29 Best Guitar Solos – Time to Wig Out!

The birth of rock music also gave rise to a whole new way of playing guitar. Blistering solos, fresh guitar licks, and effects pedals all came to define the sound of rock and roll. The genre combines blues, jazz, and folk elements to form subgenres like hard rock, gypsy jazz, and roots rock.

From the early rock days of Chuck Berry to rock and roll’s heyday with the Stones in the ’70s and ’80s, here is a high-energy list of rock’s best guitar solos.

All Along the Watchtower – The Jimi Hendrix Experience

Folk singer-songwriter Bob Dylan released his song ‘All Along the Watchtower’ in 1967 on his album John Wesley Harding. Rock and roller Jimi Hendrix was a huge Dylan fan, and when he heard the track, he decided to cover it. He released his own version in 1968, featuring a faster rhythm, heavier instrumentation, and wailing Hendrix solos throughout it. When Dylan heard his version, he loved it so much that he modeled his live performances of the track after Hendrix. Total Guitar magazine rated ‘All Along the Watchtower’ as one of the greatest covers of all time.

Related: Find this song on our list of good song covers.

Shine on You Crazy Diamond – Pink Floyd

This epic-style song was written in several parts after Pink Floyd had to part ways with their lead guitarist, Syd Barrett, due to declining mental health and drug use. Amid piano, organ, and occasional light brass work, emotive blues guitar riffs are cleanly delivered for both solos and between vocal lines.

Related: If you love shiny things, check out these songs with diamond in the title.

Stairway to Heaven – Led Zeppelin

One of FM radio’s most-played songs is also one of rock music’s most notorious. ‘Stairway to Heaven’ is one of the first songs any fledgling guitarist learns due to the track’s simple yet commanding riff. Fans immediately gravitated toward the song appearing on the band’s 1971 Led Zeppelin IV album. While rumors claiming the song contains satanic messages if played backward spread, band member Jimmy Page had to appear in court to fight a plagiarism suit from the band Spirit, with an appeals court ruling in favor of Led Zeppelin.

Related: This song features on our playlist of music about heaven.

Maggot Brain – Funkadelic

Ranked by Guitar World magazine as one of the best wah-wah pedal solos of all time, frontman George Clinton convinced Funkadelic guitarist Eddie Hazel to record the solo in a rather unconventional way. He placed Hazel inside a massive circle of powerful amps and told him to play as if he had just discovered his mother had passed away. Hazel’s raw emotions and masterful improv produced such a moving solo that it’s often regarded as one of funk’s greatest guitar solos ever recorded.

Related: Spend an afternoon listening to the greatest long songs.

Eruption – Van Halen

For Van Halen’s first single, they covered The Kink’s 1960s tune ‘You Really Got Me.’ Eddie Van Halen’s guitar work on the track is filled with swagger, but the powerful solo work was just his warmup routine. Ted Templeton, Van Halen’s producer, loved it so much he tacked it onto the single and called it ‘Eruption.’ Eddie ran his guitar through one of his own amp recreations to give the recording a “growling” sound.

Hotel California – Eagles

Written as a commentary on the vast availability of countless vices in the music industry, the Eagles’ funk-tinged ‘Hotel California’ is one of their most enduring hits. For the moody solo and light fill work throughout the single, Eagles’ founding member Joe Walsh used his go-to ’70s-style Fender Telecaster, a popular guitar model among rockers of the day.

Related: Listen to more songs from The Big Lebowski.

Minor Swing – Django Reinhardt

Written in the A minor key, Django Reinhardt’s 1937 composition ‘Minor Swing’ is a common historical piece many musicians study when they are taking an introductory course on the gypsy-jazz subgenre. The rhythm guitar player holds a classic A minor chord progression as one or more lead players trade solos over the chords. Aside from honing one’s jazz chops, this is a popular piece for gypsy-jazz jam sessions.

Related: If you liked this song, you’d love our list of the best jazz songs.

Purple Rain – Prince and The Revolution

With lyrics focusing on the complicated relationships of those closest to him, one of Prince’s most impassioned tunes is his popular single ‘Purple Rain.’ Classic instruments like piano and strings are used to give the song a slight gospel effect. Once the lyrics reach their climax, Prince’s soulful guitar solo pans throughout the speakers. Ushering in the song’s ending is one last piano solo accompanied by a strings section.

Related: Learn to let go with these songs about forgiving others.

Sweet Child O’ Mine – Guns N’ Roses

An impromptu jam session between lead guitarist Slash and drummer Steven Adler produced Guns N’ Roses’ most popular track, ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine.’ The single’s joyful, bouncing opening resulted from Slash messing with Adler by playing a circus-like scale on the guitar. Before long, at the band’s request, Slash’s comedic guitar work transformed into the single’s spirited opening riff because they loved the notes so much.

