The 25 Greatest Indie Rock Guitarists

By Daniel Margolis

Playing guitar in an indie rock band is a unique challenge. On the one hand, the principles that make for fundamentally sound, exciting guitar playing are basically set in stone – it’s a job role that rewards ego and skill. On the other hand, the entire sound of the genre dictates not audibly trying too hard – tapping is not going to work. Meanwhile, the contrarian nature of the entire enterprise demands some level of innovation, and detuning your guitar and strumming it on the headstock or behind the bridge isn’t enough. Furthermore, if you get too professional-sounding you’ll end up signed to a major, screw up your whole sound and alienate your fan base. It’s a balance, and not an easy one. So here we salute the 25 best indie rock guitarists ever.


2. 25. Bob Mould—Hüsker Dü

3. 24. Mary Timony—Helium

4. 23. David Pajo—Slint

5. 22. Jack White—The White Stripes

6. 21. Brian Causey—Man or Astro-Man?

7. 20. Joey Santiago and Black Francis—The Pixies

8. 19. Annie Clark—St. Vincent

9. 18. Tim Gane—Stereolab

10. 17. Mitch Mitchell and Tobin Sprout—Guided By Voices

11. 16. Eric Bachmann and Eric Johnson—Archers Of Loaf

12. 15. Steve Albini—Shellac

13. 14. Judah Bauer—Jon Spencer Blues Explosion

14. 13. Neil Hagerty—Royal Trux

15. 12. Thurston Moore and Lee Renaldo—Sonic Youth

16. 11. Ash Bowie and Dave Brylawski—Polvo

17. 10. Tim Green—Nation of Ulysses

18. 9. Dean Ween—Ween

19. 8. D. Boon—Minutemen

20. 7. Lou Barlow—Sebadoh

21. 6. J Mascis—Dinosaur Jr.

22. 5. Stephen Malkmus—Pavement

23. 4. Buzz Osborne—Melvins

24. 3. Duane Denison—The Jesus Lizard

25. 2. Curt Kirkwood–The Meat Puppets

26. 1. Greg Ginn—Black Flag