Trying to pick out the top 5 underrated guitarists was tough, but we found some players that are on the precipice of something big. These are all modern guitarists, pushing the boundaries of what is possible.
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The Top 5 Underrated Guitarists: How Did We Choose?
Like any “Top 5” list out there, the list actually started out much larger. It can be hard to define “underrated guitarists” these days, since the internet allows so many players to get their name out there. So we had to take into account a lot of different factors to comprise this list.
The biggest factor, is that the guitarists could not be a “regular” household name. But beyond that, they could also not be a household name with guitar players either. For instance, the general public probably knows who Eddie Van Halen is, even if they do not listen to his music.
But guitarists are a persnickety bunch, and we sometimes take notice of players that work more “behind the scenes”. Session players like Larry Carlton, for example, or players like Guthrie Govan are well-known in the guitar world despite not being popular among the mainstream.
So we had to look at this from a guitarist’s perspective. I LOVE the guitar as an instrument, and I like all kinds of music genres that involve the guitar. Whether it is heavy metal, blues, fusion, or even neo-soul lately… I like to learn and listen to just about any kind of music.
I often talk about how some people are guitar players, and others are musicians. There is a huge difference as far as I am concerned, so that was also one of my parameters for choosing the Top 5 Underrated Guitarists.
Not only are these people great players, but each one is also highly versatile. They compose their own music, and can hop around to different genres while retaining their own unique voice. Finding your own “sound” is hard to do in this industry, regardless of who you are.
We also had to track Spotify plays and other media compared to mainstream artists. Sure, 100k Spotify listens on a track sounds like a big thing, so does thousands of YouTube views. Those big numbers are usually hard-earned.
But even 100k listens on Spotify is almost nothing compared to someone like Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, or Taylor Swift. Their numbers are in the millions. Sometimes, these artists hit that million mark within days.
So some of these names may be familiar if you are really into guitar, but what I am saying is they are so talented, they should be a household name.
We also wanted to only include modern artists. If we were to dive into the past, I could point out tons of old-school rock guitarists, or prog-rock instrumentalists like Allan Holdsworth that would technically be “underrated guitarists”. But as a guitar community, we know those classic names. This is about the new, modern artists that are making waves.
There was a lot of information to take into account here, and if you have found yourself on this list, I honestly mean no disrespect! In fact, I think you deserve much MORE praise than you already get from your dedicated fanbases. There’s nothing wrong with being among “underrated guitarists”.
I am saying that you deserve way more attention than you already get!
These are modern guitarists that should be more popular than they are, in my opinion. If you play guitar, then all 5 of these artists are people to watch. Maybe they missed your radar because it isn’t a genre you listen to normally, or maybe you have heard of them before… but never really gave them a “proper” listen.
Today we are going to take a look at the Top 5 Underrated Guitarists of the modern era. The last, and most precious criteria is that I have personally learned something from each of these guitarists. Whether it was a real life experience, or just listening to their music.
These guitarists are at the top of their game, and while some may have endorsement deals, and are recognized by a niche community… they deserve so much more! It is one thing to have social media presence and recognition, which all of these guitarists already have.
But it is another thing all together to be selling out arenas like the legends. Each one was chosen due to the factors I listed above, but to wrap up this intro, I will give you the list of parameters I set for myself while choosing these amazing artists.
- Must write their own music
- Have a diverse catalog of music, that shows progression
- Not a name you would know outside of the guitar community
- Consistently tours, or makes content
- Be inspiring to other guitarists
- Have a unique style that is all their own
So with all of that said, I couldn’t possibly put these choices in any kind of order. Music is not a competition, it isn’t a race, and it damn sure isn’t American Idol. Being an artist means carving your own path, and if you are doing it right, you don’t have time to worry about the “competition”.
In no particular order, here are the Top 5 Underrated Guitarists according to me, and lots of input from our readers on reddit and Facebook. It was hard to get it down to just 5, but these players all deserve a listen!
#5 Gus Sinaro
Yeah, Gus is a buddy of mine and we talk pretty often, but it was his music that originally caught my attention. We have featured his band, SINARO before on our “Underexposed” series, and after doing a deep dive into their catalog, I was absolutely hooked.
Gus is a native of Brazil, but moved to New York where he started his first band, Symphony Of Malice. While SOM had some minor success, it was SINARO that really launched Gus into the Metal and Hard Rock scene.
