Few things impress like an amazing guitar solo.
The guitar is the most popular instrument, and has been for decades. Great guitarists are worshiped like gods.
And every generation has its guitar heroes. When one of those heroes busts out an impressive solo, you take notice. Everyone does.
Some even accept the challenge of learning to play those solos themselves. If that is you, or if you simply want to watch, listen, and be amazed, here are the hardest guitar solos to play.
Several of the songs below also made our list of hardest guitar songs and the solos were a big reason for that.
Hardest Guitar Solos
Things are constantly changing. Musical styles evolve and our favorite instrument improves, with extended ranges, more strings, longer scale lengths for baritone tuning, etc. But what doesn’t change is that the following solos will always be incredibly difficult to play.
Dire Straits, Mark Knopfler – Sultans of Swing
A difficult solo doesn’t have to be extremely fast. It’s really mind-twisting how Mark Knopfler managed to say so much with this solo. When you first hear the song and its lead sections, it seems as if it’s all just modified chords with a few tricks.
But the moment you try to play it, you realize Knopfler’s greatness. Although the song was released way back in the late 1970s, there are still few players who can completely copy his unique fingerpicking style and what he did on “Sultans of Swing.” Needless to say, the song also found its way onto many top lists, praising the overall composition and the technical skills required to get it completely right.
Metallica, Kirk Hammett – Master of Puppets
Moving forward in time to 1986, Metallica really pushed the boundaries with the release of their game-changing album “Master of Puppets.” Aside from their obvious change of sound and a significant improvement in their songwriting and arranging skills, we also got the chance to hear some of the best lead guitar sections in metal music of all time.
The one that we’re singling out from the band’s catalog is the solo in “Master of Puppets.” Where Kirk Hammett made it so challenging is with unusual finger stretching on his left hand, along with very precise alternate picking of his right hand.
This is a guitar solo that set the standard for future generations and one of the reasons Hammett is seen as one of the greatest metal guitarists ever. Unfortunately, he never got back to this level, which is why we listed him as one of the most overrated players.
DragonForce, Herman Li – Through the Fire and Flames
Although power metal is a subgenre with some negative connotations, there are plenty of masterpieces within this particular style. Of course, DragonForce is one of the first bands that come to mind, especially with a song like “Through the Fire and Flames.”
This legendary piece is famous for being extremely challenging to learn and perform. The trickiest part is Herman Li’s lightning-speed guitar solo. If you want to try and push the limits and start improving your picking technique and the overall playing speed, this is exactly the song to look into.
Pantera, Dimebag Darrell – Domination
It has been many years since we’ve tragically lost Pantera’s guitarist Dimebag Darrell. But his legacy is as strong as ever. Say what you will about Pantera’s unique style, but no one is left unimpressed when they hear Dimebag’s guitar playing, especially his solos. The one that sparks the most attention comes from “Domination.”
Right at the time when the whole glam metal thing was getting a little too annoying, Pantera recorded a brilliant set of songs, including “Domination.” In the lead section, we notice a completely different approach to the instrument, especially with Dime’s use of legato technique and his innovative and precise use of his guitar’s whammy bar.
Born of Osiris, Jason Richardson – Dissimulation
Moving to the younger generation of guitar heroes, Jason Richardson has achieved what many have only dreamed of. He takes the entire “shredder” movement that was developed throughout the 1980s to another level and brings some of the most mindblowing solos that you can imagine.
During his time with progressive hardcore death metal band Born of Osiris, Jason recorded guitars on the 2011 album “The Discovery.” It starts off as a slow and expressive solo with some string skipping. He then pushes it into a real shredfest and brings an extremely fast and precise alternative and economy picking part, all played over an insanely fast tempo.
Racer X, Paul Gilbert – Technical Difficulties
Paul Gilbert is, by far, one of the most innovative guitar players out there and he set the standard for the upcoming generations of guitarists. It’s not just about speed and precision with his solos, but also his soulful expression and unique picking and strumming. One of his most famous projects was Racer X, with the song “Technical Difficulties” taking a center spot in the band’s career.
