Top Ten Female Guitar Players

May 4, 2012



Joan Jet

A no-nonsense player who in only a few strums can get an entire barroom howling her 1982 hit, “I Love Rock ’n’ Roll.” That kind of power, often amplified by painted-on leather pants, sets the bar high for Twilight’s Kristen Stewart, who’s playing Jett in an upcoming Runaways biopic.
Lita Ford
After jamming with Jett as lead guitarist in the Runaways, Lita Ford took her pop-metal shedder sound solo and hired fellow rocker chick Sharon Osbourne as her manager. In 1988, she released Lita, a sexy riff-filled album that not only pleased rockers with its head-banging tunes but also got mainstreamers in the pit, especially with “Close My Eyes Forever,” her duet with the prince of darkness Ozzy Osbourne.
Nancy WIlson
Only a few seconds into the riff of Heart’s “Barracuda” and you know that only Nancy Wilson could knock you over with solos that beg to be air-guitared. Which makes us even more excited to hear that Nancy and sister Ann are preparing a new album slated for next summer.
Jennifer Batten
Jennifer Batten’s shredding is just as outrageous as her platinum-spiked locks, both of which must have caught the attention of Michael Jackson, who called on her to play Eddie Van Halen’s “Beat It” guitar solo on his Bad, Dangerous, and HIStory tours.
Carrie Brownstein
Gotta give a nod to our hometown hero from Portland Oregon. Carrie Brownstein from Sleater-Kinney and Portlandia notoriety. 
Poison Ivy
The Cramps were playing envelope-pushing ’80s psychobilly before it became mainstream in the ’90s and influenced bands like the Black Lips, the Jesus and Mary Chain, and My Bloody Valentine. With Poison Ivy on the ax (and late husband Lux Interior on vocals), her garage-punk attitude, though totally hard-core, seemed to come from a place of love. Creepy, fetish-filled love.
Ruyter Suys
When her band Nashville Pussy plays live, lead guitarist Ruyter Suys whips her fiery red mane back and forth and lies on the stage floor (sometimes in only her underwear), all while creating the high-pitch electric screams that frame their “good old-fashioned, humping-in-the-back-seat-of-a-car rock ’n’ roll,” as Suys describes it to Rolling Stone. Photo: Courtesy of Retna
The Great Kat
Of all the shredders on our list, Juilliard-trained violinist the Great Kat (aka Katherine Thomas) is the most mind-bogglingly fast.
Marnie Stern
Marnie Stern’s twitchy rhythms and face-melting licks take what we love about Eddie Van Halen’s fast-paced playing and paints it with a rock-girl feel. On her second record, This Is It… (2008), Stern is a virtuosic badass.
At 24, Australian newcomer Orianthi’s melodic wailing has already been endorsed by Carlos Santana (“If I was going to pass the baton to someone, she would be my first choice,” he told the Aussie Today show) and Michael Jackson handpicked her for what would have been his comeback tour.



  1. Dangerous Dan says:

    What about Bonnie Raitt?

    posted on May 4, 2012 at 11:11 pm
  2. charlie says:


    posted on May 4, 2012 at 11:13 pm
  3. ir says:

    You guys obviously have never heard Virginia Tate, of Bunnybrains and other bands!  She is Manhattan’s finest.

    posted on May 4, 2012 at 11:16 pm
  4. Nico Meijer says:

    Susan Tedeschi? Gretchen Menn? :-)

    posted on May 4, 2012 at 11:17 pm
  5. Math says:

    Gretchen Menn??

    posted on May 4, 2012 at 11:18 pm
  6. leo says:

    Debbie Davies should be there and frankly Rory Block runs complete circles around all those mentioned

    posted on May 4, 2012 at 11:23 pm
  7. fern says:

    Marissa Paternoster of Screaming Females?

    posted on May 4, 2012 at 11:23 pm
  8. Charles says:

    Never heard about Mimi Fox?

    posted on May 4, 2012 at 11:23 pm
  9. steelopus says:

    What about Paul Stanley?!

    posted on May 4, 2012 at 11:24 pm
  10. Anthony says:

    What about khaki king?

    posted on May 4, 2012 at 11:24 pm
  11. John says:

    Some pimply faced metal fan made up this list. No Bonnie Raitt? No Joanne Shaw Taylor?  You are lame

    posted on May 4, 2012 at 11:25 pm
  12. Steven says:

    Sharon Isbin?

    posted on May 4, 2012 at 11:25 pm
  13. Sale says:

    There’s no Lil Wayne? lol..

    but seriously, Joan Armatrading?

