The 3 Types of Guitarist

  1. Strummers
  2. Twangers
  3. Riff-meisters

The types are not mutually exclusive, guitarists can take one or more of these roles depending on the dynamics of the track, but you can’t do them all at the same time and that is what makes the distinction valid.


Before Rock ‘n’ Roll folk musicians were strumming acoustic guitars across all six strings on first position chord shapes. This was a necessity just to get heard over the other instruments. Fortunately, guitars went electric and volume was never an issue again.

Rhythm guitarists in bands play an important role in (the clue is in the name) holding the rhythm section together. The lead players get all the glory but where would rock be without Power chords?

Strummers can be further sub divided by their dominant styles…


A Twanger is any guitarist following in the time honored early traditions of doing what the electric guitar was born to do -  playing single notes very loudly.

Early twangers had clean tone but then came the one always-on effect all guitarists should have - reverb. Then Fender and other manufacturers started adding 'verb built-in on all new models and guitarists could take the sound to a new aural space.

They still didn’t have enough gain to sustain vibrato notes, but the tremolo arm (whammy bar) could be very expressive. Top exponents include Dick Dale with his surf music and Hank Marvin of the Shadows.


Riff-Meisters have one job and one job only – to kick you in the balls.

We’re talking Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath with his devil’s notes.

When a Riff-Meister guitarist hits the spot, a whole genre can be created on the back of it. With Tony Iommi it was Metal.

The Sex Pistols ‘Never mind the Bollocks’ was another case in point, spawning the Punk genre. Noel Gallagher once said,

I wish I’d written that album
play my version of Europa

Personally, I hated Punk and everything it stood for but hey, I understand there is a place for raw emotion in music, all genres are ultimately born to die – a musical cul-de-sac.

The 4th type of guitarist

Wait, wasn’t there only three types of guitarist?

Of course, any guitarist can, and should cycle though being a strummer, twanger and Riff-Meister to suit but there is one more type who is totally outside of the box – the one-of-one.

The 1 of 1 is someone so unique, so innovative, so genius they are instantly recognizable and totally impossible to imitate. There’s Jimi Hendrix, of course, and also guys like Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page.

They have instantly recognizable trademark sounds, licks and musical strategies. These are the guys who everyone else copies but never equal. Jimi Hendrix once said…

I’ve been copied so well they even copy my mistakes
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