ProGuitarShop

Top Ten Female Guitarists…

November 16, 2013

We thought we’d go for a twist on an old theme—once every couple of years, any good guitar site whips out a piece on the best female guitarists. In addition to marking a box off on one’s diversity checklist, this causes the panties of both genders to be in a twist whether it’s over the fact that such a list exists at all or whether it’s because {your favorite lady guitarist} got left out. Personally, I love how seriously people take this – on both sides of the divide. We all agree that lists are just a jumping off point for deeper discussion, right?! Good—because today in Andy’s Corner, a LADY GUITARIST is writing about her Top Ten Lady Guitarists.  I invite any other Lady Guitarists  (as well as non-ladies) to go ahead and weigh in on this list in the comments. What I will admit to now?! There’s way too many awesome lady guitarists to squeeze into a list of ten, so it's a good thing I just get to pick my favorites. Start your engines and/or get ready to rumble. Make that get ready to ROCK.

 

 

TOP TEN FEMALE GUITARISTS

(as chosen [and alphabetically ordered] by Pro Guitar Shop's female guitarist! Oh snap!)

 

 

 

ANITA LEE ELLIOT (formerly ANITA ROBINSON) : Calico Rose, Viva Voce, Blue Giant

 

Anita is the rarest of the rare. She isn't just freakishly talented-- she's also freakishly nice and well-adjusted, which means that every human in the world is probably a little jealous of her. Though she is best known for her work in the indie rock duo Viva Voce, she also shined in the country rock band Blue Giant and has a new project, Calico Rose, that shows off her abilities in Americana. Is there a genre she can't own!?!?!? From indie rock to downtempo electronica to bluegrass to psych-rock to country-- she slays. And she does it on a pink Les Paul.

 

 
 
 

ANNIE CLARK : St. Vincent

 
If you don't know St. Vincent by now, you're missing out. An incredibly inventive composer, she uses the guitar as a tool to bring her compositions to life. From time to time, I cannot even comprehend what her hands are doing-- and she's usually singing at the same time, just to show off that little extra bit. At the 3:15 mark, the song breaks down and Clark puts her fuzz pedals to good use. (plus she gets Andy-points for not using a pick!)
 

 

 

CARRIE BROWNSTEIN : Wild Flag, Sleater-Kinney

 

What can I say about our own Carrie Brownstein that hasn't already been said? She plays a badass Guild and IS badass and I think I saw her walking through my neighborhood one time (which had the effect of making me go pick up my guitar to practice... I may never have her wildly inventive sense of melody, but my leg-kick has gotten heaps better).

(hat tip to Carrie's cohorts present and past: Mary Timony from Wild Flag and Corin Tucker from Sleater-Kinney!)

 

 

 

EMMA ANDERSON & MIKI BERENYI : Lush

 

Showing my age a little bit here but: I may have started playing guitar because of hair metal, but shoegaze is what kept me playing and turned me into an actual musician. Lush was one of my favorite bands and I still love cranking "Nothing Natural" as loud as possible. Emma and Miki were a perfect pairing on guitar, creating thick, washy soundscapes and inspiring me to pick up a Gibson 335 12-string and as many delay pedals as I could in the process.

 

 
 
 

GABRIELA QUINTERO : Rodrigo y Gabriela

 
I'm just the tiniest, tiniest bit Latina -- and these two get that tiny bit of me ALL FIRED UP! Amazing technique, amazing rhythmic abilities, and somehow she makes metal sound even MORE metal on a nylon string guitar. Check out their covers of Metallica, Slayer, and Led Zeppelin-- but in the meantime: "Tamacun."
 

 

 

 

JOAN JETT & LITA FORD : The Runaways  (plus some rather successful solo careers)

 

I wish Jett and Ford had a longer run together-- they're the perfect mix: one tough-ass, leather-jacket-wearing, hair-dyed-black tomboy pounding out power chords while a tough-ass, sassy blonde with tons of attitude rips a solo on her (completely awesome and enviable) Hamer Destroyer... even though the Runaways weren't together long, growing up I wanted to have Ford's technique and Jett's aura.

