25 Top Female Guitarists That You Should Know

Female guitar players

For a long time, most people felt like the guitar was a man’s instrument. Seeing a woman holding a 6-string was considered out of the ordinary. Despite that, some of the world’s finest guitar players are women. In recent years, the trends seem to have shifted, and more young female enthusiasts are picking up the instrument. To celebrate this, here’s my list of the top 25 female guitarists of all time. 

1. Sister Rosetta Tharpe

The godmother of electric guitar and undoubtedly one of the most skilled guitar players to walk the earth, Sister Rosetta Tharpe is a legend! There’s hardly anyone from that early electric guitar era who could really compare to Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Check out her live performances, which will still feel impressive, even by today’s standards.

Making a breakthrough in the late 1930s, Rosetta Tharpe eventually went deep into blues and heavily inspired early rock ‘n’ roll. She’s also one of the best-known guitar players to be associated with the reimagined Gibson Les Paul of the early 1960s, which would eventually become known as the SG. 

2. Bonnie Raitt

Apart from her incredible mesmerizing voice, Bonnie Raitt captures your heart with her unique guitar playing. For a long time, she was the only widely known female blues player out there and has inspired generations of women to pick up the instrument.

Bonnie’s approach is more subtle, yet her lead parts still manage to stick out and serve the song. She’s also an incredible slide player.

3. St. Vincent

Going into more contemporary artists, St. Vincent showed the different side of the instrument. Her music and her playing is more laid-back and focused on the groove, all while combining grunge influences with bluesy elements.

She has also become known for her signature Ernie Ball guitar, featuring an unconventional shape and a not-so-common pickup and hardware combination. St. Vincent has a super unique approach to guitar playing that shines through in her music.

4. Nita Strauss

What the 1980s heavy metal shredders did back in the day, Nita Strauss takes into modern metal music, helping it evolve in new ways. Although initially working as a “hired gun” of sorts, playing with Alice Cooper helped her get some more attention.

These days, she’s becoming more famous for her solo material rather than being just a band member for a big name. And I love seeing this unravel and am eagerly anticipating what the future has in store for her.

5. Lari Basilio

Lari Basilio is easily one of the most impressive guitarists in the world today. And it’s not just due to her impeccable technical skills but her sense to write and improvise some incredibly appealing and very enjoyable music.

Seriously, you won’t hear anyone like her out there. This is why Lari also has her signature Ibanez model, the LB1.

6. Lita Ford

The queen of 1980s metal guitar, Lita Ford, still serves as an inspiration for guitarists today. Starting off in The Runaways, she eventually had her own successful solo career.

Although not a conventional “shredder” per se, Lita is more than an impressive guitar player. On top of that, she’s also an incredible songwriter, scoring some successful hits of the era.

7. Jennifer Batten

Coming from the same era, Jennifer Batten got into the spotlight after she was hired to play as a member of Michael Jackson’s live band. Her stage presence, along with her incredible musicianship, captured the hearts of guitar fans.

But apart from playing Eddie Van Halen’s “Beat It” solo for Jackson, Batten started making her name for her solo material. To this day, she keeps inspiring new generations of guitarists with her impeccable chops.

8. Nili Brosh

Nili Brosh has been playing for composer Danny Elfman for some time now. And knowing how wild and out of the ordinary Elfman’s work is, you can only imagine how incredibly skilled a guitar player in such a band should be.

Of course, Nili initially built her name as a solo artist. Although she is an instrumental rock and metal musician, her material includes a lot more than just that — she includes elements from a variety of other genres.

9. Ana Popović

For the lovers of blues music, Ana Popovic is a familiar name. Her work started in a small band, Hush, but eventually, she kicked off her solo career in the late 1990s. She is an amazing female blues guitar player.

Although she’s played with countless blues legends, one thing that always remained was her unique style. From the early 2000s to now, she’s enjoyed multiple nominations and awards from respected institutions.

10. Poison Ivy

When it comes to the combo of psychedelic rock and rockabilly genres, Kristy Marlana Wallace, also known as Poison Ivy, is your go-to guitar player. You’ll see her shredding on her hollow-body guitars, making sounds you’ve never heard before with her band The Cramps. 

With her interesting combo of Gretsch guitars, vintage-oriented amplifiers, and old-school effects, she presents her music in the best possible way. Her music includes some serious surf rock elements.

11. Orianthi

Orianthi is easily one of the most technically skilled guitar players on this list and beyond. Starting her career in the late 1990s, she got some attention after performing live with Carlos Santana. One thing led to another, and Orianthi managed to impress none other than Michael Jackson, who scored the gig with the King of Pop.

Unfortunately, she never got the chance to play with Jackson since the singer passed away midway through rehearsals. Nonetheless, this was enough to propel her career further, and she has an abundance of great solo material, showcasing what PRS guitars (and extraordinary talent) can really do.

12. Joni Mitchell

Although Joni Mitchell isn’t a virtuosic technical “shredder” kind of player, there are more than enough qualities to put her on this list of female guitarists. It’s her overall musicianship and approach to the instrument that makes her stand out.

During her lengthy career, Joni explored different aspects of the guitar. Namely, she implemented a variety of alternate tunings. This wasn’t for showing off but to help Mitchell achieve her vision on the instrument and help perform some of her unique chord progressions and chord voicings. It all worked perfectly well with her impeccable singing voice.

13. Marissa Paternoster

While not a name you’ll hear as often as many others on the list, Marissa Paternoster deserves all the praise she can get. Known in the New Brunswick music scene, Paternoster had two bands, Screaming Females and Noun.

