Great lyrics are not a prerequisite for great music. An instrumental track’s composition and ingenuity can be enjoyed just by listening to the sounds and rhythms, and the feelings these evoke. You should try listening to some of the epic instrumentals by renowned guitar players. That’s exactly why I put this list together!
Below are my favorite instrumental guitar tunes – meaning there are no lyrics. Give these a go, and you’ll find yourself overwhelmed with emotion and inspiration in no time!
Cliffs of Dover – Eric Johnson
Johnson is a guitarist who is well-known for his skill. His most famous tune is this instrumental one which was awarded the Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance. Eric Johnson reportedly wrote this song in five minutes.
Cliffs of Dover has just absolutely chilling guitar playing. His tones are the nicest I have ever heard; I questioned how Eric Johnson gets so many tonal styles from his Strat.
Tender Surrender – Steve Vai
Rock guitarist “Steve” Vai, born on June 6, 1960, is a three-time Grammy Award winner. He is also a songwriter, producer, and vocalist. His guitar playing is stunning in Tender Surrender. His expertise and attention to detail are unmatched.
Vai is unequaled in his understanding of music theory for guitar. Vai also creates orchestral music scores. While most guitarists aren’t even able to read music…
Shut Up N’ Play Yer Guitar – Frank Zappa
Frank Zappa created the Shut Up ‘n Play Yer Guitar project, which includes three albums with similar names but different tunes. The C.D.s only have Zappa’s improvisational solos and instrumentals on the electric guitar, with a diverse range of supporting players.
If you pay close attention, hidden treats are throughout the excellent songs. The impeccable guitar solos enable everyone to enjoy this album with widespread appeal, and many guitarists and Zappa enthusiasts undoubtedly found it appealing.
Last Train Home – Pat Metheny
I experienced serenity, joy, poignancy, and slight melancholy when listening to Last Train Home. I considered the various definitions of “home” and the various locations I associate with the word.
Additionally, I believe that all of us have a sense that home is where our earliest memories are kept. I also thought about what it means to go home again and the desire to do so.
Shenandoah – Tony Rice
Tony Rice performs “Shenandoah” in a unique and breathtakingly beautiful way. Tony Rice was one of the best guitarists in bluegrass history. His take on the guitar in this instrumental song had a smooth acoustic tone. Each note was clean, crisp, sweet, and complete.
Tony was always a true master in musical arts, and this song proved it. The instrumental had one of the cleanest frettings ever. When Tony plays, you can get the tune of the chords and the starting of a melody in less than prominent places.
Sunny – Pat Martino
Martino said there are components in constructing an instrument that start a steady flow of valuable facts. There are two for the guitar. The third central interval comes first, followed by the minor third interval.
When we observe their repetitious information, they resemble a succession of automatic processes. This is precisely what he portrays in his instrumental song Sunny. The way the song catches a bit of a jazz melody is ideally in tune with the rapid guitar strumming.
For Mom – Buckethead
Guitarist Buckethead’s fourth studio album is titled Colma. The release date was March 24, 1998. The purpose of writing this song was to give Buckethead’s mother, battling colon cancer, something to listen to and appreciate while undergoing treatment.
She tragically died in 2014. Aside from Soothsayer, this is my favorite Buckethead song. This version of the song has an unsurpassed level of genuine emotion. The way he plays his guitar perfectly depicts how he feels for his mother.
Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers – Jeff Beck
The song “Because We’ve Ended as Lovers,” contributed by Stevie Wonder and honors Roy Buchanan, one of Beck’s heroes, is often cited as the album’s standout track.
The solo exhibits ferocious power and a vibrant melodicism that is still relevant today. The production is flawless, and the guitar sounds radically vary. Beck expertly portrays Buchanan’s subtle playing while maintaining his point of view.
Flying in a Blue Dream – Joe Satriani
Without question, Satriani is among the greatest guitarists in musical history. Many will also contend that he might be the finest technically. There are a lot of fantastic Satriani songs, but this is one of his most well-known.
The C Lydian mode dominates the song’s musical structure, giving it a dreamy, ethereal atmosphere. Joe Satriani’s fluid and intricate use of the legato technique to quickly perform scalar passages is also prominently displayed in the song.
Electric Gypsy – Andy Timmons
American guitarist Andy Timmons, born on July 26, 1963, has performed with the bands Taylor Bay Band, Danger Danger, Pawn Kings, and Andy Timmons Band. Extraordinarily musical and fascinating describes the bass solo in Electric Gypsy. The solo till the conclusion is fantastic. This is the goal of contemporary guitar playing.
Technique, vocabulary, pace, and sense of melody; never a note goes to waste when Andy Timmons is involved. He gives his entire performance with purpose. Additionally, he solos with some of the most exemplary energy build I’ve ever heard.
