It is also noteworthy. The song features a catchy bass line by Louis Johnson and powerful drumming by Jeff Porcaro. Jackson’s vocals are dynamic and emotive, showcasing his incredible range and vocal control.
14. Free Bird – Lynyrd Skynyrd
Free Bird is a classic rock song by the American rock band, Lynyrd Skynyrd. The song was released in 1973 as a single and later appeared on their debut album, Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd. The song is known for its powerful and emotive guitar solos, played by guitarists Gary Rossington and Allen Collins, and its soaring vocals, sung by lead vocalist Ronnie Van Zant. The song’s lyrics tell a story of love and loss, with Van Zant singing about a woman who has left him and his desire to be free like a bird. Free Bird has become one of the most beloved classic rock songs of all time, and its iconic guitar solo has become a rite of passage for guitar players everywhere. The song’s influence on rock music is undeniable, and it remains a staple of classic rock radio to this day.
15. Crazy Train – Ozzy Osbourne
Crazy Train is a classic heavy metal song by British singer and songwriter Ozzy Osbourne. The song was released in 1980 as the first single from his debut solo album, Blizzard of Ozz. The song is instantly recognizable for its iconic opening riff, played by guitarist Randy Rhoads, and its powerful and memorable chorus. The lyrics, written by Osbourne, are a reflection on the chaos and madness of the world, with the chorus urging listeners to “go insane” and embrace the craziness of life. Crazy Train’s instrumentation is also noteworthy, with Rhoads’ guitar solos and harmonies complementing Osbourne’s emotive vocals. The song’s rhythm section, featuring bassist Bob Daisley and drummer Lee Kerslake, provides a solid foundation for the song’s heavy sound.
16. Comfortably Numb – Pink Floyd
Comfortably Numb is a classic rock ballad by the British progressive rock band, Pink Floyd. The song was released in 1980 as a single from their album, The Wall, and features a powerful vocal performance by lead vocalist David Gilmour. The song’s lyrics, written by Roger Waters, are a reflection on the feelings of isolation and detachment that can arise from a life in the spotlight. The song’s opening lines, “Hello, is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me,” are a poignant plea for human connection and understanding. Comfortably Numb is known for its haunting guitar solos, played by Gilmour, and its emotive piano accompaniment. The song’s instrumentation is expertly crafted, with each element complementing the others to create a lush and powerful sonic landscape.
17. Paranoid Android – Radiohead
Paranoid Android is an alternative rock song by the English band, Radiohead. The song was released in 1997 as the lead single from their critically acclaimed album, OK Computer. The song is notable for its complex structure and eclectic mix of musical styles, including rock, electronic, and orchestral elements. The lyrics, written by lead vocalist Thom Yorke, are a reflection on modern society and the feelings of disconnection and alienation that can arise from living in a world dominated by technology. Paranoid Android is known for its powerful guitar riffs, played by guitarist Jonny Greenwood, and its soaring vocals, sung by Yorke. The song’s instrumentation is expertly crafted, with each element working together to create a unique and powerful sound.
18. Like a Hurricane – Neil Young
Like a Hurricane is a classic rock song by Canadian singer-songwriter, Neil Young. The song was released in 1977 as a single from his album, American Stars ‘n Bars. The song is instantly recognizable for its driving guitar riff, played by Young, and its powerful vocals. The lyrics, written by Young, are a reflection on the power of love and the intense feelings it can inspire. Like a Hurricane’s instrumentation is notable for its raw energy and power. Young’s guitar work is particularly impressive, with his solos and riffs providing a perfect complement to his emotive vocals. The song has become one of Young’s most beloved works and is considered a classic of the rock genre. Its influence on rock music is undeniable, and its popularity has only grown over the years. The song remains a staple of classic rock radio and is a testament to the enduring power of rock music.
19. Crossroads – Cream
Crossroads is a classic blues-rock song by the British band, Cream. The song was released in 1968 as a single and features the powerful vocals of Eric Clapton, who also plays lead guitar. The song’s lyrics are a reflection on the power of temptation and the struggle to resist it. The instrumentation is notable for its expert musicianship, with Clapton’s guitar solos standing out as a highlight of the track. Crossroads is known for its driving rhythm and its infectious energy, which have made it a favorite among rock and blues fans alike. The song has been covered by countless artists over the years, and its influence on rock music is undeniable. The song’s title is a reference to the famous blues song, Cross Road Blues, by legendary bluesman, Robert Johnson. Clapton was a great admirer of Johnson and cited him as a major influence on his own playing.
20. While My Guitar Gently Weeps – The Beatles
While My Guitar Gently Weeps is a classic rock song by the British band, The Beatles. The song was written by lead guitarist George Harrison and released on the band’s 1968 album, The Beatles (also known as the “White Album”). The song is notable for its powerful guitar work, which was performed by Eric Clapton, and its introspective lyrics. The song is a reflection on the power of love and the pain of loss, and Harrison’s guitar work provides a perfect complement to the emotional intensity of the lyrics. While My Guitar Gently Weeps is known for its soaring melodies, intricate guitar work, and its emotive vocals, sung by Harrison. The song’s instrumentation is expertly crafted, with each element working together to create a unique and powerful sound.
21. Europa – Santana
Europa (Earth’s Cry Heaven’s Smile) is a classic instrumental rock song by the Mexican-American band, Santana. The song was released in 1976 on the album Amigos and has since become one of Santana’s most beloved and recognizable tracks. The song’s instrumentation is notable for its expert musicianship, with Carlos Santana’s guitar work standing out as a highlight of the track. The song’s melody is a blend of rock, jazz, and Latin influences, creating a unique and unforgettable sound. Europa is known for its emotive and powerful guitar solo, which has become one of the most iconic solos in rock music. Santana’s playing is both technically impressive and emotionally charged, making the solo a highlight of the track.
