The guitar is undoubtedly among the most popular instruments in the world, and although it might be easy to learn some basic techniques, it is a rather difficult instrument to master. In today’s article, we are going to talk about the ladies who managed to do so – the best female guitarists.
Although when we talk about some great names in the guitar world, we often remember the likes of Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Tony Iommi, or Eddie Van Halen, there are numerous amazing female guitarists that deserve recognition and to be mentioned among these titans. Today, we will focus on them and provide you with a list of some of the greatest ladies that ever picked up this instrument. We have a lot to cover, so let us start without any delay.
Shredding the Patriarchy: Top Female Guitarists You Need to Hear Right Now
1. Sister Rosetta Tharpe
Sister Rosetta Tharpe is certainly a deserving number one on this list, as she is considered the definitive Godmother of Rock ‘n’ Roll. When she moved to New York back in the 1930s, she went to establish herself as one of the most famous blues musicians to this day.
Her creative approach was so good that it inspired some of the greatest names in music, including Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Keith Richards, Miranda Lambert, and many, many more. Her style consisted of a unique blend of spiritual lyrics with distorted tones and amazing licks. Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s amazing vocals complemented her guitar style perfectly, making her one of the most prominent figures ever to land her hand on this instrument.
2. Nancy Wilson
Nancy Wilson was a huge influence in the guitar world with her almost 50-year-long career of excellence. She is an award-winning American guitarist and a co-founder of the rock band Heart, which has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Not only that, she had a fluid and jaw-dropping playing style, but she complimented all of it with her powerful vocals that were often described as “belting.” Some of her most prominent hit songs include “Barracuda,” “Crazy on You,” and “Magic Man,” and one of her most popular albums to this day is “What About Love?”
3. Peggy Jones
Even though her name is not particularly famous in modern guitar circles, Peggy Jones was one of the most influential players who laid the foundation for numerous female guitarists. She was born in Harlem in 1940, and although she started as a dancer, she taught herself to play the guitar when she was 15 and quickly fell in love with the instrument.
Jones began recording with Bo Diddley in 1957 and was a huge contributor to some of the most famous songs, including “Aztec,” which she wrote and played the guitar on. Although she was known as Lady Bo on stage, Jones kept her sense of independence and eventually formed her own group called The Jewels after she left Bo Diddley in 1961.
4. Bonnie Raitt
Bonnie Raitt is a famous American singer, songwriter, and guitarist who has been active in the music industry for over five decades. She enjoyed touring with her customized Fender Strat and was highly dominant and influential across the fields of country, rock, and blues.
Her slide guitar playing is not her only signature, as she also possesses an incredibly soulful vocal style. Over the course of her successful career, Bonnie released 18 studio albums and has won 14 awards for her different achievements in the music industry. Some of her most famous hit songs include “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” “Something to Talk About,” “Nick of Time,” and many more.
5. Joni Mitchell
Joni Mitchell is certainly one of the most iconic female guitar players in the history of modern music. She overcame numerous adversities to become revered in music circles and a living legend. Her songs often reflected social and philosophical ideals as well as her feelings about romance, womanhood, and joy.
Mitchell is widely known for her compelling lyrics, excellent vocals, and imaginative guitar play. Her complex songwriting inspired numerous popular artists, including Bob Dylan, Prince, Bjork, and Taylor Swift, who often named her as one of their major career influences.
6. Jennifer Batten
If you are a huge Michael Jackson fan, then you certainly saw or heard of Jennifer Batten. Her two-handed tapping technique and incredible shredding skills have earned her countless fans across the globe, and much deservingly so.
Her exceptional technical and imaginative playing during Michael Jackson’s tours throughout the 80s and 90s gained her huge popularity, not just in the United States but across the globe. After these tours, Jennifer played alongside legendary Jeff Beck, with whom she recorded and toured from 1999 to 2001. When she does not shred her guitar, Batten is busy writing music books and creating imaginative steampunk art with her own Etsy shop.
7. Joan Jett
Joan Jett is a rock singer, songwriter, and guitarist from the United States. She made a name for herself for her work with the rock band The Runaways and her famous solo hits such as “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll” and “Bad Reputation.”
