20 of the fastest guitarists in the world today

2nd Aug 2012 | 15:40

20 of the fastest guitarists in the world today
Michael Angelo Batio
Fastest track: The Finish Line

You may or may not have heard, but there's a sizeable (and, legally-speaking, incredibly stringent) sporting competition currently taking place in London. With this in mind we thought it would be a good time to take look at some true guitar athletes. Here are 20 of the world's fastest guitar players for your viewing pleasure/disbelief.

Michael Angelo Batio

A name that is synonymous with the world of shredding, Michael Angelo Batio is the spirit of guitar-based athleticism incarnate. Not only is he without doubt one of the world's fastest players, he can prove it while simultaneously wielding dual guitar necks.

20 of the fastest guitarists in the world today
Buckethead
Fastest track: Welcome To Bucketheadland (listen out for the solo at 3.00)

An enigma, wrapped in a mystery, wrapped in a KFC bargain bucket, Buckethead has done time with the big boys (among them Guns N' Roses).

However, it's his 36-odd solo albums that really see Brian Patrick Caroll get his guitar freak on, including some mind-bendingly fast legato runs.

20 of the fastest guitarists in the world today
Al Di Meola
Fastest track: Mediterranean Sundance

A guitarist revered by jazz snobs and shred nuts alike, Al Di Meola is primarily known as a fusion guitarist, but he has successfully experimented with many styles throughout his career.

Some of his fastest playing came on early albums, particularly the flamenco-infused Elegant Gypsy.

20 of the fastest guitarists in the world today
Marty Friedman
Fastest track: Saturation Point

Best known for his decade-long stint in Megadeth, which began with Rust In Peace. Friedman (right) is a self-taught guitarist that can more than hold his own alongside the Berklee graduates on this list.

Nowadays he's moved East and has become heavily involved in the Japanese rock scene, but early solo albums like 1988's Dragon's Kiss breathe fretboard fire!

20 of the fastest guitarists in the world today
Chris Impellitteri
Fastest track: Stand In Line (solo at around 3.10)

Although he never reached the dizzying heights and worldwide success of his fellow late 80s alumni Chris Impellitteri can stake a decent claim to being one of the era's fastest players.

Those were the days: when men were men, guitars were scalloped within an inch of their lives and an earnest shred version of Somewhere Over The Rainbow didn't even raise an eyebrow...

20 of the fastest guitarists in the world today
Jeff Loomis
Fastest track: Nevermore – The Psalm Of Lydia (solo at 2.18)

Tipped for future success by Dave Mustaine after a fruitless early audition for Megadeth, Loomis went on to form Nevermore and dazzled power metal fans with his break-neck speed, ultra-smooth sweeps and flawless arpeggios.

At least, he did until he announced he was leaving the band last year...

20 of the fastest guitarists in the world today
Alexi Laiho
Fastest track: Bodom Beach Terror (solo at 2.20)

The reigning guitar king of melodic death metal, Alexi Laiho and his band Children Of Bodom, are treated as gods back in Finland and have legions of dedicated fans the world over.

Speed-wise, he plays like the kind of man that can catch flies with chopsticks...

20 of the fastest guitarists in the world today
Albert Lee
Fastest track: Country Boy

It can be easy to blur the lines between speed and accuracy and get away with it under layers of distortion, but London's leading Country Boy has a trademark hybrid picking style that allows him to master incredibly fast and technical sections while barely dropping a note.

Tighter than a duck's proverbial...

20 of the fastest guitarists in the world today
The Great Kat
Fastest track: Metal Messiah

Having risen to prominence, like so many on this list, during the late 80s, The Great Kat deserves credit, not just for her incredible speed, but for sticking to her passion - whether it's in or out of fashion.

An uncompromising shred demon hell-bent on bringing classical music crashing into the 20th (and now the 21st) century, preferably at about 500bpm.

20 of the fastest guitarists in the world today
Steve Vai
Fastest track: For The Love Of God (cut to 5.00 to see some of his quickest licks)

Getting taught by Joe Satriani, followed by a stint at Berklee College Of Music and touring with Frank Zappa (on “stunt guitar”) is pretty much the ultimate training regime for any budding guitar virtuoso.

