With International Women’s Day just around the corner, I wanted to highlight a selection of the best female guitarists both past and present.
All of these female guitar players have made significant contributions to the world of music through their innovative guitar playing, songwriting, and performances. They have broken down barriers and inspired countless musicians, both male and female, to pick up a guitar and create their own unique sound.
Best Female Guitarists
My list of the best female guitarists includes artists both past and present. I have also tried to include players from a wide variety of different genres to keep things fresh and interesting. In addition, I have included a performance video for each female musician so that you can get a quick taste of their music.
1. Sister Rosetta Tharpe
Sister Rosetta Tharpe was an American gospel singer, songwriter, and guitarist who was born in 1915. She was a pioneer of rock and roll and her music blended gospel, blues, and swing. Tharpe was known for her powerful voice, her flashy stage presence, and her innovative guitar playing, which included fingerpicking, bottleneck slide, and distortion. She influenced a number of famous musicians, including Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, and Little Richard.
Sister Rosetta Tharpe began her career at the age of four, singing and playing guitar in her church. By the 1930s, she had become a successful touring artist, and she continued to record and perform until her death in 1973. She was one of the first African American gospel artists to perform for both black and white audiences, and her influence on rock and roll can still be heard today. Tharpe was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018.
2. Lari Basilio
Lari Basilio is a Brazilian guitarist known for her technical playing ability and melodic guitar lines. Basilio began playing guitar at a young age and was influenced by a variety of styles, including rock, jazz, and Brazilian music.
Basilio’s playing style is characterized by her use of alternate picking, sweep picking, and legato techniques. She is known for her fast and precise playing, as well as her ability to create memorable melodies and solos. She was the first female guitar player to be invited to perform on Joe Satriani’s G4 Experience, and currently has her own signature model with Ibanez.
3. Elizabeth Cotten
Elizabeth Cotten was an American folk musician and songwriter who was born in 1893. She was a self-taught guitarist who developed a unique fingerpicking style that she called “Cotten picking.” Cotten is best known for her song “Freight Train,” which has become a classic of American folk music. She received a Grammy Award in 1985 for her album “Elizabeth Cotten Live.”
Cotten began playing guitar at a young age, but she didn’t record any of her music until she was in her 60s. She worked as a maid and a cook for many years, but she continued to play and write songs in her spare time. Cotten’s music has been covered by a number of famous artists, including Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and Pete Seeger. She was known for her gentle voice and her delicate fingerpicking style, which was characterized by its use of alternating bass lines and melody notes played with the thumb and fingers. Cotten’s influence on American folk music can still be heard today.
Next up in our list of the best female guitar players is Orianthi, an Australian guitarist, singer, and songwriter. She began playing guitar at the age of six and was influenced by a variety of different musicians, including Carlos Santana and Steve Vai. Orianthi has released several solo albums and has also played guitar for artists like Michael Jackson and Alice Cooper.
Orianthi’s guitar playing is characterized by its technical skill and use of shredding techniques. She is known for her searing solos and her ability to blend different styles of music into her own unique sound. In addition to her guitar playing, Orianthi is also a talented singer.
5. Joan Jett
Joan Jett is an American rock singer, songwriter, and guitarist. She rose to fame in the late 1970s as the guitarist and lead singer of the all-female rock band The Runaways. After the band broke up, Jett went on to have a successful solo career, with hits like “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” and “Bad Reputation.”
Jett’s music was characterized by its raw, punk-influenced sound and her tough, no-nonsense persona. She was one of the first female rock musicians to achieve mainstream success, and currently has a signature Epiphone guitar.
6. Nancy Wilson
Nancy Wilson is an American musician, singer, and songwriter who was born in 1954. She is best known as the guitarist and co-founder of the band Heart, which was hugely popular in the 1970s and ’80s. Wilson’s guitar playing was a key part of the band’s sound, and she is known for her melodic solos and use of harmonics.
Wilson’s guitar playing was often overshadowed by her sister’s powerful vocals, but she was a crucial part of the band’s sound and contributed to their success as both a guitarist and a songwriter. In addition to her work with Heart, Wilson has also released several solo albums and collaborated with other musicians.