Little Wing – Stevie Ray Vaughan
The 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, a concert performed over three days during the “Summer of Love,” inspired this song. The song’s guitar is played in a very distinctive manner. With his thumb, Stevie frets chord roots before expanding on them. Changes from quartile to tertian harmony and vice versa are frequent. Theoretically, it is pretty close to the chord melody of jazz.
Guitar players, in particular, hold this song in high regard. According to Stevie, this is one of the few songs he enjoys from this album. Little Wing is like one of those lovely beauties that come around occasionally because it was simpler to convey passion in slow songs. He cherished writing them.
Eruption – Van Halen
It’s challenging to think of a song with a better title than Edward Van Halen’s solo guitar display, Eruption. When the immensely inventive instrumental was circulated in 1978, it was like a hydrogen bomb to the rock guitar scene. Van Halen’s expert use of these and other techniques in Eruption made every other six-stringer sound like a third-string, including two-handed tapping, gonzo whammy bar dips, and artificial harmonics.
The unaccompanied solo’s almost-absence from the guitarist’s debut record is perhaps what makes it so extraordinary. The guitar in this song is played uniquely. He frets the chord’s bass notes with his thumb before building on them. There are regular transitions from quartile to tertian harmony and vice versa.
Aberdeen – Jimmy Herring
Jimmy’s mentality is his best quality. He always shocks and astounds you with a choice, especially in his instrumental work in Aberdeen. Even a straightforward decision that surprises you is one of my absolute favorites.
One of today’s most soulful guitar solos is the one he plays in Aberdeen. His tone, feel, and wording are all just great. Each note has a purpose—so lyrical. He moves you whether he plays slowly or quickly. I’ve been influenced by him and will always be inspired by him. There are many talented guitarists, but he is yet to be considered the best—that is absurd.
Lewis & Clark – Tommy Emmanuel
This song has a road trip vibe to it. Without having a specific destination in mind, just traveling. There are no plans, obligations, problems, worries, or stress; only the freedom to travel wherever your goal may be. Tommy happens to play the guitar in a unique style that profoundly impacts people’s lives and significantly enhances the art of music.
Every note Tommy plays is a new concept, sensation, or emotion that he shares with us from an intense place. We should consider ourselves fortunate that his technique is at a level where he can effectively express these feelings in his music.
A Map of the World – Pat Metheny
The legendary Pat Metheny plays the guitar impeccably in A Map of the World. As a musician and human being, you need to have some natural background and spiritual enlightenment to think of and play this music.
We should all be extremely grateful that Pat is here with us since he is unquestionably the finest artist of our time. He performs simply excellent harmonic guitar playing. Such a lovely, meditative tune that transitions from lamenting sadness to loving and hoping that things will work out in the end. Pat is a jazz music maestro, and this instrumental is proof of it.
Europa – Santana
Written by Carlos Santana and Tom Coster, Europa (Earth’s Cry Heaven’s Smile) is an instrumental from the Santana album Amigos. It peaked at number one of Santana’s best-known songs on the Spanish Singles Chart in July 1976. Carlos Santana wrote this song for a girl who was depressed and doing drugs.
Later, he performed it backstage on tour with Earth, Wind & Fire, and they suggested he record it. Although there are no words in this song, it nonetheless has an outstanding reputation in the music industry. The guitar solo by Santana is particularly noteworthy.
The Forgotten Pt. 2 – Joe Satriani
Satriani’s guitar playing expresses his feelings in a way that flows and strikes you; the notes he selects are incredible. Although the entire Flying in a Blue Dream album is fantastic, this track is an absolute favorite for the majority.
People can genuinely relate to this song. The bluesiness and intensity, the floodgate of testosterone in the middle, the spectrum of emotions he expresses, and everything else about it have made it a favorite song by Satriani. It’s amazing.
High Noon – Tony Rice
Tony Rice’s High Noon is one of his best guitar instrumentals, albeit not known enough. The guitar strumming is flawless in this song and provides you with a sense of relief as you dig deeper into it.
Tony has a way of captivating the audience with his smooth and skillful guitar playing, especially in High Noon.
Beyond the Mirage – Paco de Lucia, Al Di Meola, and John McLaughlin
Beyond the Mirage brings you beautiful harmonies between the nylon and steel strings. Al and Paco, or Paco and John, etc., cannot be compared.
Al is a talented musician and sometimes seen to be the trio’s leader. He is a guitar genius and an exceptional player. However, Paco and John are exceptionally skilled soloists and musicians. Nobody plays as they do.
Jessica – The Allman Brothers
The Allman Brothers Band’s instrumental song Jessica, the second single from their fourth studio album, Brothers and Sisters, was released in December 1973.
