The 10 Best Guitarists of the 2010s

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The 2010s were a dynamic and diverse decade for guitar music, characterized by a blend of evolving genres and the emergence of new guitar heroes. This era saw the rise of guitarists who not only adapted to the changing musical landscape but also carved out their own distinctive styles, influencing a wide array of genres from indie rock to modern metal. 

In an age where digital technology and social media transformed the music industry, these guitarists managed to capture the imagination of audiences worldwide, proving that the guitar remained a powerful tool for artistic expression. In this article, we explore the most iconic guitarists of the 2010s, delving into their careers, their impact on the music scene, and the distinctive qualities that set them apart.

Gary Clark Jr.

Gary Clark Jr. emerged in the 2010s as a powerful force in the blues and rock music scene. Known for his soulful playing and gritty sound, Clark Jr. brought a modern twist to traditional blues. His signature song, “Bright Lights,” showcases his ability to blend blues, rock, and soul into a compelling, contemporary sound. His raw, emotive guitar playing, combined with a powerful vocal style, has earned him comparisons to blues legends.

Clark Jr.’s impact on the 2010s music scene extends beyond just his guitar skills. His albums, including “Blak and Blu” and “The Story of Sonny Boy Slim,” display his versatility as an artist, able to move between searing blues-rock, soulful ballads, and even elements of hip-hop and R&B. His work represents a refreshing revival of the blues genre for a new generation of listeners.

St. Vincent (Annie Clark)

electric guitar

St. Vincent, the stage name of Annie Clark, has been one of the most innovative and distinctive guitarists of the 2010s. Known for her eclectic style and avant-garde approach, her playing is a blend of jagged, angular melodies and complex textures. Songs like “Cruel” and “Digital Witness” showcase her unique approach to the guitar, using it not just as a musical instrument but as a tool for sonic experimentation.

Beyond her guitar skills, St. Vincent is also recognized for her songwriting and artistic vision. Her albums, including “Strange Mercy” and “Masseduction,” are critically acclaimed for their innovative approach to music and production. St. Vincent’s influence in the 2010s extends into her collaborative work and her role in pushing the boundaries of what a guitarist can be in the modern music landscape.

John Mayer

John Mayer continued to be a significant figure in the guitar world throughout the 2010s, further cementing his status as one of his generation’s great guitarists. Known for his blend of blues, pop, and rock, Mayer’s skills as a guitarist are matched by his talents as a songwriter and vocalist. His work in the 2010s, particularly in the John Mayer Trio and on his solo albums like “Born and Raised” and “The Search for Everything,” showcases his deepening maturity as an artist and musician.

Mayer’s guitar playing is characterized by its technical proficiency and emotional depth. Tracks like “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room” and “Gravity” display his ability to convey complex emotions through his guitar. His influence extends beyond his recordings, as he’s respected for his knowledge of guitar gear and his contributions to guitar design.

Joe Bonamassa

Joe Bonamassa has been a towering figure in the blues-rock world throughout the 2010s. Bonamassa’s work has bridged the gap between classic and contemporary blues styles. His virtuosic playing on albums like “Blues of Desperation” and “Driving Towards the Daylight” showcase his skill at both electric and acoustic guitar.

Bonamassa is not just a skilled guitarist but also a prolific artist known for his relentless touring schedule and extensive discography. His commitment to keeping the blues alive for new generations of fans has made him a key figure in the modern blues scene, inspiring many aspiring guitarists with his passion and dedication to the genre.

Tosin Abasi (Animals as Leaders)

Tosin Abasi, the lead guitarist of Animals as Leaders, is known for his groundbreaking approach to the guitar. His playing, incorporating eight-string guitar techniques and a fusion of metal, jazz, and progressive rock, has redefined what is possible on the instrument. Songs like “CAFO” and “Physical Education” showcase his incredible technical ability and compositional skills, pushing the boundaries of guitar music.

Abasi’s impact on the 2010s extends beyond his technical prowess. His approach to guitar playing, blending complex rhythms, intricate melodies, and a wide array of influences, has inspired a new wave of guitarists. His work with Animals as Leaders has made a significant contribution to the progressive metal genre and the guitar community as a whole.