This is one of the cult rock songs that are not that hard to learn to play.
Jett has been active in the music industry since the 1970s, and numerous people consider her to be one of the pioneers of punk rock. Throughout her rich and successful career, Joan has released numerous albums and toured extensively as a solo artist. Aside from being an amazing guitar player, she is a huge advocate for animal rights and has been a vegetarian since the 1980s.
8. Nita Strauss
Often called the Queen of Shredding by her numerous fans, Nita Strauss is widely known for her cooperation with the legendary Alice Cooper and her former association with the tribute band called The Iron Maidens. Aside from all of that, she has been very successful as a solo artist too.
Strauss navigated the length of the fretboard with such grace and technique, and it was an absolute joy to watch her play every time she stepped on the stage. Her fluid and explosive shredding were melodic yet very dynamic. She is also a well-known guitar maker and Ibanez’s first female signature artist.
9. Lianne La Havas
Lianne La Havas stormed the scene in the early 2010s with her incredible technique and exceptional blend of neo-soul, jazz, and alt-folk. Her vocals are an excellent combination with her gently-picked jazz guitar, and her recording was always spot-on, which earned her numerous fans.
Years into her career, Lianne stayed true to her influences, but she also continues to move toward a more jazz-focused and groovy sound. One of the greater examples of the development of her style is her 2020 single titled “Bittersweet,” which perfectly captures the direction in which she is moving towards.
10. Viv Albertine
Viv Albertine is an iconic lead guitarist of The Slits and is one of the female pioneers of this craft. Her unique technique and style left a huge mark on the scene and made her one of the best female guitarists in history.
For Viv, playing the guitar is a symbol of individual expression, which truly showed throughout her rich career. She was a key figure in the 1970s punk scene and was the on/off girlfriend of Mick Jones from the band Clash. With The Slits, she has three studio releases behind her, while as a solo artist, she had an album called “The Vermilion Border,” which came out in 2012.
11. Poison Ivy (The Cramps)
Possibly the most recognizable guitarist in all of US punk was Poison Ivy. Even before lead singer Lux Interior begins to sing, you can know it’s a Cramps song. Poison Ivy helped artists like Link Wray and Nokie Edwards of The Ventures rediscover themselves by reconnecting punk with its primitive roots in trash and twang.
Because of the filthy riffs the Cramps’ songs were built on, she merits a spot among the top female guitarists, and as the band’s albums progressed, she developed her skills as a soloist. And no one ever used reverb better than she did. Since losing her lover Lux, Ivy has been living underground, and she is sorely missed.
12. Marnie Stern
Marnie Stern is the epitome of a guitar hero in the present era, possessing both the quick fingers of a shredder and the sensibility of an indie rocker. Her concept album, The Chronicles Of Marnia, is full of deftly crafted pop melodies, so you don’t even need to adore guitar playing to enjoy it.
But if you really enjoy playing the guitar, you’ll be in awe of the creativity in her quick runs and her sense of proportion. She hasn’t recorded a song longer than four and a half minutes despite releasing five albums. Yet, it probably still wouldn’t have been as good if Eddie Van Halen had been a part of Sleater-Kinney.
13. Kristin Hersh
Kristin Hersh is an enduringly underappreciated artist who sits with artists like Bob Mould and J Mascis as a pioneering indie-rock guitarist with an instantly recognized sound. One of the best female guitarists of the 1980s and 1990s, she can play distorted power chords and fast leads that will blow your mind before switching to an acoustic guitar and playing some of the most beautiful music you’ve ever heard.
Although her most recent solo recordings, in which she also plays bass, demonstrate the variety of sounds she is capable of, she really came into her own around the time Throwing Muses reduced to a three-piece (that band’s later albums are classics in rejuvenating the power-trio genre).
14. Susan Tedeschi
Any fan of jam bands will tell you that the Tedeschi Trucks Band is a band with two superb guitarists, period, not a band with female and male guitarists or a married couple. What’s noteworthy is how much their mutual growth as players has occurred since they first met.
