At BeginnerGuitarHQ, we’re looking to provide you with inspiration to take up the guitar. Sometimes, all you need to provide that influence is an album of exceptional music. It might be specifically focused on guitar, or contain some seriously influential guitar parts. Either way, I’ve avoided giving a specific ranking. These albums all appear in a non-ranked list of the greatest albums a guitarists should hear.
In this important guide, I’ll talk you through the top 100 guitar albums.
If you’re looking for a definitive list of guitar-based albums to inspire you, then look no further…
Pink Floyd- The Wall
With David Gilmour’s beautiful playing present in a variety of shapes and sizes throughout, this is definitely not one to miss. From the blues rock riffing of ‘Young Lust’, to the washy acoustics of ‘Hey You’ and the iconic, harmonic-heavy solo at the end of ‘Comfortably Numb’, this has to be one of the greatest of all time.
Joe Satriani- Surfing With The Alien
When Satch says surfing, he means it. He surfs around the neck of his guitar, combining lyrical melodies with virtuosic explorations of shredding and performance dexterity. This entire album is an exploration of what can be done with a guitar.
Guthrie Govan- West Coast Grooves
As I’m sure you’re aware, Guthrie Govan is arguably the greatest living guitarist. This album came before his explosion into fame as a hero of progressive rock, and shows him exploring various styles with his trademark tone and perfection.
BB King- Lucille
Demonstrated through his magnificent tone and feeling of his instrument, the greatest bluesman of all time demonstrates his love for his guitar (also called Lucille) on this album. Standout tracks include the 10-minute title track and the excellent improvisation of ‘I Need Your Love So Bad’.
Jimi Hendrix- Are You Experienced?
Are You Experienced? is one of the first albums that used the guitar in the aggressive, distorted and powerful way Jimi Hendrix did. While a virtuoso performer, Hendrix also had the ability to channel emotion and feeling into his music, balanced out by exceptional songwriting skill shown in tracks like ‘The Wind Cries Mary’ and ‘Manic Depression’.
Led Zeppelin- Led Zeppelin IV
Jimmy Page remains one of the most successful players ever to combine blues and rock riffage. Monstrous tracks like ‘Stairway To Heaven’ are known for their exceptional guitar solos (is it the greatest of all time?) so be sure to check this one out.
Pink Floyd- Dark Side Of The Moon
Known as one of the greatest albums of all time, Dark Side Of The Moon is an incredible experience whether you’re listening for the guitar or not. When you start to focus on the playing in ‘Time’ and ‘Breathe’, for example, its clear that Gilmour is a powerhouse in everything else, as well as The Wall.
Frank Zappa- Joe’s Garage
While this is a comedic concept album clocking in at over two hours, it also includes some majestic guitar work from psychedelic genius Frank Zappa. Take the 9/4 metre, 7 minute long solo on ‘Watermelon In Easter Hay’.
King Crimson- In The Court Of The Crimson King
Robert Fripp is known for playing exceptional melodies on David Bowie tunes like ‘Heroes’, but his work with King Crimson is experimental, aggressive and interesting throughout. This is true innovation so be sure to check it out.
Guns N Roses- Appetite For Destruction
Slash exists in a strange middle ground where some regard him as the most melodic guitarist of all time, and others think he is a bit of an overrated poser… either way, ‘Sweet Child O Mine’ is still my favourite guitar solo of all time. You can buy the CD here.
Steve Vai- Passion And Warfare
Taught by Joe Satriani himself, it’s no real surprise that Steve Vai is capable of releasing some incredible guitar albums. This one in particular is littered with gems, such as ‘Blue Powder’.
Cattle Decapitation- The Anthropocene Extinction
If you’re looking for extreme metal, The Anthropocene Extinction is arguably the greatest work of the 2010’s. The speed of the shredding and aggression of the tone makes this the perfect way to get inspired if you’re writing metal.
Death- The Sound Of Perseverance
Speaking of extreme metal, Death were one of the innovators of death metal. Their final album took progressive influences, with the opening track including some incredibly displays of virtuosity and rhythmic explorations.
Genesis- Selling England By The Pound
Steve Hackett’s work with Genesis shows the band at their best, taking progressive rock to a whole new level. This album includes highlights such as his opening, almost hip-hop riff on ‘Dancing With the Moonlit Night’ and the magical solo on ‘Firth Of Fifth’.
Iron Maiden- Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son
With the duelling lead guitars of Dave Murray and Adrian Smith making up much of this album, it’s impossible to say that Iron Maiden aren’t arguably the best riff writers in music.
Django Reinhardt- Djangology
Jazz guitar is often hard to take to the highest level, but Django does just that in this compilation put together alongside Stephane Grappelli.
Meshuggah- Destroy Erase Improve
The innovators of djent music, if you’re looking to expand your rhythmic exploration then give this one a listen. It has polyrhythms and complex time signatures pouring out throughout.
Metallica- And Justice For All…
One particular track on this album, ‘One’, displays the true collaboration between Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield. It transitions from a moving, melodic opening solo to the explosive, tap-heavy conclusion.
Pantera- Vulgar Display Of Power
Pantera lead guitarist Dimebag Darrell has the ability to tear through shredding solos, deliver weirdly funky-heavy riffs and play with surprising heartfelt sincerity. Give this one a listen here.
Lamb Of God- Ashes Of The Wake
Taking heavy, polyrhythmic riffs to the extreme, Ashes Of The Wake can inspire any guitarist to pick up their instrument and write a crushingly heavy riff alternating between open strings and dissonant high notes.
Led Zeppelin- Led Zeppelin II
Full of blue notes and rocky dissonance, Zed Zeppelin II is almost filled with as much good material as LZIV.
Leonard Cohen- Songs Of Love And Hate
While Cohen isn’t a shredder, and very rarely picks up an electric guitar, the delicacy of his harmony and acoustic guitar playing will make you want to write a lyrical ballad. Try listening to this one on vinyl.
Manowar- Battle Hymns
Now moved on to a solo career, the brilliance of Ross The Boss’ riffs and shredded solos cannot be understated on this powerful, cheesy album.
Metallica- Master Of Puppets
As I mentioned with And Justice For All… the combination of Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield never gets old. Their interplay here should inspired any band to grab hold of two guitarists.
Opeth- Ghost Of Perdition
If you’re looking to take on multiple genres at once, Opeth are the band to listen to to get inspired. They go from death metal to beautiful acoustic passages in the blink of an eye.
Eric Johnson- Ah Via Musicom
It’s pretty likely you’re familiar with the bouncy fretboard wizardry of ‘Cliffs Of Dover’, but the rest of this album explores the depth of virtuosity some guitarists are capable of.
Pain Of Salvation- Remedy Lane
Another band ready to flip genre expectations on their heads, PoS are able to combine metal, blues, folk and just about anything else onto this concept album.
Steely Dan- Can’t Buy A Thrill
Walter Becker himself doesn’t actually play guitar on this album, and the show is stolen by session guitarist Elliot Randall. Listen out for his signature tone and exceptional solo on ‘Reelin In The Years’.
Stevie Ray Vaughan- Texas Flood
While SRV’s playing is rooted in classic blues material, his dexterity to employ muted notes and a what could be classed as shredding within a classic blues tune is something to behold.
Yes- Close To The Edge
While Steve Howe opens this album with what may seem random, it is actually one of the most well throughout out guitar compositions of all time. Listen to this to be inspired on how to write complexly beautiful music for the guitar.
Cannibal Corpse- Evisceration Plague
Check out the title track of this death metal classic for a masterclass on how to incorporate low tapping into your riffs.
AC/DC- Back In Black
While Angus Young might not be the most impressive virtuoso of all time, there is no denying that his ability to write riffs is second to none.
Gojira never caught my attention much as they rose to fame, but their Grammy nominated most recent album shows off how groovy extreme metal can really be through its powerful riffs.
Jeff Buckley- Grace
Buckley’s masterpiece is full of crunchy chords and dissonant ringing notes, with tones ranging from the enigmatic ‘Grace’ to his beautiful cover of ‘Hallelujah’.
Jethro Tull- Aqualung
Exploring heavy, dissonant riffs and catchy folk balladry in the same track is an impressive feat, but the Tull pull it off all within the space of this one title track.
Jimi Hendrix- Axis: Bold As Love
As I mentioned in Are You Experienced?, Hendrix might be the most influential guitarist ever. Simply continue your experience by moving onto his second best release.
Nirvana- In Utero
While Nevermind is full of famous tracks like ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, In Utero is where Kurt Cobain’s intentionally sloppy, anguished playing really shines.
Iron And Wine- The Creek Drank The Cradle
This is another album in which shredding and complexity isn’t the order of the day. Instead, heartfelt melodies and broken chords create a glorious atmosphere using an acoustic guitar and some seriously impressive songwriting skills.
Arctic Monkeys- Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not
Full of riffs and bouncy chord sequences, the northerner’s debut shows off how to use simplicity on the guitar to write amazing tracks. Just make sure you avoid their most recent album…
The Aristocrats- The Aristocrats
Guthrie Govan is again the centrepiece here, amongst one of the most virtuosic band line-ups in history. Just check out ‘Bad Asteroid’ to hear the lengths practice will take you on guitar.
Judas Priest- Painkiller
My second favourite guitar solo of all time comes from the fingers of KK Downing. ‘Painkiller’ itself is fast paced, angry and full of some of the best lead guitar you’ll ever hear.
John McLaughlin- Extrapolation
This is the debut solo album from ex-Miles David guitarist John McLaughlin. It shows off everything that made him such a key player on legendary jazz releases such as Bitches Brew.
The Beatles- Abbey Road
While George Harrison isn’t a shredder or virtuoso by any stretch, his writing and emotive playing make him one of the greatest of all time, with ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ showing that off the best.
Billy Cobham- Spectrum
Another Miles Davis alumni, Cobham hired Tommy Bolin to recorded one of funkiest lead lines of all time on ‘Red Baron’. His lateness on the beat and feeling of the rhythm make him an inspiration for those wanting to groove in their tracks.
Vektor- Terminal Redux
This band remain almost completely unknown but sit firmly atop the progressive thrash game. The jumps between thrash mastery and progressive complexity is something to behold.
Wobbler- From Silence To Somewhere
The definitive best prog rock album of the 21st century demonstrates that its more than possible to use your guitar to emulate the sound of all your 70s heroes.
Public Enemy- It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back
You might not associate guitar with hip-hop, but Public Enemy aren’t afraid of inspiring you to bring guitar into the world of hip-hop. Not only have they collaborated with Anthrax, but ‘She Watch Channel Zero?!’ sampled Slayer’s classic ‘Angel Of Death’.
Black Sabbath- Black Sabbath
The album that invented metal has to be on this list. Listen to Tony Iommi’s tone and crushing riffs and you’ll hear exactly how an entire genre was born.
I mentioned Opeth above, but for different reasons. Use this album to be inspired by their unfathomable ability to write absolutely glorious music for the acoustic guitar, whether its classical, flamenco, jazz or just about anything else.
Bob Marley- Kaya
Grasping the classic reggae tone isn’t the hardest thing to do, but hearing it played with such rhythmic perfection and tonal decisiveness makes this a key album if you’re looking to move towards reggae playing.
The progressive rock legends are fronted by Andrew Latimer, who demonstrates subtly and virtuosity in equal measure across this release.
Dire Straits- Brothers In Arms
It’s rare to find a guitarist of this calibre and style to still primarily fingerpick, but Mark Knopfler demonstrates that even if you haven’t mastered the use of the plectrum yet, then you don’t need to worry.
Eagles- Hotel California
Yet another album containing one of the greatest guitar solos of all time. The title track here shows that soloing doesn’t need to be particularly virtuosic if you can produce melody after melody of brilliant material.
Fleetwood Mac- Rumours
Although Lindsey Buckingham has since been removed from the band, Rumours remains one of his finest achievements. From the passionate outro solo of ‘The Chain’ to the relaxed acoustic tension of ‘Oh Daddy’, he can do a lot.
Morbid Angel- Altars Of Madness
As one of the first death metal albums of all time, the debut from Morbid Angel shows how shredding and slow, groovy riffs can be combined to create crushingly heavy material.
Nickel Creek- Nickel Creek
While you might be drawn to the mandolin virtuosity of Chris Thile, there is a lot of guitarwork to be admired here. Its fast and agile, but has a country twang that demonstrates a brilliant tone.
Guitar Trio- The Guitar Trio
There is very little I need to say about this release other than the fact it combines the legendary talents of Pace De Lucia, Al Di Meola and John McLaughlin into one amazing flamenco jazz release.
Rodrigo Y Gabriela- Mettavolution
This Mexican guitar duo are some of the most talented names in modern flamenco. While Rodrigo’s rhythm playing is exceptional on its own, its Gabriela who shows off the most impressive ability for melodies and speedy flamenco strumming.
We’ve already mentioned this album, and while it might not be as good as its follow up, there is still a lot of heavily distorted and brilliantly angry, inventive guitaring going on here. Just give ‘In Bloom’ a go.
System Of A Down- Toxicity
System Of A Down are notorious for their ability to merge humour and genres in just about every track they do. Toxicity goes from the brutality of ‘Psycho’ to the detuned power ballad of ‘Aerials’ like its nothing.
Tenacious D- The Pick Of Destiny
Obviously, you associate Tenacious D to their comedy rock. However, lead guitarist Kyle Gass is an astonishingly talented classical guitarist. Just listen to that mash up of classical works he pulls out on ‘Classico’. This one should inspire to you to keep some light-hearted moments in your work.
Chet Atkins- Hometown Guitar
Hometown Guitar is the 34th album from country legend Chet Atkins. While we haven’t looked at much country in this list, Atkins really shows how to take on this style. There is some pretty exciting banjo playing hidden within as well.
Larry Carlton- Last Nite
Larry Carlton is known for his work with the likes of Steely Dan and Joni Mitchell, but this solo album shows his own songwriting skills alongside reimaginations of two Miles Davis tunes: ‘So What’ and ‘All Blues’. His smooth jazz fusion style is certainly to be jealous of.
Van Der Graaf Generator- Godbluff
They have a strange, dark progressive rock style, but Peter Hammill’s contrasting acoustic, mellow sections and aggressive overdriven tone create a varied album of brilliant material.
Foo Fighters- Wasting Light
This album shows Foo Fighters going down a new, heavier style. The delay heavy riff from ‘Bridge Burning’ kicks things off, with the brutal aggression of ‘White Limo’ taking the band towards metal territories.
Ozzy Osbourne- Blizzard Of Ozz
Randy Rhodes is known for his ability to perform immensely complex solos and riffs. ‘Crazy Train’ is the perfect example, but his improvised virtuosity is just as impressive.
Pink Floyd- Piper At The Gates Of Dawn
Moving to a time before David Gilmour and Pink Floyd were still at the top of the guitar game with Syd Barrett at the helm. His crunchy, intentionally sloppy chords led to some of the best songs ever written.
Queen- News Of The World
One of the best Queen albums around kicks off with one of the best guitar solos in music from Brian May as he rips into the end of ‘We Will Rock You’.
Rush- Clockwork Angels
I’m firmly behind the idea that Clockwork Angels is the best Rush album. With almost metal-like riffs, they leave the progressive rock (slightly) behind and turn towards some huge tracks that show off Alex Lifeson’s ability for riffs.
As we know from Guns N Roses, Slash is a brilliant guitarist. His first solo album is littered with incredible guests and shows off the entire range of his talent. From the ballady ‘Gotten’ with Maroon 5, to ‘Doctor Alibi’ with Lemmy.
The Smiths- The Queen Is Dead
Johnny Marr shows off an ability to make riffs that jump around the neck and fretboard in unexpected places into some of the catchiest melodies of all time.
Jon Gomm- Secrets Nobody Keeps
The incredible tapped, percussive guitar work of Jon Gomm is up there with the best playing I’ve ever seen. He detunes with banjo tuning pegs, drums while he taps, shreds with his fingers and sings over the top of it all.
Johnny Cash- American IV: The Man Comes Around
Another one on this list whose guitar mastery comes from emotion is Johnny Cash. On his final album, he transfers the dissonant anger of Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Hurt’ into a beautiful ballad. This is how to cover a track with an acoustic guitar.
The Killers- Hot Fuss
‘Mr Brightside’ might be one of the most well-known tracks of all time, and while it might not be the most complex piece of work ever, its fast arpeggios helped craft a brilliant track.
King Crimson- Red
Robert Fripp does it again on Red with both ‘Red’ and ‘One More Red Nightmare’ employing heavy, dissonant riffs and an incredibly mastery of his instrument.
Ed Sheeran- X
I know what you’re thinking. Ed Sheeran isn’t a good guitarist. You’re right overall, but the fact he composes his world dominating tracks at the guitar should surely be enough to pick yours up and give it a shot.
Bryan Beller- Scenes From The Flood
The aforementioned bassist of The Aristocrats manages to assemble a cast include Guthrie Govan, Joe Satriani and himself for this impressive progressive metal demonstration of virtuosity.
Toto- Toto IV
With the magnificent Steve Lukather at the helm, the guitar work on Toto IV is impressive. ‘Africa’ is pretty synth heavy, but ‘Rosanna’ concludes with one of the most melodic solos of all time.
Slayer- Reign In Blood
Clocking in at just 29 minutes, it won’t take you long to become accustomed to Kerry King’s violent riffing and atonal soloing as he takes his place in this incredibly fast, angry and legendary band.
Megadeth- Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying?
Another member of the thrash ‘Big 4’, Megadeth are fronted by the riffing of Dave Mustaine. His control over muted notes as he plays and sings at the same time is seriously impressive.
Combining blues and extreme metal in this way should be impossible, but on ‘Bloodtorst’, the band are able to incorporate heavy riffs, blue notes and melodic acoustic guitar chords like its nothing.
David Bowie- Heroes
As I mentioned already, King Crimson’s Robert Fripp has a fair few session credits to his name. He appears on this album playing the addictive, minimalist inspired riff in the background.
Green Day- American Idiot
Green Day may have lost a bit of their credibility recently, but their masterpiece includes a masterful use of simplicity, power chord riffs and an incredible ability to produce catchy music.
Van Halen- Van Halen
To get you in the mood to up your tapping game, give the amazing Eddie Van Halen solo ‘Eruption’ a listen.
John 5- The Devil Knows My Name
‘Black Widow Of La Porte’ is the star of this instrumental show, with John 5 teaming up with Slipknot’s Jim Root for a show of shredding virtuosity.
This is a bad typically led by their unique basslines, but with the dense, almost grunge-like style of this progressive metal band, Adam Jones demonstrates himself to have a unique talent for complex time signatures and polymeter.
Iron Maiden- The Number Of The Beast
The Number Of The Beast is one of the most hit-filled albums ever, with every track being complimented by the twin guitar work of Dave Murray and Adrian Smith.
Rage Against The Machine- Rage Against The Machine
Tom Morello may be one of the most unique talents on this list. Not only is he a talented performer, but his trademark use of effects and pedals mean he’ll certainly inspire you to pick up a few pedals and carry out some experiments.
Yngwie Malmsteen- Rising Force
His music might not be the most interesting, but Yngwie Malmsteen is a demonstration of impeccable speed. His scalloped fretboard brings him a magical control over sweep picking, shredding and tapping which is all shown to the highest degree in ‘Far Beyond The Sun’.
Rush- Moving Pictures
Moving Pictures demonstrates the compositional skill of Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee. ‘Tom Sawyer’ and ‘YYZ’ in particular demonstrate some incredibly time signature shifts and brutally complex syncopations.
Radiohead- OK Computer
I’m not a fan of Radiohead, but there is no denying that ‘Paranoid Android’ is a masterful composition. The 7/4 riffs demonstrates the ability to write a complex riff that sounds perfectly nature, though delicate acoustic guitar strumming makes an appearance every now and again.
Black Label Society- Mafia
‘In This River’ is dedicated to Dimebag Darrell and sees Zakk Wylde take on a soft, acoustic side, complete with a ripping solo from the man himself and his white, ringed Les Paul.
Pat Metheny- Bright Size Life
The best jazz guitarist of all time released his debut album in 1976. The album ranges from the fantastic ‘Sirabhorn’, showing off Metheny’s speed and dexterity, while ‘Round Trip/Broadway Blues’ embraces the free jazz of Ornette Coleman.
Children Of Bodom- Hate Crew Deathroll
The melodic death metal of CoB is led forward by Alexi Laiho, whose shredding and bright riffage lead their powerful, surprisingly catch sound forward. This is how to write a catchy heavy track.
Mayhem- De Mysteriis Do Santhanas
Their band history includes murder and church burnings, but this doesn’t detract from the sheer evil guitarist Euronymous is able to get across.
Gary Moore- Corridors Of Power
Gary Moore is able to mix his hard rocking Thin Lizzy influence and career with an impressive CV of bluesy solo albums. This one in particularly has some of his most impressive moments.
ZZ Top- Tres Hombres
Big bluesy riffs and a sense of fun are found throughout all of ZZ Top’s work. ‘La Grange’ is incredibly simple in its opening riff (try this if you’re just starting out) but Billy Gibbons can inspire even the earliest of beginners to rip through a solo.
Mr Big- Lean Into It
Paul Gilbert has an array of guitar skills he can unleash on a listener. From playing with a drill on ‘Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy’, to shredding like a maniac on ‘Alive And Kickin’, to performing heartfelt simple chords throughout ‘To Be With You’.
The Who- Quadrophenia
One of the few classic 60s rock bands still touring today, Pete Townshend is just as well-known for his windmilling stage presence as he is his playing. This album shows a performer in his prime bringing energy and fun into his brilliant performance.
Dan is a music tutor and writer. He has played piano since he was 4, and guitar and drum kit since he was 11.
He plays a Guild acoustic and a Pacifica electric. He has been sent to many festivals and gigs (ranging from pop to extreme metal) as both a photographer and reviewer, with his proudest achievement so far being an interview he has with Steve Hackett (ex-Genesis guitarist).
He ranks among his favourite ever guitarists, alongside Guthrie Govan, Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, David Gilmour and Robert Fripp. His favourite genre of music is progressive rock, which he likes to use as a reference point in my teaching, thanks to its huge complexity in structure, rhythm and harmony. However, he is also into a lot of other genres including jazz, 90’s hip-hop, death metal and 20th century classical music.