Ahh, the guitar solo. The key element in any raging rock tune, the guitar solo is the most compact and often most dramatic part of a song. Each and every professional guitar player has their own particular approach and character, which means no two solos sound the same.
But not all guitar solos are great for the same reasons. Some are more technically masterful, while others simply wail with the soul of the Mississippi Delta in the best way.
We at Rivington Music know that musical tastes are individual for every fan and player, but we’ve decided to make our own guide of the five best rock guitar solos of all time.
Do you agree with these choices? Tell us what your favorite rock guitar solo of all time is in the comments below.
1. “Comfortably Numb” – David Gilmore, from Pink Floyd’s The Wall
Some of the most memorable moments in music are the wailing dramatic passages of David Gilmore, Pink Floyd’s veritable guitar genius. His solo on “Comfortably Numb” is perhaps one of his most memorable.
Gilmore’s sound has often been likened to the sound of someone crying, in that his solos tend to have a very organic and human quality to them that will yank at your heartstrings. His work on “Comfortably Numb” is split into two solos—the first an almost comforting and regal sounding passage, while the second is a truly balls-to-the-wall, emotionally driven rager rife with melodic motifs that will linger in the mind for the rest of your life.
2. “Voodoo Chile” – Jimi Hendirx, from the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Electric Ladyland
When it comes to guitar solos that will set your ears on fire, there’s almost no comparison to the flaming melodic power of Jimi Hendrix’ work on “Voodoo Chile.”
While the song is littered with Hendrix’s signature riffs that explore all facets of the pentatonic blues scale, his two solos on this song embody the raw psychedelic power of the times. With a searing Fender Stratocaster Tone and artfully and unabashedly powerful picking created one of the best definitions of “shredding.
3. “Eruption” – Eddie Van Halen, from Van Halen’s Van Halen
Speaking of “erupting,” there is no way you can talk about the best guitar solos of all time without bringing in Eddie Van Halen’s “Eruption.” Quite literally a song that is only a guitar solo, it is perhaps the best showcase of Van Halen’s ability to elevate the art of rock guitar into something almost divine.
Van Halen’s skill comes from how he embodies the entirety of his instrument. You hear seamless and impossibly fast runs from the low to the high end, decidedly novel uses of the whammy bar, and an endless exposition of melodic motifs that has made this solo a subject of study since its release.
4. “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” – George Harrison, from The Beatles’ The White Album
Sometimes a guitar solo can sound like something else than a guitar. In the closing solo of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” one can almost imagine the sound of someone crying from George’s Harrison’s emotional and heartfelt delivery.
This solo marks an interesting shift in Harrison’s playing, in that the expression of true raw emotion is a sentiment he is typically not known for. The long extended bends leave you truly hanging on for every second, and its beauty lends itself to endless listenability.
5. “Undone – The Sweater Song” – Rivers Cuomo, from Weezer’s Blue Album
In terms of balancing quirky and epic, Rivers Cuomo’s work on “Undone – The Sweater Song” brings those two elements into one of the most memorable solos of all time.
The solo starts with a full-step key change, which elevates the solo into something that almost sounds like another song, only to land again back into the original key. This is something that is common in pop music composition, but is a truly novel way to add incredible depth to a solo.