It’s filled with all the techniques a modern guitarist strives to perfect, including very precise bends combined with fast staccato runs. However, the most important thing that we love about it is the composition and the way every part just flows into the next.
Jason Becker – Perpetual Burn
Jason Becker’s life story is a sad and painful one, because he has been suffering from ALS for many years. The disease cut his performing and recording career short. As a result, he is somewhat underrated as a guitarist, though he is certainly still incredibly famous.
Going back to his prime time, “Perpetual Burn” from his 1988 debut album of the same name, is still a landmark moment for lead guitarists all over the planet. The entire piece is essentially one guitar solo that encompasses every single challenging technique.
Needless to say, Jason manages to perform it all with extreme precision and dedication. What we’re especially fond of are his sweep picking arpeggios that are present all throughout the piece.
Dream Theater, John Petrucci – In the Name of God
Everyone is aware of Dream Theater as the true rulers of progressive metal. The band’s guitar player John Petrucci is synonymous with guitar virtuosity. He even has his own signature guitars, that made our list of the highest rated metal guitars. Take a listen to any of the band’s pieces or his solo works, and you’ll realize why.
However, the one that stands out due to his guitar mastery and lead guitar parts is “In the Name of God.” As usual, the song is filled with plenty of their signature riffs and unexpected chord progressions. However, when the guitar solo starts, Petrucci goes off the charts and starts spewing out those insane legato licks. What’s more, the main part of the solo is doubled with Jordan Rudess’ keyboards.
Yngwie Malmsteen – Far Beyond the Sun
Of course, Yngwie Malmsteen is an unavoidable mention on this list. As the 1980s started, it was Yngwie who further pushed what Eddie Van Halen had started. His debut album “Rising Force” managed to move mountains with the combination of heavy metal and baroque music.
The song that stands out is “Far Beyond the Sun.” It remains one of his most popular pieces even to this day. And, as its name suggests, the composition and all of its challenging parts are out of this world. You’re unlikely to ever find a guitar player who can pull off what Malmsteen did here with all the alternate picking, economy picking, and especially the sweep picking.
Plini – Electric Sunrise
Plini Roessler-Holgate is unlike any other guitar player. He’s not about showing off at all. He takes to write and compose his musical pieces so that they could be enjoyable on their own.
With a piece like “Electric Sunrise,” you have plenty of technical challenges, especially with all of its lead parts. You’ll need to have a very trained fretting hand to perform this one.
Animals as Leaders, Tosin Abasi – CAFO
Modern guitar champion and virtuoso Tosin Abasi really stepped up his game when he formed his progressive metal band Animals as Leaders. How many strings does a guitar have? In Abasi’s case, it’s eight.
Using his 8-string guitars, Tosin extends the range of every solo and goes all over the neck for maximum effect. One of the band’s first songs, “CAFO,” managed to captivate the hearts of both prog fans and guitar players.
Just pay attention to all the rhythmic irregularities and Tosin’s ability to combine economy picking with string skipping. Of course, the very essence of this lead section, its composition, brings smiles to our faces, making it extremely challenging for every guitar player to try out.
Megadeth, Marty Friedman – Tornado of Souls
Marty Friedman is a one of a kind and guitar player and an all-round proficient musician. Take any of his lead sections and you’ll notice one important thing – each of them serves the song, which is the very point of guitar solos. But if you want difficult and challenging, what he did on Megadeth’s “Tornado of Souls” is unprecedented.
Not only does it fit the whole artistic concept of the song, but it takes you on a very expressive journey. The most impressive parts are not the fast ones, but those featuring precise and soulful bends and vibratos. Marty Friedman is truly is a musical genius.
What Is The Hardest Guitar Solo Ever?
This is impossible to answer, since it depends on your personal strengths and weaknesses. What’s impossible for one guitarist may seem easy to another, but that other guitarist may struggle with an aspect of playing that the first one finds easier.
Which of the above do you consider the hardest guitar solo? Or is your toughest challenge not even on this list? Let us know in the comments below.
Me personally? I can’t play any of them. Not even close. If you suffer from the same lack of skills as me, check out these easy guitar solos instead. Or these easy metal guitar riffs, if even those solos are still a bit too difficult for you.