Even in a world of male-dominated guitar bands and artists, it is still possible to find great female guitarists! In fact, we want to apologize for any we may have missed below! We tried our best to find older and newer examples of women who pick and shred, with no particular order or genre. Hopefully, we can inspire other young aspiring guitarists with this list. In this article, we are simply looking at the most amazing female guitarists that you need to know!
Past Female Guitar Pickers – some still rockin’ it!
These are the most important names of the past that are worth looking into; some are very well-known, while others not so much.
Sister Rosetta Tharpe is one of the most influential guitarists ever! When rock historians talk about Chuck Berry and Eric Clapton, they often mention those two wouldn’t exist without the blues guitar of Sister Rosetta!
Rosinha de Valença was a Brazilian composer and arranger who influenced many other Latin American and even North American musicians.
Mary Ford was married to Les Paul, who is often given plenty of credit for his innovative picking and guitar building. Mary was right there with him, helping and influencing trends in guitar playing and even recording.
Maybelle Carter was part of the famous Carter family who helped shape picking and playing in bluegrass, country, and folk. Her daughter, June Carter, was also a great musician and married to Johnny Cash.
Memphis Minnie was another blues-rock guitarist who played “When the Levee Breaks” long before the men of Led Zeppelin.
Joni Mitchell was a folk guitarist and singer-songwriter whose popularity peaked in the ’60s and ’70s with the likes of Bob Dylan, and later she moved into other genres.
Elizabeth Cotten was a trailblazing Black female guitarist known for her pioneering fingerstyle technique. Born in 1893, she gained recognition later in life, influencing generations of musicians with her signature song, “Freight Train.” Cotten’s unique approach to the guitar left an indelible mark on the folk and blues genres, and she remains a revered figure in the history of American music.
Norma Tanega was half Filipino and Panamanian, and these roots showed in her experimental folk guitar style. She played the song for the What We Do in the Shadows theme!
Nancy Wilson was born in the 1950s and grew up with the rise of rock ’n’ roll; some of her best guitar work was with the band Heart. Many of her riffs are played daily on classic rock radio.
Bonnie Raitt was another blues guitarist who has had an incredible career in many genres; she even recently won a Grammy in 2023! She still knows how to impress and intrigue with her guitar.
Emily Remler was an Australian jazz guitarist who didn’t have much conventional fame, but she is revered among jazz musicians.
PJ Harvey is a guitarist and singer-songwriter known for art rock, punk blues, and folk punk; her career started in the late ’80s and is still going strong.
Tracey Chapman is seeing new popularity with the cover of her song “Fast Car,” she has some great blues rock guitar chops!
Susanna Hoffs of The Bangles had a lot of fame in the ’80s, and she is still making new music and even social media content.
Susan Tedeschi is a great example of an American blues artist, and she is also married to the guitarist Derek Trucks.
Emily Sailers of the Indigo Girls is proficient in more instruments than just the guitar.
Jennifer Batten toured with Michael Jackson and Jeff Beck; as a session guitarist, she plays a mix of hard rock and even fusion worldbeat music.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the great Joan Jett and Lita Ford, whose claim to fame is from the Los Angeles-based all-girl band The Runaways formed in 1975!
Modern Female Guitarists
Sophie Lloyd can shred with the best guitarists and plays for Machine Gun Kelly’s band. Like many modern artists, she started on YouTube.
Courtney Barnett is known for her indie rock and quirky picking styles on some songs; as a songwriter, she is also known for witty lyrics!
Taylor Swift is so well known, but she still needs to be mentioned! The guitar is not as popular as it once was, and she has introduced a whole new generation to singer-songwriting on the instrument!
Sophie Burrell is another master shredder, often playing covers of past hits and sometimes doing a better job than the original!
Kaki King is more of an experimental guitar player with genres like shoegaze and post-rock. She uses techniques like fret tapping and slap bass to add to her style.
Samantha Fish is a great bluegrass picker, funk player, and ballad singer-songwriter. Her guitar playing is so amazing she has impressed legends like Buddy Guy and Devon Allman.
Orianthi has jammed with Michael Jackson, Steve Vai, and Carlos Santana, and her breakthrough was playing for Carrie Underwood.
