February 11, 2010, - 9:14 pm

Music I Like – Video of the Day: Best. Guitarist. Ever.

By Debbie Schlussel

This guy, “Satch,” is the best guitarist ever.  It’s no contest.  And, in my view, this is his best work.  A very dear friend of mine gave me a CD of this song several years ago, and I could listen to it over and over and over and over.  Never gets old.  Although I listen to the studio version, this live one is the best (though the meat of the actual song doesn’t begin until about 1:58). I love working out to this song, too–whether it’s running or weights. Would love to see him in concert. Have you seen Satriani live? What was it like? If you disagree with me, who’s your fave guitarist or pick for the best?

Get Yours . . .

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62 Responses

I actually had a dog named “Satch” (a begion-poodle). He died last year.

Matthew on February 11, 2010 at 9:31 pm

Saw Satch at the Orbit Room in Grand Rapids back in ’96 I think I taped the show, need to find the DAT tape. Satch can shred but he was at his best when he was playing slower but technically difficult parts. When I saw him he had the Bissonette brothers, ex-David Lee Roth band members on bass and drums. Would love to see him on the G3 tour with Vai. I agree Flying in a Blue Dream both the original and the live version from Time Machine are on my IPod workout list.

Swede on February 11, 2010 at 10:12 pm

    Ever heard of John Petrucci? He’s in a band named Dream Theater and he’s right up there with Joe, IMHO. “Surfing with an Alien” is one of my favorite guitar songs of all time though!

    whtabtbill on February 11, 2010 at 10:31 pm

Debbie, I’m no fan of rock music (give me Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Schoenberg, etc.), so I can’t comment much on the music per se. But I do notice how this fellow has transformed the electric guitar into a distinct instrument, rather than a variant on the classical guitar. What I’d say is that his playing somehow strikes me as “idiomatic” for this instrument.

So yes, the technique is quite shocking. It reminds me of some of Paganini’s work with the violin.

skzion on February 11, 2010 at 10:39 pm

Thanks for posting this Debbie. Joe is one of the best!!!

I’m partial to the blues and Stevie Ray Vaughn though (RIP)

BigKAD on February 11, 2010 at 10:40 pm

I SUPPOSE there’s two types of music listeners.

One likes neverending guitar riffs. The other likes music with meaningful lyrics.

Here’s the real deal: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OQfjIw3mivc

The Canadien on February 11, 2010 at 10:50 pm

I discovered Joe Satriani because he taught the great 80s guitarists like Steve Vai and Kirk Hammett of Metallica – I was a big Metallica fan. Big Bad Moon was Satriani’s breakout hit:

My favorite guitarists are:
1)Jimmy Page
2)Jimi Hendrix
3)Eddie Van Halen
4)Alex Lifeson-Rush
5)Pete Townshend- not really a lead guitarist but came up with some great riffs.
6)Tony Iommi- Black Sabbath

Norman Blitzer on February 11, 2010 at 11:07 pm

    Best guitarists ever in my book (n no particular order)
    1. Jimmy Page
    2. Jeff Beck
    3. Jimi Hendrix
    4. Eric Clapton
    5. Kirk Hammnet
    6. Joe Perry
    7. Duane Allman

    Gramercy Infidel on February 14, 2010 at 5:26 pm

Before Satriani, and Vai, Lynch, Gilbert, Petrucci, Malsteen there was…..Eddie Van Halen. He revolutionized eletric guitar playing and set the foundation for the 80’s metal/hard rock guitarist. I would have like to have seen Eddie put out an instrumental CD instead of trying it again with Roth but what are you gonna do.

Oscar on February 11, 2010 at 11:18 pm

Joe is an awesome player but I think Jeff Beck beats him out by just a nose. When a guitar play can captivate an audience without any lyrics to their music….it;s quite an achievement. I saw both Beck and Joe in concert and it was amzazing.

Rick on February 11, 2010 at 11:54 pm

He’s a bit too electronic for me: wobble stick, noise pedal, wild improvisation. I like to be able to discern an actual melody in there somewhere.

Stogie on February 12, 2010 at 12:47 am

I think Slash from GNR is in a league of his own.