    Tal Wilkenfeld? Me’shell N’dgeocello? Bass is still a guitar lol :)

    Greets from Belgrade!

    posted on May 4, 2012 at 11:26 pm
  14. Steven says:

    Muriel Anderson?

    posted on May 4, 2012 at 11:27 pm
  15. Lonely Raven says:

    Are these the best videos you could find? Cripes.

    posted on May 4, 2012 at 11:29 pm
  16. Steven says:

    ... and if you are including bass players Rhonda Smith (good enough for Jeff!)

    posted on May 4, 2012 at 11:30 pm
  17. Brett says:

    I would have liked to see Wata from the band Boris up there but I like the diversity of years and musical styles covered in this list.

    posted on May 4, 2012 at 11:34 pm
  18. Steve says:

    Susannah Hoffs? Michelle Branch? Just Kidding! :) They got it right. In no specific order, These Chicks ROCK! ! !

    posted on May 4, 2012 at 11:34 pm
  19. Maarten says:

    Anni DiFranco…

    posted on May 4, 2012 at 11:34 pm
  20. Mike says:

    Kelly Richey?

    posted on May 4, 2012 at 11:35 pm
  21. Antonio says:

    Only rocker? Anybody know Emily Remler?

    posted on May 4, 2012 at 11:37 pm
  22. Austin says:

    Lori Linstruth, formerly of ex-Ayreon prog-rockers Stream Of Passion. Brilliant.

    posted on May 4, 2012 at 11:38 pm
  23. DrProgNerd says:

    Gabriela Quintero of Rodrigo y Gabriela gets left out but you include Orianthi? Really? The most overrated guitar player ever. The first time I’ve ever seen the Corner fail. Oh well, it couldn’t stay perfect forever.


    posted on May 4, 2012 at 11:40 pm
  24. dave says:

    ever heard of caroline wonderland? this gal kicks major ass!!! she IS still alive and well !!!

    posted on May 4, 2012 at 11:43 pm
  25. Darin says:

    First, @steelopus: Hilarious! Great comment!

    Second, where is Chrissie Hynde? C’mon!

    posted on May 4, 2012 at 11:43 pm
  26. David says:

    Nancy Wilson laid the ground work.  The acoustic intro to “Crazy On You” speaks for itself.  I remember seeing her live in 1979(at 16) and thinking to myself, “Oh my gosh!  She is so hot and she shreds!”

    posted on May 4, 2012 at 11:46 pm
  27. daveAF says:

    susan tedeschi? nili brosh? bonnie rait? leni stern?

    posted on May 5, 2012 at 12:04 am
  28. Naal says:

    I clicked on this expecting to say “Carrie Brownstein’s not on this list?!” the same as everyone else who has their picks… But you included her. I am appeased. :-D


    posted on May 5, 2012 at 12:04 am
  29. Simon says:

    Yeah, I’ve got to agree that Emily Remler should’ve been on this list. She was brilliant.

    posted on May 5, 2012 at 12:13 am
  30. Gearhund says:

    Allison Robertson?

    posted on May 5, 2012 at 12:18 am
  31. Jamie Palumbo says:

    Come on, you forgot Liona Boyd as well.  One of the world’s greatest classical guitarist.

    posted on May 5, 2012 at 12:21 am
  32. G says:

    Why isn’t Tal Wilkenfeld in there? This list is just like the usual popularity contest polls and has nothing to do with musicianship. Orenthani should be on this list and nothing against the others but this missed so many other real muscians.

    posted on May 5, 2012 at 12:22 am
  33. Angus says:

    What about Lydia lunch in Teenage Jesus
    She didn’t know how to play the instrument but she made it sound better than pretty much everyone you’ve mentioned except poison ivy.

    posted on May 5, 2012 at 12:23 am
  34. G says:

    Jennifer Batten and Orianthi both SHOULD be on the list . But so should Tal Wilkenfeld.

    posted on May 5, 2012 at 12:24 am
  35. G says:

