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. Every professional guitar player has their own particular approach and character. That is to say, no two solos sound the same.
Regardless, not all guitar solos are great for the same reasons. Some are more technically masterful, others simply wail with the soul of the Mississippi Delta in the best way.
We at Rivington Music know musical tastes are individual for every fan and player. With that being said, we 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 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,” I would say, is one of his most memorable.
Gilmore’s sound has often been likened to the sound of someone crying. His solos 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, is an almost comforting and regal sounding passage. The second, a truly balls-to-the-wall, emotionally driven rager rife with melodic motifs that will linger in the mind.
2. “Voodoo Chile” – Jimi Hendirx, from the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Electric Ladyland
Want a guitar solo that set your ears on fire? There’s no comparison to the flaming melodic power of Jimi Hendrix’ work on “Voodoo Chile,” we think. The song is littered with Hendrix’s signature riffs that explore all facets of the pentatonic blues scale. However, his two solos in this song embody the raw psychedelic power of the times. Using a searing Fender Stratocaster Tone, he artfully and unabashedly creates one of the best definitions of “shredding.
3. “Eruption” – Eddie Van Halen, from Van Halen’s Van Halen
There is no way you can talk about the best guitar solos of all time without bringing in Eddie Van Halen’s “Eruption.” A song that is only a guitar solo, quite literally. It’s the best showcase of Van Halen’s ability to elevate the art of rock guitar into something divine, we find.
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. Also, he has a decidedly novel use of the whammy bar. To add to that, there’s an endless exposition of melodic motifs. All of that adds up to make this solo the 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 other than a guitar. One can imagine the sound of someone crying in the closing solo of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” You really feel George Harrison’s emotional and heartfelt delivery.
This solo marks an interesting shift in Harrison’s playing. He’s not typically known for the sentiment of true raw emotion in the song’s expression. All the while, the long extended bends leave you hanging on for every second. However, its beauty lends itself to endless listenability.
5. “Undone – The Sweater Song” – Rivers Cuomo, from Weezer’s Blue Album
Rivers Cuomo’s work on “Undone – The Sweater Song” is a balance of quirky and epic. He brought those elements into one of the most memorable solos of all time.
The solo starts with a full-step key change. He then elevates the solo into something that nearly sounds like another song only to land back to the original key. This is something common in pop music composition. However, it is a truly novel way to add incredible depth to a solo.