The thing about Gus that I find so appealing, is his ability to not only create some amazing riffs and solos, but he also manages to sing at the same time! The band’s Metallica cover was absolutely amazing, and it gained a lot of traction. However, original music is where Gus really shines as a writer, singer, and most importantly… a guitarist.
But while we have seen plenty of videos of Gus shredding and playing complex 7 string riffs, he is also a guitar teacher and the primary songwriter for the band. SINARO has recorded with Rob Zombie’s producer, and even featured guest spots with Andy James and Oli Herbert on their albums.
I think Gus has a unique, melodic approach to guitar, and it isn’t “all heavy, all the time”. Gus has even done some really great acoustic stuff on his Facebook page. If you haven’t checked out SINARO, now might be the time.
The way Gus often writes dual guitar harmonies is a throwback to older Metal music, but he manages to put his own twist on all of these riffs. There’s always a hook, and the solos are always a tasteful mix of melodic shred.
I’ve often said that SINARO is carrying the torch that Metallica dropped in the 90’s, so if you like that kind of music, you should definitely check them out! I’m a sucker for groove-heavy, melodic Metal, and SINARO delivers that in spades.
That’s exactly what sets Gus apart from so many modern Metal guitarists. he is clearly looked to the past for influence, but puts a very modern spin on his style. His lyrics also hit you right in the heart, since most of the content is pointing out society’s flaws.
Songs like “Break The Paradigm” and “The Living Dead” really shows off how Gus can take a heavy riff, and weave catchy melody into it like a sonic collage. I think Gus is one of the best underrated guitarists when it comes to the heavier side of things, and I bet we will see some serious evolution in his future efforts.
I included Gus on this list because he fits the bill for the parameters, and he was one of the first artists I thought of when this article came up. I think Gus is not only one of the most underrated guitarists, but also an underrated songwriter.
You can check them out on just about every major platform, and I will leave you with my favorite song by the band, “The Darkest of Skies”. Check out their official site for tour info, and updates!
#4 Samantha Fish
Samantha is one of the most versatile players. able to change genres and style at the drop of a hat! She not only plays Rock and Blues, but also a little bit of Country and Bluegrass. There is a mish-mash of everything, and she also writes original material and sings lead vocals with her band.
Samantha is the total package, and after years of following her and watching her live shows, it seems crazy to me that she isn’t on the cover of the big guitar magazines. Every single one of her albums features something totally new and different, sound-wise.
Samantha is a Kansas City native, and she started her love for music by playing the drums. She switched to guitar however, at the age of 15. She clearly never looked back, and Samantha has been at it ever since.
Samantha was highly influenced by Bonnie Raitt and Stevie Ray when it comes to guitar, but it was the Rolling Stones that really glued her sound together. By the time she was 30, she was several albums deep into her career, and started attracting some attention in the Blues scene.
While Samantha is known in Blues guitar circles, she is one of the most underrated guitarists in ANY genre. Sure, Samantha does Blues, but every album has a blend of all kinds of styles. Her guitar playing is as bombastic as her songwriting and lyrics.
Samantha Fish might have started in the Blues and her collaborations definitely reflect that, but her latest album “Faster!” is once again, different from her other albums. Recorded with Lady Gaga’s producer, Samantha tried to reign in all of her influences and roll them into one album, and it definitely worked.
The album was written during the pandemic, and really showcases all of her crafty, guitar-wizardry. Songs like “Twisted Ambition” show that Samantha isn’t holding back anymore, finally comfortable with her unique guitar style and witty songwriting.
Samantha is definitely someone to check out if you want to hear something new, especially if you think “Blues has been done to death”. This isn’t any pretentious, Joe Bonamassa-style, corporate Blues-Rock. Samantha Fish is down and dirty, with fuzzy leads and soaring hooks.
I’ve been listening to Samantha since she first started, after catching her in a bar in South Carolina. Back then, she was trying to “play nice” and doing more traditional Southern Rock. I am happy that she has finally found her groove, and hopefully she will soon get the recognition she deserves.
You can check out her official site for tour dates, and Samantha practically LIVES on the road. If you have a chance to see her, the live experience outweighs anything she has ever recorded, so don’t miss it!