Derek Trucks (Tedeschi Trucks Band)

Derek Trucks continued to establish himself as one of the premier guitarists of his generation in the 2010s. Known for his slide guitar technique and soulful playing, Trucks’ work with the Tedeschi Trucks Band has been a blend of blues, soul, and Southern rock. His expressive slide playing on songs like “Midnight in Harlem” showcases his ability to convey deep emotion through the guitar.

Trucks’ guitar playing is not only technically impressive but also deeply musical. His ability to blend different genres and styles has made the Tedeschi Trucks Band one of the most exciting and respected groups in contemporary music. Trucks’ commitment to authentic expression and his continuous exploration of the guitar’s possibilities has solidified his place as a modern guitar master.

James Valentine (Maroon 5)

acoustic guitar

James Valentine, the lead guitarist for pop-rock band Maroon 5, has been a key component of the band’s sound throughout the 2010s. Valentine’s work complements the band’s catchy, pop-oriented songs. His guitar parts on hits like “Moves Like Jagger” and “Sugar” are both understated and essential, showcasing his skill at serving the song while adding distinctive guitar work.

Valentine’s role in Maroon 5 goes beyond his guitar playing. As a songwriter and musician, he has been integral to the band’s evolution and sustained success over the years. His ability to adapt to different styles and genres has made him a versatile and essential member of one of the biggest pop bands of the 2010s.

Mark Tremonti (Alter Bridge, Tremonti)

Mark Tremonti, known for his work with Alter Bridge and his solo project Tremonti, has been one of the most respected guitarists in the rock and metal scenes of the 2010s. His playing style, characterized by heavy riffs, melodic solos, and technical proficiency, has been a driving force behind Alter Bridge’s sound. Songs like “Isolation” and “Addicted to Pain” showcase his ability to craft powerful, catchy riffs and emotionally charged solos.

Beyond his technical skills, Tremonti is also recognized as a songwriter and vocalist. His solo work with Tremonti explores a heavier, more metal-oriented sound, further showcasing his versatility as a musician. Tremonti’s influence in the rock and metal genres is significant, as he continues to inspire guitarists with his dedication to the craft and his innovative approach to guitar playing.

Synyster Gates (Avenged Sevenfold)

Synyster Gates, the lead guitarist of Avenged Sevenfold, continued to make waves in the metal world in the 2010s with his intricate and melodic playing style. Known for his technical proficiency and theatrical flair, Gates’ solos and riffs are central to Avenged Sevenfold’s sound. Tracks like “Hail to the King” and “Nightmare” feature his signature blend of shredding solos, harmonized leads, and catchy riffs.

Gates’ influence on modern metal is not limited to his guitar skills. As a songwriter and arranger, he has played a crucial role in Avenged Sevenfold’s evolution, helping the band become one of the leading metal acts of the 2010s. His work continues to inspire a new generation of metal guitarists looking to combine technical skills with musicality and songcraft.

Mike Einziger (Incubus)

acoustic guitar fretboard

Mike Einziger, the guitarist for alternative rock band Incubus, has been a creative force behind the band’s distinctive sound. Einziger’s guitar work is a key element of Incubus’ success. His playing on songs like “Drive” and “Wish You Were Here” showcases his ability to blend melodic sensibilities with innovative guitar techniques, creating a sound that is both accessible and sophisticated.

Einziger’s impact in the 2010s extends beyond Incubus. His collaborations and work in various musical projects display his wide-ranging talents and interests, from orchestral compositions to ventures into electronic music. Einziger’s explorative nature and willingness to push the boundaries of traditional guitar playing have made him a standout musician of the decade.

Conclusion

These ten iconic guitarists, each with their unique styles and approaches, played a pivotal role in shaping the musical landscape of the decade. From Gary Clark Jr.’s revival of the blues to Tosin Abasi’s progressive metal innovations, they brought a fresh perspective to guitar playing, blending technical skill with creative expression. Their contributions went beyond mere technical proficiency. They were innovators, blending genres and exploring new sonic territories, thereby expanding the guitar’s role in contemporary music.

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