Influential Heavy Metal Guitarists

Today we are going to explore the heavy metal genre and some influential heavy metal guitarists. It is important for guitarists to understand the history of the instrument and the music they love. This will not only give you insight into the world of music, but it may also introduce you to heavy metal guitarists that you did not know of before. You may discover a player from the past that becomes your new favorite! A definitive list of influential heavy metal guitarists would take a long time to generate, so today we will focus on three particular guitarists.

Influential Heavy Metal Guitarists

One cannot discuss influential heavy metal guitarists without mentioning Tony Iommi. Tony is an English guitarist best known as the founding member of pioneering heavy metal band, Black Sabbath. As a teenager, an accident led to Tony losing the tips of two of his fingers on his fretting hand. This had a tremendous affect on his playing technique. Tuning the strings down to lower pitches made the guitar more comfortable to play, as there was less tension. Ultimately, this lead to the down-tuned heavy metal tone that Iommi is known for and which countless heavy metal bands have copied. Tony’s prolific riffs can be heard on such Black Sabbath classics as “Paranoid”, “Iron Man” and “Into The Void.”

Tony Iommi

Next up on our list of influential heavy metal guitarists is the late Randy Rhoads. Randy was an American heavy metal guitarist best known for his work with singer, Ozzy Osbourne. As a devoted student of classical guitar, he combined classical music with his own heavy metal style. This created a truly unique sound that many heavy metal guitarists have adapted. Sadly, Randy died in a plane crash in 1982. He was only 25 years old. His legacy lives on with such songs as “Crazy Train,” “Mr. Crowley” and “Dee.”

Randy Rhoads

The last of the influential heavy metal guitarists we will talk about today is Yngwie Malmsteen. Yngwie is a Swedish heavy metal guitarist best known for his shred-style of guitar playing. Like Randy Rhoads before him, he has mixed his love for classical music with heavy metal music. As a result, he has contributed greatly to the style known as neoclassical guitar and also to the shred guitar style. These styles incorporate scales and arpeggios played at very fast speeds, as well as other techniques such as tapping and sweeping. Check out Yngwie’s fast fret work on such songs as “Black Star,” “Far Beyond The Sun” and “Rising Force.”

Yngwie Malmsteen


I hope you enjoyed learning about a few influential heavy metal guitarists. I encourage you to discover more on your own. Be sure to check out my past blogs on influential blues guitarists, as well as influential rock guitarists. Stay tuned for my next blog which will focus on influential jazz guitarists. Until then, play on!







See my blogs on Blues and Rock guitarists.

Daniel Saunders

Daniel Saunders

Daniel is the Guitar Program Supervisor at Let’s Play Music and Make Art, LLC. He holds a degree in Music Performance from the Musicians Institute in California where he taught for nearly ten years. He is also published through Hal Leonard for Guitar World Magazine Video Lessons.

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