Top 10 Progressive Guitar Solos – The Best Ones Up To This Day

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This is gold

One of the things we love about progressive rock is it’s not confined to a single era or decade alone (like the glam metal movement of the ’80s). And perhaps why it remains as popular as ever is because it never disappoints. It’s always serving fans with music goodness that we just can’t get enough of. It’s as if anyone who listens to it for the first time gets hooked easily.

Anyone who doesn’t like prog-rock needs to have their hearing checked. Or they probably just have poor taste in music. And the thing is, once you go prog-rock, they become your standard. It will become difficult to listen to anything mediocre ever again.

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Don’t even get us started on the solos – magical, epic and all sorts of awesome. So we compiled the top 10 and it was not easy to leave out some of our favorites.

10. Frost* – “Black Light Machine”

If you don’t get chills down your spine when this comes on, then you’re listening to it wrong. It’s powerful, superb and an incredible display of virtuosity. Sometimes it baffles us why other people still haven’t heard of Black Light Machine and even more so, the band Frost*. This song alone will make fans out of everyone.

If by any chance, you’re one of those who’s like “Who are these guys?” then do yourself a favor and put this song on loop or the album’s title track “Milliontown.”

“I wanted to make a mad, totally over-the-top prog album to keep myself sane in the midst of all the squeaky clean teen pop I was employed to write at the time. I didn’t realize it would snowball like it did…” – Jem Godfrey of Frost*

John Mitchell is certainly not your average prog-rock guitarist. He clearly knows how to deliver the goods. And he definitely deserves more credit than what he gets.

9. Marillion – “Sugar Mice”

“Sugar Mice” is a brilliant song, a superb piece of music. But the solo here is just on another level. Steve Rothery displays his impressive axe-wielding skills and man, we are blown away every single time. He’s technically proficient and if somehow “Sugar Mice” still doesn’t convince you that he should be up there among rock’s greatest guitarists, check out his other work on “Neverland” and “Strange Engine.”

If he doesn’t change your life, we don’t know what will.

“I was laying in bed in the Holiday Inn and looking up at the ceiling at some hearts ‘n’ stuff that some lovers had carved, and I was feeling really down. So I rang my old lady but it was a bad phone call; lots of long silences. I felt even more depressed.” – Marillion’s Fish

This solo is nothing short of perfect and Steve Rothery is just as good as the other more popular prog-rock guitarists. He deserves more recognition.

8. Steve Hackett – “The Musical Box”

All other guitarists should watch Steve Hackett do his thing and take down notes. This is how you do it. The man can do no wrong and his solo right here proves it. He’s fast but melodic. Besides, this solo practically inspired Eddie Van Halen – not that he would ever openly admit it.

But you get what we mean.

“I was trying to come up with something suitable. I thought: ‘I wonder if it is possible to use both hands on the fretboard?’ You could play extremely fast on one string. I quickly realized that the sky’s the limit for anyone who wants to use that technique. Eddie [Van Halen] has, of course, acknowledged the influence. I came up with the technique, and he gave it a name.” – Steve Hackett

It’s not just Eddie Van Halen though, Steve Hackett’s solo in “The Musical Box” inspired numerous other axe-wielders including Queen’s Brian May. This is progressive rock at its finest.

7. U.K. – “In The Dead of Night”

U.K. was a great band. It’s rare to find a prog-rock lineup as good as theirs. They were four excellent musicians who were at the top of their game and together, they brought their music to a whole new level. Besides, each time we listen to this solo, it feels like there’s always something new to love about it.

Allan Holdsworth did an insanely fine job with this one.

“My music falls in the cracks between rock and jazz. The sound comes more from rock, but the harmonies are more akin to jazz. Plus, my music has its fair share of guitar solos, which are usually common in hard rock. I’m not a metal guy, by any means, nor am I a mainstream jazz guy either.” – Allan Holdsworth

It’s not just “In The Dead of Night,” Allan Holdsworth has proven that he’s not kidding around with so many epic solos. He came up with several brilliant masterpieces that only he can flawlessly perform. Many can try but no one can come close to his guitar work.

6. King Crimson – “Starless”

The whole song is a journey all by itself. It captured the essence of the band and each of them had their shining moment here especially Robert Fripp. His solo is off-the-charts. It’s dazzling, mesmerizing and astounding. At the end of the track, you wouldn’t know what hit you.

It’s so good it will give you goosebumps. How can anyone be THAT melodic?

