9 Rock Guitarists To Inspire You To Play Today!

Published on 30 May 2023

Most of us have a guitarist or two we especially admire, someone who inspires and motivates us to achieve our guitar goals. Our musical influences help keep us committed to playing and moving forward when we feel like giving up.

Whether you only just picked up guitar as your hobby or you’ve been playing for a while now, there is somebody who inspired you to dive into the world of riffs. Are we right? It could have been someone in your family that gave you the bug, or perhaps your friend at school/work. But we are willing to bet that there was a guitarist who you heard and suddenly your life mission became clear - you thought: “I want to play like that!” Ok, maybe we've indulged into retrospection here but us guitarists are quite a tribe and we all have more in common than we think.

So today we’re going to look at 9 influential rock guitarists who inspired us to play - so that they inspire YOU to play!


James Hetfield

If it wasn’t for Papa Het, most of us would have a different job today. That’s right. The characteristic guitar chugging and faster than lightning licks Metallica’s frontman is known for, turned our teenage hearts upside down. We picked up guitar and... we never looked back. We wish the same upon you! 

Perhaps the reason so many of us felt compelled to play guitar after listening to Hetfield’s riffs is that he is the rhythm guitarist. Virtuosic soloing isn’t his thing (although he easily could!) and therefore James made it all appear so much more accessible a skill for young tearways that we once (ahem..) were. Whether it’s power chords, chunky riffs, or a lot of downpicking Some players can naturally hold up the rhythm better than others and being hailed as the greatest heavy metal rhythm guitarist of all times makes Hetfield a living proof that rhythm guitar is cool. 

What also makes James Hetfield one of the most inspirational guitarists is his powerful stage presence with oddly shaped signature guitars, such as Gibson Explorer, ESP/LTD Snakebyte or single cut ESP Iron Cross. And of course, those growly tones - it’s all in the amp! Papa Het is very fond of his Mesa Boogie, but if you wanted to get a budget-friendly tone to replicate his sound, check out BOSS Metal Zone MT-2


Riff from a song to try and play today?

Master of Puppets

Essential album to listen to?




Simple Slash recipe? Les Paul, Marshall amp, Cry Baby Wah, finish off with sunglasses and a top hat. Inspiration may come in many forms and in this case it’s not just the insanely mesmerising guitar licks but also the charismatic style. It is fair to say Slash (born Saul Hudson) is the epitome of a rockstar. It also helps the fact that he is the lead guitarist of one of the biggest rock bands of all time - Guns N’ Roses. Or maybe it’s the other way round and they only got big because of Slash’s catchy guitar parts? Who knows. Let’s just agree it was a combination of both.

Taking a closer look at Slash’s guitar work, we can tell you that it’s a good mix of melodic blues-rock phrasing, palm muting and fast legato intricately paired with sweet tone balance, chunky gain and effect pedals. His solos are soaring runs of melodic dreaminess and you’ll be perhaps surprised to hear Slash uses mainly simple minor pentatonic and blues scales. We can all do it then! 


Riff from a song to try and play today?

Well.. yes. Sweet Child of Mine is a must!

Essential album to listen to?

Appetite for Destruction 


Kurt Cobain

The genius of Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain lives on and nothing proves it better than a second wave of Grunge we’re witnessing nearly 30 years since his death. 

Kurt was a self-taught guitarist which no doubt played a huge role in his development as an artist. His style was unaffected by the rule book and his introverted personality, almost anti-guitar hero like, allowed him to write simple songs in simple ways, leaving all the pizazz to the more flashy rockers. Lots of open chords, power chords, chromatic riffs, palm muting are all you’ll need if you’re today’s inspiration is Kurt. Even if you only just learnt your first few basic chords, you’ll easily find a Nirvana song you can play in full. Yes, including the solo. You see, Kurt’s solos are usually nothing but the vocal melody line played on the fretboard, and some can be even played using one finger. 

So why do we admire him so much in a world full of virtuosic guitar playing? Well, Cobain broke the mould as a singer-songwriter-guitarist frontman that the world needed, trailblazing the route for many future rock bands. Cobain sure is a role model for many lefties out there, too! Then there’s his slouchy, rebellious teenage boy look that generations to come will forever relate to. 

So put on your flannel shirt, go grab your Fender Jaguar and your BOSS DS-1 with gain high up and let the riffage flow. 


Riff from a song to try and play today?

Smells Like Teen Spirit

Essential album to listen to?