Tedeschi has absorbed her partner’s jazz influences, and Derek Trucks has picked up on her R&B tastes. Look up the video of Tedeschi performing “Crossroads” with Eric Clapton at his festival; pay attention to the big grin Clapton flashes after her solo for a good example of Tedeschi at her best.
15. Kaki King
With her alternate tunings, technical sensibilities, jazz fuelled melodies, and a spectacular stage presence to boot, Kaki King, is easily one of the most innovative acoustic guitarists in recent times. The Brooklyn-based guitar virtuoso’s sound draws inspiration from a wide range of genres, from modern classical, and progressive jazz to pop.
Hugely influenced by Michael Hedges and Preston Reed, King’s fingerpicking is a fascinating blend of fret-tapping with slap bass techniques. In 2006, Rolling Stones featured Kaki on a list of “The New Guitar Gods,” where she happened to be the only woman and the youngest musician.
Apart from a stellar career as a solo performer, King has contributed to the soundtracks of many notable shows and movies, including Into the Wild and The Twilight Saga.
Who was the first female guitarist?
The history of guitar playing goes back hundreds of years, and it is difficult to determine who the first female guitarist was. There are records of women playing guitar and other plucked string instruments dating back to the 18th century, and likely even earlier.
However, because many women’s contributions to music history have been overlooked or under-documented, it is possible that there were female guitarists even before that time. Some notable early female guitarists include Elisabeth-Claude Jacquet de la Guerre, a French composer and performer who played the theorbo (a type of lute), and Luise Walker, a German guitarist who performed extensively in the early 20th century.
Who is the best female metal guitarist?
There have been many skilled and influential female metal guitarists throughout the history of the genre. Some notable examples include Lita Ford, Orianthi, Jennifer Batten, Nita Strauss, and The Great Kat. Each of these guitarists has their own unique style and has made significant contributions to the world of metal music through their playing, songwriting, and performing.
Who is the biggest female rock star?
There are several notable female rock stars who have made significant contributions to the genre and achieved great success, including Stevie Nicks, Joan Jett, Janis Joplin, Tina Turner, Pat Benatar, Chrissie Hynde, Patti Smith, and Debbie Harry, among others. Each of these women has a unique style and sound, and has influenced countless other artists in the rock genre.
Are there any female guitarists who have influenced other musicians?
Yes, many of the female guitarists mentioned above have influenced countless other musicians, both male and female. For example, Sister Rosetta Tharpe was a major influence on rock and roll pioneers like Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley, while Joan Jett’s raw, punk-influenced playing style has inspired generations of rockers.
What genres do these guitarists play?
These guitarists represent a wide range of genres, including rock, blues, jazz, folk, and metal. Some, like Nancy Wilson and Bonnie Raitt, are known for their bluesy, soulful playing, while others, like Kaki King and St. Vincent, incorporate more experimental and avant-garde elements into their music.
How have these guitarists contributed to the music industry?
These guitarists have contributed in many ways, from writing classic songs and solos to mentoring and inspiring other musicians. They have also challenged gender stereotypes in the music industry and helped pave the way for future generations of female musicians.
Can women be just as good at guitar as men?
Absolutely! Gender has no bearing on one’s ability to play guitar or any other instrument. The female guitarists mentioned above have proven that women can be just as skilled and innovative on the instrument as men, and there are countless other female guitarists out there who are making their mark on the music industry every day.
How have they changed the perception of women in music?
Female guitarists have helped to change the perception of women in music by breaking down gender stereotypes and proving that women can be just as skilled and innovative on the instrument as men. They have also challenged traditional notions of femininity and sexuality in rock music, paving the way for greater gender diversity and inclusivity in the industry.
Which female guitarists are also singers?
Some notable examples include Bonnie Raitt, Joan Jett, and Nancy Wilson (all of whom fronted their own bands), as well as St. Vincent, who often incorporates her distinctive vocals into her guitar-driven compositions.
We hope you enjoyed our list of the top ten female guitarists of all time. There are numerous ladies that left their marks on the music scene, and it was rather difficult to pick only ten. However, our list is filled with some great names, and we hope it will inspire you to polish your craft and perhaps pick up and play guitar if you never did it before.
If you are into Spanish guitar and flamenco music, check out our list of the best Spanish guitar players in history.