Dickey Betts’ daughter, Jessica, inspired this song for the Allman Brothers. She crawled into the room, inspiring him as he worked on this song. Although it didn’t do that great on the charts, this instrumental tune has remained a mainstay on classic rock radio and a fan favorite.
Bird with No Name – Jimmy Herring
For the tribute album Highway Butterfly: The Songs of Neal Casal, Jimmy Herring, and Circles Around The Sun recorded Neal Casal’s Bird With No Name (Sweeten The Distance, 2011). However, Jimmy has replicated it on his guitar in a mind-blowing instrumental way.
Neal’s original version, of course, contained his incredible vocals and lyrics. There is no doubt that Jimmy gave his all when playing the guitar, and his fans have recognized his talent through his guitar skills.
Slipknot – Grateful Dead
This mysterious addition to the group’s collection is one of the Dead’s most dynamic and complex song cycles. It transitions from the nostalgic and slightly melancholy feeling into the turbulent slipknot, which always feels like different forces warring back and forth, and abruptly into the wave of love that strikes you as magically and metaphorically.
The last act always helps you remember to let the past go, but the difficulties of yesterday behind you, and cultivate gratitude in the present.
Manha de Carnaval – paco de Lucia, al di Meola, and John McLaughlin
Another excellent song from The Guitar Trio album.
The story behind the album? After 13 years apart, Al Di Meola, Paco de Luca, and John McLaughlin recorded The Guitar Trio (a reunion album) in 1996.
The Mystery – Tommy Emmanuel
Unquestionably, one of the best guitarists to ever perform was Tommy Emmanuel; he was a master, an inspiration, and a legend when he played The Mystery. In my opinion, this was one of the most beautiful songs ever composed.
I recall playing this CD in my car as loud as I could stand whenever I was on the highway. I’ve always found this song to be moving and stand out from most of his other songs. Tommy Emmanuel is a genuine prodigy, a talented and fascinating artist, and from what I can gather, a first-rate person.
Lost Indian – Norman Blake, Tony Rice & Doc Watson
Lost Indian is the pinnacle of delicate flat plucking. If you like flattop picking and grinning, you should know how to play Lost Indian. This trio does it very much to a T.
By their performance styles, the soloists can be identified. Rice stretches the form and incorporates a lot of jazzy material, whereas Doc is rapid and plays more classic riffs. Norman is a little slower but very clean on traditional variations. He takes risks, and if they don’t always pay off in previous recordings, they certainly do in this one.
Choctaw Hayride – Alison Krauss & Union Station
Jerry Douglas, a dobro player for Union Station, created this instrumental bluegrass stomper. Who could reject this? Even if you don’t like this kind of music, the musicianship in this song is superb.
Although I prefer heavy rock, I’m the first to admit that Alison Krauss and Union Station are a musical gift from above. The most tasteful layering can be found in this arrangement. Excellent timing, listening, and overall musicianship.
Machete – Buckethead
Machete by Buckethead gives me extreme melancholy. I feel like I’m missing and yearning for something meaningful when I listen to these tunes. Oddly, but in a good way.
It’s more than just a standout tune; it’s something else, going above and beyond a simple note, rhythm, and scale arrangement. It’s a profound experience, for sure. It speaks to you and conveys a narrative in a way that most songs fail to do. Every second, every note, and every emotion are audible to me in it.
Black Napkins – Frank Zappa
Frank blazed a route in Black Napkins that few but the intellectually troubled could appreciate because he was in the headspace and had a solid social and humorous take on life, especially in the surrealistic 1960s L.A. atmosphere.
I believe that every one of us responds differently to Frank’s music, and it is well known that he wrote and performed his music with cautious, deliberate listeners in mind. He put in a lot of effort to create the music he desired. In any field of endeavor, that sets excellent geniuses apart from the rest of us.
Freeway Jam – Jeff Beck
This entire album showcases such a unique and extraordinarily fortunate combination of talent. Jeff Beck is one of the main reasons I feel lucky to be a guitar enthusiast. Nearly 40 years after its release, Freeway Jam remains as enjoyable as ever. Timeless.
When playing Strats, Beck could do some incredible things with just his fingers and the whammy bar. His elegance and control were unmatched, and they still are. We can all credit him for fostering a diverse pool of guitar prowess.
Have You Heard – Pat Metheny
One of the best musical compositions I can think of thus far is Have You Heard. The solo is where everything happens—what a fantastic solo. Metheny jumps from one peak to the next before giving it back to the group with a flawless landing. What an adventure!
And yes, the anticipation created by the chords before the solo is terrific. The entire piece is astounding, including the composition and the solo vocalist’s use. I didn’t want to make a pun, but I’ve never heard anything like it!