Also big fan of Stevie Ray Vaughn, BB King, Jerry Cantrell from AIC, Andy Mckee, and Hetfield. That pose he strikes, the speed of the riffs he plays while singing at the same time, his vocal delivery, awesome. Just awesome.

Probably wouldn’t surprise you that back in high school my nickname was “Mattalica.” hehe

Matt on February 12, 2010 at 1:06 am

Satriani played the Bottom Line in Greenwich Village in the late 80’s when I worked there. He was great. One night Mick Jagger joined him on stage and sang ‘Red House’ the song Hendrix recorded.

Tempus Fugit on February 12, 2010 at 1:08 am

I love Satriani-he has amazing technique.

After reading some of the comments I think that a few people here are not aware of the diversity of his music. Some of his songs are for mass appeal and some are probably more suitable for fellow musicians. He even has a few songs featuring his vocals.

I would love to see him live but the G3 DVDs are excellent, in my opinion. They also show him tearing through covers during the finale-along with his excellent guest guitarists like Vai, Malmsteen, Petrucci and Eric Johnson.

Pinandpuller on February 12, 2010 at 1:16 am


You really have not heard of Ynwie Malmsteen? You should really check him out-he counts Bach and Paganini as influences.

Pinandpuller on February 12, 2010 at 1:18 am

Some other great rock guitarists I’ve seen play live: Van Halen, Steve Howe, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Ritchie Blackmore, Brian Setzer, Angus Young, Wolf Hoffmann, Alan Holdsworth, I’ll probably think of more the minute I post this.

Tempus Fugit on February 12, 2010 at 1:19 am

It’s tough to narrow it down to just one, Deb. Satriani is an absolute Titan. But, let me mention one that never gets the credit he deserves. Gary Moore. Phenominal.

Yiddish Steel on February 12, 2010 at 1:20 am

    Been playing guitar since 63, saw the rise of Jeff Beck, with his violin solo in Shapes of Things to Nadia to Rollin and Tumblin etc. If you asked Satch who is the best guitarist, he would name Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass, Charlie Christian, Django Reinhardt, Lenny Breau, Brent Mason, George Benson, Mark Knoffler (he’s an MOT). There’s a local cat, Perry Hughes, who is also up there. He also wouldn’t forget late great Les Paul and Chet Atkins. I’ll send you compilations of the above guitar players if you want. I rather play like Beck, Wes,Chet, Eric Johnson, any day, but still props to Joe S.

    Shel Kay "The Rock & Roll Lawyer" on February 12, 2010 at 1:56 am

The best rock guitarist in my opinion is Ritchie Blackmore of Deep Purple. Click on the the following link and press the play button for the songs “Burn” and “Highway Star” to hear Blackmore mix classical and rock music as only he can:


ramjordan on February 12, 2010 at 1:59 am

And yet Satriani has never won a Grammy.

Rocky on February 12, 2010 at 2:07 am

He is right up there with the best. Others I would consider are:

Stevie Ray Vaughn
Jimi Hendrix
Adrian Belew
Frank Zappa (listen to his “Shut Up and Play the Guitar” series).

Wayne on February 12, 2010 at 5:40 am

    Wayne, I was scrolling through these responses waiting for someone to remember Frank Zappa! Most people remember him for his lyrics, not his composition or guitar skills.

    1. Frank Zappa
    2. Stevie Vai
    3. Stevie Ray Vaughn

    Chris on February 12, 2010 at 6:44 am

I love your column. You are right on about everything, including Satch. I’ve seen him on many tours. My favorite was 1990’s Flying in a Blue Dream concert at the Beacon in NYC. I want to point out his incredible bass player Dave LaRue. Joe also used to play with the great bassist Stu Hamm. Since you asked, the Joe live experience depends on the venue since you need to see and hear him clearly. I loved Crystal Planet, but the crappy (and expensive) venue diminished the show. The G3 show at the Beacon in NYC was also tops. Eric Johnson (and his bassist Roscoe Beck) did not disappoint either. G3 should stop in Israel.

Rabbit on February 12, 2010 at 7:34 am

    I left out a comma: “Since you asked, the Joe live experience depends on the venue, since you need to see and hear him clearly.”