Celisse Henderson is a talented black female guitarist known for her dynamic and soulful guitar performances. She has played alongside renowned artists such as Lizzo and Jon Batiste, showcasing her exceptional skills and versatility. Henderson’s electrifying stage presence and ability to blend rock, soul, and blues influences make her a rising star in the music industry, earning her recognition as one of the most exciting and innovative guitarists of her generation.
St. Vincent is technically more than a guitarist with her complex song arrangements, but she is so good at the various instruments that she could make many amazing lists!
Yvette Young is a highly talented and versatile musician, best known for her exceptional skills as a guitarist, multi-instrumentalist, and songwriter. She gained prominence as a member of the band Covet, where her intricate fingerstyle guitar playing and innovative compositions earned her a dedicated following. Young’s ability to blend elements of math rock, post-rock, and progressive music has made her a respected figure in the contemporary instrumental music scene.
Molly Tuttle is a prominent Americana artist renowned for her exceptional prowess as a guitarist, singer, and songwriter. Born into a musical family, she quickly made a name for herself with her impressive flatpicking guitar skills and heartfelt songwriting. Tuttle’s innovative blend of traditional bluegrass and folk influences with contemporary sensibilities has earned her critical acclaim and several prestigious awards, making her a rising star in the world of Americana music.
Wata is a highly accomplished female guitarist known for her groundbreaking work with the avant-garde metal band Boris. Her distinctive approach to the instrument extends beyond traditional guitar playing, as she’s renowned for her mastery of creating intricate, atmospheric textures and haunting sonic landscapes through her amplifier. Throughout her career, Wata has pushed musical boundaries, collaborating with experimental artists and showcasing her versatility by seamlessly transitioning between various genres, from psychedelic rock to doom metal and shoegaze.
H.E.R., whose real name is Gabriella Wilson, is a talented Black female guitarist and singer-songwriter who has made a significant impact in the music industry. With her soulful voice and exceptional guitar skills, she has garnered critical acclaim and multiple Grammy Awards. H.E.R. is known for her ability to blend elements of R&B, soul, and contemporary pop while showcasing her guitar prowess, making her a trailblazing figure in modern music.
Brittany Howard is a remarkable Black female guitarist and musician celebrated for her powerful vocals and inventive guitar playing. As the lead vocalist and guitarist for the band Alabama Shakes, she gained widespread recognition for her soulful, bluesy sound. Howard’s captivating stage presence and unique guitar work have earned her critical acclaim, multiple Grammy Awards, and a devoted fan base, solidifying her status as a standout artist in the world of rock and soul music.
Gretchen Menn is a highly skilled female guitarist celebrated for her virtuosic playing and innovative approach to music. Known for her work with the all-female tribute band Zepparella, Menn has earned a reputation as a versatile and technically proficient guitarist, captivating audiences with her impressive fretwork and musicality.
And So Many More Female Guitarists
We could go on all day with amazing female guitar players and bands, so here are some more in a variety of genres.
For indie rock and post-punk, we have Mary Timony, Lari Basilio, KT Tunstall, Molly Rankin, Elizabeth Stokes, Julien Rose Baker, Lindsay Jordan, Bridget Battle, and bands like Wet Leg and the Screaming Females.
If you prefer heavy metal shredding or progressive rock, then you might like Sarah Longfield or the math rock of Suichu Spica. Other guitarists who fit this category are Nita Strauss, Yvette Young (mentioned above), Gina Gleason, Kanami Tono, Tory Slusher, Dani Neff, Alyssa Day, Diamond Rowe, and the death metal band Crypta.
For those who like more easy-going country, folk, bluegrass, or jazz, try Madison Cunningham, Christie Lenée, Grace Bowers, Toni Lundgren, Mary Spender, Gwenifer Raymond, or Molly Tuttle.
And for those who love old-fashioned blues rock, try Joanne Shaw Taylor, Ana Popovic, Laura Chavez, and Joanna Connor, or a mix of blues and other genres with Tash Sultana.
Just like male musicians, many of the modern guitarists seem to be into math rock and shredding metal; after all, it is what’s popular! But whether they are ripping through solos or playing simple acoustic folk and blues songs, there are still plenty more female guitarists to discover!
The amount of words dedicated to these amazing female guitarists is not indicative of who is the best. They are all worth checking out, even if they play a different genre than you do. Look into their styles, techniques, and playing methods to help with your own lessons and study. And if we forgot anyone who is an amazing female guitarist, including yourself, please let us know!