The Argument...

Being musicians and/or music lovers we have all, no doubt, experienced or (in some cases) taken part in 'The Argument'. It is an ordeal that has plagued guitar players since the first day that the instrument was recognised as a game changer in the music industry. A question that has the power to unite and, at the very same time, separate musicians in a way that is most profound...

Who is the Best Guitar Player?

It seems like such a simple question doesn't it? If that was your first response then I encourage you to organise an evening with two guitar players. One being a Benson-esque jazz guitarist, and the other a shredder in the local Van Halen tribute band. Good luck to you...

I have never been a fan of this question. My opinion being that the guitar is the most personal instrument in the world, one that has covered every genre in music, and more importantly, an instrument that means something different to everyone that has ever heard one.

I could never attempt to give this question an answer, for fear of being lynched, however, I can give you the three points I use to justify my choice.

1. Technique

A guitar player without technique is, quite simply, an earache. I've listed this as my first point because while I do believe that technical ability is important, I don't think that a guitar player should be considered on this point only. There are hundreds of technically average guitarists I would rather listen to than your garden variety shredder. Chris Rea is the perfect example of this. Mr Rea has a technique that is definitely his own, however, he doesn't stand a chance against the arpeggio ripping fingers of Yngwie Malmsteen. That said, I would listen Chris instead of Yngwie any day of the week.Technique can be taught, but feel is something that separates the good guitar players from the greats.

2. The Tone

That tone, man... The search for that infamous tone has driven guitar players worldwide insane since the 60's without signs of slowing down. While most fall at the foot of the mountain, a privileged few rise and take their rightful place amongst the Gods of tone! One man who has managed to do this convincingly is Eric Johnson.

In my opinion, Eric Johnson's tone has become something worthy of legend. It is a sound that can't be described with mere words... Disregarding the risk of sounding like utter cheese I am willing to lay my pride on the line and attempt to describe the indescribable. 
His clean tone sparkles without the treble overdose you would expect from a lesser guitar player. With some chorus and a bit of oh so perfect echo mixed with the sound coming out of his modified Fender twin reverb cabinet, the tone becomes a heavenly concoction of harmonically rich vibrations. Just when you think it can't get any better, Eric switches to his lead tone.
A warm, fat, fuzzy anomaly surrounds your brain and doesn't let go of your mind until it has converted you to a lifetime follower of the Church of St. Johnson. I really hope that I'm making it frightfully clear that his tone is the bee's knees...
Long live Eric Johnson!

In my opinion, a good sounding guitar player trumps a technically proficient one hands down. The guitar is an instrument after all and was made to be heard. So if you are spending more time working on increasing your notes-per-second score and not the sound coming from your instrument, I would strongly suggest reconsidering your practice regime.

3. That Feeling, Man

I understand that the title of this point isn't entirely understandable. Allow me to explain.
The most important question I ask myself when considering a guitar player is, "How does he/she make me feel?"
Music is nothing if there is no emotion behind it. Guitar playing, and instrumentation in general, should be no different. There is no lick that a great guitar player needs to know, there's no magic scale or chord progression that he/she needs to solo over in order to be considered great or the best. All that a great guitar player should do is make you feel good when you hear him/her play. It's as simple as that.
It is for this reason alone that I am able to justify my choice of the best guitar player in the world.
In my opinion, the best guitar player of all time is...

Nile Rodgers

Nile has this incredible ability to pick up a guitar and immediately increase the energy in a room. He has a great tone and his technique has lead the way in the world of funk and dance music and I owe most of my style to his influence.

It is impossible to say who is, in  fact, the best guitar player in history, however I'm sure that journalists and music critics will continue to compare apples and pears for eons to come with only one man coming in at first place...

Who I am as a guitarist is defined by my failure to become Jimi Hendrix - John Mayer

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