Angus Young

Ever heard of AC/DC? Joking, of course you have! Formed in Australia in 1973 by two guitarists: Scottish brothers Angus and Malcolm Young, this band has more hits than we can count. But it was their lead guitarist, Angus, who became the group’s icon and stole the hearts of the audience worldwide with his wild stage presence, school uniform outfit and staple duck walk. Sometimes it’s all about inventing your own style and going for it full speed. 

Musically speaking, Angus makes for perfect inspiration not only because he wrote some of the most catchy riffs in the history of rock but also because they aren’t complicated to learn at all. 

Technically speaking, AC/DC is nothing more than hard rock with roots in classic blues. And so Young’s guitar style is heavily influenced by blues artists with minor and major pentatonic scales combined with blues licks in an upbeat, melody motion. 

To many experienced players these licks  may seem ‘cliché’ - but that’s only because they’ve been heavily overused in hundreds of classic rock songs. So don’t let that discourage you, we all love playing those staple riffs and they are a fantastic platform to craft your own sound around. 

You don’t need to keep your school uniform to be like Angus (but go for it if you want to). What is mandatory to unleash your inner Angus however, is a devilish Gibson SG or Epiphone SG, preferably in cherry red, plugged in straight to a Marshall amp for that classic crunchy tone and you’re straight on the highway to... ROCK town! 


Riff from a song to try and play today?

Back in Black

Essential album to listen to?

Back in Black


Tom Morello 

If you’re looking for something a little bit more than stage persona and cool riffs to get inspiration from, then try Tom Morello. Rage Against the Machine’s lead guitarist ticks all the boxes and then some. He’s an insanely talented musician who is down to earth and has the courage to use his career as a platform of political expression. 

Let’s take a closer look. Powerful riffs, feedback noise, creative use of kill switch, plenty of effects and alternate tunings are all characteristics of Morello’s guitar style. Beginners might find it a tad intimidating to try but believe us, if you break it down slowly, you’re about to discover a whole new world of fun you didn’t know you could do with your guitar!

When it comes to the guitar itself, Morello doesn’t seem to be a one-brand-man in any way. If anything, he’s the guy that will inspire you to experiment with your axe! 

Arguably, Tom’s most famous guitar is a part-caster with a famous sticker "Arm The Homeless". It features a Stratocaster body with Performance Corsair neck, packed with a pair of Seymour Duncan JB pickups and a chrome Floyd Rose tremolo.

To get that Morello sound going, arm yourself with Digitech Whammy DT Pitch Shifter for start. The more you dive into the fun side of playing, the deeper you’ll find yourself going with experimentation.


Riff from a song to try and play today?

Killing in the Name of 

Essential album to listen to?

Rage Against the Machine


Dimebag Darrell

There is no better player out there to prove that getting inspiration from others is probably the best thing us musicians can do (especially at the early, formative stages) than Pantera’s Dimebag Darrell and his fascination with Van Halen’s guitar techniques. So much so that even despite going much heavier route in his career, Van Halen’s style is by far the most recognisable influence in Dimebag’s style. One for the metal moshers to take from, Dimebag left us with a whole plethora or lessons to take from. We’ve got some intricate phrasing, whammy bar tricks, extremely accurate articulation of notes rich in harmonics of all sorts (natural or artificially produced) and aggressive downpicking. 

Get your groove on and try a bit of Dimebag in your life: what you’ll need is a spiky metal guitar (Darell’s nr 1 was 1981 Dean ML dubbed “The Dean From Hell '' but you can opt for Randy Rhoads Jackson, too). If you’re brave enough, you may want to get your unused guitar upgraded with a set of Dimebag’s signature Seymour Duncan Pickups or simply grab a Wah pedal the man himself would use and see what comes out. Whatever you decide to take from his legacy, you’re guaranteed to end up with at least a pinch of style one of the most explosive heavy metal guitarists graced the music world with.

Riff from a song to try and play today?


Essential album to listen to?

Cowboys From Hell


Matt Heafy

In the early days of Trivium, the band was a three-piece and Heafy was a great guitarist, as he admits today. But he had a strong mindset and believed that if his heroes can play complicated riffs ferociously fast whilst singing, then it is only humanly possible to do so. And so he practised and practised until what at first seemed impossible, became his everyday nuance. If you listen to any Trivium's songs today, you’ll get the picture. This should suffice to inspire you because that’s all we needed to know in Heafy’s case. But since you’re still reading, we’ll throw a few more bits in for you. 