22. Sympathy for the Devil – The Rolling Stones
Sympathy for the Devil is a classic rock song by the British band, The Rolling Stones. The song was written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards and was released on the band’s 1968 album, Beggars Banquet. The song is known for its infectious rhythm and Jagger’s powerful vocals, as well as its provocative lyrics. The song explores the concept of evil and the nature of humanity’s darker impulses, with Jagger singing from the perspective of Satan himself. Sympathy for the Devil features a blend of rock and African rhythms, which were inspired by Jagger’s interest in African music and culture. The song’s instrumentation is notable for its use of percussion, which creates a hypnotic and intense groove throughout the track.
23. One – Metallica
One is a powerful and haunting song by the American heavy metal band, Metallica. The song was released in 1989 on the album …And Justice for All and quickly became one of the band’s most popular and enduring tracks. One tells the story of a soldier who has been severely wounded in battle and is now unable to move or communicate, trapped in his own body. The song’s lyrics explore the soldier’s feelings of isolation, despair, and hopelessness, as well as his longing for release from his suffering. The song’s instrumentation is notable for its intense and driving rhythm, as well as its powerful guitar riffs and solos. The song’s climactic guitar solo has become one of Metallica’s most iconic and memorable moments, showcasing the band’s incredible musicianship and technical skill.
24. Highway Star – Deep Purple
Highway Star is a classic rock song by the British band, Deep Purple. The song was released on the band’s 1972 album, Machine Head, and has since become one of their most popular and enduring tracks. Highway Star is known for its iconic guitar riff and driving rhythm, as well as its energetic and powerful vocals. The song’s lyrics are an ode to the joys of driving fast on the open road, and the song’s infectious energy and intensity perfectly capture the feeling of freedom and excitement that comes with a fast car and a long stretch of highway. The song’s instrumental sections are particularly noteworthy, with guitarist Ritchie Blackmore delivering some of his most impressive and memorable solos. The song’s blistering pace and complex arrangements have made it a favorite among fans of classic rock and heavy metal, and its influence on the genre is undeniable.
25. Kid Charlemagne – Steely Dan
Kid Charlemagne is a classic rock song by the American band, Steely Dan. The song was released on the band’s 1976 album, The Royal Scam, and has since become one of their most popular and enduring tracks.
Kid Charlemagne tells the story of a drug dealer named Charlemagne, who becomes rich and successful selling drugs to the rich and famous of Los Angeles. The song’s lyrics are filled with vivid imagery and clever wordplay, and the song’s intricate instrumentation perfectly captures the hedonistic and chaotic world of 1970s California. The song is notable for its infectious guitar riff, which was played by the legendary jazz guitarist Larry Carlton, and for its complex arrangements and instrumentation. The song’s intricate guitar solos and keyboard parts have made it a favorite among musicians and music lovers alike, and its influence on the jazz-rock genre is undeniable.
26. Texas Flood – Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble
“Texas Flood” by Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble is a blues classic that was originally written and recorded by Larry Davis in 1958. However, it was Stevie Ray Vaughan’s version that brought the song to the forefront of the music industry. Released on his debut album in 1983, Vaughan’s rendition of “Texas Flood” is widely regarded as one of the greatest guitar solos of all time. The song is a perfect showcase of Vaughan’s remarkable talent and his ability to infuse emotion and soul into his music. The blistering guitar riffs and soulful vocals create an intense and electrifying experience that is sure to captivate any listener. “Texas Flood” remains a timeless classic and a must-listen for any blues or rock fan.
27. Still Got the Blues – Gary Moore
“Still Got the Blues” is a power ballad by the late Irish guitarist Gary Moore. Released in 1990, the song is a departure from Moore’s earlier hard rock and blues rock works and showcases his versatility as a musician. The song features Moore’s signature guitar playing, which is both technically impressive and emotionally charged. The lyrics tell a story of heartbreak and loss, and Moore’s expressive guitar solos add to the melancholic and haunting atmosphere of the song. “Still Got the Blues” became a commercial success and remains one of Moore’s most popular songs to date. The song has also become a favorite among guitar players, who often cover the song and learn from Moore’s masterful guitar work. Overall, “Still Got the Blues” is a beautiful and moving song that showcases Gary Moore’s talent and musicality.
28. Voodoo Child (Slight Return) – Jimi Hendrix
“Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” by Jimi Hendrix is a psychedelic blues-rock classic that showcases Hendrix’s incredible guitar skills and unique approach to music. Released in 1968, the song begins with a slow, bluesy introduction before exploding into a frenzied guitar riff that is instantly recognizable. Hendrix’s improvisational guitar solos are a highlight of the song, demonstrating his ability to effortlessly blend different styles and techniques. The lyrics of “Voodoo Child” are cryptic and mystical, adding to the psychedelic atmosphere of the song. Overall, “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” is a masterclass in guitar playing and a testament to Jimi Hendrix’s lasting impact on the music industry.
29. Jessica – The Allman Brothers Band
“Jessica” by The Allman Brothers Band is a classic instrumental rock song that is instantly recognizable for its upbeat melody and soaring guitar solos. Released in 1973, the song is a tribute to Jessica Betts, the daughter of one of the band’s friends. The song features a catchy guitar riff that is repeated throughout the song, with each member of the band taking turns to solo over it. The guitar work of Duane Allman and Dickey Betts is particularly noteworthy, as they weave in and out of each other’s solos, creating a dynamic and thrilling listening experience. “Jessica” is a timeless classic that showcases the incredible musicianship of The Allman Brothers Band and their ability to create memorable and uplifting music. The song has become a favorite among fans of instrumental rock and remains a staple of classic rock radio stations.