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Top 10 Guitar Duos

Hutton Archives, Getty Images

Guitar duos are pretty much the best thing to happen to rock music since the invention of the guitar. Whether it’s a strict rhythm / lead division of labor or two guitarists taking turns in each role, a twin guitar attack can expand and intensify a group’s sound. Here’s a list of the 10 Best Guitar Duos of all time.


Glenn Tipton & K.K. Downing

Judas Priest



Shockingly, K.K. Downing recently left Judas Priest just prior to their 2011 farewell tour. But for over 25 years, this guitar duo reigned supreme in the hard rock world with tracks like ‘Breaking the Law’ and our current favorite, ‘Freewheel Burning.’ In a nice music geek touch, they typically noted who played which solos in their songs within each album’s liner notes.



Eric Clapton & Duane Allman

Derek & the Dominos



Although not technically a member of Eric Clapton‘s supergroup, it was reportedly Duane Allman’s arrival that kicked a listless series of recording sessions into high gear for this classic guitar duo album. That’s Duane at the start of ‘Layla,’ and his frequent guest spots throughout the album clearly spurred Clapton to new heights.



Stone Gossard & Mike McCready

Pearl Jam



Eddie Vedder gets all the attention, but rhythm guitarist Stone Gossard and lead player Mike McCready are two of the main reasons Pearl Jam has become the ’90s grunge-era band that has most clearly graduated to active, classic rock hero status.



Neil Young & Danny Whitten

Neil Young & Crazy Horse



Typically, we’re going to exclude guitar duos that include the band’s frontman in their ranks (sorry, Bruce!), but for Neil Young, we’ll make an exception. First off, the guitar playing takes up much of the space in their music, especially live. Secondly, ask bands like Pearl Jam where they’d be without the roaming, ragged interplay of songs like ‘Down by the River.’



Slash & Izzy Stradlin

Guns N’ Roses



This two-headed, top-hat and sunglasses-wearing team basically revitalized good old-fashioned dirty, hard rock n’ roll with Guns N’ Roses in the late-’80s and early-’90s. Slash‘s lead guitar work got much of the attention, but without Izzy‘s updated Rolling Stones riffs, and, don’t forget, considerable songwriting contributions, G&R wouldn’t be the same band. In fact, that’s kinda been proven, hasn’t it?



Don’t Make Us Choose

The Allman Brothers Band



Obviously the Allman Brothers Band had to be on here. Usually we’d lean towards the side of original members Dickey Betts and Duane Allman, who, after all, were there when the band’s classic songs were created. But it seems wrong not to also mention the decade-plus reigns of Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks, who bring new life to those songs every night in concert.



James Hetfield & Kirk Hammett




Our second and final singer-guitarist exception. Think about it — James Hetfield‘s rhythm playing is more complicated than many of the lead guitarists on this list; in fact the only thing faster is Hammett’s solos. Without his frenetic axe work, Metallica probably wouldn’t be the kings of metal over the last 20 years.



Angus & Malcolm Young




Consider for a moment how unique and amazing the brotherly guitar duo of AC/DC is. You’ve got lead guitarist Angus Young — a hyperactive, duck-walking, strip-teasing dynamo — on one side. On the other, his brother Malcolm, happy to crank out rock-solid riffs while standing off to the side in just a t-shirt.



Joe Perry & Brad Whitford




An amazing duo in two eras. Their first reign, in the ’70s, created some of the most iconic riffs in rock history, and when Aerosmith was reborn with a more modern, expansive sound in the late-80’s, it was Joe Perry and Brad Whitford‘s blues-rock riffs that kept the band grounded and connected to their heritage.



Keith Richards & Brian Jones

Rolling Stones



The twin-guitar sound described as “the ancient art of weaving” by Keith Richards is one of the crucial sonic touchstones of perhaps the most important rock n’ roll band in history. With all respect to both current partner Ron Wood and the fluid, jazz-influenced Mick Taylor, it was founding member Brian Jones who built this house alongside Richards, and also pushed the band into new exotic territories on songs like ‘Paint it, Black.’


Next: Top 10 Duets

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