The greatest guitar solos are able to strike a balance between melodic phrasing, interesting rhythms and pure chops, and the solos we’ve picked today have all these qualities. The ten solos below are amongst the hardest to play that we’ve seen across several genres and decades, narrowed down and consolidated into a single list for you to enjoy (but not in the order of difficulty - that can vary based on your stylistic inclinations). Be prepared if you’re planning on learning any of these: extreme difficulty ahead!
1. Eruption by Van Halen (Guitarist - Eddie Van Halen)
Let’s start off with one of the most iconic guitarists to ever grace the genre of rock, and one of his solos in particular that is still seen as the benchmark for any guitarists in the genre. Eruption is well known for its reputation of having laid the foundation for a technique called ‘tapping’ to become more and more popular. Fun fact if you’ve read our blog post about amps: Van Halen used a 1968 Marshall 1959 Super Lead tube amp to achieve this legendary tone!
Listen here: Eruption (2015 Remaster)
2. Recuerdos de la Alhambra by Francisco Tárrega (Guitarist - Francisco Tárrega)
This isn’t technically a guitar solo, but is still considered one of the hardest pieces any classical guitarist could learn. One of its standout features is the use of tremolo—a technique in which the guitarist plays a bass note with their thumb followed by three higher pitched notes. When played in quick succession, this creates a fantastic effect, and in Recuerdos, adds a beautiful complexity.
Watch a cover of the song here: Recuerdos de la Alhambra by Francisco Tárrega
3. Billy’s Bounce by Charlie Parker (Guitarist - George Benson)
Next up, we have this incredible solo by one of the greatest ever jazz guitarists, George Benson. On this track, originally composed by Charlie Parker, he exhibits his genius by incorporating ideas from blues and bebop phrases into his playing. Listen to this almost ethereal solo as he floats between melodically and rhythmically complex phrases and liquid lines - it’s a trip!
Listen here: Billie's Bounce (Bonus Track)
4. Electric Sunrise by Plini (Guitarist - Plini)
We’ve now come to one of the more modern guitarists on this list, and someone who Steve Vai himself called "the future of exceptional guitar playing". Plini, prog rock and metal virtuoso, serves up an extremely tasty solo on his song Electric Sunrise. Much of the difficulty on this song comes from achieving the same textures and tones that he uses, and staying on time while also executing tough lines and phrasing.
Check it out here: Plini - "Electric Sunrise" (2016)
5. Fives by Guthrie Govan (Guitarist - Guthrie Govan)
Another modern miracle-worker, Guthrie Govan has been regarded as one of the best in the business for a while now. His playing is an amalgamation of many different styles, genres and influences, and nowhere is this more apparent than his solo on Fives. Even amongst all the different techniques on show, Govan still manages to serve the song as tastefully as anyone else you’ll see.
Watch the Fives solo here: Guthrie Govan - Fives from "Erotic Cakes" at JTCGuitar.com
6. Through the Fire and Flames by DragonForce (Guitarists - Herman Li and Sam Totman)
Although not the hardest solo in a technical sense, this song features two guitar solos that are played at breakneck speeds and require massively high levels of endurance and stamina to replicate. Fun fact: this song became hugely popular after its inclusion as one of the hardest solos to play in the video game Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock!
Listen to the song here: DragonForce - Through the Fire and Flames (Official Video)
7. Juice by Steve Vai (Guitarist - Steve Vai)
Definitely one of the grooviest, shreddiest, stylist and technically demanding guitar pieces ever! The legendary Steve Vai shows why he’s considered one of the hardest guitarists to emulate in Juice. Incorporating a smorgasbord of guitar technique (and requiring mastery-level execution of all of them!) Juice is an incredible showcase of guitar wizardry on so many levels, it’s just… unfair! What’s so great about this piece is that it’s so enjoyable even if you’re really not into all that guitar madness.
Check it out here: Steve Vai - Juice
8. Dissimulation by Born of Osiris (Guitarist - Jason Richardson)
Jason Richardson, who was only 20 years old when this song came out, showcases his prodigious skills and speed on this iconic song from djent outfit Born of Osiris. If you enjoy metal and the innovations that its various genres have brought to guitar playing, this solo is for you! Watch here: BORN OF OSIRIS - Dissimulation
9. Sultans of Swing by Dire Straits (Guitarist - Mark Knopfler)
Some of you may be surprised that you had to wait so long to see this legendary song! Mark Knopfler would rank very high on just about any greatest guitarist lists you could think of, and nowhere is the reason why more apparent than in one of Dire Straits’ most well-known songs, Sultans of Swing. This track perhaps isn’t as ‘technically’ difficult as some of the other solos on this list, but Knopfler’s unique style, feel and dynamics are very hard to nail just right - so you may think this one’s easy, till you actually try it out.
Watch Knopfler play the song live: Dire Straits - Sultans Of Swing (Alchemy Live)
10. La Villa Strangiato by Rush (Guitarist - Alex Lifeson)
And finally, we have a song from one of Canada’s greatest ever bands. Alex Lifeson from Rush is a very unique and underrated guitarist, and he shows why it’s almost impossible to overlook him with his solo in La Villa Strangiato. Put simply, this is a player with a very lateral perspective on the guitar solo itself, and his execution on this one is unusual, passionate and extraordinarily intense. Don’t miss out on this one!
Watch here: Rush - La Villa Strangiato
Disclaimer - this is a subjective list and you may have 10 completely different solos on your list of ‘most difficult guitar solos’ - and that’s fine. :)
Are you planning on learning any of these solos? You’re in for a treat—embrace the journey and know that by the end, you’ll be able to impress anybody with the kinds of skills you’ve learned! If you aren’t a guitarist but these solos inspired you, the best place to start learning is right here at Taaqademy. Book a free demo class with us anytime and get shredding!