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Here are some of my favourite solos (with sound clips), guitarists and guitars.

These are not top 10 lists, just some things I like. I expect I'll change them around a little over time as I grow tired of some things and appreciate new things.

Now, if you're someone who believes there is such a thing as the best guitarist in the world, and that anyone who doesn't agree with you is wrong, then please set up your own website to tell the world about it. To me, that's completely meaningless; it's like trying to define what the best colour in the world is. But I also appreciate how passionate we are about our favourites.

Favourite Solos

What makes a great solo? Is it an all-out jam session where everything is spontaneous and creative? Or is it a composed and orchestrated recital?

When I thought about some classic solos to put on my site, I first thought of the creative energy of Hendrix in full flight, and Roy Buchanan at his best. Or maybe some of the talented unpredictability of players like Jay Graydon. And what about the pyrotechnics of players like Gary Moore, Eric Johnson, Jeff Beck, Steve Vai & others? These types of performances, where players stretch themselves to the limit and beyond have produced some of the most amazing phrases and live moments ever, and it's a privilege to be there when it happens.

But the solos that stick in my mind seem to be the composed ones. Some people may find composed solos contrived, but I think that if they are good enough, it's easy to play them over and over again with feeling. You can even interpret them, and play them your own way. To my ears, a great solo has every note sitting right, the phrasing is natural, they build and ebb with feeling, and they add to the meaning of the songs they're in.

The Cars - Tonight She Comes - solo by Elliot Easton
I really like the way Elliot jumps into and out of different octave registers; it always sounds fresh, even though in this case the song was constructed over a 4 week recording session! In some ways, parts of Steve Lukather's great solo in Rosanna (by Toto) is similar. Anyway, this was one of the Cars last hits from around 1985.

Jimi Hendrix - All Along The Watchtower
Jimi's talent is legendary now, but it was visionary at the time he played it! I've always liked his interpretation of this Bob Dylan song. Of course, he's mostly renowned for his exploratory live performances, but I think this is a great example of a well thought out recorded performance.

Al Stewart - Year Of The Cat - solos by Peter White & Tim Renwick
Four classy solos here for the price of one - starts with a stings intro, then acoustic guitar, electric guitar then finally sax - listen & enjoy!

Queen - Killer Queen - solo by Brian May
I think Brian is one of the masters of orchestrated solos - I could have picked just about any Queen song here, and I've resisted the urge to use Bohemian Rhapsody. This one's a gem.

Michael Jackson - Beat It - solo by Eddie Van Halen
The usual medley of advanced techniques from Eddie in this Michael Jackson hit. Perfect for the song and allegedly recorded on the first take!

Led Zeppelin - Stairway To Heaven - solo by Jimmy Page
Maybe the all time classic solo? I guess most people know it wasn't recorded on his Les Paul; instead it was a Telecaster through a small Supro amp.

Zucchero and Paul Young - Senza Una Donna - solo by Corrado Rustici
This moody song (translation: "Without a Woman") has a suitably moody solo.

Cold Chisel - Forever Now - solo by Ian Moss
This popular Australian pub-rock band had a string of successes a few years back with a string of great songs written predominantly by their keyboard player, Don Walker. Ian Moss gets a great strat tone - always a powerful combination with a strong melody, as you can hear in the outro of this song.

Deep Purple - Lazy - solo by Ritchie Blackmore
Ritchie blazes away with that smokey strat neck pickup sound. Three times though a 12 bar, with the last one played almost entirely on just 3 notes. Far from boring, Ritchie sets up some nice rhythmic patterns in his usual medieval style.

Chuck Mangione - Feels So Good - solo by Grant Geissman
A clean solo that starts with the theme, then explodes into a jazzy frenzy by MAD magazine collector, Grant Geissman.

Favourite Players

The things that impress me most about guitarists are:

  • Their own style. Some players can play just one or two notes, and you know straight away who it is. Unfortunately, a lot of players (like me) play a lot like other players. Even some technically awesome players don't have a big style to call their own. On the other hand, some of those licks that make the hair stand up on the back of your neck are the easiest things to play.
  • Tone. I like overdrive and distortion as much as any guitarist, but I like to hear some of the natural guitar tone as well. There's a million great sounding planks of wood out there! I want to hear them all, and hear all of them.
  • Phrasing and Technique. I like thoughtful solos and backing that adds to the mood and meaning of a song. Less is often more, and fast is often too much. The technique that stands out to me is when you can hear the player's touch and feel.

Sure, my interests are pretty mainstream, and I appreciate that for what it is: Keeping your personality and style shining through marketing hype is a real achievement! OK - here we go...

  • Robben Ford - Has the knack of playing just far enough away from the clichés to make it classy, stylish and refreshing.
  • Eric Clapton - A long history with many highs and a few lows.
  • Stevie Ray Vaughan - Tone, style, feeling - what more do you want?
  • Carlos Santana - Sustain and feeling for days on end.
  • Tommy Emmanuel - Aussie, exciting electric and acoustic player, great acoustic tone. Definitely has his own style, but its so wide I couldn't classify it.
  • Dave Hole - Australia's answer to Johnny Winter, slide blues player - plays with fire and passion.
  • Mark Knopfler - Even though he now says he doesn't like his early work, it was like a breath of fresh air at the time - still sounds great to me!
  • Gary Moore - Not many people can play fast, and play fast
  • BB King - This guy can put more feeling into one note than most of us can put into an entire solo!
  • Brian May - If you want to learn how to orchestrate a solo, start here!
  • Buddy Guy - Every performance is electric, and I'm not talking about the guitar!
  • Jimi Hendrix - Showed us all what we could do before we could do it
  • Bonnie Raitt - Such an easy and relaxed slide style, and sings the same way (brilliantly!)

Favourite Guitars

Well, this is pretty easy. I like the traditional classics, because together, they've probably been used to record around 90% of the electric sounds ever. I should also point out that they're responsible for nearly all of the clichéd sounds ever heard as well, so if you're looking for a different sound, use a different guitar!

I really like sunburst finishes, and I'm not a fan of overly decorative inlays, even though I know its a highly skilled art-form. I much prefer the natural beauty of the woods used.

These guitars are quality instruments, practical workhorses, and any one of them can be used to play just about any musical style. Here they are ...

Fender Stratocaster

Fender Stratocaster To me the most versatile guitar ever, with the most character. From rich and chimey clean sounds to wailing and snarly overdrives, there's not much you can't do with a strat!

Gibson Les Paul

Gibson Les Paul Full creamy clean tones, endless sustain, and a definitive country rock sound. These roar within smelling distance of a Marshall stack!

Fender Telecaster

Fender Telecaster More than just a country guitar, this has plenty of its own character, from bitey attack to smooth and full liquid tones. Also cool jazz tones, and versatile rhythm sounds. This is your basic, honest, hard working guitar!

Gibson 335

Gibson 335 The woody vibe of a hollow body with all the benefits of electric. Rich and creamy tones with their own distinctive character.

Paul Reed Smith

Paul Reed Smith Although not having a sound you can instantly hear and say "That's a PRS!", these are simply high quality instruments. You can get good single coil and humbucking sounds from the same guitar. And they have their own unique shape and style (now copied by others, of course). Full credit to Paul for successfully breaking the endless run of copied styles.

I've limited my selections to the original designs, partly to give credit to the creators. Both Fender and Gibson have had quality and supply problems over their long histories, but they have their act together at the moment. Yes, you can buy higher quality boutique instruments at very high prices that are truly superb. At the other end of the scale, you can also buy good copies of these instruments for a fraction of the cost, representing fantastic value. Overall, you get what you pay for.

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