    Rabbit on February 12, 2010 at 7:37 am

I’ll take as 1 and 1a one Edward Van Halen and Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix played a RH guitar left handed and Van Halen is, well, Van Halen. “316” is, I believe, the standard on guitar solos.

Sean on February 12, 2010 at 7:53 am

Oh brother. Sariani, Vai, Hendrix couldn’t even dream of being as skilled as Eddie Van Halen.

It just seems more avant garde or pretentious to say these other ham-fisted hacks are the best because of Van halen’s immense popularity (every faux haughty KNOWS you can’t like something that’s popular)

DS_ROCKS! on February 12, 2010 at 8:36 am

Hendrix used a wah peddle. Eddie VH doesn’t.

DS_ROCKS! on February 12, 2010 at 8:37 am

Oh just remembered, the late Randy Rhoads of the Ozzy Osbourne band.

Oscar on February 12, 2010 at 8:44 am

Glad to see someone mentioned John Petrucci. You may find it difficult to get into Dream Theater’s complex progressive metal sound, but there is no question who is the best “technical” guitar player out there…it’s him!

Here’s a taste of their recent album with a more melodic sound, but with Petrucci’s second-to-none playing:


(the soloing starts at 1:30…”Orgasm Time” on the vid!lol!)

Dave on February 12, 2010 at 8:53 am

My picks are Les Paul (r.i.p), Steve Wariner, Vince Gill, Chet Atkins, John Jorgenson, Brad Paisley, Keith Urban, James Burton and George Harrison, mainly as a trendsetter and he was the reason I bought my first guiter, a Gretsch.

JeffT on February 12, 2010 at 10:04 am

Satriani is good, but I like singing along side the guitar.
Randy Bachman, Clapton, Ted Nugent, Nielsen(Cheap Trick), J Page,George Harrison, EVHalen, and Aldo Nova are among the greats. Guitarists for “Men at Work” and Huey Lewis were good too.

Truth on February 12, 2010 at 10:10 am

The first time I saw him was in a small club that held 200 in San Diego prior to the release of Surfing with the Alien great show! Next time was during the recording of Dreaming 11 recorded at the Californis theater in 1988 greats seats 2nd row center…NICE!

Chiefscotty24 on February 12, 2010 at 10:13 am

Sorry Debbie… but this is equivalent of saying that the Harlem Globetrotters are the best basketball team ever because they can do a lot of tricks.

Guitar athletics =/= great guitar playing.

Satriani is certainly talented, but far far far from being the best.

Michael on February 12, 2010 at 10:30 am

I ditto JeffT, I also include those dudes on my list and would add Danny Gatton who I forgot to mention. From my perspective, playing country guitar is much harder than the rock stuff.

Shel Kay The Rock & Roll Lawyer on February 12, 2010 at 10:34 am

Deb, couldn’t you have chosen something less divisive than “Who is the best guitarist?” …like, maybe something about Tim Tebow or the death penalty?! 🙂

Guitarist can be pretty possessive of ‘their’ guy…hope this doesn’t get ugly!

Joe Satriani/Steve Vai are awesome. Just monsters I see as having complete mastery of the instrument. For my taste, though, that school is way too outside the box for me…like most of Zappa’s stuff (although it was absolutely brilliant & complex…just not my cup of meat.).

For well roundedness, technical wizardry & the ability to get *sses shakin’ … I’m with Brian Setzer all day long.

As someone’s mentioned- Randy Rhoads. He was brilliant, technical, innovative, genre/style-diverse & oh-so-melodic.

Hard to argue with JeffT’s Chet Atkins vote…and way to go on the Gretsch!

BD on February 12, 2010 at 10:40 am

For raw energy and emotion I say it’s hard to beat Neil Young.
Check out some of the versions of “Like a Hurricane” on YouTube. Sometimes he is kind of sloppy, but the emotion and feelings of heartache he can wring from his guitar are unbelievable.

Bigred on February 12, 2010 at 11:10 am

Jeff Beck and Carlos Santana.

For blues guitar Shuggie Otis.

douglastt01@yahoo.com on February 12, 2010 at 11:17 am

There are some many great instrumentalists, they are all amazing. Currently I am listening a lot of prog rock and among prog guitarists Arjen Lucassen and Steve Wilson stand out, as well as Steve Hackett and Alex Lifeson from Rush.