7. Bonnie Raitt
Bonnie Raitt is an American blues singer, songwriter, and guitarist who was born in 1949. She began playing guitar as a teenager and was heavily influenced by blues musicians like Mississippi Fred McDowell and Sippie Wallace. Raitt’s music blends blues, rock, and folk, and she is known for her soulful voice as well as her slide guitar playing.
Raitt released her debut album in 1971 and went on to achieve commercial success in the 1980s with hits like “Something to Talk About” and “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” Throughout her career, she has collaborated with a number of famous musicians, including John Lee Hooker, B.B. King, and Willie Nelson. Raitt’s guitar playing is characterized by her use of slide guitar and her ability to blend different styles of music into her own unique sound.
8. Kaki King
Kaki King is an American guitarist and composer. She is known for her innovative guitar playing, which includes tapping, percussive techniques, and altered tunings. King has released several solo albums and has also composed music for both film and television.
King began playing guitar at the age of four and was influenced by a variety of different musicians, including Jimi Hendrix, Ani DiFranco, and Radiohead. Her music is often instrumental and is characterized by its use of unusual guitar techniques and rhythms. King has won several awards for her music, including a Golden Globe for her work on the soundtrack of the film “Into the Wild.”
9. Mary Halvorson
Next up on our list of the best female guitarists is Mary Halvorson, an American guitarist, and composer. She is known for her avant-garde approach to jazz and her use of extended techniques on the guitar. Halvorson has released several solo albums and has collaborated with a number of famous musicians, including Anthony Braxton and John Zorn.
Halvorson began playing guitar as a teenager and was influenced by a variety of different styles of music, including rock, blues, and jazz. Her music is often experimental and is characterized by its use of dissonance and unconventional harmonies. Halvorson is considered one of the greatest female guitarists in jazz today, and she has won several awards for her music.
10. Nita Strauss
Nita Strauss, aka Hurricane Nita, aka The Hurricane is an American guitarist. She found fame as part of the Iron Maidens, and has been the touring guitarist with Alice Cooper, and most recently, Demi Lovato. She has released several solo albums and has also played guitar for artists like Jermaine Jackson and Femme Fatale.
Strauss began playing guitar as a teenager and was influenced by a variety of different players, including shred guitarists such as Steve Vai and Randy Rhoads. She is known for her lightning-fast solos and her ability to play complex rhythms seemingly with ease.
11. Lita Ford
Lita Ford is an American guitarist, singer, and songwriter who was born in 1958. She began playing guitar as a teenager and was influenced by rock musicians like Jimi Hendrix and Ritchie Blackmore. Ford’s music blends hard rock and heavy metal, and she is known for her powerful voice and aggressive playing.
Ford began her career as the lead guitarist for the all-female rock band The Runaways in the late 1970s. She later went on to have a successful solo career, releasing several hit albums throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Ford’s musical style is characterized by her use of heavy distortion and her ability to play fast, intricate solos.
12. Emily Remler
Continuing our list of the best female guitarists, Emily Remler was a jazz guitarist who gained prominence in the 1980s. She was heavily influenced by Wes Montgomery and developed her own unique style marked by intricate, melodic lines and a deep sense of swing. Remler released several albums as a bandleader, including “Transitions” and “East to Wes,” which showcased her incredible playing and inventive arrangements.
She was also a sought-after touring guitarist and played with jazz luminaries such as Dizzy Gillespie, Astrud Gilberto, and Larry Coryell. Despite her relatively short career, Remler remains a beloved figure in the jazz guitar community and is regarded as one of the most influential female jazz guitarists of all time. Tragically, Remler passed away in 1990 at the age of 32 due to heart failure, leaving behind a legacy of groundbreaking music.
13. Ana Vidovic
Ana Vidovic is a renowned classical guitarist from Croatia who has won numerous awards and competitions. She began playing guitar at the age of five and quickly gained recognition for her prodigious talent. Vidovic’s playing is marked by technical virtuosity and deep emotional expressiveness, and she is known for her exquisite interpretations of classical pieces.
She has recorded numerous albums, including “Bach: Works for Lute, Vol. 1” and “Guitar Virtuoso,” which showcase her masterful playing and impeccable technique. Vidovic has also performed as a soloist with orchestras around the world, including the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, the Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra.