It's not surprising then that Vai has since cemented a reputation as a master of the instrument in his own right.

20 of the fastest guitarists in the world today
Yngwie Malmsteen
Fastest track: Far Beyond The Sun

ALL PRAISE THE MALMSTEEN! Responsible for more floored-jaws than Mike Tyson, Yngwie brought neo-classical metal to the masses.

A real shred athlete, the guitarist has influenced half the players on this list, for which we thank him, and scores of annoyingly good guitar store employees, for which we do not.

20 of the fastest guitarists in the world today
Ben Weinman
Fastest track: Sugar Coated Sour

The most underrated player to feature on this list, Dillinger Escape Plan guitarist Ben Weinman is mathcore's spider-fingered wunderkind.

Equally capable of super-quick, brutal riffage and madcap lead runs, his style isn't exactly pop-centric, but even if DEP's aural assault leaves you non-plussed, you can't help but be wowed by Weinman's playing.

20 of the fastest guitarists in the world today
John Petrucci
Fastest track: Stream Of Consciousness (solo)

Prog rock Jedi John Petrucci has always prioritised a clean technique over speed, but that's not stopped him becoming one of the fastest players on the planet. And, like all of the greats of the instrument, the Dream Theater guitarist makes it look easy. It's not – believe us.

If you want to see what a true guitar athlete looks like, check out the Petrucci gun show!

20 of the fastest guitarists in the world today
Joe Satriani
Fastest track: Surfing With The Alien

Once in a while a player will come along that turns guitar music on its head, makes everyone question their own abilities and spawns a slew of imitators. Satriani is one such player.

Like many of the other virtuosos on this list, he's mellowed slightly and worries less about speed in recent years, but when Satriani decides to let loose, there are few that can hold a candle to him.

20 of the fastest guitarists in the world today
Paul Gilbert
Fastest track: Frenzy

An incontrovertibly accomplished guitarist, Paul Gilbert is quite simply one of the most technically-gifted players in the world today.

He's praised for his ability to achieve precision at mind-blowing speed and there are few, if any, in the world that can match him.

20 of the fastest guitarists in the world today
Alex Skolnick
Fastest track: Disciples Of The Watch

Another student of Joe Satriani that went on to big things, Skolnick joined Testament in 1983 and went on to become one the cornerstone guitarists of the Bay Area thrash scene.

His nippy technique has also allowed him to cross-over straddle genres and enter the jazz world with the Alex Skolnick Trio.

20 of the fastest guitarists in the world today
Rusty Cooley
Fastest track: Under The Influence

Rusty Cooley is the real deal: a self-made shred guru who has built his whole career around a need for speed.

It must have been clear to those around him that when Rusty was casually performing showcase pieces like Van Halen's Eruption at school talent shows, great things beckoned. Now he's considered among the fastest in world.

20 of the fastest guitarists in the world today
Steve Morse
Fastest track: The Bash

Steve Morse has served time with Kansas, Deep Purple and jazzy-southern rockers Dixie Dregs; he's constantly hailed as a key influence by John Petrucci and has more recently teamed up with Mike Portnoy for the supergroup Flying Colors.

But frankly, none of that would matter to us right now if he couldn't pick. A truly unique player, stylistically, and incredibly quick, to boot.

20 of the fastest guitarists in the world today
Eddie Van Halen
Fastest track: Eruption

He needs no introduction, but we'll give him one anyway... The one and only E.V.H., a game-changing player that brought tapped solos and shred guitar to the masses.

God knows how many people were inspired to pick up the guitar after hearing Eddie rocket through Eruption and, by all reports, he's back on form once more. Let's just hope those tour dates get rebooked.

20 of the fastest guitarists in the world today
John Taylor
Fastest track: Flight Of The Bumblebee

No list of the world's quickest players would be complete without mentioning John Taylor, a relatively-unknown US metal player that is, according to the Guinness Book Of Records, the world's fastest guitarist – nailing classical piece Flight Of The Bumblebee at a casual 600bpm.

Apparently, bored with that, he's since been gearing up to go for 800bpm...

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