Often overlooked, the rhythm guitar is the heart and soul of a lot of music. Today we take a look at some of the best Rhythm Guitar Players of All-Time.
In decades to come, when people talk about rhythm guitar, they will mention the players from the 1950s and 1960s. And in that conversation will certainly be Johnny Marr, Keith Richards, Jimmie Vaughan and John Lennon from the Beatles. There are a number of great guitarists that don’t get mentioned much in this discussion. But they are the “standing on the shoulder” players, who helped make this music so popular.
Stef Carpenter (Deftones)
Stef Carpenter’s (Deftones) playing on the self-titled Deftones album from 1997 is a snapshot of the band’s future. It is aggressive and manic, yet melodic and tight. Carpenter’s skills are obvious as he works his way through every song. He gives strong performances throughout the album, but if you want to hear him at his best, you have to listen to “Demise” and “Cochise”.
Aside from his earth moving lead parts, most people do not know that Hendrix was an exceptional rhythm guitar player. The man was a showman in every sense of the word, as he is shown in his film “”. He also played guitar on the songs “The Wind Cries Mary”, “Little Wing”, “Wait Until Tomorrow” and many more. Not only one of the best lead but also one of our Best Rhythm Guitar Players.
Chrissie Hynde (Pretenders)
The Pretenders are an American rock band formed in London, United Kingdom in 1978. The group originally comprised lead The Pretenders in the 1980s are considered one of the best bands of that decade. They combined roots rock with pop and it was a perfect mix. Hynde is a great rhythm guitar player as shown on their records “Back on the Chain Gang”, “Middle of the Road” and many more. She has an acoustic style, but she also has a lot of power with her electric playing as shown on songs like “Bad Boys Get Spanked”.
Chris Cornell (Soundgarden)
Talk about having chops. Chris Cornell is a great rhythm player who can stand toe to toe with the best lead players. He is found all over Soundgarden’s five albums, but his most memorable moments are on “Pretty Noose”, “Fell on Black Days” and in his acoustic solo songs like “Hunger Strike” and “Can’t Change Me”.
Johnny Marr (Smiths, Solo)
There are many fans of the Smiths and Johnny Marr, but most of them would not know that the Smiths song “Stop me if You Think You’ve Heard This One Before” is a two guitar song. Marr’s playing style is very basic and simple, with a very distinctive sound. He is a quiet man who plays a mean guitar.
Mick Jones (Clash, Big Audio Dynamite)
Mick Jones was one of the most influential rhythm players in rock history. He played a mean six-string and made up the rhythm section of the Clash. He is also one of the founders of Big Audio Dynamite (along with Bill Nelson). His style is unique, as he is a lefty and plays fluidly with his right hand while fretting his left hand.
John Lennon (The Beatles, Solo)
John Lennon was the vocalist, songwriter and rhythm guitarist in the Beatles. He is one of the most creative and influential musicians in history who has also influenced many other musicians. His sound is unique and fresh, as you can hear it on tracks like “Revolution 9”, “Think for Yourself”, “Don’t Let Me Down” and “Come Together”.
Al McKay (Earth, Wind & Fire)
Given his age (71), Al McKay should still be playing rock and roll. But on the bills of Earth, Wind & Fire, he plays an beat box with two hands and strums a guitar with one hand. He is a master with both styles, but unlike most rhythm players he plays the parts at the same tempo as the lead vocalist, which makes him sound more “mixed up” than most other rhythm players.
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Curtis Mayfield (Guitar & Vocals)
Curtis Mayfield is another quiet man who played a mean guitar. He was the driving force behind some of the best R&B songs of the 1960s, most notably “People Get Ready”, “Keep on Pushing” and his solo hit “Move On Up”, off of his timeless album Curtis.
Joe Pass (Bing Crosby, Oscar Peterson Trio)
Grammy winner Joe Pass is another guitar master who was overshadowed at the time by guitar legends like Les Paul and B.B. King. He played an original Stratocaster style that was very similar to what you hear in his live rendition of “Walk, Don’t Run”, which is on the soundtrack to the movie “”.
Johnny Ramone (Ramones)
Like the Ramones, Johnny Ramone was a quiet man who played an aggressive rhythm style. There are many great songs by the Ramones that don’t have a guitar at all. It wasn’t until he joined them that it became apparent that he was such a strong player.
Jimmie Vaughan’s guitar playing is instantly recognizable, as he uses a Stratocaster and maintains a six-string guitar sound. No matter what kind of band he played in, his style fit the music. He is one of the most widely respected Texas blues guitar players of all-time.
Page McConnell (Phish)
If you are a Phish fan, there’s a good chance that you know more about Page McConnell than any of these other players. McConnell’s style is very unique and smooth. It seems that the more complicated the song, the better he plays.
Izzy Stradlin (Guns n Roses)
Izzy Stradlin (ala Guns n’ Roses) is another guitar master, who played on the self-titled album from 1993. Although he only played on five of the nine songs, his style could be heard throughout the album. In particular, his work on “Mr. Brownstone” and “Live and Let Die” make those songs stand out from others on the album.
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Malcolm Young (AC/DC)
Malcolm Young (AC/DC) is an enigma. He is the quiet rhythm player that never plays any lead guitar, but you can hear his style throughout the band’s body of work. His unmistakable drumming pattern helped define AC/DC’s signature sound, and his rhythm guitar made those songs all the better.
Dave Mustaine (Megadeath)
Dave Mustaine is not only a heavy metal god, but also a great rhythm player. His songs were always heavier than most of the other tracks on Megadeth albums and he was the driving force in their sound. The title track from “Rust in Peace” is one of his best known songs, where you can get an idea of his style. Truly one of the Best Rhythm Guitar Players.
James Hetfield (Metallica)
Metallica’s first three albums are full of groovy rhythms and great riffs. James Hetfield is the lead guitarist for the band, but he also has a huge role in the rhythm department. He does this with ease, as you can hear him play riffs on everything from “For Whom The Bell Tolls” to “The Call Of Ktulu”.
Keith Richards (Rolling Stones)
Keith Richards is the ultimate rhythm guitarist. His riffs and solos are still copied to this day and he is one of the biggest stars in rock history. While many might argue that Keith Richards is a better rhythm guitarist than rhythm, we would have to give him his own category. It was his style of playing that gave us songs like “Gimme Shelter” and “Jumping Jack Flash”. If you haven’t had the pleasure of hearing him play, we highly recommend you check out his solo career.
In conclusion, we hope this article has been helpful. Be sure to let us know your favorite rhythm guitarist in the comments. And sound off in the social media world by sharing this article on Facebook and Twitter!
“The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out happiness when it is given to you, whether by one’s self or by others.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
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