Last week, my post attracted a number of comments that asserted that there was no such thing as a ‘better’ guitarist. This week, I’m going to show them why it’s not a good idea to argue with the guy who has a microphone.
Let’s say Hank the 30 year old drunk guy picks up a guitar, having never played one before, and beats on it. Let’s say that Linda has played guitar for two decades by the time she hits that same age of 30.
Linda is a better guitarist than Hank.
No, I don’t care that you preferred Hank’s passionate wailing on the guitar. No, I don’t care that you think it’s about art and expression of lofty ideals. No, words like “soul” have absolutely zero meaning and don’t belong in a list of criteria for determining the best.
This list isn’t about who’s the best artist. The list isn’t about who is popular or who appeals to you (or me) more. This list is about those who have mastered their instruments. You know, guitarists…
If I’d wanted it to be completely subjective, I’d have called it something like ‘best artists.’ I didn’t. I didn’t call it that for a reason. The reason is, it’s impossible to be objective. This list is as objective as I can make it and, frankly, I’m pretty damned qualified to author this list.
This list has guitarists on it that I absolutely don’t really seek out and listen to. As a general rule, I don’t listen to Malmsteen. As a person, I don’t even like him. I don’t even necessarily care for quite a bit of what he releases. However, he’s an absolute master of the guitar and plays that guitar with greater ability than Hendrix ever did.
So, let’s talk about Rolling Stone Magazine. They made a list (more than once) and called it things like “best guitarist.” I’d have not had a single problem with it had they called it “best artist.” When you call Hendrix the best guitarist, you’re doing me a disservice.
I am a guitarist. You know, like a pianist – except my instrument is much easier to carry on my back. I don’t say I’m an artist. I say I’m a guitarist. I’m skilled in the art of playing a guitar – but that’s a technical skill. I understand the theory and why the music works the way it does. I can express this understanding by demonstrating it. I have mastered the techniques and continue to master them. (Mastery is not a static place, but a process.)
Jimi was a great artist – one of the best. His performances, messages, persona, appeal, and passion are undeniable. However, his technical abilities with his chosen instrument were sorely lacking. That’s why, for you laymen, so much of his music sounds the same. He knew a half dozen chords and three scales.
If you don’t understand this, feel free to argue. You’re not just wrong, I’ve told you that you’re wrong fifteen times already. You can continue to be wrong. I don’t mind and I’m sure your peers are accustomed to it!
If you don’t understand, maybe you should consider writing for that collection of sophomoric, window-licking, keyboard-chewing, herd of emotionally stunted morons at Rolling Stone. They’d be happy to have you!
I’m happy to have you, as well. Why? Because I can call you wrong – all day long! I love calling people wrong. I usually even capitalize it. You’re WRONG!
This list is about those who’ve mastered the techniques, mastered music theory, learned to combine multiple disciplines, and innovated. It’s not about who you want to dance to. It’s not even about who you like. It’s about the term “guitarist” and what that term really means.
It is personal and I’m taking that word back! If you want to see a good list, skip the first few (because even guitarists are subject to cults of personality) and check out the list at Guitar World. They did a reader’s poll and, unsurprisingly the list has some great guitarists on it. They also did a 30 great guitarists list, that’s also not too terrible.
It’s almost as if maybe you’ll get better answers by asking people who are adept at their instruments? Again, they’re all subject to cults of personality and popularity ends up being the ruler of the day, but they’re much closer to being objective than the dirty bastards at RSMI!
Granted, it’s not easy to explain this unless you too are a guitarist or really into music. However, I’ve made every effort to put this into words and the folks who were actually complaining hadn’t even read the articles. In fact, one of them outright refused to read the article – but thought they had a valid opinion on the subject.
They’re just wrong! 😉
Hell, I don’t even much care for the next guitarist on the list. I don’t dislike them, but I’m a bit apathetic about them. They’re here because they zoom up the ladder when you take their innovation and versatility into account.
Let’s introduce ’em, shall we?
Continue reading “It’s time for the 16th guitarist better than Hendrix!”