Matt’s axe of choice has since day one been a Les Paul: a full fat Gibson Custom in the earlier days, now happily replaced with a much lighter Epiphone Origins with modern appointments. Heafy uses a 6-string and 7-string version of the same guitar which he proudly endorses and has his signature run of. 

Techniques aplenty: Heafy skillfully blends lead and rhythm guitar parts with galloping riffs, vibratos, high-speed hammer-ons and pull-offs. But most of all, take this golden advice: always strive to find the best everything and be your best self. 


Riff from a song to try and play today?

Pull Harder on the Strings of Your Martyr

Essential album to listen to?



Tony Iommi

Do you feel your guitar pulling you towards the dark side? Then we’ve got just the inspiration for you: Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi! Some call him Riff Lord, others Godfather of Metal and both names are adequate. Tony’s heavier than lead and darker than tar, oversaturated fuzz-fuelled guitar riffs forever shaped the British heavy metal landscape. Iommi’s guitar technique includes chunky slow-tempo riffing, unison bends, those cliché rock blues licks we mentioned above under Angus Young (see? they’re everywhere and they’re timeless!) and lots of left-hand vibratos. 

As most guitarists, Tony has played a variety of guitars throughout his career yet his most recognisable and his go-to axe was the 1965 Gibson SG Special in red finish nicknamed Monkey (because of a monkey sticker on it). Epiphone launched its version of the Monkey not long ago, in both, left and right-handed versions. 

Interesting trivia - and perhaps what adds to Iommi’s credentials as one of the most influential guitarists - is that on the last day of work at a metal sheet factory (right before he dived into his guitar career full on) Tony lost the tips of his middle and right fingers on his right hand! An accident that would put most of society off a musician career, it actually made Tony more determined and defined his unique playing style even more. 


Riff from a song to try and play today?

Iron Man

Essential album to listen to?



Billie Joe Armstrong

Pop punk fans assemble! Green Day’s own Billie Joe Armstrong is up next. With super melodic solos and feel-good songs, Billie will inspire you to try to play and sing at the same time. Many of the band’s hits are rather simple chord progressions and lyrics to most are anthem-like.

But let’s focus on the guitar. Armstrong sure knows how to make his guitar sound huge! He likes to dig deep into his strings and let the chords ring out whether he’s strumming or palm-muting power chords. Billie’s punk rock approach means he plays incredibly fast but he’s not a sloppy player: in fact, he mastered the accurate fretting so well even Paul Gilbert described him as one of the best guitarists in the world! Good news is if you’re scared of soloing, Billie’s octave-based solos are a great place to start. 

Billie’s most famous guitars are his beloved, covered in stickers, Fernandes Stratocaster copy named Blue, as well as now iconic pop punk axe Les Paul Junior. Billie Joe played it so much that it naturally ended up being his official Gibson signature guitar! You can of course opt in for a more wallet friendly Epiphone version. Add BOSS Blues Driver pedal, Ibanez Tubescreamer, a good dose of attitude (crucial!) and … rock out! 

Riff from a song to try and play today?

Basket Case

Essential album to listen to?



Oh we could write all day. But we want you to go grab your guitar now, so instead of making this an endless read, we’ll chuck in some extra honourable mentions and let you get on with it! Here’s few more equally inspiring and influential guitarists your should listen to: 


Matt Bellamy (Muse)

Riff from a song to try and play today?

Supermassive Black Hole 

Essential album to listen to?

Black Holes and Revelations


Tom DeLonge (Blink 182)

Riff from a song to try and play today?

What’s My Age Again?

Essential album to listen to?

Enema of the State


Alexi Laiho (Children of Bodom)

Riff from a song to try and play today?

Are You Dead Yet?

Essential album to listen to?

Are You Dead Yet?


Frank Iero (My Chemical Romance) 

Riff from a song to try and play today?


Essential album to listen to?

The Black Parade


John Petrucci (Dream Theater) 

Riff from a song to try and play today?

Pull Me Under

Essential album to listen to?

Images and Words 


Peter Buck (R.E.M.)

Riff from a song to try and play today?

Shiny Happy People 

Essential album to listen to?

Out of Time


Over To You

All killers, no fillers - it’s quite a list, right? But as usual, it is by no means the ultimate bible of the most inspiring guitarists. The deeper you dig, the more gold you discover.. Just saying! After all, our musical influences keep us inspired to play and move forward when we feel like giving up.

Now, do yourself a favour and go listen to these rock legends. Imitate their licks, loop their riffs and try soloing over them, sing along while you strum. What will happen is you’ll go down the musical rabbit hole where inspiration simply flows…. And that’s what it’s all about. 


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