It’s difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish what makes an iconic guitar solo just that – iconic.
Is it the recording to tape? Is it the perfect amount of distortion, echo, feedback, or arpeggios in and out of the studio? After reading multiple interviews with guitar legends, talking to friends in and out of the industry, the consensus is that no one really purposely sets out to create the perfect storm. And when you do land the perfect guitar solo, it’s much more than a melody and a rhythm. It’s a feeling. Some people just hear it and are immediately able to connect with it, and no school in the world is going to give you an equation or formula to create that. It has to come from a place much deeper than that. It’s all about feelings, not mathematics. Just read what these guitar gods have to say below.
The 10 Most Iconic Guitar Solos & Quotes From the Artists Themselves
- Eric Clapton – Layla “In playing, I suppose my greatest gift was to express the way I felt or the willingness to express myself.” Eric Clapton
- David Gilmour (Pink Floyd) – Comfortably Numb “It’s a magical thing, the guitar. It allows you to be the whole band in one, to play rhythm and melody, sing over the top. And as an instrument for solos, you can bend notes, draw emotional content out of tiny movements, vibratos and tonal things which even a piano can’t do.” David Gilmour
- Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin) – Stairway to Heaven “My guitar playing touches so many different areas of the form, but the important thing is what it represents across the form.” Jimmy Page
- Eddie Van Halen (Van Halen) – Eruption “A guitar is a very personal extension of the person playing it. You have to be emotionally and spiritually connected to your instrument. I’m very brutal on my instruments, but not all the time.” Eddie Van Halen
- Slash (Guns N’ Roses) – November Rain “One of the best things about a melody for a guitar solo is when it comes to you the same way every time, and that was definitely the case with ‘November Rain. When it came time to do the record, I just went into the studio, played the solo through a Les Paul Standard and a Marshall and said, ‘I think that sounds right.’ It was as simple as that.” Slash
- Prince (covering The Beatles) – While My Guitar Gently Weeps “You see me nodding at him, to say, ‘Go on, go on.’ I remember I leaned out at him at one point and gave him a ‘This is going great!’ kind of look. He just burned it up. You could feel the electricity of ‘something really big’s going down here.'” Tom Petty
- Stevie Ray Vaughan – Texas Flood “I use heavy strings, tune low, play hard, and floor it. Floor it. That’s technical talk.” Stevie Ray Vaughan “When I play from my mind I get in trouble.” Stevie Ray Vaughan
- Eric Johnson – Cliffs of Dover “My best songs come from making a lot of mistakes and playing a lot of garbage.” – Eric Johnson
- Kirk Hammett (Metallica) – One “I feel really fortunate that, in playing guitar and surfing, I’ve found two things that mean so much to me, and which really complement each other. There’s definitely a spiritual thing to both of them; they totally connect you to a higher realm.” Kirk Hammett
- Prince – Purple Rain “[S]ensational is about as close a description of Prince’s guitar playing as words might allow. I believe that the feeling one was left with, if afforded the luxury of actually seeing Prince perform … we’d be looking for other superlatives. Because it’s almost got to the point of defying description.” ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons