Can you name the 10 best guitar instrumentals ever recorded? Your list may look different than ours because “ten best” lists are subjective creatures. But the following tunes consistently appear on “best guitar instrumental” lists and they have passed the test of time and popularity. From surf rock to hard rock, soul instrumentals to big guitars, here are our picks (pun intended) for the ten best guitar instrumentals of all time.
- “Pipeline” The first on our list of ten best guitar instrumentals is “Pipeline,” the classic surf rock tune. The Chantays recorded the instrumental piece in 1963 and it’s considered one of the landmarks of the surf genre. Many artists have covered it through the years, including a memorable rendition by Stevie Ray Vaughan.
- “Green Onions” Booker T. & the M.G.'s recorded “Green Onions” in 1962. The soul instrumental, considered one of the 100 greatest songs of all time, was unique in that it featured a Hammond organ. Many TV shows and films have used the tune, including the 1973 hit “American Graffiti.”
- “Walk, Don’t Run” The classic rock 'n' roll instrumental “Walk, Don’t Run” became a hit for The Ventures in 1960. Chet Atkins also recorded a popular version of this surfing song, three years prior to The Ventures recording.
- “Frankenstein” The Edgar Winter Group recorded the hard rock instrumental “Frankenstein” in 1972. In live performances, the synthesizer became a lead instrument as Winter strapped a keyboard around his neck to better interact with the audience and guitar players.
- “Wipe Out” The Surfaris recorded “Wipe Out,” another surfing tune, in 1962. The song elevated the band to international status. The surf rock instrumental was featured in several movies, including the 1987 hit “Dirty Dancing” and numerous bands have covered the tune over the years.
- “Jessica” The Allman Brothers Band recorded “Jessica” in 1973. In addition to guitars, the southern rock instrumental uses an electric piano, a grand piano and the Hammond organ. The tune has been used in various musical contexts and a 2006 “The Wall Street Journal” articled called it “a true national heirloom.”
- “Misirlou” “Misirlou” is a Greek tune that is also popular with Middle Eastern belly dancing, Jewish weddings, orchestral easy listening and American surf rock. Dick Dale arranged the piece as a guitar instrumental in 1962 and The Beach Boys recorded their version of “Miserlou” in 1963.
- “Rebel Rouser” Duane Eddy perfected the “big guitar” sound in 1958 with “Rebel Rouser.” Big guitar, the popular rock 'n' roll instrumentals of the 1960s, began a year earlier with the Bill Justis classic, “Raunchy.” “Rebel Rouser” has been featured in a number of TV shows and films, including the 1994 hit, “Forrest Gump.”
- “Eruption” Van Halen’s “Eruption,” recorded in 1977, is a guitar solo. Many “greatest guitar solos” lists feature this tune. Tapping, a guitar technique associated with the electric guitar, is a highlight of the Eddie Van Halen solo. The band-specific video game “Guitar Hero: Van Halen” features the song and is considered one of the hardest songs in the game.
- “Tequila” The 1958 rock instrumental “Tequila” rounds out our list of ten best guitar instrumentals. The Champs recorded this well-known tune, which remains one of the most popular rock 'n' roll instrumentals of all time. The title is the song’s only “lyric” and the tune has become a part of American pop culture.
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