 

 

 

PJ HARVEY

 

PJ Harvey can do a major amount of damage with just three chords and said as modestly as possible: she RULES.

 

 

 

RITZY BRYAN : Joy Formidable

 
Ritzy Bryan is the best stadium rock guitarist in the world right now. And I say that having seen Joy Formidable play an 800-capacity theatre that they somehow managed to make feel as though it was Wembley. Never forget that a good song with some high gain octave riffing will set the room on fire!
 

 

When I do another list of ten, I'll get to Wata, Bilinda Butcher, Tanya Donelly, Kim Deal, Kelley Deal, Kristin Hersh, Bonnie Raitt, Marissa Paternoster, Dolly Parton, Rachel Goswell, and whoever it is that you're bummed I left off the list. I never said these were the best ten, just MY top ten-- ten ladies who either inspired me to play or inspired me to KEEP playing. Cheers, ladies!

Have a nice weekend, everyone!

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Mrkbrks says:

    No Orianthi?

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 12:07 pm
  2. Wat says:

    Too bad they all suck.

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 12:27 pm
  3. Voxer says:

    So glad to see St. Vincent on the list! But where is Orianthi?

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 12:32 pm
  4. Tweakerbelle says:

    Adelita from magic dirt or Sarah from Superjesus.

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 12:36 pm
  5. Raymond Souza says:

    Lita Ford is a hack, Joan Jett is a legend…and what no Jennifer Batten…sacrilege!!!

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 12:36 pm
  6. musica23 says:

    No Susan Tedeschi??? Jennifer Batten?????? Hey!!!! What about ME?????

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 12:40 pm
  7. Peter Mickelson says:

    WATA?!

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 12:40 pm
  8. Tom says:

    Marissa from the screaming females is my favorite.

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 12:44 pm
  9. Bubba says:

    Seems, at least in this Wild Flag vid, that Brownstein barely plays.  Looks like Mary Timony is handling the most work and the most intricate work.

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 12:46 pm
  10. Dave Cinquegrana says:

    Jennifer Batten, and Orianthi of course, but most of all Emily Remler! Emily was a ridiculous guitar player! What a loss and way too soon.

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 12:48 pm
  11. Darin Ames says:

    Why isn’t Chrissie Hynde on this list? She’s not just a great song writer and singer, but she’s a phenomenal rhythm guitarist.

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 12:49 pm
  12. Steve Matsukawa says:

    Lita Ford, Nancy Wilson and a whole host of female guitar slingers are missing.  Somehow, I feel as if this whole subject has a bearing on how old the commenter is and their breadth of knowledge of female guitarists.

    If the commenter is over the age 60 and has listened to rock from the ‘50s onward, then their choices will be different than those whose experiences run from the ‘80s on up and a little more limited in choices.

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 12:50 pm
  13. Pancho says:

    cough JULIANA HATFIELD cough

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 12:52 pm
  14. Greg says:

    Kristin Hursh: Throwing Muses | 50 Foot Wave

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 12:55 pm
  15. ZWC says:

    Orianthi is killer.  Ever heard of her???

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 12:55 pm
  16. Sudsy100 says:

    Yeah . . . Jennifer Batten, Nancy Wilson and April Lawton are hugely missing from the list. It’s not really a matter of taste . . . those three are probably the best female players period.

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 12:56 pm
  17. Stephen Wilson says:

    No Nancy Wilson?

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 12:56 pm
  18. Matt says:

    Bonnie Raitt? Sister Rosetta Tharpe? WTF? Even Dolly Parton is better than half the yahoos you mention.

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 12:56 pm
  19. Yikes says:

    Wow there has to be better examples than this.  GABRIELA was the only one here that seemed really talented.  Brownstein and St Vincent were the worst of the batch.  I lost respect for you Andy even though I know you probably just made this list to get in their pants….you sly fox!