#3 Nick Johnston
When it comes to underrated guitarists, I honestly don’t know how Nick’s name could appear on such a list. His album, “Remarkably Human” was a masterclass in songwriting and composing. Nick started picking up some traction after that album, but strangely enough, it was a guitar that gained his newest fans.
Nick is probably the most “famous” guitarist on this list, especially after his guest spot with Polyphia. But I rarely meet guitar players in the “real world” that are familiar with his music, and that’s why I think Nick fits in with these other “underrated guitarists”. But I DO run into tons of people that know about his guitar!
The Nick Johnston Schecter Signature Model has been a best-seller, and a lot of people bought the guitar having no idea who Nick was as a guitarist. This sparked a whole new slew of fans trying to figure out who he is, since they bought his guitar!
Schecter took a chance with Nick, and it has paid off for both parties. Nick’s music is almost impossible to categorize, but if I had to sum it up somehow, I would call it “cinematic”. Unlike most instrumental guitarists Nick doesn’t write his songs on the guitar, he writes them on piano first.
Lately, he has even been incorporating some synthesizer elements and vocals into his music. His guitar playing is incredibly melodic most of the time, but he also knows how to phrase a sick legato line. Nick’s playing is always bordering between shred, and simple melody.
If instrumental music isn’t your thing, then Nick does sing from time to time. Nick also has a project with his wife on vocals called Osmanthus, as well as a project with his neighbor called Archival. But to me, Nick really shines in his solo work.
He has stated many times that as a teenager in rural Canada, he spent most of his time in his room playing guitar, listening to everything from Clapton to Malmsteen. But Joe Satriani was the big turning point for him as a player, where he learned that you can shred and still be melodic.
Nick is one of my favorite artists of the last few years, and it pains me to put him on a list of “underrated guitarists”. His songwriting and composition is top notch, and if you are in the mood for something truly different, then Nick might give your own guitar playing a swift kick in the rear.
Other than just composing music for his three different projects, Nick also offers a lesson course called “Purpose” that explores how he approaches songwriting, and teaches intermediate guitar. I have checked it out, and it is a really interesting insight with a behind the scenes look at creating music.
Nick Johnston may be one of the most underrated guitarists now, but I hope he finds some mainstream success. He could certainly score films if he wanted, but his guitar playing is so impactful that he deserves all the attention he can get.
If you are looking for something totally different, check out “Wide Eyes In The Dark”. This is my favorite track by him, and it really shows off just how versatile he can be as a player, as well as the mood that he sets thematically. His music tells a story, and his songwriting is always “remarkable”.
#2 Nili Brosh
Nili Brosh is perhaps not only one of the most underrated guitarists of the modern era, she is criminally underrated, period. I first heard of Nili when she was playing with Tony MacAlpine. If you don’t know that name, Tony was Steve Vai’s guitarist on stage for quite a while.
Nili currently plays in her own self-titled band, but she also plays for Danny Elfman, Cirque du Soleil, and with our favorite cartoon Metal band; Dethklok. She is one busy person, constantly juggling all of these projects at the same time.
I can honestly say that Nili is one of my favorite guitarists of all time. If you know me personally, then you are already informed about how much I love to listen to EVH and Vai. They are staples of my music journey, and they represent turning points in my own personal style.
But Nili Brosh is completely different, and her original music has been a huge inspiration to me over the years. Her album “Through The Looking Glass” is phenomenal in every way, and her original compositions are full of creative melody and masterful songwriting.
Every now and then, I see Nili in an online article like “Women In Rock: Underrated Guitarists”. While I agree, her gender has nothing to do with her sheer virtuosity. Like everyone else on this list, I think they should be on the cover of Guitar World. I also think it is well past due for Ibanez to give Nili a signature guitar.
Nili is known for playing her neon yellow RG550, as well as several 7 string models like the Ibanez RG827, a guitar that I used to own myself, because I saw a video demo of Nili playing it.
While I certainly appreciate all of the different projects that Nili is a part of, it really is her original music that makes her one of the world’s most underrated guitarists. Her vocal-like phrasing is a colorful blend of David Gilmour, Vai, and Joe Satriani.
Which is no surprise, considering her history playing with Tony. She has also played with Paul Gilbert, Steve Vai, Guthrie Govan, and the Iron Maidens. Nili is just as impressive playing with other bands as she is with her own original band, and she can hang with the best!