Related: You can’t go wrong with our list of karaoke go-to songs!

Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen

Guitarist Brian May was responsible for several of Queen’s legendary riffs utilizing multiple instruments. For hits like ‘We Will Rock You,’ May’s infectious percussive rhythm takes over the listener. For ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ he delivered an anthemic solo fitting for rock-opera history. While May’s solo is easy to rock out to, Freddie Mercury’s gripping piano work stays with the listener long after the song is over.

Related: Here are the best songs everyone knows.

Johnny B. Goode – Chuck Berry

Rock and roll is synonymous with Chuck Berry due to his pioneering fretboard skills, high-powered song choices, and infamous on-stage duck walk. For ‘Johnny B. Goode,’ Berry tells his life story in song form while executing effortless blues-rock guitar riffs that gave him his signature early rock sound.

Related: Do you love retro tunes? Enjoy our list of songs from the 50s.

Sultans of Swing – Dire Straits and Mark Knopfler

“You get a shiver in the dark.” Moody roots-rock meets blues-swing like never before with Mark Knopfler’s ‘Sultans of Swing.’ Performed by his band Dire Straits, Knopfler wrote the grooving track in ’78 while waiting out a thunderstorm in an empty bar. Knopfler uses the D minor key and flat notes to give the song its eerie yet hopeful quality.

Beat It – Michael Jackson

At the request of his producer, pop icon Michael Jackson penned ‘Beat It’ to construct a mainstream hit in mind. The song chronicles two rival gangs, but Jackson had never experienced life on the streets. So instead of taking a literal approach, he channeled the popular musical play Westside Story. Producer Quincy Jones borrowed Eddie Van Halen for a day and recorded his guitar work for ‘Beat It,’ which beefed up the artistic approach to match the song’s story.

Related: This song is on our playlist of good music to run to. Can you keep up?

Free Bird – Lynyrd Skynyrd

Allen Collins and Gary Rossington, two original Lynyrd Skynyrd members who would go on to form a new duo after the band’s tragic plane crash, supplied the enduring guitar solo heard on ‘Free Bird.’ One of rock music’s most iconic songs, the key of G allowed Collins and Rossington maximum freedom on the guitar neck, utilizing bends, blues notes, and a change in tempo to give the track its mournful but dominating feel.

Related: See our playlist of the best southern rock songs.

Crazy Train – Ozzy Osbourne

After Ozzy Osbourne’s devilish introductory laugh, bassy drums and driving single-strummed rhythm guitar make way for a memorable rhythmic electric guitar riff played by Randy Rhoads. While the band relied on distortion and compression effects in the studio for their classic hard rock sound, Rhoads played both major scales and minor scales interchangeably for an amped-up listener experience.

Related: All aboard train songs playlist. It might get crazy!

Comfortably Numb – Pink Floyd

Tackling the philosophical dilemma of separating one’s mind from reality, Pink Floyd’s ‘Comfortably Numb’ has a dreamlike quality to its production. To achieve this with his guitar solos, bandmate David Gilmore fashioned together pieces of quite a few different solos from other songs and rounded them out with a distortion pedal and delay effects while recording in the studio.

Related: You can hear this song on our 70s music list.

Paranoid Android – Radiohead

Running at almost 6:30 minutes long, Radiohead’s ‘Paranoid Android’ was written after frontman Thom Yorke got cornered in an L.A. bar and felt he couldn’t get away from the crowd of onlookers. With an underlying theme focusing on his worry about the vast expansion of technology, the song’s guitar solo toward the end, played by Johnny Greenwood, gives the tune a discombobulated feeling because some phrases are played forwards, and some are played backward.

Related: Did you hear that? Maybe it was our playlist of songs about being paranoid.

Like a Hurricane – Neil Young

Written while yearning for a woman he couldn’t have, though folk songwriter Neil Young is known for his lyrical prowess, ‘Like a Hurricane’ features guitar work that music critics have long hailed as one of rock’s most eclectic recordings. Young’s pent-up emotions are delivered lyrically and instrumentally, with heavy feedback and extra effects driving an almost eight-minute guitar solo.

Related: The best songs about a hurricane are sure to blow you away!

Crossroads – Cream

Eric Clapton has covered many blues classics over his tenure, and one of his most popular is his recording of ‘Crossroads’ while fronting the band Cream. Delta blues pioneer Robert Johnson wrote the track way back in the 1930s. One of his most enduring efforts, Clapton took Johnson’s grainy, haunting song and turned it into a modern, clean blues standard.

While My Guitar Gently Weeps – The Beatles

Blues guitarist Eric Clapton sat with The Beatles for their eastern philosophy-inspired song ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps.’ Clapton laid down guitar work, while Beatle bandmate George Harrison’s lyrics focus on the elusive element of universal love he wished society would seek out more.

