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The 10 Best Guitarists of the 2000s

As the new millennium dawned, the world of guitar music continued to evolve, bringing forth a new generation of iconic guitarists who left an indelible mark on the 2000s. This era was characterized by a blend of continuing traditions and innovative new styles, with guitarists from various genres pushing the boundaries of what could be achieved with the instrument. 

From the technical wizardry of metal to the emotive strumming of indie rock, the 2000s saw guitarists redefine the role of the guitar in contemporary music. In this article, we take a look at the most iconic guitarists of the 2000s, discussing their careers, their contributions to the music scene, and the legacies they have left behind.

Jack White (The White Stripes, The Raconteurs)

Jack White burst onto the scene in the early 2000s with The White Stripes, bringing a raw, garage rock revival sound that was both unique and nostalgic. Known for his minimalist approach, using simple setups to produce a massive sound, White’s guitar work on songs like “Seven Nation Army” and “Icky Thump” became instantly recognizable. His ability to blend blues, rock, and punk influences resulted in a distinctive style that set a new standard for rock guitar in the new millennium.

Beyond The White Stripes, White’s work with The Raconteurs and as a solo artist further showcased his versatility and creativity as a guitarist. Tracks like “Steady, As She Goes” and his solo hit “Lazaretto” display his range, from soulful, bluesy riffs to high-energy rock solos. White’s impact on 2000s guitar music is significant, as he revitalized interest in raw, unprocessed guitar sounds, and his influence continues to be felt in the rock genre.

John Mayer

guitar fretboard

John Mayer emerged in the 2000s as a guitar virtuoso with a deep understanding of blues, rock, and pop. Known for his smooth vocals and technical guitar skills, Mayer’s playing on songs like “Gravity” and “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room” showcases his ability to blend complex guitar work with mainstream appeal. His approach combines technical proficiency with soulful expressiveness, making him a standout artist of his generation.

Mayer’s versatility is evident in his various musical projects, including his work with the John Mayer Trio, where he delved deeper into blues and rock. His guitar playing is characterized by a nuanced touch, expressive phrasing, and a mastery of tone. Mayer has not only earned critical acclaim and a loyal fanbase but also the respect of his peers, cementing his place as one of the most influential guitarists of the 2000s.

Tom Morello (Audioslave, Rage Against the Machine)

Tom Morello continued his innovative guitar work with Audioslave into the 2000s, building upon his legacy from the 1990s. Known for his unique style that combines alternative rock, heavy metal, and hip hop influences, Morello’s playing is characterized by creative use of effects, unconventional techniques, and politically charged lyrics. In Audioslave, tracks like “Like a Stone” and “Cochise” feature his distinctive riffs and solos that push the boundaries of traditional guitar playing.

Morello’s contributions extend beyond his technical skills. His activism and outspoken political views are deeply intertwined with his music, making him a significant figure in the world of rock. Morello’s approach to guitar playing, blending innovation with a message, has inspired many musicians and solidified his status as a guitar hero of the 2000s.

Matt Bellamy (Muse)

Matt Bellamy, the frontman of Muse, is known for his ambitious and technically advanced guitar playing. His style is a fusion of alternative rock, classical music, and electronic elements, creating a sound that is both grandiose and futuristic. Bellamy’s work on songs like “Plug In Baby” and “Knights of Cydonia” showcases his flair for dramatic, high-energy guitar work that perfectly complements Muse’s theatrical style.

Bellamy’s use of custom guitars equipped with built-in effects, like the Manson M1D1, has allowed him to experiment with a wide range of sounds, from heavy riffs to arpeggiated sequences. His playing, often combined with his powerful vocals and piano skills, has made him one of the most dynamic and innovative guitarists of the 2000s. Bellamy’s influence is seen in the way he has pushed the boundaries of what a rock guitarist can be, both in terms of technique and technology.

Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age)

Josh Homme, the leader of Queens of the Stone Age, brought a unique desert rock sound to the forefront in the 2000s. His guitar playing, characterized by heavy, riff-based grooves and a distinct tone, defines the band’s sound. Songs like “No One Knows” and “Go With the Flow” showcase Homme’s ability to craft catchy yet powerful guitar parts that are both accessible and musically complex.