“I’m a very difficult person to work with, because in King Crimson there was a founding statement to be honoured, going back to ’69. And if what is available fails to meet what I see as a responsibility to the larger Crimson, then that gap has to be met by someone. And it would fall to me. So it’s not a comfortable place.” – Robert Fripp

All things considered, it’s a perfect song with the perfect solo. The stunning technical playing blows your mind. It’s sweet, funky and chaotic. No matter how many times you listen to it, it remains enchanting.

5. Frank Zappa – “Watermelon in Easter Hay”

Frank Zappa deserves an entire list dedicated to all his mind-boggling, jaw-dropping solos. He challenged conventions and his guitar work is dazzling to watch. Though we had to settle with “Watermelon in the Eastern Hay,” we could have easily picked “Yo Mama” and “What’s New in Baltimore” because both obviously had solos which were just as good.

The only thing we don’t like about it is it’s still way too short. Stuff like this doesn’t need to end.

“It is a pity that this is mired by the de rigueur expletive, but in the 21st Century this is a lot less shocking than in 1979. For all his sins, Frank Zappa was both a brilliant composer and a very fine guitarist, and this is one of his best.” – Music writer Alexander Baron

It’s innovative and it hits you hard. And the only reason why anyone cannot like this is if they have poor taste in music and therefore unable to recognize Frank Zappa’s greatness.

4. Rush – “La Villa Strangiato”

The sheer brilliance and creativity of this song will destroy you – in a good way, of course. It’s complex and highly unpredictable. Even the guys from Rush agree that this is perhaps their most difficult tune to play. And Alex Lifeson managed to secure a spot as one of the greatest guitarists in rock.

This is a rare instance where an instrumental track tells a story. And no matter how you interpret it, the fact remains that you understand the music.

“If I had to pick the quintessential Rush song, for me it would have to be La Villa Strangiato. When I was a teenager in the early 80s and in the heat of my deepest Rush influence, that was THE benchmark for instrumental prowess.” – Mike Portnoy

It’s Lifeson’s finest moment as a guitarist and the first few seconds alone is hauntingly beautiful. If it only takes one song to perfectly capture Lifeson’s guitar chops, it would have to be this.

3. Dream Theater – “Lines in the Sand”

It packs a lot of punch. John Petrucci knows how to step up his game every single time. Oh and this sounds way better live. The solo is unbelievable. It’s easily one of Dream Theater’s best songs. It’s melodic and highly technical – all the things you want from Petrucci.

Oh and you’re most likely to find your jaw on the floor after watching Petrucci shred that solo.

“It’s like, ‘What could happen if you had this very big idea?’ And the funny thing is, having the big idea is the easy part; seeing it through is where the hard work comes in. Fortunately, everybody in Dream Theater kept their goals in mind and stayed focused, and we achieved what we wanted to do.” – John Petrucci

It’s exceptional. No amount of words can accurately describe how flawless this solo is. Some solos are fast and that’s it. With “Lines in the Sand,” it has that feel that really gets to you.

2. Yes – “Close to the Edge”

Since we’re all talking about masterpieces here, we can’t leave out Yes’ “Close to the Edge.” It would be a crime to do so. You can listen to thousands of prog-rock songs but this will always stand out – Steve Howe somehow made sure of that. You can put it on loop for the nth time and that solo will still send chills down your spine.

“But you look over the whole repertoire, I think what establishes the breadth of Yes is really ‘Close to the Edge…’ And each part of [the song] ‘Close to the Edge’ in itself, is a segment. Like when you take the void in the middle, with the ‘In Her White Lace’ and ‘I Get Up, I get down’ with the organ. That’s another world.” – Steve Howe

It has the perfect balance. There’s power, speed, technical proficiency and to top it all of – there’s mesmerizing beauty. If you judge Steve Howe’s skills as a guitarist, then let this solo be proof that he is not your run-off-the-mill axeslinger.

It’s blistering and sometimes, it’s too much for us mere mortals to handle.

1. Pink Floyd – “Dogs”

This is the best way to shut out the world. Once you listen to this, it’s going to change your life and no, we are not exaggerating. The guitar solo is an absolute masterpiece and it convinced us that David Gilmour was from another dimension. Pink Floyd may have other more popular songs but when it comes to the solos, this one does it for us.

“But the last line of the first solo, I believe, is a three-part descending augmented chord. Which is quite nice, and I was very proud of it; I thought it was very clever. Then Roger went and (accidentally) wiped it out and I had to re-create it.” – David Gilmour

This is a real gem. Nothing quite like it existed before and we’re pretty certain no one will come up with something like it ever again. This is just one of those tunes that exceeds expectations.

You can never go wrong by playing this loud.