The Top 5 Most Influential Guitar Solos of All Time

Guitar solo

The electric guitar solo has been a defining rock and roll music feature since its inception. These solos are essential parts of the songs they inhabit, showcasing the skill, creativity, and emotion of the guitarists who perform them. 

Some solos stand the test of time and become iconic, forever shaping the music landscape and influencing countless guitarists who came after them. Here are our choices for the top five most influential guitar solos of all time.

1. Stairway to Heaven - Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin)

Widely regarded as one of the best rock songs ever, "Stairway to Heaven" is an epic composition that gradually builds in intensity before culminating in an unforgettable guitar solo. 

Jimmy Page's masterful solo perfectly blends melody, technique, and emotion, inspiring generations of guitarists. The solo's structure, combining intricate fingerpicking patterns with soaring bends and arpeggios, displays Page's versatility as a guitarist and has become a benchmark for aspiring rock musicians.

2. Eruption - Eddie Van Halen (Van Halen)

Eddie Van Halen's groundbreaking "Eruption" is a guitar solo that stands alone as a track on Van Halen's self-titled debut album. Clocking in at just under two minutes, "Eruption" is a high-speed display of virtuosity featuring rapid-fire tapping, dive bombs, and tremolo picking. 

Van Halen's innovative techniques and unique approach to the instrument forever changed how electric guitar was played, and "Eruption" remains a rite of passage for aspiring guitar heroes. This solo's influence can be heard in countless rock and metal guitarists who followed, including Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, and Yngwie Malmsteen.

3. Free Bird - Allen Collins and Gary Rossington (Lynyrd Skynyrd)

Southern rock legends Lynyrd Skynyrd are known for their blistering live performances, and the guitar solo from "Free Bird" is undoubtedly one of their most iconic moments. The extended outro features a dual guitar solo by Allen Collins and Gary Rossington, gradually increasing intensity over several minutes. 

Their intertwining melodies, harmonies, and rapid-fire picking showcase the incredible chemistry between the two guitarists and set a high standard for rock guitar duos. The "Free Bird" solo has become synonymous with the spirit of rock and roll and has been covered and referenced by countless artists in the decades since its release.

4. Comfortably Numb - David Gilmour (Pink Floyd)

David Gilmour's soulful and melodic solo on Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb" is a masterclass in restraint and expressiveness. Gilmour's soaring bends punctuate the song's haunting atmosphere and sustained notes, conveying a deep longing and despair. 

This solo demonstrates the power of simplicity and the importance of serving the song rather than just showcasing technical prowess. Gilmour's iconic performance on "Comfortably Numb" has resonated with listeners for decades and has influenced countless guitarists in rock, blues, and beyond.

5. All Along the Watchtower - Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix's electrifying rendition of Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower" features a guitar solo that is equal parts chaotic and melodic. Hendrix's innovative use of effects, feedback, and unorthodox techniques, such as playing the guitar behind his back or with his teeth, pushed the boundaries of what was possible on the electric guitar. 

The solo in "All Along the Watchtower" is a prime example of Hendrix's revolutionary approach, as he seamlessly blends bluesy licks with psychedelic flourishes. His enduring influence can be heard in the playing of countless guitarists, from Stevie Ray Vaughan to John Mayer.

Conclusion

These five guitar solos represent the pinnacle of rock and roll guitar playing and have left an indelible mark on the music world. Each solo showcases the unique talents and styles of the guitarists who performed them, inspiring generations of musicians to push the boundaries of their instruments. While there are many other deserving solos, these five stand out for their innovation, emotion, and timelessness.

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One of the standout elements of "Eruption" is Eddie Van Halen's use of a guitar killswitch. During certain sections of the solo, Van Halen rapidly toggles the killswitch on and off, creating a stuttering effect that adds to the intensity and excitement of the performance. This innovative use of the killswitch further demonstrates Van Halen's willingness to push the boundaries of what could be achieved with the electric guitar, cementing his legacy as one of the most inventive and influential guitarists of all time.

FAQs


What makes Jimmy Page's solo in "Stairway to Heaven" so influential?

Jimmy Page's solo in "Stairway to Heaven" is influential due to its masterful blend of melody, technique, and emotion. The solo features intricate fingerpicking patterns, soaring bends, and arpeggios that display Page's versatility and has become a benchmark for aspiring rock guitarists.

How did Eddie Van Halen's "Eruption" solo change electric guitar playing?

Eddie Van Halen's "Eruption" introduced groundbreaking techniques like rapid tapping, dive bombs, and tremolo picking. This high-speed display of virtuosity revolutionized electric guitar playing and influenced numerous guitarists, including Steve Vai and Joe Satriani.

Why is the guitar solo in "Free Bird" by Lynyrd Skynyrd iconic?

The "Free Bird" solo, performed by Allen Collins and Gary Rossington, is iconic for its extended outro featuring dual guitar harmonies and rapid-fire picking. This solo showcases the chemistry between the guitarists and has become synonymous with the spirit of rock and roll.

What makes David Gilmour's solo in "Comfortably Numb" a masterclass in expressiveness?

David Gilmour's solo in "Comfortably Numb" is a masterclass in restraint and expressiveness, featuring soaring bends and sustained notes that convey deep emotion. Gilmour's performance emphasizes serving the song over technical prowess, resonating deeply with listeners and influencing guitarists across genres.

How did Jimi Hendrix's solo in "All Along the Watchtower" push the boundaries of electric guitar?

Jimi Hendrix's solo in "All Along the Watchtower" is notable for its chaotic yet melodic nature, using effects, feedback, and unorthodox techniques like playing behind his back. Hendrix's innovative approach expanded the possibilities of electric guitar playing and influenced countless guitarists, from Stevie Ray Vaughan to John Mayer.

 


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