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What I’ve Learned From Famous Guitarists

Here are seven examples of how persistence and dogged determinism helped make the world’s greatest guitarists and musicians.

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1. Jimi Hendrix

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Known as: The most melodic soloist of all time.

I learned: The solo is a song in itself.

Hendrix did play solo just to show off or fill in a gap after the bridge. His solos are little songs, with themes and repetitions like verses and choruses. Jimi Hendrix taught me to treat solos like a work unto itself - take your time and play from the heart.

2. Slash


Known as: Ridiculously melodic soloist with one hell of a trademark look.

I learned: Music is both an art and a business. Branding does not stop at the band or the singer.

If you ask a non-musician to name a famous guitar player, they are probably going to say “Slash.” Guns N’ Roses are one of the only bands where the guitarist is just as much of a household name as the frontman. How did he manage this? Careful branding and a signature look.

3. Stevie Ray Vaughan

Known as: Freak of nature

I learned: No matter how good you get, there will always be someone better.

Right when you think you’re getting pretty good at the guitar, you listen to a Stevie Ray Vaughan song. I’ve come to terms with the fact that no matter how good I get, I’m never going to be THAT good.

4. Eric Clapton

Known as: Professional Thief

I learned: Good musicians borrow. Great musicians steal.

Clapton was famous for ripping off other guitarists and songwriters without giving the proper credit. A lot of musicians steal, but Clapton is my favorite example because of how unapologetic he is. In his autobiography, he even admitted to “totally ripping off” Led Zeppelin in his song “Let it Grow.” You have to admire his guts.

5. Yngwie Malmsteen

Known as: The world's worst over-player

I learned: Don’t be an Yngwie Malmsteen. The goal is to emote then to impress.

Don’t get me wrong, Yngwie Malmsteen is an incredible guitar player. He just doesn’t know when to stop. Once the impressiveness starts to wear off, all that’s left is something that frankly doesn’t sound that good. Yngwie taught me to keep it simple.

6. Jimmy Page

Known as: A sloppy player

I learned: Your personality is in your imperfections.

While many famous guitar players are total perfectionists, Jimmy Page has never been all that concerned with always getting it right. Page makes a lot of mistakes, especially when playing live - but it works. He cares more about feel and groove than showing off his technical prowess. He taught me to embrace my imperfections and just play.

7. Brian May

Known as: Tone king.

I learned: Your gear isn’t as important as your chops, but it’s pretty important.

Brian May is famously obsessed with tone: He used his own homemade guitar known as the “Red Special,” along with a rack of about a dozen customized Vox AC30 amplifiers. He used his gear to create an instantly recognizable sound. Queen would have been a great band no matter what gear May used, but that signature Brian May sound was what took them to the next level.

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