The best female rock guitarists of all time will always be a topic of debate because they barely get exposure. Female musicians only tend to get exposure if they are singers, which is a shame. However, the genre has produced many capable musicians on this front.
It’s worth pointing out that the best female rock guitarists can change significantly. For example, some are heavier, some are poppier, and some are more in the middle. Be that as it may, quality is what matters and these ladies have it in spades.
This list is also in no particular order. So, if you are bothered because some guitarist you liked is not ranked higher, don’t worry. What matters here is giving the best female rock guitarists the credit they deserve.
Best Female Rock Guitarists
These are the 15 best female rock guitarists of all time. They were chosen based on their achievements, the quality of the guitar as an instrument, and the songs they were in. Sure, all of this is subjective, and it makes sense if some people don’t agree with this list. However, quality and music is always in the eye of the beholder.
Who are the 15 best female rock guitarists of all time?
- Nita Strauss
- Joan Jett
- Lita Ford
- Orianthi Panagiris
- Kelly Johnson
- Courtney Cox
- Janice Lynn
- Nancy Wilson
- Larissa Ernst
- Jennifer Batten
- Romana Kalkuhl
- Gina Gleason
1. Nita Strauss
Nita Strauss was always bound to be on this list. She is probably the most-known rock guitarist at the moment, and for a good reason: her combination of musicianship and attitude makes her very appealing. And when you are capable of playing so many different styles, that is also quite appealing.
Of course, Nita has become very known in the genre for her work with Alice Cooper. Playing with such a legendary musician is a perfect example of how much she rose through the ranks. She also played with former Alice guitarist Kane Roberts back in 2019 and worked with Metal Allegiance.
Nita has also had a solo career that deserves a lot more attention. She is a very good combination of a shredder and a melodic player, which is always fun to listen to. Heck, the fact she can go and play with Demi Lovato and still have street cred in Metal, that means she is good.
She is one of the best female rock guitarists in recent times and deserves all the credit she deserves.
2. Joan Jett
Joan Jett is named “The Queen of Rock and Roll,” and her achievements speak for herself. The fact she was a founding member of The Runaways should be enough to be on this list. However, she truly shines through her career as a solo artist.
The Runaways fell apart as quickly as they blew up in the late 70s, and Joan formed her band, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts. Through this project, she accomplished most of her hits, including her legendary rendition of “I Love Rock ‘n Roll” in 1982.
She will not be a part of the best female rock guitarists of all time because of her abilities (which are not too shabby, either). Her attitude, tough persona, and charisma proved that women in the genre could be hard and heavy. That, coupled with her unique voice and songwriting, made her a genre legend.
Very few women have the legacy and influence that Joan Jett has had in Rock music. One of those absolute legends of the genre as a whole.
3. Lita Ford
Now that Joan Jett has been mentioned, her bandmate Lita Ford in The Runaways has to be said.
Lita Ford was the heaviest and most Metal-focused member of The Runaways, which is shown in her solo career. While both Jett and Ford had a lot of success with that band, it was in the 80s, as solo artists, that they got to shine truly.
In Lita’s case, it has to be said that she saw herself as a guitarist first. She has proven over the years that she can sing quite well, but her guitar playing is her main focus. Her earlier 80s work shows how good she was.
She had many hits in the 80s, and that is the period of her career most people are familiar with. However, her 1983 album, Out for Blood, is one of her heaviest works and deserves much more attention.
Like Joan Jett, her role as one of the best female rock guitarists is more than deserved. So, her place is more than deserved.
4. Orianthi Panagaris
Orianthi Panagaris is Australia’s big triumph for the best female rock guitarists. She initially made a name for herself by playing with Michael Jackson, even going as far as preparing for the This Is It tour.
Things don’t stop there, though. Orianthi has been a session musician for years, although she also became very well known for her time touring with Alice Cooper. She was Alice’s first-ever female musician and was eventually replaced by Nita Strauss.
She is a very flexible musician, capable of playing a wide variety of styles, and that makes her very valuable as a session musician. Orianthi may not have the greatest of music catalogs, but she makes up for that with a lot of other positive traits.
5. Kelly Johnson
Girlschool have been somewhat memory-holed, which is a shame. They were part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and one of the first-ever all-female Metal bands. And Kelly Johnson was one of the best female rock guitarists ever.
Johnson sadly passed away in July of 2007 but her legacy with Girlschool continues. She was a key component for the band’s first three albums, often regarded as the best they ever did. That combination of 80s Heavy Metal with some Punk influences was intoxicating.
It’s an underrated band and an even more underrated guitarist. Considering what they represent in Metal history, Kelly Johnson‘s name should be a lot more noticeable.
6. Nancy Wilson
It’s interesting how these discussions often ignore Nancy Wilson’s name. She and her sister Ann formed the band Heart and went on to have a lot of commercial success. Heart could be viewed as one of the first-ever female-fronted bands that found great success. And Nancy Wilson is one of the best female rock guitarists to boot.
What makes Heart such a compelling band is how much they evolve musically during each decade and that is mostly down to Nancy. She is the musical core of the band and the one who makes the entire sound tick. This is particularly true in recent albums, where her tone can be natural and precise when the situation requires it.
There is a lot of variety in Heart‘s catalog and it shows Wilson’s influence can range from Rock to classical and flamengo. Some people have compared her to Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page and there is certainly a bit of that in her guitar playing. Be that as it may, Heart’s success cannot be understood without Nancy’s intake.