Related: Are you weeping or laughing? Find more songs with emotions in the title.

Europa – Santana

Chart-topping Santana singles often find the guitar virtuoso playing lead and filling in between vocal lines with duet songs like ‘Smooth’ with Rob Thomas. However, Carlos is at the top of his game with instrumentals like ‘Europa,’ recorded after Earth, Wind, and Fire members heard it and recommended he record it. The Mexico-born musician adds a touch of jazz to the song’s stylings while his notes tell the story of a struggling friend trying to free herself from drug use.

Sympathy for the Devil – The Rolling Stones

Inspired by the magical realist book The Master and Margarita, written by Russian novelist Mikhail Bulgakov, the song details the duality of man’s dark and light sides. Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards added to this theme with his ferocious guitar chops, played wildly to signify the back and forth between devil and angel.

Related: If you don’t care for straightforward songs, you’ll love these songs with a lot of figurative language.

One – Metallica

Hard rock band Metallica is known for their head-banging guitar solos, and ‘One’ contains a couple of different signature Metallica guitar stylings. The song is about a soldier severely injured in battle. With this serious lyrical content in mind, they delivered powerful guitar solos. Guitarist Kirk Hammett completes a “tapping” solo (this technique was made popular by Eddie Van Halen), then dueling solos take place between Hammett and guitarist James Hetfield.

Related: Listen to the protests and pleas on our playlist of sad war songs.

Highway Star – Deep Purple

Guitarist Richie Blackmore borrowed heavily from the classical stylings of Bach for Deep Purple’s ‘Highway Star’ despite the song’s heavy, modern rock sound. Blackmore meticulously worked over his solo note by note during the recording process, making sure to draw from baroque elements just enough to drive home the song’s energetic, open-road feel. Lasting just under 1:30 minutes, Guitar World rated his solo one of the best of all time.

Related: Check out more music from Dazed and Confused.

Kid Charlemagne – Steely Dan

Larry Carlton takes several guitar solos in Steely Dans’ ‘Kid Charlemagne,’ a wild ride of a song about a chemist who produces commercial-grade drugs for the masses. Carlton is a well-known blues player, but he shows off his jazz chops for this song. While most of his solos feature some over-dubbing and splicing together of different takes, his last featured solo on the tune is pure improv.

Texas Flood – Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble

Set to the structure of a blues standard, Stevie Ray Vaughan compares his troubled romantic relationship to a ‘Texas Flood’ with this blues rocker. Vaughan’s soulful, genre-fused playing caused critics to draw comparisons between him and Jimi Hendrix. Much like Hendrix, Vaughan’s ability to blend rock, blues, and red-dirt Texas elements put him in a class all his own. He covered two Hendrix tunes before his passing, ‘Little Wing’ and ‘Voodoo Child (Slight Return).’

Related: Hear this song on our list of the best songs about Texas.

Still Got the Blues – Gary Moore

For years, Northern Ireland musician Gary Moore played in hard rock bands. When he returned to the blues genre he loved so much with his album Still Got the Blues, he cracked open a dusty guitar case and pulled out his old, beloved 1959 Les Paul. The guitar’s tone proved to be perfect for the album and its title track. During his first day recording, he tracked ‘Still Got the Blues’ in a single take.

Voodoo Child (Slight Return) – Jimi Hendrix

“Well, I stand up next to a mountain. I chop it down with the edge of my hand.” Though Jimi Hendrix was notoriously shy, his music was filled with classic rock components like swagger-filled solos and braggadocious lyrics. One of the guitarist’s most high-octane songs, ‘Voodoo Child (Slight Return),’ pair soaring blues riffs with Hendrix’s wild playing style behind a thin wall of distortion. All of these elements give this Hendrix staple a larger-than-life feel.

Jessica – The Allman Brothers Band

Released after The Allman Brothers’ big hit ‘Ramblin’ Man,’ instrumental piece ‘Jessica’ didn’t chart nearly as high. Despite this, fans, critics, and rock enthusiasts all deemed the song a significant contribution to the ’70s musical era. Guitarist Dickey Betts wrote it for his daughter, and he tried to capture her jovial spirit by channeling gypsy jazz impresario Django Reinhardt. The guitar work is meant to be played with just two fingers on the player’s fretting hand.

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About Ged Richardson

Ged Richardson is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of ZingInstruments.com. He has been featured in Entrepreneur, PremierGuitar, Hallmark, Wanderlust, CreativeLive, and other major publications. As an avid music fan, he spends his time researching and writing about new and old music, as well as testing and reviewing music-related products. He's played guitar in various bands, from rock to gypsy jazz. Be sure to check out his YouTube channel, where he geeks out about his favorite bands.

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