Her last album, “Spectrum” shows just how far she has come as a player. The album mixes all kinds of sonic landscapes, with her melodic phrasing at the forefront of every track. This album was a big risk, since it often strays from traditional “Prog” territory.
Her playing mixes tasteful melodic phrases with chimeric bursts of pure shredding. Nili truly has a unique voice to her playing, that has only evolved over the last 11 years. If you have never heard of her, now is a great time to start at the beginning, and work your way through her whole catalog!
Nili has some new music coming this summer, and I cannot wait to hear what she’s been up to! I will post her channel below so you can give it a follow. I am sure these new singles will be amazing, so prepare to have your face melted!
#1 Angel Vivaldi
Angel Vivaldi is not only one of the most underrated guitarists on the planet, he might also be an alien from another world… a planet full of guitars and stylish clothes. I swear, over the last 13 years of being a huge fan of Angel, I have yet to figure him out as a person. He is an amazing player, but he is also a fantastic human.
I’ll never forget pre-ordering his album, and finally receiving it after a month wait. Inside was a little note and a signed album. It felt really personal, and I still cherish that album in my collection. I was part of the crowd-funding for “Away With Words”, and I regret nothing.
Angel is a New Jersey native who has a style that is all his own, both musically and personally. He started out listening to Nirvana and Metallica like all of us in the 90’s, but it was Malmsteen that really activated his path to virtuosity.
Over the years we have watched Angel work with some big names, playing with Nita Strauss and making records with Will Putney. Like everyone on this list, he can play lightning fast with pinpoint accuracy. But his songwriting is more impressive than any of his techniques.
Progressive Metal is a genre that can be taken pretty far, and I think Angel took it as far as he could. This was a good thing, because it allowed his new music to be all over the place when it comes to genre. From Latin Dance to Acoustic tapping, Angel can do a little bit of everything.
When people ask me who my favorite guitarist is, Angel always comes up. I am always happy to share his music with other guitarists, since they are usually blown away. Sure, he can melt your face off with 7 string chug riffs… but he can also get you moving on the dance floor with his newer material.
You never know what Angel is going to do next, and that’s the appeal of his music. He can write a brilliant melodic line, and while he may hop genres and styles, his songwriting is always solid. Like Nick Johnston, Angel knows the importance of “space” in songwriting, and his playing is always tasteful and inspiring.
It seems like Angel is having a great time lately with his new material, and that vibe is infectious. You can’t help but smile while watching his videos, and the hook melody stays in your head for days. Someone needs to give this man an award!
When Angel isn’t being a total ham on stage or in front of the camera, he also gives lessons. Angel has also had a very successful partnership with Charvel, and his “Nova” models are a new spin on the classic Super-Strat design.
If you haven’t checked out Angel’s music, start at the beginning. It is quite a journey to see where he started with guitar, as opposed to his newest album. Angel is always pushing the boundaries of guitar, and he might honestly be from another planet. So catch him before he leaves for his home world!
The Top 5 Underrated Guitarists: This Was Difficult…
It was really hard to pick out the top 5 underrated guitarists, because there are so many talented people making music these days. I can’t stand it when people say that “guitar is dead” or something akin to “no one makes good music anymore”.
You’re not listening if you think that guitar is dead. There are so many players doing awesome things these days that this list was originally 15 guitarists! That would have been a massive article, so I broke it down to 5 players that are doing something amazing.
I think that guitar has never been more interesting. No other time in history have we seen so many people picking up guitar for the first time. There are so many different genres and styles, so many interesting players… I honestly get overwhelmed.
There aren’t enough hours in the day to listen to all of the new music out there. So I hope that this article at least gives you one or two new artists to check out. There are so many artists out there that deserve a listen, and I wish I could just post a big list.
Who do you think are the most underrated guitarists? Who do you think deserves a spot in the limelight?
The Schecter Nick Johnston pairs classic looks with modern day features. The Schecter NJ is designed to be a speed machine that cleans up as nicely as it roars!
Christoper HortonChristopher has been playing guitar, bass, and piano for 28 years. He has been active in the professional music industry for over two decades. Chris has toured for years with several bands and music projects across the United States. He worked in Los Angeles as a studio musician and engineer working with many genres, but mainly Pop, Rock, and Metal. In between giving private lessons, he is usually recording under his various projects. Christopher plays Schecter Guitars, BOSS Amplifiers, and uses STL Tones in the studio.
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