    I would have definitely mentioned Leni Stern, Sheryl Bailey, etc but I thought this was a rock poll.

    posted on May 5, 2012 at 12:26 am
  36. Gary Yokie says:

    Ani DiFranco can kick a hole in the wall with her playing. When it comes to classical, Muriel Anderson and Susan McDonald are stunning players, and Sharon Isbin is nicely blurring the line between classical and other forms.

    posted on May 5, 2012 at 12:26 am
  37. Anthony Cancilla says:

    I’m a big fan of female artists!  It’s a shame that most ladies are overlooked simply because they are the minority in a male dominated field.  I’m am constantly humbled by female pickers.  Two of the best local players are my wife Anne-Marie Cancilla and my old bandmate Jennifer Faraci.  Both of these women will slay most of their male peers.
    Thanks ProGuitarShop for recognizing some of the great female players!  I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my personal favorites ... Juliana Hatfield, Liz Phair, Louise Post (Veruca Salt), Kim Shattuck (The Muffs),  Sarah McLachlan, Paz Lechantin, Melissa Auf Der Maur, Kelly Deal, Wendy Melvoin, and the great Carol Kaye.

    posted on May 5, 2012 at 12:28 am
  38. Michael V-S says:

    Joni F***ing Mitchell? Shannon Wright ? These top tens are usually dumb.

    posted on May 5, 2012 at 12:30 am
  39. will says:

    where’s my fave, Annie Clark?  not to mention Bonnie Raitt, Kaki King, etc…

    posted on May 5, 2012 at 12:36 am
  40. Joe Barborich says:

    Joan Jett and No Ana Popovic? WTF???

    posted on May 5, 2012 at 12:47 am
  41. Edward says:

    Awesome that you have Carrie Brownstein!! Wish Annie Clark, Kaki King and Ani DiFranco made the list.

    posted on May 5, 2012 at 12:49 am
  42. KeefX says:

    Leni Stern?

    Blarg! Why are “Top 10” articles even popular?

    posted on May 5, 2012 at 12:50 am
  43. TDJMB says:

    June Millington, Muriel Anderson

    posted on May 5, 2012 at 12:52 am
  44. Jon says:

    Leaving out Bonnie Raitt negates the entire article IN MY OPINION.

    posted on May 5, 2012 at 12:56 am
  45. J says:

    Everyone seems to be more knowledgeable than Andy

    Why don’t you start your own blog and come up with top tens

    posted on May 5, 2012 at 12:58 am
  46. r says:

    was this put together in a hurry late last night?  you’re missing so many great artists like bonnie raitt, joni mitchell, susan tedeschi, rory block, etc…. it’s not always metal and marshall stacks.  plus your bio notes are so out of date - like the runaways movie which was released a couple of years ago.  this was a very dissapointing corner.  don’t you have any women in the store?

    posted on May 5, 2012 at 1:12 am
  47. Ken Shalek says:

    Allison Robertson can hang with any male rocker, she drives “The Donnas”.

    posted on May 5, 2012 at 1:12 am
  48. Zachari McClain says:

    Kaki King.

    posted on May 5, 2012 at 1:35 am
  49. DoranR says:

    I don’t get why people list off a bunch of female players that nobody knows or have zero influence. I understand you like them or their playing but they don’t belong on lists like this. Someone like Bonnie Raitt or Susan Tedeschi may be glaring omissions though. The only women on this list who imo truly belong are: Lita, Nancy, Orianthi, Jen Batten. Everyone else is replaceable.

    posted on May 5, 2012 at 1:37 am
  50. thuggyBear says:

    Kristen Hersh?
    PJ Harvey?
    Kim Gordon?
    Kim Deal?
    Belinda Butcher?

    posted on May 5, 2012 at 1:38 am
  51. DragonFire says:

    You shit the bed when you left out Bonnie Raitt….period!

    posted on May 5, 2012 at 1:39 am
  52. Kickbright says:

    Missing Mary Timony (Helium, Wild Flag) and PJ Harvey.

    posted on May 5, 2012 at 1:46 am
  53. David says:

    Nancy Wilson should definitely be #1.

    posted on May 5, 2012 at 1:50 am
  54. Mike says:

    Any Top Female Guitar Player list that does not have Elizabeth Gotten has something wrong with it. Bonnie Raitt notably absent as well. For current players I’d give Grace Potter a nod.

    posted on May 5, 2012 at 1:51 am
  55. why? says:

    ewwwwww The Great Kat. she may have knew theory and stuff but she wasnt shit!

    posted on May 5, 2012 at 2:03 am
  56. Jim H says:

    @steelopus: “What about Paul Stanley?”