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 12:57 pm
  20. Ken says:

    Kimberley Dahmem, Boston’s bass guitar player

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 12:58 pm
  21. Rocker D'Antonio says:

    Liz Buckingham

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 1:00 pm
  22. Michael Fortes says:

    What about Juliana Hatfield? Bonnie Raitt? Mary Timony?

    And few people outside the Bay Area know who she is, but Robin Landy from the late, great Silian Rail is also a phenomenal guitarist. That band was just a guitar-drums duo, and what she did to make the guitar-drums duo format sound so full and vivid has yet to be matched.

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 1:00 pm
  23. Mark says:

    Kaki King!

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 1:01 pm
  24. mrbluebass says:

    another vote for Orianthi.

    That list is lacking a lot of brilliant players. It seems to be biased toward alternative.

    I agree with most of the additions. I’d also add Bonnie Raitt. She plays some pretty mean slide guitar.
    oops, just saw her name at the bottom In the “others” list.

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 1:02 pm
  25. Matt says:

    Carol Kaye.

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 1:02 pm
  26. Aaron Mendonca says:

    Yeah, Sister Rosetta deserves an honorable mention.

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 1:03 pm
  27. Dave Cinquegrana says:

    Yes! Bonnie Raitt and Kaki King.

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 1:04 pm
  28. JD says:

    What? No Jan Kuehnemund,Orianthi or Deap Valley…..The list is not up to par!

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 1:04 pm
  29. musica23 says:

    Holy crap! I shouldn’t yell at you guys…I forgot about Bonnie Raitt until I saw somebody else mentioned her! She’s even better than me. ;-) Nancy Wilson belongs in there, too, as well as my aforementioned Batten and Tedeschi. So there. :P

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 1:05 pm
  30. Samir says:

    Shannon Wright

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 1:05 pm
  31. Matt says:

    Almost forgot…Joni Mitchell.

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 1:05 pm
  32. Dave Cinquegrana says:

    Carol Kaye may be the most important one mentioned yet! Nice one, Matt!

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 1:06 pm
  33. Andrew says:

    Bonnie Raitt plays guitar.

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 1:10 pm
  34. chris zawisza says:

    List is incomplete without Ana Popovic.

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 1:11 pm
  35. Eric says:

    Once again, no one mentions Kelly Johnson from Girlschool

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 1:11 pm
  36. Chris says:

    I just love to see female guitar players! I always find myself falling in love… I love how you got Joan Jett and Lita Ford in one slot. They are very influential ladies and I personally think Joan is one of the best female rockers out there. Thanks for the list!

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 1:13 pm
  37. Sudsy100 says:

    I forgot about Susan Tedeschi, Bonnie Raitt and Joni Mitchell too.

    PGS . . . you’re gonna have to do more research and vet these lists much better. If you keep posting lists which don’t make any sense, we’re all gonna lose interest . . . if not already. Right now, the whole “best of” thing is looking really gimmicky and shallow instead of being informative.

    Arguably, the best six female guitar players are below (in no particular order), and **none of them** are included on the list.

    Jennifer Batten
    Nancy Wilson
    Bonnie Raitt
    April Lawton
    Susan Tedeschi
    Joni Mitchell

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 1:13 pm
  38. DrProgNerd says:

    Thank you for including Gabriela Quintero this time. I griped about her exclusion last time. The strumming and percussive element she has in her playing is incredible. I love GyR.

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 1:14 pm
  39. Matt says:

    Thanks Dave.

    As far as I’m concerned, all of the women I mentioned should be in the top four (in no particular order) in ANY top female guitarist list: Bonnie Raitt, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Carol Kaye, and Joni Mitchell.

    I don’t know everyone listed in this top ten list, but didn’t they all appear AFTER the above mentioned ladies? How could anyone be listed higher than them?

    Nice add Chris: Ana Popovic.

    I agree with Sudsy100 but would put my ladies before your ladies. Well, the ones that are different from my list.

