Electric Guitar Heroes
Who is the best guitarist? If you ask most non guitarists, you’re likely to hear the standard answers like Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page or Eddie Van-Halen. Truth is, all of these are correct and none of them are correct. Everyone has an opinion here and they all think theirs is the correct opinion. When I look at these three guitarists I see strong points and weak spots in their playing.
Technically, Jimi Hendrix wasn’t the best guitar player. Some of his performances were sloppy and he wasn’t a particularly fast player especially by todays heavy metal standards. What he really excelled at was innovation and song writing. He was one of the first to incorporate feedback into his music. Jimi Hendrix wasn’t just the guitar player in a band, he was a complete musician. A singer song writer, performer and as a producer, Hendrix also experimented in the recording studio as another way of expressing his musical ideas. One important thing to note is that Hendrix poured allot of emotion into everything he played. Every note being perfectly was not his concern. It was the song that mattered most.
Jimmy Page was probably one of the best in the studio. He could layer parts and showed an understanding of music. However, his playing technique was often not as good as it needed to be to reproduce what he had recorded in a live situation. Eddie Van-Halen once said about Page’s live playing “He plays like he’s got a broken hand and he’s two years old.”. When hearing something like that, it’s important to look at the big picture. Jimmy Page has written and played on some of the greatest recordings in rock history. Without his abilities, this music would never have existed and it existed despite any short comings he might have had.
Eddie Van Halen
Obviously Eddie Van Halen is the most technically proficient of the three. Live and in his prime, Eddie would have topped both Hendrix or Jimmy Page. Listening to Eruption from the first Van-Halen album, I’m still amazed at the power and raw emotion he was able to deliver. As good as he was as a player, Eddie Van-Halen’s success was still dependent on the other members of Van Halen. He wasn’t a singer and he wasn’t the best songwriter. Most of Van Halens was a collaboration between members Eddie Van Halen, Alex Van Halen, Michael Anthony, and David Lee Roth and also Sammy Hagar.
All of these guitarist are exceptional and all of them have influenced many current players. All of them bring a set of skills that allow them to create what they hear in their heads. What one guitarist might lack in one area they make up for in others. What this example shows is that if you want to be a musician, you need to follow your heart. You don’t necessarily need to be the most technical player, although if that’s what you really want to do then you should pursue that, if you find yourself more interested in melody and song structure then that’s what should pursue. Don’t obsess over playing every note perfect in your solo if what really moves you is the song.