Are you serious? You know, on some level I get it. People have personal preferences and are hence biased toward one or another guitarist. But anybody who has an ounce of common sense left would have to admit that questions such as “Who is the best guitarist in the world?” or “Who is the best guitar player of all time?” cannot be answered. It’s just silly. And this is the beauty of art, it’s not quantifiable or measurable by any means. There is no standard that can be applied which actually would allow to determine who’s “the best”.
But for some reason, these questions simply don’t die. With relentless continuity they come up periodically in one way or another. So right now Guitar World decided to once and for all finding the holy grail, meaning the best string wizard ever, dead or alive. Yesterday for instance, they paired up Zakk Wylde with George Lynch. Apparently, the devoted readers of the magazine believe that Zakk, a major contributor to many Ozzy albums and tours, and of course, founding member of Black Label Society, has more juice in his fingers – or whatever criteria it is people go by – than George, former Dokken guitarist and known for his work with Lynch Mob and a bunch of solo acts.
I am not super familiar with either one of the guys, but I do know their music and playing styles well enough. So what makes a good guitarist good? Is it the technique, the speed, the sound..? I have no idea, but for the life of me, I’d really like to find out what criteria people use to come up with their verdict.
Let’s look at the situation objectively, well, if this is possible at all. In terms of diversity, I would definitely think that George Lynch beat Zakk Wylde. In the eighties, George, to me, kind of transformed or merged the classic rock/heavy styles with back then modern “hair metal” sound. What about the technical skills? Well, again I would have to put my money on George. The guy was way ahead of his time and did things that other top guitar players weren’t able to do – at least back in the days. But even now in this day and age, I think George just has a much broader base repertoire. However, when it comes to “creating a unique sound”, then I’m with Zakk. I mean undeniably, you can tell it’s him playing when you listen to a song, especially on the Ozzy stuff. And he obviously has the lead when we talk about popularity and that in my opinion was ultimately the determining factor for Zakk winning yesterday’s poll in Guitar World.
When people find out that I play guitar, at least those who are interested in my kind of music, they always ask me about who I think the best guitar player in the world is. And I keep telling them that this is an impossible question to answer and I explain to them why. Sometimes they proceed and rephrase their inquiry and ask for my favorite guitarist. Okay, that’s much more reasonable. But then again, I can’t answer that either. It would be impossible for me to pick Tony Iommi over Robert Johnson or Rory Gallagher or Jimi Hendrix or…. As a matter of fact, it actually pains me to think about that. I don’t want to pick any of my idols over another. Do I have to? How would it help even if I had an answer readily available?
Anyway, people seem to love these questions and polls. So today’s match is between Chris Broderick, hitting the strings alongside Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine, and on the other side, Alex Skolnick of Testament. While I know Chris’ playing a little bit, I don’t think I ever heard a Testament song in my life. So that’s easy, my vote is for Chris…hehehehe. Nah, but if you like to cast your vote and help the world to find out its best guitarist ever, then please head over to the Guitar World magazine and make your contribution to ultimate world wisdom. I in the meantime will be listening to some old tunes by Leslie West – oh wait, I heard people saying that he definitely is the best guitarist in the world. Arghhhh…