Luis from Mexico on February 12, 2010 at 11:51 am

How about Joe Pass? There is life outside rock & roll. Duane Allman? Alvin Lee? Jeff Beck? There are 101 nobodys out there who are better than anyone……..

#1 Vato on February 12, 2010 at 12:15 pm

Saw him @ St. Andrews hall (Detroit) a few years back. He also had the best bass player in the world Stu Hamm playing bass with him. It may have been this very same tour.
Eddie, Stevie Vai, Satch n Dweezle Zappa are the best still alive. Its hard to pick one because it depends upon your taste…If you want pure speed, then Ynwie Malmsteene is the man, but if you want complicated stuff, then Petrucci, the guy from Testament (can’t think of his name rt now) and even Al DeMiola are tops so it depends.
It’s like judging a beauty contest. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Everyone mentioned so far is great in there own way, its just a matter of taste. Either you like pure speed, soulful blues bends, jazz-fusion complication, or just a cool heavy metal guitar sound like Angus or Diamond Derrell of Pantera used to have, its up to you.
How about Zak Wylde or Dave Mustaine? Those guys used to shred back in the day. George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch mob is a Shred monster too, so the B & W = It’s up to your ear, and whether you play guitar to opine or truly know who IS the best, because what sounds hard and what is hard to play, are two different things sometimes. If you don’t play, you can’t grasp the difficulty of what some of these cats play…
Even Johnny Cash n John Denver had there moments of guitar glory that may not have sounded very complicated to the untrained ear, but in reality, they wrote some riffs and did some playing that are not very easy do play or duplicate…

Who cares? on February 12, 2010 at 1:05 pm

The greatest of all time was Andre’s Segovia, followed closely by Robert Johnson, then Jimi Hendrix. These three men changed the way the guitar is played forever. And to this day guitar players copy their work and it never gets old because they were all so far their time…

Who cares? on February 12, 2010 at 1:27 pm

Blazing speed compounded with manual dexterity, does not make the God guitar. George Harrison played the slide-guitar beautifully. He had an amazing, reserved (less-is-best) sense of tastefulness. When he first appeared on Ed Sullivan with The Beatles, he played a Gretsch like his idol Chet Atkins. When he did the solo on Carl Perkins’ Honey Don’t’ it was patterned after James Burton. When he needed a Bluesy lead for ‘My Guitar Gently Weeps’ he tapped Clapton for the task. What am I saying? If you like it, it is good.

#1 Vato on February 12, 2010 at 1:42 pm

Debbie, I will agree that Satch is one the of the best, but his prowess definitely cannot match what was achieved under Eddie VH. Eddie has done some phenomenal work that really laid the foundation for many hard rock and heavy metal bands.

That being said, I cannot believe that NO ONE has even mentioned Neal Schon from Journey. He continues to this day to be one of the most versatile guitar musicians, writing musically eloquent riffs and solos. Journey is not exactly hard rock, but some of their songs match perfectly with that category; therefore, Neal Schon should NOT be forgotten with his contributions!

ICBMMan on February 12, 2010 at 3:07 pm

Clapton, Ted Nugent, Ritchie Blackmore, Ric Nielsen, Jimmy Page, Eddie VanHalen, Jimi Hendrix, these guys are all the best, and all appear on my iPod. You should all, however, go to Youtube and see Alvin Lee and Ten Years After doing “I’m Going Home” from Woodstock 1969.

Dick on February 12, 2010 at 3:33 pm

Thanks for all your great work, Debbie. I’m 51 so I’d have to go with Mr. Keith Richards.

P.S. Why is their no mention of American P.O.W. hero PFC. Boew Bergdahl, who has been held by the Taliban since July? Whre are the yellow ribbons?
Best, Bob

Bob Brodsky on February 12, 2010 at 4:46 pm

P.S. Sorry for the bad grammer. It’s been a long day!

Bob Brodsky on February 12, 2010 at 4:48 pm


you got it there. Too many people listen to Zappa’s lyrics and then end up ignoring his guitar playing. Heck the musicains that played with him were all top notch.