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 1:18 pm
  40. Art Davila says:

    I second Ana Popovic and would add Joanne Shaw Taylor, and Samantha Fish.

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 1:18 pm
  41. Scott Grove says:

    Shut Pro Guitar Shop Down!  Does anyone there actually play!

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 1:22 pm
  42. Kyle says:

    No Kaki King? whaaaaaaaaaa?

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 1:22 pm
  43. matt says:

    Sharon Agular

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 1:22 pm
  44. Pat Horgan says:

    April Lawton from Ramatam?

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 1:23 pm
  45. DragonFire54 says:

    Andy
    You’ve got to get control of these “lists” unless your intent is to incite.  Any discussion of female guitarists that doesn’t mention Bonnie Raitt must be deemed irrelevant.  The fact that so many others had to point this out only solidifies your list is meaningless.

    Also, if your interests is to add new blood (not to mention credibility) to your list try Joanne Shaw Taylor.

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 1:25 pm
  46. Mark says:

    Leah Marie King

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 1:25 pm
  47. Mandy says:

    Nancy Wilson?????

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 1:29 pm
  48. stoo says:

    Leslie Feist! Leslie Feist! Leslie Feist!

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 1:29 pm
  49. Jeff says:

    Orianthi??????

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 1:30 pm
  50. Anthony says:

    I think this is a wonderful individual list of guitarists.  Let’s face it … if 100 guitarists made the same list, it would be different 100 times.  This just gets the conversation rolling.  I’m glad to see there isn’t too many chauvinistic comments here.  I have been humbled and amazed by many female musicians.  It’s good to see you guys are giving these women the respect they deserve!

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 1:31 pm
  51. A2ndpower says:

    Joan Armatrading!

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 1:34 pm
  52. Art says:

    The author of this article seems not to have a deep list of accomplished female guitarist.  If these ladies in this list were men I do not think they would have made the list.  Most of the others the commenters have mentioned would.  Next time how about asking the readers who there top 5 are then compile a list of the top 20 and revote for the top 10.  Not only would that be 3 articles instead of just one, but then there would not be so much distain for the list.

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 1:36 pm
  53. alex says:

    Carrie Brownstein is a very good guitarist.  This video doesn’t really show it.  But I’ve seen Wild Flag live and she does the serious heavy-lifting on guitar, solos, fills, leads, riffs.  Mary Timony basically plays rhythm. This video is the reverse: Carrie plays power chords and Timony plays the riff.  Brownstein definitely a good inclusion in this list. 

    Tanya Donnelly is a good guitarist too (Belly, solo).  Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth) for bass?

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 1:41 pm
  54. Xray says:

    Very interesting list. Love the Polly Harvey tune. Reminds me of John Cale. But the real star for me is Annie Clark. Check out her version of I Dig A Pony.

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 1:42 pm
  55. Darquestarr says:

    It’s obvious the author of this list is more into alternative music than the usual shred, blues/rock, fusion suspects.  That’s a BEAUTIFUL thing as the usual suspects have gotten more than enough ink devoted to their musical prowess, both female and male.  I’ve heard and/or seen and been inspired by most of these artists, but thanks for hipping me to a couple more;)

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 1:42 pm
  56. Taterman says:

    Orianthi, Nancy Wilson, and Liona Boyd are all a hundred times better than everyone on this list.

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 1:46 pm
  57. Strider says:

    Nobody said they had to be rock or blues, so gotta list Sharon Isbin,who only established and heads the Juliard school of guitar, and the masterful Liona Boyd who even made Lenny Breau and Chet Atkins jaws drop, yeah these ladies are on a “whole “nuther level”.

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 1:47 pm
  58. Steve says:

    As usual, you guys blow this list badly…

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 1:50 pm
  59. rumble says:

    Nice to See Bonnie Raitt mentioned so much in the comments. Also Ana Popovic and I was REAL happy to see Emily Remler mentioned. Serious jazz guitarist.