14. Susan Tedeschi
Susan Tedeschi is a blues guitarist and singer who has been active since the 1990s. She has released several albums and has been nominated for several Grammy Awards. Tedeschi’s playing is marked by fiery solos and soulful phrasing, and she is widely regarded as one of the most accomplished female blues guitarists of her generation.
In addition to her solo work, Tedeschi has collaborated with numerous other musicians, including her husband, Derek Trucks, with whom she formed the Tedeschi Trucks Band. Their album “Revelator” won the Grammy Award for Best Blues Album in 2012. Tedeschi’s music is deeply rooted in the blues tradition, but she also incorporates elements of rock, soul, and gospel into her playing, creating a style that is both classic and modern.
15. St. Vincent
St. Vincent (real name Annie Clark) is an indie rock guitarist and singer known for her distinctive style and avant-garde sensibility. She has released several critically acclaimed albums, including “Actor” and “Masseduction,” which showcase her playing and adventurous songwriting. St. Vincent’s playing is marked by intricate, angular lines and a willingness to experiment with different tones and textures.
She is also known for her use of effects pedals, which she uses to create a wide range of sounds and sonic landscapes. Clark is a highly respected figure in the indie rock world and has collaborated with numerous other artists, including David Byrne, Sufjan Stevens, and Taylor Swift. Her music is innovative and boundary-pushing, and she continues to push the limits of what a guitar can do.
16. Molly Tuttle
Molly Tuttle is an American bluegrass guitarist and singer-songwriter. She was the first woman to win the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Guitar Player of the Year award in 2017. Tuttle’s playing is marked by her impressive fingerstyle technique and her ability to seamlessly blend traditional bluegrass with contemporary folk and pop influences.
She has released several albums, including “When You’re Ready” and “Rise,” which showcase her stunning guitar work and songwriting abilities. Tuttle is a rising star in the Americana music scene, and her music is beloved by fans around the world.
17. Mary Osborne
Mary Osborne was a pioneering jazz guitarist who was active from the 1930s through the 1970s. She was one of the first female jazz guitarists to gain widespread recognition and played with many of the great jazz musicians of her era, including Dizzy Gillespie, Coleman Hawkins, and Lionel Hampton. Osborne’s playing was marked by her fluid, melodic lines and her ability to swing hard.
She released several albums as a bandleader, including “A Girl and Her Guitar” and “Now and Then,” which showcase her incredible playing and deep connection to the jazz tradition. Osborne remains a beloved figure in the jazz guitar community and is widely regarded as one of the top female guitarists of all time.
18. Jennifer Batten
Jennifer Batten is an American rock guitarist who is best known for her work with Michael Jackson. She played lead guitar for Jackson’s “Bad,” “Dangerous,” and “HIStory” tours, and her stellar playing and showmanship helped make those tours some of the most successful in music history. Batten has also released several albums as a solo artist, including “Above, Below and Beyond” and “Whatever.”
Her playing is marked by her technical proficiency and her ability to seamlessly blend rock, jazz, and world music influences. Batten has inspired countless other female guitarists with her trailblazing work in the male-dominated world of rock guitar.
19. Marnie Stern
Marnie Stern is an American indie rock guitarist known for her intricate, finger-tapped playing style and her off-kilter songwriting. She has released several critically acclaimed albums, including “In Advance of the Broken Arm” and “This Is It and I Am It and You Are It and So Is That and He Is It and She Is It and It Is It and That Is That.” Stern’s playing is marked by her impressive technique and her ability to create complex, multi-layered guitar parts.
She is also known for her unconventional song structures and her frank, confessional lyrics. Stern is a highly respected figure in the indie rock world and has inspired a new generation of guitarists with her innovative playing and songwriting.
20. Brittany Howard
Brittany Howard is a singer, songwriter, and guitarist best known as the lead vocalist and guitarist for the Alabama Shakes. Born and raised in Alabama, Howard began playing guitar at a young age and was heavily influenced by her father’s record collection, which included artists like Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin.