7. Courtney Cox
Courtney Cox is known chiefly as Adriana Smith and her role as the guitarist for The Iron Maidens, the all-female Iron Maiden cover band. However, she is also a phenomenal guitar player in her own right and deserves a lot more attention and credit.
Part of what makes Courtney Cox such a great musician is how much range and flexibility she has when performing. Her work with The Iron Maidens shows she truly gets what makes classic Metal tick. She also has done several other projects that deserve as much praise.
She is a live performance musician, but that only goes to show she can do it live, which is always worth of praise—a really good musician who often goes under the radar.
8. Larissa Ernst
Burning Witches is arguably the best all-female Metal band at the moment and Larissa Ernst is a major reason for that. She joined the band for the 2021 album, The Witch of the North, and her guitar playing is one of the group’s most important virtues.
Larissa Ernst stands out as a very traditional heavy metal shredder, and she is a perfect one at that. Her guitar playing could be viewed as very straightforward but it fits the band’s style. She also added another dimension to Burning Witches as Romana Kalkuhl’s second-in-command.
Considering that perhaps she has a lower profile than other musicians in the band, she doesn’t always get the credit she deserves. However, her quality as a guitarist has boosted the group’s profile. Definitely one of the best female rock guitarists and one who should be getting a lot more attention.
9. Janice Lynn
Janice Lynn is not only here for being one of the best female rock guitarists of all time but also as one of the most important and underrated. This is because of how much she had to work as a musician to make it and for her band, Vixen, to gain a degree of commercial success.
It is worth pointing out that, much like Girlschool, this is one of the first-ever all-female rock bands of all time. Janice formed Vixed in the 70s and had legal issues with the name, so she had to change it. The bulk of the 80s was her trying to work to the top and building her new version of Vixen.
Many people have tried to downplay what these ladies achieved in the late 80s but deserve a lot of credit. This was the decade where Rock music was at its most popular and commercial and women were not taken seriously in the genre. Sure, perhaps Lita Ford or Joan Jett were thriving but they were exceptions to the rule.
In that regard, Vixen‘s success, albeit short-lived, was quite notorious. This band didn’t have music videos with the girls just being there for sex appeal; they were the band and that was quite cool to see. And Janice stood out as she was shredding and doing some quality licks as a musician.
It is a shame that her legal situation with Vixen ended things in a very negative manner but those first couple of albums deserve a lot more attention. They are 80s Hard Rock to the core and they have their own charm and catchiness.
10. Jennifer Batten
Jennifer Batten, much like Orianthi, is another example of building a career as a session musician. She has gone on to play with some of the best musicians out there and prove her worth with the best of them.
For example, she gained a lot of notoriety for playing in three of Michael Jackson‘s world tours in the 80s and 90s, which is saying a lot. That alone is enough testament to her qualities as both a musician and a performer, considering Michael’s quality standards.
She also gained a lot of experience playing with one of the best guitarists of all time Jeff Beck. While this isn’t the heaviest music out there, it is a testament to how much she has achieved over the years, which is something that not a lot of women have achieved in the music business.
Her 1992 solo album, Above Below and Beyond, is an underrated gem for instrumental Rock. This record shows Jennifer Batten at her best, trying many different styles and approaches as a guitarist.
Jennifer Batten is never going to get the credit she deserves. That is a fact. However, she has a phenomenal body of work, and her guitar playing is highly underrated. People should listen to her solo work to hear what she can do.
11. Romana Kalkuhl
Romana Kalkuhl is the leader and heart of Burning Witches. There are no two ways around it. She founded the band back in 2015 as she wanted an all-female group, which kickstarted this incredible journey.
Part of what makes Romana one of the best female rock guitarists is her combination of strong riffs and songwriting. She knows how to make a song tick and knows her Metal music quite well. Plus, she has proven to be a capable leader in Burning Witches.
12. Gina Gleason
Gina Gleason is the definition of a hired gun and a very good one! While she is mainly known for her work with Baroness, she has a long CV with many great collaborations.
She toured with the Smashing Pumpkins, played with Latin American legend Carlos Vives in the Latin Grammys, and also with Carlos Santana. She was also part of the Cirque Du Soleil project a few years ago.
A brilliant guitarist and one that deserves a lot more credit for her trajectory.
Japanese heavy metal doesn’t get a lot of recognition in the West and all-female band Lovebites is a good example of that. They combine Heavy Metal with Power Metal in a very effective manner and guitarist Miyako is the one responsible for that.
Miyako is one of the best female rock guitarists because of her knack for making catchy melodies and shredding like a mad woman. Lovebites‘ music is very guitar-focused, and this allows her to shine at her best.
D_Drive is an instrumental Japanese heavy metal band, and guitarist Yuki is often the main focus of the group. Her style and guitar brilliance have made her stand out from the get-go.
Considering this is an instrumental band, it makes Yuki‘s guitar magic all the more understandable. This project allows her to show off her riffs, solos, and melodies, which are of the highest order.
As mentioned earlier, there are a lot of great Japanese Metal artists out there and Yuki is definitely one of them.
Cyntia is one of the best-kept secrets of Japanese heavy metal, and Yui is the brain behind the operation. While the band is sadly on hold, she has proven time and time again how she is one of the best female rock guitarists out there.
Yui is amazing because she doesn’t overstay her welcome as a guitarist. She knows when to show off and do something that benefits the song. This keen sense of songwriting and musical language makes her such a great musician.
It’s worth pointing out that Cyntia is a fantastic band of musicians, but Yui is the standout instrumentalist.
You can also watch our top 15 female rock guitarists of all time video below!
What are your favorite female rock guitarists of all time? Let us know in the comment section!