    That is hilarious!  :-)

    posted on May 5, 2012 at 2:03 am
  57. stan says:

    When Olivia Demone is on the list, i will consider it valid.

    posted on May 5, 2012 at 2:07 am
  58. Bleublud says:

    How condescending, these lists are such guy thing. Can’t we just be recognized as musicians and not broken down into some sub category.

    posted on May 5, 2012 at 2:11 am
  59. Theopolis Wonderbread says:

    I commend you on your choice to list guitarists that don’t “shred”. Having seen Poison Ivy and The Cramps live, I can testify on behalf of her greatness. I was just as moved by her as I would be by Barney Kessel or Greg Ginn.

    posted on May 5, 2012 at 2:17 am
  60. renshen says:

    This happens to every top ten list, why not just a list of every female guitarist. Then you could have a top 57 (you run out of guitarists for a top 100) or start listing any lady guitarists such as Courtney Love or list every country western player that accompany herself to pad out the list. “What no Dolly Parton?”

    Seriously, there is always the “Alex Lifeson #99, and Hendrix #1, WTF, comments”  comments in these list. The average person on the street would know Jimi Hendrix’s name and say “Lifeson who?” might know of Rush, etc.

    Joni Mitchell? What about Buffy Saint-Marie or Joan Baez?

    Classical Guitarists, how could you forget one of the first female classical Vahdah Olcott Bickford? Bickford who founded the American Guitar Society in 1923?

    This all boils down to radio airplay time; unless you or your band is touring, have a gold or multi platinum record/cd in your history, your signed to a major label and are about to release a new album or reissue an old one, or both most Musicians on any list you don’t receive airplay.

    The radio just played Jett’s Anthem I Love Rock and Roll and guess what, she’s touring. Marissa Paternoster is touring, but is on an Indy label. Need I say more?

    Kudos to Pro Guitar shop and the comment’s posted authors,  I have a new list of names to investigate to find talents I didn’t know existed.

    PS You all forgot Naoko Yamano of Shonen Knife, the band that opened for Nirvana’s UK tour just prior to Nevermind’s release. Their last record was a tribute to the Ramones co-produced by Robby Takac of the Goo Goo dolls fame. 30 years in the business and not a mention.

    posted on May 5, 2012 at 2:28 am
  61. shaul says:

    I think there’s a little spot, on the top of the list that the women Wes Montgomery took under he’s wing and treated her like his daughter, EMILY REMLER, deserve. what kind of fuckedup list is it if all of them are rock-metal guitarists? there’s also Mimi Fox that can probably help guys like steve vai and petruchi with chords and guitar arrangement.

    posted on May 5, 2012 at 2:37 am
  62. Stephen Ericson says:

    Mary Ford?

    posted on May 5, 2012 at 2:37 am
  63. Lynn Jacob says:

    Do you guys know who Carolyn Wonderland is? You should… and

    there is a young gal named Courtney Cox (no, not THAT one! lol) who I saw performing at Austin City Limits with School of Rock a few years back, who will make any guy jealous! Watch for her…

    Then there are obvious greats, like Sharon Isbin - though it doesn’t look like you were going outside of rock. 

    And I don’t want to put anyone down, but was this an ‘obvious’ popularity contest? Joan Jett is a great rocker, but just a ‘subsistence guitarist’... a fun front-woman, but guitarist? Really?

