Best Guitar Solos of the 90s (with Tabs)

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Best Guitar Solos of the 90s

Let’s take a look at the best guitar solos of the 90s! In the early 1990s, grunge emerged: a mix of punk, heavy metal, noise and indie rock. The music contained a lot of distortion in the guitar work, but was usually relatively simple in a technical sense. Well-known bands in this movement include Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains. It became more common during the 1990s to mix different genres together. Think of combinations between funk and rock by bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Extreme, but also for example combinations between rap and hard rock (rapcore) like Faith No More.

The combinations of rap and hardrock evolved through bands like Rage Against the Machine, Limp Bizkit, Korn and Slipknot. From there, new movements emerged such as nu-metal (Nine Inch Nails and Sytems of a Down) and combinations of hard rock, grunge and psychedelic rock such as those The Smashing Pumpinks. Meanwhile, solo guitarists such as Satriani, Vai and, for example, Eric Johnson continued to push the envelope with instrumental rock albums. Their techniques were copied and further developed by a new generation of progressive hard rock and ‘djent’ guitarists.

Below you’ll find the best guitar solos of 90s. For the best guitar solos of other decades, check these posts:

10. Nuno Bettencourt – Get the Funk Out

Recorded with Extreme in 1990.

Nuno Bettencourt managed to combine shred with feel and funk. He is an incredible guitar player that can do almost anything: acoustic, rhytm, lead, shred, bends. And his composition skills are higly developed and the world met with Nuno with the release of the Extreme album Pornograffiti.

Extreme - Get The Funk Out

The solo on Get the Funk Out showed some brilliant arpeggio tapping and string skipping. Let Brian May do the talking about this solo: ‘If that doesn’t bring tears to your eyes as a guitarist, I dont know where things are.. (…) that to me is the epitome of what a guitar solo should be (..) it’s a landmark in rock history’.

Download Guitar Tabs for Nuno Bettencourt – Get the Funk Out.

9. Mike McCready – Alive

Recorded with Pearl Jam in 1991.

Alive was the lead single on Pearl Jam’s album Ten. This debut single by Pearl Jam is listed on The 1001 Best Songs Ever and in both Total Guitar and Guitar World 100 Hottest Guitar Solos. Without Alive there would be no Pearl Jam and no grunge as we know it. Guitarist Stone Gossard wrote the music for the song in 1990. At that time he was a member of the band Mother Love Bone. A tape with a demo version of the song got in the hands of Eddie Vedder. Vedder added the lyrics to the song, describing a (partly biographic) time when he was told that the men he thought was his dad, actually wasn’t his biological father.

Pearl Jam - Alive (Official Video)

Alive was written in A major and McCready performs his extened guitar solo right after the third chorus of the song. McCready was influenced for this solo by Ace Frehley’s solo (KISS) from ‘She’, which in turn was copied from Robby Kriger’s solo in The Doors’ ‘FIve to One‘. Another big source of inspiration was of course the guitar playing of Jimi Hendrix. The influece of Hendrix can be hard in the extensive use of the wah-pedal, whammy bar dives, and vibrato on a Fender Stratocaster.

Download Guitar Tabs for Mike McCready – Alive.

8. Marty Friedman – Hanger 18

Recorded with Megadeth in 1990.

Marty Friedman is the master of building unusual melodic directions and unique twists. Together with Jason Becker in the shred-metal group Cacophony he raised the bar of the dual-guitar attack. After their joint adventure, they both worked on their solo albums. Friedman released Dragon’s Kiss and Becker released Perpetual Burn to a shred-hungry audience. After that Becker joined David Lee Roth and Friedman teamed up with Megadeth. His debut recording with Megadeth was the album ‘Rust in Peace’ on which Friedman’s exotic fretwork and alien soloing are featured: It is believed that an alien aircraft was transported to Hanger 18, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio, in 1947.


Hanger 18 has several solos (we all place them on number 8 of our list ;-). Listen in awe to this isolated guitar track.

Download Guitar Tabs for Marty Friedman – Hanger 18.

7. Gary Moore – Still Got the Blues

This fourth track from the album of the same name became a hit in the United States and part of Europe. For Moore it was a return to his roots. Moore on this: ‘ I found that when I was in my dressing room, warming up for a gig, I would be playing blues, so I felt I was getting a bit of a message from that. Around ’89, I started playing blues again.’ The song was recorded in one take. In 2013, Eric Clapton released the song on his album Old Sock as a tribute to Moore, who died in 2011.

Gary Moore - Still Got The Blues [HD]

Download Guitar Tabs for Gary Moore – Still Got the Blues.

6. Eric Johnson – Cliffs Of Dover

Recorded as a solo artist in 1990.

About ‘Cliffs Of Dover’ he has told the following: ‘It was one of those songs that came to me in five minutes, and it almost sounds like it’s derived from something else, the melody. But it was just one of those things that happened and by default became a hit. I mean, it’s got a nice melody to it and its got joy to it, and I so guess by default it worked out anyhow, although it wasn’t a typical climate to embrace instrumental pieces.’ In 1992 he won a Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance for the song. The track is one features Johnson’s unique combination of lightning-fast arpeggios and tasteful use of pentatonic tone loaders.

