The Guitar Idols of the New Generation

Photo: Twitter

As a millennial, I grew up watching guitarists like Slash, Eddie Van Halen, Steve Vai, John Petrucci, Prince, David Gilmour, and Guthrie Govan being worshipped, and their playstyles emulated by aspiring guitarists. While their legacies still stand, and they remain idols of music lovers worldwide, young virtuosos have been rising to fame over the last decade. They've innovated playstyles that have attained a considerable amount of influence on the guitarists of the new generation. 

It won't be wrong to say that they're the faces of the contemporary guitar styles. Leaving behind the linear scale shredding, old-school bends and 4/4 time, these guitarists are bringing angular melodies, tapped arpeggios and odd time signatures into the mainstream.

There's Tim Henson, guitarist of the band Polyphia. Precise and aesthetic, his guitar riffs tend to be absolute earworms. Combining chord progressions inspired by western classical and metal techniques, Tim's unique style and tone has made him and his band a sensation in the virtual world. 

Australian guitarist and songwriter Plini is a prog giant. While technically skilled, he is one of those guitarists who prioritize the songs' structure and flow over showing off his skills with absurdly long or complex guitar lines. Plini's note choice in guitar riffs and solos tend to be out of the box, and always a treat for those tired of the predictable phrasings of institutional guitarists.

Japan's Ichika Nito is a force to reckon with. His immaculate, almost mechanical lightning-fast tapped playstyle has attracted many guitar players to the math rock style of playing, and no doubt inspired many to start learning the guitar (even some of my friends too). His bright white soundscape is light on the ears and nice on the heart. While I'm not a fan of his antics, I can't deny the charm of his style.

There are many other prominent names like Yvette Young, Mateus Asato, Rob Scallon, Mary Spender, Paul Davids and so on.

An interesting thing to note is that it was the invention of overdrive and distortion in electric guitars that led to the rise of the rock and subsequent metal genres. However, with the new generation's focus on clean guitar tone, we've gone full circle, playing the guitar with the tone used before overdrive and distortion became mainstream.

Something that I'm not a fan of though is the fact these guitarists or musicians don't play live concerts a lot. Their main presence is in the virtual world, where they rose to fame through platforms like YouTube, Instagram, TikTok etc. 

While this helps the virtual platform-based musicians reach a large audience, a lot of them tend to fall into the pitfall of focusing more on content that their audience will be entertained by, rather than spending the time and effort into making proper music. Time limits for videos on websites like Instagram or TikTok lead many to make short musical snippets that are either gimmicky or focused on showing off their skills to impress people.

I quite hope this practice does not spread into the young ones who take these musicians as role models. Creating songs to express oneself, to connect with people should be the prime focus of an artist, not entertaining or impressing others and gaining fame.

Sabih Safwat came across a video of Ichika Nito flexing, titled "How to impress a girl in 20 seconds" and almost died. Send him tips on how to survive cringe at [email protected]