Her style of playing, as well as her music, are kind of raw if you will. We could argue that Marissa’s music is a blend of punk, grunge, and classic rock. However, the moment you hear her riffs and lead parts, you can notice that it’s unlike your usual modern rock. Her choice of notes is a little unconventional, and so is her tone, which goes more on the fuzzy side. 

14. Barbara Lynn

I cannot stress enough how important Barbara Lynn’s influence really is. She started her long career in the 1960s, but today, now in her 80s, Lynn is still rocking out, which only makes her work more impressive and inspiring.

No matter the genre or scope of genres that you’re into, you’ll find something to love about Lynn’s musicianship. It’s not much of a surprise that she’s one of the most influential female guitarists of all time, especially hearing her impressive sense of groove. This is all combined with her unique fingerpicking technique, as well as her singing, which is pretty tough to pull off, combined with her guitar playing.

15. Odetta

With her specific flavor of folk and blues, Odetta Holmes, popularly known as just Odetta, has made a huge impact on modern music during her career. She started off performing when she was only 14 years old, which is an incredibly impressive feat on its own, especially at the time when this was pretty much a male-dominated field.

Of course, Odetta was primarily a singer and a hell of a good one at that. However, her singing and guitar playing complemented one another incredibly well. While it may not seem that impressive at first, it’s pretty difficult to replicate what she did on the instrument.

16. Liz Buckingham

If there’s one underrated player in the whole world of guitar, then it has to be Liz Buckingham. For all the lovers of absolute doom, despair, and heaviness, Electric Wizard and Liz’s riffs are a dream come true.

Of course, she also played with Sourvein, Never, and 13, but her best-known work is with Electric Wizard. She’s been with the band since 2003, and her biggest superpower is handling the incredibly heavy chugging riffs while keeping her super-fuzzy tone under perfect control.

17. Yvette Young

The founder of the math rock band Covet, Yvette Young, showed a completely different side of electric guitar music. But although going deep into prog rock elements, you can clearly feel some serious indie rock vibes in Yvette’s playing. Most importantly, she balances these two seemingly different styles of music perfectly.

Covet is pretty much her project and represents Yvette’s artistic vision. She’s also most often seen using Ibanez Talman Prestige guitars, as well as Vox’s classic AC30 amplifiers. Such a combo allows her to get a super-bright and just slightly overdriven tone that helps her put her artistic vision into action

18. Joan Jett

Going back to the classic old-school players, Joan Jett helped define a whole generation of musicians. An absolute legend of rock ‘n’ roll, Jett started her career in the mid-1970s and made her name along with Lita Ford in the lineup. Eventually, she started her own band.

In the early 1980s, she made a huge break with the cover of “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” with her band Joan Jett & the Blackhearts. But her strongest side was her perfect blend of punk and classic rock ‘n’ roll — something that was a real challenge to pull off back in the day. And it’s all thanks to her raw, no-nonsense approach to the guitar. 

19. Nancy Wilson

It took only one seemingly simple riff to send Nancy Wilson and her band Heart into the stratosphere. However, 1977’s “Barracuda” is far from a simple song, and it showcases just what Nancy was capable of back in the day.

And it’s this approach to music that really made her stand out back in the day, eventually inspiring guitar players of a variety of genres. To support her riffage and lead guitar skills, she’s used a variety of guitars, but her most famous choice is the Gibson SG Standard.

20. Wendy Melvoin

Not that many people on this planet were talented and skilled enough to even be considered to play for Prince’s backing band. Although you won’t hear her name that often, Wendy Melvoin is an absolute master of her instrument.

Combining alternative rock with funk and R&B, Wendy has also done countless other projects, honing her craft as a session musician. Apart from that, she’s also one half of the duo Wendy & Lisa. However, the most important thing that you need to know about Wendy is that she recorded guitars on Prince’s “Purple Rain.” What an achievement.

21. Maybelle Carter

Now, going all the way back to the first half of the 20th century, Maybelle Carter was one of the first to prove that the guitar isn’t just a boy’s game. Just to understand her major impact, Maybelle was one of the first people to start using the so-called “Carter scratch” — a fingerpicking technique that’s named after her. This is what helped push the instrument forward and change it for the new generations.

Although a country folk musician, Maybelle’s influence can be felt way beyond the genre. Apart from the guitar, she also played autoharp.

22. Laura Chavez

Kicking her career off in the early 2000s, blues guitarist Laura Chavez built her name as one of the contemporary masters of Texas blues and Chicago blues styles. In her playing, you can hear clear influences of the old-school blues legends. However, she gives it her unique spin, which is what makes Laura so special.

What’s also great about Laura is that she shows the full potential of what Fender guitars can do. She also uses somewhat rare Vero amps.

23. Mimi Fox

Mimi Fox is one of the names who deserves a lot more attention. A modern jazz guitar master unlike any other, Mimi is known within the genre for her unique approach to arpeggios. In fact, her methods are quite popular among jazz guitar students who are learning how to do their own arrangements and variations of standards.

It’s an incredible combination of sequences and rhythmic play used on arpeggios. It’s also applicable to all the other genres, proving that arpeggios are way more than your average mindless sweep picking.

24. Sheryl Bailey

Another jazz guitarist on the list, Sheryl Bailey is also a very successful teacher within the genre. She’s been active for a very long time and now shares her extensive experience with the world, apart from being a professor at Berklee College of Music.

Sheryl is just an incredible source of inspiration, even beyond jazz music. Her methods can be useful for pretty much anyone.

25. Britt Lightning

Last but not least, we have to mention Britt Lightning, best known as the lead guitar player in Vixen. If you thought that no one in metal and hard rock music could impress you anymore, Ms. Lightning stays true to her name with her impeccable soloing skills and talents.

Although she rocks a variety of guitars, people recognize her the most for her Jackson V model, featuring lightning-style inlays on the fretboard.