Homme’s contributions to guitar music go beyond Queens of the Stone Age. His work with other projects like Eagles of Death Metal and Them Crooked Vultures, as well as his collaborative efforts on various albums, display his versatility and influence as a guitarist. Homme’s distinct style and approach to music production have made him a defining figure in the rock genre of the 2000s.

The Edge (U2)

Continuing his influential work from previous decades, The Edge’s guitar playing in the 2000s with U2 remained innovative and iconic. His minimalist style, characterized by the use of delay effects and a focus on creating atmospheric soundscapes, continued to evolve. In albums like “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” and “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb,” The Edge’s playing, especially on tracks like “Beautiful Day” and “Vertigo,” showcased his ability to adapt to the changing musical landscape while maintaining his distinct sound.

The Edge’s guitar work is not about technical complexity but about emotion and space. His ability to create memorable, melodic hooks and his innovative use of technology have kept him at the forefront of the guitar world. His ongoing impact on the music industry and his role in U2’s sustained success make him an enduring figure in the world of guitar music.

Synyster Gates (Avenged Sevenfold)

Synyster Gates, the lead guitarist of Avenged Sevenfold, emerged in the 2000s as a force in the metal and hard rock scene. Known for his fast, intricate playing and a blend of metalcore with traditional heavy metal, Gates’ guitar work is a key component of the band’s sound. His solos in songs like “Afterlife” and “Bat Country” are celebrated for their speed, technical skill, and melodic sensibilities.

Gates’ style, incorporating elements of classical and jazz into his playing, has made him a standout guitarist of his generation. His ability to balance technical proficiency with musicality has earned him a place among the top guitarists of the 2000s. Gates continues to push the boundaries of metal guitar, inspiring a new generation of players with his innovative approach.

Dan Auerbach (The Black Keys)

Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys brought a revival of blues and garage rock in the 2000s. His gritty, raw guitar style, heavily influenced by traditional blues, is central to the band’s sound. Auerbach’s work on songs like “Tighten Up” and “Lonely Boy” showcases his talent for creating catchy, soulful, and raw guitar riffs that resonate with a wide audience.

Beyond his work with The Black Keys, Auerbach’s solo projects and collaborations demonstrate his deep understanding of American roots music. His approach to guitar playing, focusing on feel and tone over technical complexity, has made him a key figure in the resurgence of blues-influenced rock in the 2000s.

Derek Trucks (The Derek Trucks Band, Tedeschi Trucks Band)

Derek Trucks, known for his work with The Derek Trucks Band and later the Tedeschi Trucks Band, is celebrated for his slide guitar technique and soulful playing. Drawing from blues, jazz, and world music, Trucks’ guitar work is deeply expressive and technically proficient. His slide guitar playing, especially on tracks like “Midnight in Harlem,” showcases his ability to convey emotion and tell stories through his instrument.

Trucks’ style is rooted in the blues but extends far beyond it, incorporating elements of various musical traditions. His commitment to exploring different genres and his focus on emotional expression over sheer technicality make him one of the most respected guitarists of his era. Trucks’ playing continues to captivate audiences, earning him a place among the great guitarists of the 2000s.

John Petrucci (Dream Theater)

John Petrucci, the guitarist for progressive metal band Dream Theater, is renowned for his technical proficiency and complex compositions. Petrucci’s playing style, combining high-speed shredding with intricate melodic lines, is a hallmark of Dream Theater’s sound. Tracks like “Pull Me Under” and “The Spirit Carries On” showcase his skill as both a guitarist and a composer, blending heavy metal with progressive rock elements.

Petrucci’s influence in the 2000s extends beyond his work with Dream Theater. His instructional videos and guitar clinics have inspired countless guitarists, and his contributions to the design of guitars and equipment have had a significant impact on the industry. Petrucci’s blend of technical mastery and musical innovation has made him a pivotal figure in the world of progressive metal and guitar music in general.

Conclusion

The 2000s brought forth a diverse array of guitarists who not only defined the sound of their respective genres but also left a lasting impact on the music world. These guitarists, with their unique styles and innovative techniques, captured the essence of a decade marked by a fusion of traditional and new approaches to guitar playing. From Jack White’s raw, minimalist approach to John Petrucci’s technical virtuosity, each guitarist brought something unique to the table, influencing not just their contemporaries but also inspiring future generations of musicians.

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