It is interesting and funny to see how so many guitar players worldwide through channels like for example YouTube, are spending a great deal of their time comparing their favorite guitarists to each other like it is a competition. My favorite guitar player is better than your favorite guitar player!
Although a sensible guitarist knows that these statements are invalid, there is an interesting psychology behind this. The ego strengthens its sense of self and its worth by identifying with a group: “I know who I am! I am the kind of guy who listens to guys like Satriani and Vai! They are great, and I am into them”. You stand for something and this is your identity: you listen to Vai and Satriani. As such, the ego is also divisive. Its struggle to be “unique” and “special”, automatically also means that it has to attack the value of others in order to elevate its self-worth. Picking one guitarist to be the best in the world is alluring due to the amount of people willing to agree with your statement, and turning down others on top of that elevates your ego even more. It is easier to say, “Jimi Hendrix is the best guitarist in the world!” and have other people agree with you than it is to say, “Steve Vai has incredible technical abilities but Jack White has a very distinct, personal style.” The latter does not make you feel as important about yourself.
There are many reasons why claiming one musician as the best guitarist in the world makes no sense. Out of all the guitarists in the world, there are hundreds of different styles that can be played and no one guitarist is the same as another. In addition: everyone has his or her own opinions of what is “great.” People who love classic or hard rock would be apt to say Jimi Hendrix is the best guitarist in the world. On the other hand, someone who has a passion for blues and jazz music might say BB King or Joe Pass are the best guitarists to grace the planet. Comparing a jazz guitarist to a rock guitarist makes no sense because they are two completely different types of guitar players, who both have different, equally valuable energies and elements they bring to music.
It is also a shame when a guitarist focuses on such a narrow-minded vision, as it obstructs him from reaching his own true potential as a musician. Many people limit their vision of great style and talent by only looking into a narrow field of guitarists they admire. Once someone lets go of the belief that Jimmy Page was the most incredible guitar player in the world, they can begin to appreciate other styles of music and guitar playing. While looking into other guitarist abilities and styles, a person can begin to enjoy a much wider scope of music and in turn grow in creativity. Great guitarists all have their own very specific, personal sound, phrasing and style.
In order to grow as a musician or music lover, listen to some other genres and see the similarities and differences in other guitarists. Unfortunately, many people will always be biased and not give other guitarists that play different styles a chance because they, “don’t like that kind of music.” If someone doesn’t like blues and refuses to listen to Stevie Ray Vaughn while claiming Slash is the best guitarist, they are missing out on some great talent because of their biased opinions.
More importantly though, is to realize that being a master at guitar, does not have anything to do with how many notes you can play, how many chords you know, how many scales you know, how many styles of music you can play, how unbelievably your technique is or how many songs you know or how amazing your ear is. You are a master at guitar if you play every note you play, with utmost love for the sound, and with amazing joy, treating every note and sound like it is the very last one you are ever going to play again…. Without any judgment, without being self-conscious, without thoughts, without a need to show off or prove anything. Every time you do that: you are the best guitar player in the world, because that is where your true voice lies. NOBODY can play and sound like you can, not even Steve Vai, Jimi Hendrix, Van Halen, Randy Rhoads or Joe Satriani, not even if they have been playing for decades and you only have 3 weeks… because there is only one: YOU! That is why you cannot compare guitar players.