9 Of The Greatest Female Guitarists

9 Of The Greatest Female Guitarists

Posted 28 Sep 2018
sister rosetta tharpe
Sister Rosetta Tharpe, 1964 (Photo by Tony Evans/Getty Images)

Well, it’s officially lady’s hour on the world stage and when it comes to women who can shred, there’s absolutely no shortage of mind-blowing talent! 

There is definitely a feminist rant to be had about the fact that the, '100 Greatest Guitarists According to Rolling Stone' only included two female players (Joan Jett and Joni Mitchell), but the point would be lost entirely. It’s all about the art, and when it comes to the guitar, women have played a fundamental role in the evolution of the instrument that any enthusiast would only be cheating themselves to overlook.

So, on that note, here are 9 women who undeniably rank among those mythical creatures we call, Guitar Gods. 

Bonnie Raitt

A master of blues, folk, R&B, pop and country, with a sultry, mesmerizing voice – Bonnie Raitt is altogether compelling, alluring and a little bit intimidating. She’s a timeless artist backed by a catalogue of classic records, oozing with emotion, melody, soul and a profound understanding of the human condition. 

Nancy Wilson 

Blending elements of classical and flamenco guitar to create her signature styling, Nancy Wilson was an early, stand-out contender in the realms of hard rock. Together with her sister, Ann Wilson, she formed the iconic band, Heart, in 1974. Not only were they the first female-fronted band to gain notoriety on the hard rock scene, thanks to a legendary career spanning four decades, they are THE most commercially successful female-fronted hard rock band of all time. 

Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Sister Rosetta Tharpe, born in 1915, pretty much invented the term, ‘killer-licks’. It’s a perfect slice of irony that the origins of rock ‘n’ roll can be traced back to a lady of the church, but with her swinging double stops, brash staccato picking and overall ferocity, Tharpe inspired the likes of Chuck Berry, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley, and the rest is (totally cool) history. Her energy was a guiding light that lead music to a more visceral place, making it something to be felt, not just heard.

Amen, Sister. 

Orianthi

Australia’s own, Orianthi, has certainly made a home for herself on the world stage. By the age of 18 she had already performed with both Steve Vai and Carlos Santana and has had a steady flow of incredible gigs ever since. Her electrifying presence is admired by her peers and would have been a central feature of Michael Jackson’s This Is It Tour, that sadly never went ahead. 

Check out this video of her nailing a Jimi Hendrix classic on (possibly) the widest stage in the world – She’s literally running and playing Hendrix riffs, with ease!

Lita Ford

Self-professed ‘Mother of Metal’, pioneer of all things badass - Lita Ford, was the original poster child for rebellion. She first hit the stage at the tender age of 16, playing lead guitar alongside Joan Jett in the infamous all-girl extravaganza that was, The Runaways. Their short but illustrious career made them household names around the world, leading Ford to release some pretty big solo hits in the 80’s. With a longevity that stands testament to her talent, her tenacious, fiery persona is a symbol of rock history. 

Maybelle Carter

‘Mother’ Maybelle Carter - mother of June Carter and inventor of the “Carter Scratch”. Mother Maybelle was a central figure in the early country music scene and instrumental in its crossover into pop culture. She was a renowned innovator of guitar styles, developing finger-picking and rhythm techniques that are still fundamental to players today.

Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy’s super creepy, single-note surf guitar not only made, The Cramps instantly recognisable, it went a long way towards defining the entire psychobilly sound, of which they were the undisputed kings. Her wild and extravagant husband, Lux Interior, certainly commanded the most attention, but it was Poison Ivy’s dark, daring lead-lines that succeeded in luring listeners to dance on over to the dark side.  

Kaki King

American guitarist, Kaki King is an otherworldly presence. Combining the acoustic guitar with layers of loop pedals she builds a sonic tapestry of percussive, experimentation that could easily be mistaken for an orchestra. King brings the instrument into the future with her use of visual projection and lights - a genius incorporation of story-telling into a solo instrumentalist performance. 

St. Vincent

With a command of the guitar that is equally classic, innovative, skillful and experimental, St. Vincent is a post-modern protégé.  She plays synth melodies with heavy, messy, grungy, fuzz effects, introducing chaos into the equation of polished pop … or what would be chaos were it not in the hands of a prolific virtuoso such as herself.

This list barely makes a dent in the pool incredible female guitarists we could have covered, all inspired in their own ways to break the mould with some traditionally un-ladylike behavior. It’s a mystery how these pop-culture icons could be overlooked on any list, but I think we can all agree - these artists talents aren’t impressive just because they’re girls, they’re just impressive full-stop. 

Check out our I'm Every Woman playlist on Spotify for even more Girlpower...
 

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