Eric Johnson - Cliffs Of Dover - Live

Download Guitar Tabs for Eric Johnson – Cliffs Of Dover.

5. Slash – November Rain

Recorded with Guns N’ Roses in 1991.

This song played a key role in the final breakthrough of hard rock to the larger audience. Until this song, Guns N’ Roses played mostly hard rock music. Axl Rose had been composing the primal version of the song for 8 years before its release. Every time he saw a piano, he worked on it and by 1990 he was satisfied with the whole thing. After an initial refusal from the other band members, Axl managed to persuade them anyway, and the band made a rock ballad of almost nine minutes for the first time.

The song is about how hard it is to still love each other in the face of adversity in a love affair. Slash plays three epic guitar solos in the song. In the song Slash shows his more minimalist side, accentuating each note with slow bends and expressive vibrato, where most players would be trying to play as many notes as humanly feasible. He plays some faster lines in the last solo, which contribute to the song’s suspense.

Guns N' Roses - November Rain

Download Guitar Tabs for Slash – November Rain.

4. Tom Morello – Killing In The Name Of

Recorded with Rage Against The Machine in 1991.

Killing In The Name deals with racism in American government organizations and made Rage Against the Machine an internationally known band with political ideals. The occasion was the assault of cab driver Rodney King.

Characteristic of Morello’s songs, in addition to the drop-D tunings, are especially the use of the Digitech Whammy WH-1,which allows you to quickly and easily change the pitch. The riff for “Killing in the Name” originated in 1991 during a guitar lesson that Morellowas teaching a student. When Morello had problems with his Fender Stratocasterduring the lesson, he picked up his Ibanezbass guitar as an alternative. The “Killing in the Name” riff emerged at that point. He stopped the lesson, picked up a cassette recorder and recorded the piece. Then he resumed the lesson. The next day, he took the cassette to a studio in Hollywood, where he continued working on the song.

Rage Against The Machine - Killing In the Name (Official HD Video)

Download Guitar Tabs for Tom Morello – Killing In The Name Of (1).

Download Guitar Tabs for Tom Morello – Killing In The Name Of (2).

3. Dimebag Darrell – Floods

Recorded with Pantera in 1996.

In the 1990s, thanks in part to Diamond Darrell (Darrell Lance Abbott), it grew to become the biggest groove metal band in the world. Pantera received multiple nominations for a Gramma award: nominated in 1995 for the song “I’m broken” and in 2001 for “Revolution is my name”. In 2004, at the age of 38, Darrel was murdered during a concert. The shooter, a mentally unstable Panthera fan, shot four other people in addition to Darrell, after which he was shot dead by the police himself.

The song is in C# tuning, which makes it easier for Dime’s to play his ‘jack-the-ripper vibrato’. The solo shows some bluesy licks in combination with Van Halen inspired tapping, ending in a series of unison bends. The respect was mutual: Eddie Van Halen put one of his Frankenstein-guitars in Darrell’s coffin during the funeral.

Download Guitar Tabs for Dimebag Darrell – Floods.

2. John Petrucci – Under A Glass Moon

Recorded with Dream Theater in 1992.

This song was included on Dream Theater’s second studio album. Besides the stunning guitar playing, Petrucci is the one who wrote the lyrics of this song. Petrucci began playing guitar at age 12 and studied jazz, composition and harmony at the Berklee College of Music. In the song Petrucci shows his definition of shred guitar. He combines several techniques including tapping, whammy barring, alternate and sweep picking, legato playing, harmonics, and aggressive blues scale phrasing, giving him the number 2 position in our list.

Under a Glass Moon

Download Guitar Tabs for John Petrucci – Under A Glass Moon.

1. Steve Vai – For The Love Of God

Winner of the best guitar solos of the 90s

Recorded as a solo artist in 1990.

Like Petrucci, Vai studied at the renowned Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. After adventures with Frank Zappa’s band, a first solo album Flexiable (1984), work with David Lee Roth and a role as the devil’s guitarist in the film Crossroads, Vai decided in 1989 to move forward with his solo career. The result was his big breakthrough with the masterpiece Passion and Warfare. His name as a guitar great was definitively established.

Steve Vai - For The Love of God (STUDIO VERSION)

For The Love of God shows Vai’s search for new and inventive sounds. In the song Vai creates a motiv in the Aeolean and Phrygian E minor scales. The motiv evolves and re-evolves as the song expands, going from graceful glides to heavy bends. From there, two-handed tapping, flowing legato, and whammy bar techniques are used to turn what starts off as a deep soulful ballad into a cacophonous nightmare. Every note, no matter how chromatic, overbent, or over-the-top, has a real feeling of purpose, which makes the song one of the most greatest instrumental rock guitar statements of the nineties.

Download Guitar Tabs for Steve Vai – For The Love Of God.

Be sure to check out our other posts in this series!

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Friso is as excited about playing guitar as the moment when he picked up the instrument for the first time, about 35 years ago. He is the founder of where he likes to share his knowledge about guitars, guitar gear and guitar playing.

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