I know I’m crazy to offer my opinion but here goes. There are only a few female guitarists in the world that would be classed as the 4 best female guitarists of all time. The only problem with this is that no one can agree on the absolute list. Therefore, I am going to give you my opinion, as a female guitarist of 40 years. Feel free to rant and rave at me!
Who is the top Female Guitarist
Without a doubt, it would be Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Haven’t heard of her? This talented lady was born in 1915 and has the reputation for influencing Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley.
The first lady of Rock and Roll, before it had a name.
Rosetta Thorpe started performing as a 4-year-old, for audiences attending her mother Katie Bell’s Christian-Evangelist gatherings in Chicago. She was expected to participate and quickly became a favorite. At the age of 24, Rosetta had her first hit called “This Train.” Accordingly, it established her style of fast licks and fingerpicking as unique, especially in 1939.
One can only imagine what Chuck and Elvis heard but there are definitely echoes of Rosetta’s amazing guitar style in their beloved favorites.
The Second Best Female Guitarist of all Time
This was a tough choice but it has to be Joni Mitchell. Born in Canada in 1943, Joni, as we know her, was christened Roberta Joan Anderson. She married Chuck Mitchell in 1965, at the age of 22 and consequently became Joni Mitchell.
Growing up, Joni had polio at 9 and then before she married, she had a daughter, who she had to give away. Hence, these difficult times and experiences lent sadness and maturity to the songs we came to love.
Joni wrote ‘Big Yellow Taxi or Paved Paradise and put up a parking lot’ in 1970.
Her first best-loved song ‘Both Sides Now’ was written for Judy Collins in 1968. It was included in Joni Mitchell’s first album ‘Clouds’ which won her a first Grammy Award in 1969, at the age of 26.
She went on to win 9 Grammy’s and a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002.
Joni was a self-taught guitarist and created many unique songs using unusual guitar tunings. Extensive use of capo positions and an unusual fingerpicking style. She was an inspirational player and singer to the traditional pop/folk genre in the ’70s.
17 Albums over a lifetime of playing, Joni was still performing at 75 years of age.
To learn this style of guitar playing check out the course I do with Steve Krenz, so much fun.
The Third best Female Guitarist of all time
Bonnie Raitt is an easy pick for the grand dams of the best female guitarists of all times. American Blues Rock Guitarist/Singer, Bonnie has had an extensive career. She released her first album through Warner Bros in 1971, at 21 years of age. She consequently, produced another 6 albums over the following 7 years and went on to win 10 Grammy Awards.
In 2000, Bonnie Raitt was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Born in 1949, in California, daughter of actor John Raitt (of Carousel and Oklahoma fame). Bonnie grew up in a musical family, and as a result, received a guitar at the age of 8 for a Christmas present. Read more here.
Bonnie Raitt is the master of Blues picking and Slide guitar. Add to that a deep soul voice and you have a magic talent. For this reason, Bonnie is admired all around the world by the best professional guitarist/ singers. Accordingly, superb talent and timeless.
A 45-year career that spans Blues, Folk, Rhythm, Pop and Country.
The Fourth Best Female Guitarist of all Time
If you have never heard of Sharon Isbin, you are in for a treat. Sharon is a world-renowned Classical guitarist with multiple Grammy Awards. Her talent has enabled her to play with over 200 Orchestras worldwide. Consequently, she is known as one of the most pre-eminent guitarists of our time’.
Born in 1956, in Minnesota, Sharon started playing at the age of 9 in Italy. Subsequently, going on to study with Andre Segovia, Oscar Ghiglia and ten years with Bach Scholar Rosalyn Tureck.
Sharon Isbin is admired by some of the most noted guitarists around the world and for this reason, she has recorded with; Stanley Jordan, Nancy Wilson, Steve Vai, Steve Morse.
She became the Founding Director of the Julliard Guitar Department.
In other words, a Classical genius.
These iconic women are the best in the world, be inspired to action. They were all beginners when they started playing. But with years of practice, training, and dedication they became successful. Consequently, these women have excelled and are excellent role models in their chosen genre.
If you are now considering learning guitar please read my article called, ‘Do I need musical talent to learn to play the guitar?’
Ready to get stuck into playing guitar and need to buy one, check these out, package deal from $299 including, Les Paul guitar, amp, strap, tuner, and more.
I would love to read your comments.
4 thoughts on “The 4 Best Female Guitarists of All Time”
You know I learned a lot after reading this article. I think women, especially in music arent, talked about enough so representing the best guitarists is really cool. I like Rosetta Thorpe as she seems pretty incredible. Thank you for taking the time to make this article as I can also show it to my friend who is really into music.
Hi Ian, thanks for taking the time to read about these amazing women and I hope your friend enjoys it too. It was fun getting to know all of the 4 women better and how life shaped their music.
Inspirations to us all.
I was not familiar with Joni Mitchell, but when I watched the video, and she started singing, I recognized the song immediately.
The fact that a self-taught musician was able to win 9 Grammys and a lifetime achievement award is inspirational. I watched the entire documentary on Rosetta Tharpe, and she was way ahead of her time. The last performance in the video was full of soul.
Hi T.K, thanks for your comments. I know what you mean. It’s amazing that someone who didn’t really have traditional lessons became a star and had such a huge impact on her genre. I sang a lot of her songs when I was growing up, never realising she was a leading light.
I felt it was important that we remember these women and their contribution to all guitarists.