She formed the Alabama Shakes in 2009 and quickly gained a following for her powerful voice and soulful playing, which draws on a range of influences including blues, rock, and R&B. In addition to her work with the Alabama Shakes, Howard has released solo material and collaborated with other artists, such as the band Bermuda Triangle.
21. Sarah Longfield
Sarah Longfield is a progressive metal guitarist and composer known for her technical proficiency and innovative use of Strandberg guitars. Based in Wisconsin, Longfield began playing guitar at age 12 and quickly developed a unique style that incorporates elements of metal, jazz, and classical music.
She has released several albums and EPs as a solo artist and also performs as a member of the bands The Fine Constant and Battlecross. Longfield is also known for her instructional videos on YouTube, where she shares tips and techniques for playing guitar.
22. Nili Brosh
Next on our list of the best female guitarists is Nili Brosh, a player known for her technical playing and melodic compositions. Born and raised in Israel, Brosh began playing guitar at age 12 and quickly gained recognition for her skills.
She has released several solo albums and also performs as a member of the bands Tony MacAlpine and Cirque du Soleil’s “Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour”. Brosh is also a popular YouTube personality, where she shares instructional videos and performance clips.
23. Marisa Anderson
Marisa Anderson is a female guitarist known for her unique blend of folk, blues, and experimental music. Based in Portland, Oregon, Anderson began playing guitar at age 10 and has since developed a highly individual style that incorporates elements of American roots music and avant-garde experimentation.
She has released several critically acclaimed albums and collaborated with a range of artists, including Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Sharon Van Etten. Anderson’s playing has been praised for its emotional depth and intricate fingerpicking style.
24. Mimi Fox
Mimi Fox is a jazz guitarist and educator known for her technical proficiency and improvisational skills. Born and raised in New York City, Fox began playing guitar as a teenager and went on to study music at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music.
She has released several albums as a solo artist and also performed with jazz legends such as Branford Marsalis and Diana Krall. In addition to her work as a musician, Fox is a sought-after educator, conducting workshops and masterclasses around the world.
25. Sharon Isbin
Sharon Isbin is a classical guitarist known for her virtuosic playing and innovative collaborations. Born in Minnesota, Isbin began playing guitar at age nine and went on to study at Yale University and the Juilliard School. She has released multiple albums and performed with orchestras around the world, including the New York Philharmonic and the Berlin Philharmonic.
Isbin is also known for her collaborations with other musicians, including jazz guitarist Stanley Jordan and Indian classical musicians Amjad Ali Khan and Zakir Hussain. She has been recognized for her contributions to music with multiple Grammy awards and a National Medal of Arts.
26. Lzzy Hale
Lzzy Hale is the lead vocalist and guitarist of the American rock band Halestorm. Hale began playing piano at a young age before switching to guitar in her early teens. She has been praised for her powerful vocals and playing, and has been named one of the “50 greatest guitarists of all time” by Guitar World magazine.
Hale’s playing style incorporates elements of hard rock, metal, and blues, and she is known for her use of heavy riffs and intricate solos. She has also been recognized for her songwriting abilities and has co-written many of Halestorm’s popular tracks. Gibson currently offers several Lzzy Hale signature Explorer guitars.
27. Malina Moye
Malina Moye is an American guitarist, singer, and songwriter who has been described as a “modern-day Hendrix”. Moye began playing guitar at a young age and has released several albums showcasing her guitar skills and songwriting abilities. She is known for playing Fender guitars and her ability to blend genres such as rock, funk, and blues.
Moye has also been recognized for her philanthropic efforts, including her work with the Drive Hope Foundation which provides help to disadvantaged children.
28. Liona Boyd
Liona Boyd is a Canadian classical guitarist known for her fingerstyle playing and arrangements of traditional classical pieces. Boyd began playing guitar at a young age and has released over 20 albums showcasing her skills.
She has been recognized for her contributions to classical music and appointed a member of the Order of Canada. Boyd has also been recognized for her philanthropic work, including her support of the World Wildlife Fund and the American Cancer Society.
29. Ana Popovic
Ana Popovic is a Serbian guitarist known for her blend of blues, rock, and jazz. Popovic began playing guitar at the age of 15 and has released several albums showcasing her skills. She has been recognized for her high-energy performances and her ability to seamlessly blend genres.