    The key here is to encourage girls to play when they’re kids… you’ll get a lot more amazing music in the future if you do…  Teaching them (as my sister and I were) to “not be better/faster/smarter than the boys, or they won’t like you…”  is a complete waste of half the world’s talent.
    REAL men will always be attracted to women who are being exactly who they really are, without care of what others think.

    posted on May 5, 2012 at 2:46 am
  64. Nicholas Christos says:

    Joan Armatrading gets confused for Eric Clapton all the time if you just hear the music and don’t know who it playing, isn’t that about as good as it gets for rock guitar?

    posted on May 5, 2012 at 2:48 am
  65. Nicholas Christos says:

    Top Ten “WHITE” Female Guitar Players

    posted on May 5, 2012 at 2:50 am
  66. Lynn Jacob says:

    ...and I am also guilty of forgetting Joni Mitchell!  Her singing and songwriting are so immense, even I lose sight of the fact that she is an amazing guitarist.  No one, male or female, has brought alternate tunings to the fore than Joni.
    So, having read more comments, it does come down to ‘who has the biggest career?’ as opposed to being an awesome guitarist…
    The good news is that there are some girls out there right now, playing Yngwie, SRV, and Jimi licks, waiting for their parents to let them start a band!  Rock on.

    posted on May 5, 2012 at 2:55 am
  67. Ronnie says:

    Nancy Wilson,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,HOT,HOT,HOTTTTTTTTTTTTTT,,,like a fine wine,,better with age..Ya gotta luv her..

    posted on May 5, 2012 at 2:56 am
  68. charles hayden says:

    She’s not on the list, but always have adored Vickie Peterson from Bangleonia fame!

    posted on May 5, 2012 at 3:04 am
  69. joe says:

    ani difranco should be on top of this list.

    posted on May 5, 2012 at 3:04 am
  70. RayO says:

    DJMB says:
    June Millington, Muriel Anderson

    Thanks for mentioning June Millington, who laid the groundwork for these female rockers in the trailblazing all-female group Fanny. Also feel Leni Stern, Emily Remler (who died on this day in 1990), Kaki King, Liona Boyd, Muriel Anderson, Sharon Isbin, Bonnie Raitt, Susan Tedeschi, and Rory Block are glaringly absent.

    posted on May 5, 2012 at 3:09 am
  71. RayO says:

    Oops - Emily Remler died on May 4, not 5. Sorry for the historic slip.

    posted on May 5, 2012 at 3:12 am
  72. flemmyguigitary says:

    By the corn in Orianthi’s hole! This list is cool but misses too many female guitarists that belong on this partially digested corn list.

    posted on May 5, 2012 at 3:13 am
  73. steve says:

    Can’t omit Debbie Davies and Bonnie Raitt.

    posted on May 5, 2012 at 3:18 am
  74. Christoffer says:

    KAKI KING. come on - multi-instrumentalist. truly original. not just hacking out the pentatonic cock vomit.

    it is unfortunate that even in 2012 women have not become enough a part of rock and roll to make threads like this obsolete.

    come on, girls - it’s lonely being the only ones making rock!

    posted on May 5, 2012 at 3:31 am
  75. renshen says:

    @ Nicholas Christos who wrote, “Top Ten “WHITE”  You missed my post which mentioned Naoko Yamano of Shonen Knife.

    If you are referring to “African American Female Guitar Players” other than wikipedia you don’t find many, however Tracy Chapman is a multi-platinum artist (Folk. Pop, Blues).

    My comments about airplay, labels, touring still stands.

    posted on May 5, 2012 at 3:32 am
  76. grubbalicious says:

    I’m going to throw a name out,  not so much out of anger for her not being on the list,  but in hopes someone gets interested and YouTube the band.

    Wata from the Japanese band Boris.

    SHE IS INFLUENTIAL. Boris brought drone/doom/noise to the attention of Japan.
    since 92, she’s been standing on stage,  hot and bored as hell,  making amps die from fuzz overload.
    Look…do you like the Melvins or Sleep?  Just go listen.  If anything,  it’ll sterilize you for a week or so.

    posted on May 5, 2012 at 3:35 am
  77. CC says:

    Hey…you left out Bonnie Raitt and ME. :P

    posted on May 5, 2012 at 3:35 am
  78. mark says:

    L7’s guitarist can hold a tune

    posted on May 5, 2012 at 3:37 am
  79. Jon says:

    Muriel Anderson should definitely be on this list.  Think of her annual All Star Guitar night that follows the CAAS convention every year.

    posted on May 5, 2012 at 3:39 am
  80. happydog says:

    April Lawton is still sorely neglected. She issued two albums with her band Ramatam in the late 60s/early 70s, but the music audience and the record companies were so sexist that, at the time, they accused her of being a transsexual because “no girl can play guitar like that.”

    posted on May 5, 2012 at 3:47 am

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