Wayne on February 12, 2010 at 5:04 pm

Bob B…I read where some priminent Musicologist said that Keith plays at a perfect meter, 1/100th of a second too slow. THIS is what makes The Stones sound like The Stones. Not Jagger’s lips. But again, Keith is a brilliant rhythym guitarist. So was John Lennon for that matter…both terribly underrated…and Tom Fogerty too….and Ron Wood.

#1 Vato on February 12, 2010 at 5:09 pm

If you’re looking for some of Joe’s playing in a musical context closer to what most peeps listen to then check out the band “Chickenfoot”

Joe Santriani-Guitar
Sammy Hagar- Vox & Guitar
Michael Anthony-Vox & Bass
Chad Smith-Drums

Sam Adams on February 12, 2010 at 6:47 pm

You can’t forget Lindsey Buckingham

Benjamin on February 13, 2010 at 8:35 am

There is a difference in perception between people who actually play guitar and people who don’t. The beginning guitarist knows how hard it is to play, but as one makes progress they are influenced by what they like because of what they hear or study. The guitar player then chooses the style they like i.e jazz, classical, country, rock, r&b etc. There are great guitarist’s in each genre. Sometimes its very hard to compare the greats in all the styles. Knowing the style of guitar, one can then determine, the technical ability of the player. Wes Montgomery’s, Joe Pass, Django Reinhard’s, and the other guitar players that I mentioned above playing ability is much more difficult to master and takes more proficiency to play then another style. I remember getting into a heated argument with a good friend who said that Ted Nugent was a better player than Bret Mason. He was absolutely wrong, but I couldn’t change his mind because that’s all he knew.

The non playing listener only knows what they like, and come to their conclusions of who is the best player based on what they hear. Just look at the Rolling Stone’s top 100 list and see who is deemed the best. On my radio show, The Rock & Roll Lawyer Show we were able to demonstrate the point I’m making here. Not listing Chet Atkins in the top 100 proves my point. A guitar player with some proficiency knows that, but a listener may not. So when one make a comment that JS is the greatest “no contest” it always sparks this never ending debate. Maybe Debby was one of the people Rolling Stone contacted for their top100.

Shel Kay "The Rock & Roll Lawyer" on February 13, 2010 at 9:57 am

    I agree, even those two guys who did the Beverly Hillbillies theme-song could be considered 2 of the best to ever play. There is some serious speed picking riffs going on there & if you listened to some of their other recordings, their speed, intensity & precision was no fluke. Its hard to argue with Satch, but like I said before, beauty is in the eye of the beholder so the question of who is the greatest of all time is open to interpretation depending upon ones personal taste and knowledge, if any, of how hard it is to actually play and copy the licks of the one you think is the greatest.

    Who cares? on February 13, 2010 at 2:23 pm

havent seen one name here who could stand beside Eric Clapton…except Jeff Beck…and Im very surprised mr hair Eddie Van Halen is even mentioned…incredably sloppy guitar player.

BIG IRISH on February 13, 2010 at 7:33 pm

As beauty is in the eye of the beerholder…er…beholder, music is to the ear. We all feel ‘best’ is what pleases us the most. Maybe ‘favorite’ would be a better choice. I agree that all those mentioned here are great guitarists. But I disagree that EVH is incredibly sloppy – except when he’s drunk 🙁 Jeff Beck is phenomenal to say the least but apart from his work w/ the Yardbirds and a few solo tunes, just not what I enjoy listening to, And Clapton is just great at being Clapton. No way he could play Jazz, Flamenco, Classical etc. but if you love his pseudo-blues style than that makes him the best. BTW, Van Halen learned from listening to Clapton and J. Page. Sounds nothing like them.
I like players that play from emotion AND are technically proficent yet reserved. Like my latest favorite, this weird yet incredible dude:

Actually most great musicians are a little bit weird.
I also noticed no one mentioned John McLaughlin, Paco DeLucia and Larry Coryell. Brian May of Queen?
And how about Jerry Garcia…than, maybe not

theShadow on February 14, 2010 at 1:38 am

Kenny Wayne Shepherd electrifies my soul!

Lars on February 14, 2010 at 10:39 am

Derek Trucks…saw him a few years back. His slide playing simply blew my mind!!! The best I ever heard. Incredibly humble super nice guy too.

theShadow on February 14, 2010 at 3:24 pm

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