Raising the Whammy Bar: 5 of the Best Modern Guitarists Redefining Our Industry
If you're a guitar enthusiast, you're probably familiar with the names Plini, Tosin Abasi, Alex Cooke of Wave Types, and Tim Henson. If you haven’t heard of them, you’ve been missing out on some of the greatest instrumental guitar of all time. These five modern guitarists have made a significant impact in the world of guitar playing through their unique styles, technical mastery, and innovative approaches to the instrument. Plini's progressive rock/fusion style, Abasi's genre-bending metal, Cooke's mood-altering soundscapes, and Henson's extraordinary medley of genres have earned them devoted followings and put them on our list of the best modern guitarists to ever grace our ears. In this article, we'll take a closer look at each guitarist's playing style and explore what makes them stand out in the crowded world of guitar playing.
1. Nick Johnston
Nick's signature style is a blend of melodic and technical playing that's sure to make your jaw drop. He's influenced by guitar legends like Eric Johnson, Steve Vai, and Jimi Hendrix, and you can hear that in his playing. Nick has been an incredible influence and educator for modern guitarists, sharing tons of material on his social media pages and online lessons. Nick has released some stellar albums over the years, including "In a Locked Room on the Moon," "Atomic Mind," "Remarkably Human," and "Wide Eyes in the Dark." All of these showcase his incredible skill and musicality, and they're definitely worth a listen if you haven't checked them out yet.
Tip: Nick has mentioned his affinity for dominant and augmented chords on several occasions. To him, they are versatile chords that can be utilized in a variety of scales like Phrygian dominant and Mixolydian.
Nick Johnston's Remarkably Human (Official Video)
Plini is a highly talented guitarist from Australia who has captured the attention of guitar enthusiasts worldwide. He's known for his unique blend of progressive rock and fusion, which incorporates complex melodies, intricate chord progressions, and dynamic shifts in tempo and rhythm. Plini has released several EPs and full-length albums over the years, each showcasing his impressive musicianship and creativity. He's gained a massive following on social media and through touring, and his music has inspired countless guitarists to push their playing to the next level.
Tip: Plini's sound is the essence of the phrase "tone is in the fingers". His highly dynamic playing style can be credited to his incredible sense of feel and control of his hands. If you want to play like Plini, spend some time focusing on controlling your volume through your fingers. Practice softer picking and hammer-ons and learn how to vary your intensity throughout your playing.
Plini Impulse Voices Playthrough
3. Tosin Abasi
Tosin Abasi is a true guitar virtuoso and the founder of the progressive metal band Animals as Leaders. His playing style is characterized by innovative techniques such as eight-string guitar tapping and slap techniques, along with a fusion of jazz, metal, and world music influences. In addition to his work with Animals as Leaders, Abasi has collaborated with other musicians and developed his own signature line of guitars, Abasi Concepts. His playing has inspired a new generation of guitarists to explore the limits of what's possible on the instrument.
Tip: Tosin's signature sound is mostly a result of his unique playing style which incorporates complex rhythms, signature thumping, and a generous helping of hammer-ons from nowhere. If you're serious about learning riffs from Animals as Leaders, you'll want to consider adding an extended range guitar to your arsenal. Fortunately, we have some ideal options from Cort Guitars.
Tosin Thumping on His Very Own Abasi Guitar
4. Alex Cooke
Alex Cooke is the guitarist for the band Wave Types, known for its immersive and atmospheric soundscapes and blues inspired vocal-like melodies. Cooke's playing style is characterized by intricate hybrid picking patterns, ambient textures, and dynamic shifts in tone and emotion. He's a master of creating sonic landscapes that transport listeners to other worlds, and his playing has earned him a dedicated following among modern guitar enthusiasts. Whether he's crafting delicate acoustic melodies or layering lush electric textures, Cooke's playing is always emotionally engaging and technically impressive.
Tip: Alex often utilizes open tunings and picks the open high E and B strings in chords and riffs. If you're hunting for the heavy, atmospheric tones of Wave Types, a quality overdrive pedal like the Karma MTN-10 can go a long way.
Alex Cooke Demonstrating His Signature Playing Style
5. Tim Henson
Tim Henson is the guitarist for the instrumental rock band Polyphia, known for its melodic blends of hip-hop, R&B, and metal influences. Henson's playing style is characterized by virtuosic tapping and legato techniques, complex harmonies, and syncopated rhythms. Tim’s playing is considered revolutionary by many guitar greats including Steve Vai, who recently collaborated with Polyphia on their single, “Ego Death”. Henson's playing is a masterclass in technical skill and creativity, earning him a devoted following among guitar enthusiasts who appreciate his unique approach to the instrument.
Tip: Don't be intimated! Although Tim's melodies and etudes can seem daunting, they are an excellent way to build skill and expand your perspective of the guitar. Even professional musicians stumble while trying to follow Tim's playing, but it's well worth the effort.