The electric guitar solo has been a staple of rock and roll music since its beginnings. These solos are essential parts of the songs they accompany, showcasing the skill, creativity, and emotion of the guitarists who play them.
Some solos have stood the test of time and become iconic, forever changing the music landscape and influencing countless guitarists who came after them. Here are our picks for the top five most influential guitar solos of all time:
- "Comfortably Numb" by Pink Floyd (1979):
David Gilmour's guitar solo on Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb" is a masterpiece of subtlety and emotion. His soaring bends and sustained notes perfectly capture the song's sense of longing and despair, without resorting to flashy techniques or unnecessary virtuosity.
The solo is a masterclass in how to use simplicity to create maximum impact. Gilmour uses a limited range of notes and techniques, but he does so with such skill and feeling that the solo is simply unforgettable. It is a reminder that sometimes, less is more.
Gilmour's solo on "Comfortably Numb" has been praised by critics and fans alike, and it is widely considered to be one of the greatest guitar solos of all time. It has influenced countless guitarists, and it continues to inspire and move listeners today.
- "Stairway to Heaven" by Led Zeppelin (1971):
The solo is a masterclass in technical virtuosity and musicality, and it is one of the most covered guitar solos of all time.
Page uses a wide range of techniques in the solo, including bends, vibrato, and harmonics. He plays with great speed and accuracy, and he improvises freely, creating a solo that is both technically challenging and musically interesting. The solo builds in intensity, culminating in a soaring climax that perfectly complements the song's soaring melody.
The solo has been covered by countless artists, including Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, and Slash. It is a testament to Page's skill and creativity that his solo has stood the test of time and continues to be admired by guitarists today.
- "Eruption" by Van Halen (1978):
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.
- "Hotel California" by Eagles (1976):
The guitar interplay between Don Felder and Joe Walsh on "Hotel California" (1976) is a masterclass in musicality and collaboration. The two guitarists weave their lines together seamlessly, creating a sense of momentum and excitement that builds throughout the song.
Felder's playing is characterized by its technical precision and melodic flair. He uses a wide range of techniques, including bends, vibrato, and harmonics, to create a sound that is both powerful and expressive. Walsh's playing is more blues-inspired, with a looser feel and a greater emphasis on improvisation. The two styles complement each other perfectly, creating a sound that is both unique and unforgettable.
The guitar interplay on "Hotel California" is one of the many reasons why the song has become such a classic. It is a perfect example of how two talented musicians can come together to create something truly special.
- “Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd (1973):
The guitar solo in "Free Bird" by Lynyrd Skynyrd is a classic example of the power of two. The extended outro features a dual guitar solo by Allen Collins and Gary Rossington, who weave their melodies together seamlessly, creating a sound that is both powerful and moving.
The solo builds in intensity over several minutes, with the guitarists gradually increasing the tempo and adding more layers of complexity. Their playing is both technically proficient and emotionally expressive, and it perfectly captures the spirit of the song.
The "Free Bird" solo has become one of the most iconic guitar solos in rock history, and it has been covered and referenced by countless artists. It is a testament to the skill and creativity of Collins and Rossington that their solo has stood the test of time and continues to inspire guitarists today.
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.