Despite their male counterparts getting the lion’s share of the limelight, women guitarists have been a part of popular music since the beginning. From Memphis Minnie to Joan Jett and beyond, female guitarists have been able to rise in a male-dominated scene and earn the respect of fans and fellow musicians alike. Today, we want to take a look at five great female modern guitarists who are proving to this day that you don’t need a Y chromosome to rock like a guitar god.
Known by her stage name St. Vincent, Annie Clark is easily one of the most original artists today, be it male or female. Her guitar style is as multi-layered and complex as her songwriting, mixing a number of genres, techniques and styles – from jazz and soft rock to punk and cabaret – into something wholly original.
Clark first hit the scene as a member of the avant-garde choir rock/pop band The Polyphonic Music Spree and soon after as the touring guitarist for Sufjan Stevens. It wasn’t until 2006 that Clark decided venture off as an artist on her own right, releasing her debut album, Marry Me, a year later. Her fourth solo album, self-titled St. Vincent, was released on February 2014 to wide acclaim; a year later, the album won her a Grammy for Best Alternative Album, her first Grammy award.
If you’re a fan of artists that just can’t be pegged down into one style or genre and keep on surprising you with their output, St. Vincent will deliver.
As one half of the Mexican acoustic guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela, Gabriela Quintero proves that with enough skill and passion, you don’t always an electric guitar to rock hard. Along with partner Rodrigo Sanchez, Rodrigo y Gabriela have launched themselves to the top of the music scene ever since the release of their 2006 self-titled album, touring around the world and even performing for President Barack Obama in May 2010. With recordings consisting of largely instrumental duets on classical guitar, Quintero not only holds her own, but often times outshines her partner.
Interestingly enough, it wasn’t until the pair decided to leave the relatively limited musical confines of their native Mexico and settle in Dublin, Ireland, that they eventually found success. Despite knowing hardly any English, the duo made a name for themselves in the Dublin music scene by continuously playing live gigs in various pubs and busking on Grafton Street.
As interest in the group began to soar, they eventually released their debut album, the eponymous Rodrigo y Gabriela, in 2006, beating established artists such as the Arctic Monkeys and Johnny Cash to land the #1 spot on the Irish charts. Since then, their success has grown far beyond the scope of Ireland, reaching across the globe, thanks in no small part to Quintero’s impressive talents.
Best known as Michael Jackson’s guitarist during the ill-fated “This Is It” concert, Orianthi has since become a successful international artist in her own right. While her chops on the electric guitar are well-known, the Australian musician is also an accomplished singer-songwriter, with her debut single “According to You” having topped the charts in various countries around the world including the US, Australia and even Japan (where it peaked at No. 3).
Even before she impressed Jackson enough to hand select her as his guitarist, Orianthi already had history of turning the heads of some of the best ax-men around; her first performance at the young age of 15 was for Steve Vai and at the age of 18, Carlos Santana personally invited her to perform with him after jamming with her back stage during sound check.
If you’ve somehow managed to avoid seeing her guitar talent all these years, do yourself a favor and check out the video below for a small sample of Orianthi’s skill.
If you like your rock fierce and heavy, Elizabeth “Lzzy” Hale is definitely a guitarist to check out. As the rhythm guitarist and vocalist of the Grammy Award winning hard rock band Halestorm, Hale is a perfect example of a multitalented frontwoman able to simultaneously rock the crowd and kick ass on the ax. The band itself is also well known for their grueling touring schedule, performing as many as 250 shows in just a year, further proving Hale's chops as a musician.
Her interest in music began at the age of 5 when Hale and her younger brother Arejay began learning piano. She soon moved on to the electric guitar while Arejay found his calling as a drummer. The siblings eventually broke into the scene with the release of their first EP, Don’t Mess With the Time Man (1999).
She has since enjoyed significant success as not only Halestorm's lead singer and rhythm guitarist, but also with guest appearances alongside artists such as Shinedown, Black Stone Cherry, Seether and Adrenaline Mob.
Joanne Shaw Taylor
Discovered by Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics at the young age of 16, guitarist and singer Joanne Shaw Taylor has since become a staple of the modern British blues-scene, even being called “the new face of blues” by the music magazine Blues Matters!.
Inspired by rock legends such as Stevie Ray Vaughan, Albert Collins and Jimi Hendrix, Taylor’s no nonsense blues style, sultry vocals and skillful songwriting have garnered her several notable awards including Songwriter of the Year at the 2011 British Blues Awards for "Same As It Never Was" from her sophomore release, Diamonds in the Dirt.
Although she has gradually turned more and more towards guitar driven rock, her roots lie firmly in blues, as can be heard on several licks, riffs and solos strewn across her most recent album, 2014’s The Dirty Effort. If your
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