Five of Classic Rock’s Best Guitar Solos

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

You know ‘em, you love ‘em. With the right series of notes they can turn a great song into an iconic song. This was tough to put together because there are just so many amazing guitarists out there who have written solos that have stood the test of time.

Here are five of some of the best guitar solos in classic rock.

Black Sabbath – N.I.B.

This song would be amazing even without the solo. It’s a slow, heavy song with a really headbangable main riff. When Tony Iommi comes in to shred it hits even harder. Iommi rips an incredibly melodic solo that works really well with the rest of the band. He doesn’t just shred, but he does so in a way that fits the tone and feeling of the song. He hits all the right notes at all the right times — this one will give you goosebumps.

Jethro Tull – Aqualung

This is another masterpiece of a song even without the guitar solo. That’s a common theme with all these songs – the song will already be excellent, and the solo combined with the energy and feeling of the song elevate both the song and guitar solo to new levels. Martin Barre jams out here with an incredibly groovy solo that only gets better as it continues. Click here to learn more about the 40th anniversary edition of the Aqualung album.

Van Halen – Eruption

This is arguably one of the most well known solos of all time. Eddie Van Halen goes bonkers and shreds your face off for a minute and a half. Musically, Eruption isn’t anything impressive – it’s a guitar wankfest. Eddie is incredibly talented, but there’s no melody or anything resembling a cohesive song. What’s so impressive about Eruption is what it did for an entire generation of guitar players, and the generations after them. This is the song to learn and cover if you’re into the classics. For that reason, Van Halen’s Eruption makes this list.

Led Zeppelin – Stairway to Heaven

There was going to have to be a Zeppelin song in this list at some point – Jimmy Paige has written countless riffs and solos loved by millions. Stairway’s solo is built up to for over five minutes with one of Led Zeppelin’s greatest songs, and then Jimmy lets loose with an awesome melodic solo that takes the song from a 10 to an 11 and firmly cements in as one of the most legendary classic rock songs of all time. Click here to learn more about the meaning behind Led Zeppelin’s most popular song.

Pink Floyd – Comfortably Numb

Comfortably Numb is a beautiful song, and has immense atmosphere and feeling. David Gilmour takes all this emotion and channels it into one of the greatest guitar solos ever written. He grooves hard and plays a ridiculously melodic solo that’s extremely well written. He utilizes silence and the space between notes as well as he does the notes themselves, and his reverb-y guitar tone helps give the solo an ethereal, out of body sound. Click here to see Miley Cyrus cover Comfortably Numb at the iHeart Radio Festival.

What are your favourite guitar solos? Tell us in the comments below!


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  1. You can’t even have a list like this without including Eric Clapton. In my opinion, the greatest solo and best performance ever live is “Crossroads”, the live version from Albert Hall. It is a brilliant cover of a great song.

  2. Those were some great picks. You’re right – this is a difficult category to only have 5 of.

    Here are 5 I have always really dug.

    1) Gary Moore’s guitar solo in Shape of Things.
    2) Vivian Campbell’s guitar solo in Holy Diver.
    3) Fast Eddie Clark’s guitar solo in Ace of Spades. If Motorhead doesn’t get inducted into the R & R Hall this year they need to just shut the place down.
    4) SRV’s totally awesome guitar solo in Couldn’t Stand The Weather. Right where it changes up in the 2nd half & takes a somber tone- gives me goosebumps every single time.
    5) Slash’s guitar solo in Welcome To The Jungle. The whole song steam rolls you & even when the guitar solo is winding down it’s still grabbing at you & refuses to let you out til it’s over & done w/ you.

  3. I like dueling guitar solos like in The Eagles’ “Hotel California” & RATT’s “Round & Round” but probably the best solo in my opinion would be Phil Collen’s on Def Leppard’s “Photograph”. Amazing!

  4. Hitch a Ride – Boston, Goodbye Stranger – Supertramp, My Old School – Steely Dan, Don’t Fear the Reaper and Godzilla – BOC, all have killer 70s classic rock solos that sometimes fly under the radar.

  5. The solos listed above show awesome skill and great composition, and I would like to add Eddie Van Halen’s work on Michael Jackson’s Beat It to the list.
    Eddie’s usual style, which effortlessly rips the skin off of your face before beating your skull with two iron skillets.

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