Popovic was also the only female guitarist to perform on the 2014-2018 Experience Hendrix tribute, a tour celebrating the music of Jimi Hendrix.
30. Tash Sultana
Tash Sultana is an Australian singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who is known for her looping techniques and unique playing style. Sultana began playing guitar at a young age and has developed a playing style that incorporates elements of rock, reggae, and soul.
She has been recognized for her songwriting abilities and has released several successful albums.
31. Anna Calvi
Anna Calvi is a British singer-songwriter and guitarist known for her powerful vocals and atmospheric playing style. Calvi began playing guitar at a young age and has released several albums showcasing her skills.
She has been recognized for her unique approach to the instrument and has been named one of the “top 20 best female guitarists of all time” by Guitar World magazine. Calvi has also been recognized for her songwriting abilities, and has received several awards and nominations for her work.
32. Yvette Young
Yvette Young is an American guitarist, singer-songwriter, and visual artist known for her unique fingerstyle playing style and use of unconventional guitar techniques. Young began playing guitar at the age of 14 and has since gained a large following for her YouTube videos showcasing her guitar and songwriting abilities.
Young is perhaps best known as the lead guitarist and vocalist for the band Covet. She has released several successful albums and EPs with the band, and has been recognized for her virtuosic playing and intricate songwriting. Young’s playing style is characterized by her use of tapping, fingerpicking, and alternate tunings, as well as her incorporation of elements of jazz, math rock, and progressive rock.
33. Gretchen Menn
Gretchen Menn is a female guitarist, composer, and performer known for her virtuosic playing style and genre-bending approach to music. She first gained recognition as the lead guitarist of the all-female Led Zeppelin tribute band, Zepparella, and has since released several solo albums, including “Abandon All Hope” and “Hale Souls”.
Her solo work showcases her eclectic musical influences, with elements of rock, jazz, classical, and world music all woven together. Menn’s playing style is marked by technical precision, creative improvisation, and deep emotional expressiveness.
34. “Mother” Maybelle Carter
Maybelle Carter was a pioneering country musician and guitarist who popularized the “Carter scratch” guitar style, which involves a rhythmic strumming pattern combined with fingerpicking to create a unique and driving sound. She was a member of the Carter Family, a country music group that was active from the 1920s to the 1940s and had a profound influence on the development of the genre.
Carter’s distinctive play style was an integral part of the Carter Family sound. Her style has influenced generations of guitarists in a variety of genres. She was also a talented songwriter and singer, and her contributions to the world of country music have earned her a place in the Country Music Hall of Fame.
35. Ani DiFranco
Ani DiFranco is a singer-songwriter, poet, and guitarist known for her raw, introspective lyrics and fiercely independent spirit. She first gained recognition in the 1990s as a folk-punk musician and has since released over 20 studio albums. Many of these feature her intricate fingerstyle guitar playing.
DiFranco’s playing style is marked by percussive rhythms, unconventional chord progressions, and deep emotional expressiveness. She is known for her socially conscious lyrics and her advocacy for progressive causes, including feminism, LGBTQ+ rights, and environmentalism.
More Female Guitar Players
The list could go on and on, but we’ve got to stop somewhere, right? Here is a quick list of additional noteworthy female guitar players in case you would like to research these artists yourself!
- Courtney Cox
- Joni Mitchell
- Memphis Minnie
- Chrissie Hynde
- Muriel Anderson
- Sheryl Crow
- Poison Ivy
- Lianne La Havas
- Wendy Melvoin
- Laura Chavez
- Felicia Collins
- Tanya Donelly
- Sarah Lipstate
- Kelley Deal
- Carrie Brownstein
- Gabriela Quintero
- Vicki Peterson
- Liz Phair
- Ida Presti
- Dot Wiggin
- Melissa Etheridge
- Kristin Hersh
- Peggy Jones
You can also check out my guide to the most famous left handed female guitarists and bassists for even more of the best female guitarists to check out!
I have tried my very best to find and include as many famous female guitarists as I could. But I have no doubt that I have still missed a handful! So, if you feel that I have left out any of the best female guitarists, please shoot me an email and I will be sure to add their names. You’ll find a link to the contact form in the footer below.