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 1:52 pm
  60. Fred says:

    Haha I’m so glad you managed to piss off the shredders and classic rock guys with this one. Also, where is Suzie Vega and her acoustic, and that girl who used to play with Ash ?

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 2:00 pm
  61. Naturalist says:

    Susanna Hoffs. From the Bangles.

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 2:03 pm
  62. ChrisM says:

    Saw a guitarist/singer this past summer from Austin TX that really caught my attention named Carolyn Wonderland….her picking style was unique, her voice was great and her performance was intensely unforgettable…..also a thumbs up fro Susan and Bonnie!!

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 2:04 pm
  63. Jack says:

    Though “Poison” Ivy Rorschach was playing bass as Brian Gregory was the lead guitar in the first Cramps line up she sure could play guitar and had quite a sound.  Honorary mention at least, as Lux passed away not (that) long ago, the band dying with him.  However Ivy sure is a Psychobilly Queen and had a sound of her own.

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 2:06 pm
  64. GB says:

    I liked the song the last band played.  Other than that I didn’t see anything special.  Does it seem like women play guitar solos kind of like they communicate with men?  Lots of noise and dissonance, almost like nails on chalkboard sometimes?  Really not very soulful.  Obviously there are some that are terrific, Bonnie Raitt as an example.  But for the most part I just don’t think girls “get” electric guitar.

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 2:09 pm
  65. Andy says:

    Where is Desiree Bassett????

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 2:09 pm
  66. Halmer says:

    Geeeeeez….that was painful…...sure missed the mark this time round….

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 2:12 pm
  67. CathyH says:

    http://www.reverbnation.com/cathyhorner

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 2:14 pm
  68. Rodger Ramjet says:

    Orianthi, Jennifer Batten, and Kaki King anyone?

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 2:20 pm
  69. Perry says:

    Nancy Wilson would be No. 1 on my Top Ten List. Thanks for your list too! It’s made me aware of some female artists I need to hear more of!

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 2:25 pm
  70. Rayo says:

    Very underwhelming performances. Heavy on three-chord strumming and light on originality, variety and imagination. Also, as well as the more-deserving players mentioned in the comments, you left out Fanny’s June Millington, my classmate in the Philippines and April Lawton’s contemporary, who probably inspired most of these women to take up guitar in the first place. Such well-known players as Frank Zappa, Earl Slick and Mick Ronson have said very complimentary things about June.

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 2:31 pm
  71. Joe says:

    What no Charo?

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 2:32 pm
  72. DetroitBlues says:

    With exception to Joan Jett….

    UNIMPRESSED

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 2:33 pm
  73. Frederick Drury says:

    April Lawton

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 2:33 pm
  74. Rodger Ramjet says:

    BONNIE RAITT!!!  Come on, many regard her as one of the best blues and slide guitarists around today!

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 2:35 pm
  75. joe says:

    How ‘bout Samantha Fish? Susan Tedeschi?

    Lists like this are about as useful as “top 10 guitarists that drive Volkswagens”. So what? Has nothing to do with playing guitar.

    Unfortunately, most of these women wouldn’t make it on any list without the “female” distinction.

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 2:37 pm
  76. joe says:

    And you forgot Vicki Genfan and Muriel Anderson…

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 2:38 pm
  77. Rayo says:

    In fairness, I should mention that Rodrigo y Gabriela’s Tamacun was much more original, exciting and imaginative than the other selections, although the heavy lifting was done by Rodrigo. It was still excellent rhythm playing by Gabriela.

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 2:40 pm
  78. joe says:

    Elizabeth Cotton ;)

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 2:41 pm
  79. Frank Bowman says:

    Your list is Lame…Joanne Shaw Taylor beats them all!!!!

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 2:41 pm
  80. Brent says:

    Ani Difranco.

    posted on November 16, 2013 at 2:43 pm

Leave a Comment

  • Please enter the word you see in the image below:


  • Notify me of follow-up comments?