Guitar solos are inspiring, and often mark the climax of a song. They are as different as the guitarists who play them, and the best of them convey rich emotion and feeling. In a recent Open Mic we asked Audiotuts+ readers to share their favorite solo, and what they find inspirational about it. Here are their Top 20.
1. Dimebag Darrell on Floods by Pantera
"Might be Dimebag’s [Pantera] solo on ‘Floods’. Absolutely orgasmic. It is from ‘The Great Southern Trendkill’ from ’96. The outro is also mindblowing." (Thomas)
2. Mark Knopfler on Tunnel of Love by Dire Straits
"Mark Knopfler playing the solo at the end of Tunnel of Love in 1986 (Dire Straits Thank You Australasia concert). The solo starts at 05:58.
"Like many of Mark’s solos, the live version is far superior to the album version. The solo starts slow and spare and builds up to a fantastic climax. I prefer Mark’s solos to those of other guitarists (say Eric Clapton) as Mark tells a story with his guitar, weaving in and out of little riffs while moving inexorably to an awesome conclusion. He's rarely repetitive, and paraphrasing his own words, 'I'm not a good singer so I let the guitar do the talking for me.' This, and the live solos for Telegraph Road and Sultans of Swing, are my all-time guitar faves :)" (Lucas)
3. Dave Mustaine on Holy Wars by Megadeth
"Guitar: Flying V "Rust in Peace". Inspires: Imagination, war XD technique." (AeroDynamite)
4. David Gilmour on Shine On Your Crazy Diamond by Pink Floyd
"Slow and lengthy, so much so, that it may fall out of the range of what some might consider a “guitar solo,” but it has always haunted me, and it always pulls me in." (Joshua Mormann)
5. Jari Mäenpää on Winter Madness by Wintersun
"The song 'Winter Madness' by Wintersun has quite an amazing solo. The guitarist does plenty of sweeps, a good amount of speed picking, and a few sweet tapping tricks while, what sounds to be, playing effortlessly along side the synth dude." (Ryan)
6. Tore Ostby on Missing You by Ark
"A different kind of music, but the guitar is brilliant: Ark – Missing You." (Hate)
7. The Edge on Love is Blindness by U2
"Perfect marriage of music and lyric being elevated by a solo. This solo is a great use of restraint. I don’t know if it was intentional or not, but it really captivated the message of the lyric. Sometimes love is a whimper, you cant see a clearly - it can be painful to sacrifice without knowing the results. How often do we commit only when we know the potential outcome."
8. Richard Thompson on Mother Knows Best
"Just a ridiculously accurate show-off piece. He doesn’t use one single rock and roll cliche, and his tone is pure Fender. Quite country sounding at times, but there are times when it’s so thrilling you have to catch your breath. Afterward, I wonder why he never ends up on those “best guitarist” lists. He’s a virtuoso whose songwriting chops are better than his guitar playing, which is a roundabout way of saying the guy’s a genius." (BeeDub)
9. Michael Gurley on Feel Me, Don't You by Dada
"This solo is the climax of the song, and right out of the gate, the repeated bends and trills rip your head off, so that by the time he gets to the wah-wah pedal towards the end of the solo, your head is spinning. The breakdown right after is so G-Funk, I’m surprised no one has sampled it." (BeeDub)
10. Pat Metheny on Have You Heard
"Pat Metheny 'Have You Heard', from the album Letter From Home. The overall vibe to his music is somewhat chilled out, artsy, be-bop, new-agey (I guess), but he absolutely rips your face off with this solo. Here's the live version." (John at Hella Sound)
11. Andy Summers on Bring On the Night by The Police
"He’s probably playing a Telecaster or a Strat. This solo isn’t a display technical mastery, but it’s a brilliant display of musicianship in terms of capturing the exact right feeling for the song. The frustration — the argument he’s evoking, is genius in the context of the song—like a bird that’s stuck in a cage, manically picking its feathers out. Perfect." (John at Hella Sound)
12. John Petrucci on Under a Glass Moon by Dream Theatre
"Yea yea, rivers of notes can be boring, but Petrucci throws the kitchen sink at this one and manages to make it tasteful too." (Avant)
13. Allan Holdsworth on Devil Take the Hindmost
"Again, not ALL solos have to be blazing fast, but this is beyond technically amazing playing: Allan Holdsworth’s musical language just sounds totally alien at times. Disgusting solo." (Avant)
14. Larry LaLonde on The Ballad of Bodacious by Primus
"It’s essentially just one note, great rhythm and a panning effect. LaLonde has the technical skill to play something long winded, complex and flashy, but he chooses to play something childishly simple, hugely musical and even slightly humorous, too, instead. If that’s not inspiring, I don’t know what is." (Glynn) Solo at around 3:00.
15. Steve Vai on Ladies Night in Buffalo by David Lee Roth
Recommended by Vivek.
16. Gary Moore on Blues for Narada
"What inspires me about this? It just oozes ‘feel’ and has some great changes with melodic runs that just bring out those juicy chord tones amazingly. I also love the dynamics of this piece throughout." (Anthony)
17. Stevie Ray Vaughan on Little Wing
"What inspires me about this? Obviously the original Hendrix version is amazing, but for guitar this is by far my favorite. Much like the Gary Moore song above, it’s just bursting at the seams with ‘feel’, dynamics, a wealth of different playing techniques and well, amazing guitar playing all round!" (Anthony)
18. Hiram Bullock on Little Wing by Sting
"This solo (starts at 1:30) still haunts me, it’s just brilliant!" (Lemmon)
19. The Edge on If You Wear That Velvet Dress by U2
"I like the whole sound, such a feeling." (Lemmon)
20. David Gilmour on Near the End by Pink Floyd
"I love Gilmour’s style and I love how it comes to orgasm with acoustic-electric change." (Lemmon)
Well, there are some amazing solos in there. Which was your favorite? And if we missed it, be sure to let us know about it in the comments.