Prince as a Guitarist

Prince can be best described as an enigma. Complex and outrageously talented, Prince’s career is unique and difficult to delineate. A rare combination of iconic fashion, signature dancing, distinctive vocals, and music production aid in marking this man as singular and unmatched. What tends to be less publicly noted about Price’s career is his musical instrument capabilities. Prince played nearly each instrument recorded on his first five albums, with his insanely intricate guitar solo’s standing out as most impressive.

An extremely private person who insisted focus be projected on the future, Prince rarely spoke publicly about his start. What we do know is he began playing all instruments throughout his adolescence with his guitar interests taking shape at age 13. School mate’s recall Prince spending the majority of his free time in the music room, experimenting with guitars.

As he career began to take shape throughout the late 1970’s and 1980’s, it appeared (in the few interviews in which Prince agreed to partake) the reporter’s topics of interest clung more to his fashion sense and rarely, if ever, inquired about his musicianship. It wasn’t until later in life did questions concerning his musical inspirations and compliments regarding his obvious guitar talent begin to arise.

In fact, to highlight this emergence of general musical interest, rumor has it that Eric Clapton was once asked in an interview, “How does it feel to be the greatest guitarist in the world?” With him responding, “I don’t know, ask Prince.” Whether the exchange truly took place is up for debate, but the topic of Prince’s guitar god status did in fact begin to take precedence. Miles Davis once stated that Prince was a combo of, “James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, Marvin Gaye, and Charlie Chaplin” a description that encompasses all of Prince’s many talents, including that on guitar.

One of the few insights we have from Prince himself about his personal guitar experience is when he once confided in Rolling Stone that, “If they really listened to my stuff, they’d hear more of Santana influence than Jimi Hendrix … Hendrix played more Blues, Santana played prettier.” Additionally, assumptions about Prince’s guitar inspirations and musical taste may be revealed in his performances of certain Rock N’ Roll cover songs he demonstrated in more recent years.

In 2004, at George Harrison’s induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Prince played the legendary guitar solo to “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” shocking the audience with his raw talent and solidifying his performance as one of the Rock Hall’s most famous.

In 2007 Prince was the chosen performer for the Super Bowl halftime show in which he effortlessly played his own, “Purple Rain” through a relentless downpour, highlighting his outstanding guitar playing. Also, despite having an enormous catalog of his own music to choose form, Prince surprisingly performed the Foo Fighters, “Best of You,” exhibiting his obvious admiration and musical ties towards the Rock N’ Roll genre.

Lastly, In 2008, Prince took the stage at the Coachella music festival to perform none other than Radiohead’s “Creep.” Adapting the already haunting song, Prince infused the tune with his signature style that was heavily guided by his use of guitar.

Prince as a guitarist is an interesting and complex topic. His playing is entangled with several additional elements that transform the man of mystery into the Prince that the world knows and loves. However, it has become increasingly more important to recognize Prince as not only a performer but as a gifted and influential musician.  His recent and impactful Rock N’ Roll performances cement his undeniable legendary guitar status. Prince’s guitar talents have flourished in popularity, ranking him as 33 on Rolling Stones 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.

–Victoria Shaffer

“Five Examples Of Prince’s Insane Guitar Skills.” JamBase, 22 Apr. 2016,
“Prince Biography.” Rolling Stone,
“Prince.”, A&E Networks Television, 19 Jan. 2018,
Stone, Rolling. “100 Greatest Guitarists.” Rolling Stone, 18 Dec. 2015,
“Was Prince the Greatest Guitarist of All?” Gibson Guitar,

23 thoughts on “Prince as a Guitarist

  1. I’d rank him a lot higher than 33, that’s for sure. He’s absolutely fantastic live. The funny thing is, in my opinion at least, that his best guitar work was predominantly on songs that didn’t get radio play. And that the casual fan likely never heard. He was definitely one of the best guitarists ever. 😃

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  2. I’d like to know who the 32 above him are! I saw him in concert about 5 times and he had the most formidable stage presence. The word ‘genius’ is handed out far too often, but it definitely applies to him. Sadly missed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. To say I am jealous is an understatement! What I wouldn’t give to have seen him live five times haha! But I do agree that he should be ranked far better than 33rd. Not sure what else the man could have done to be better! He played so many styles! He will surely be remembered as one of the greats.

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  3. Well said! Last night, I was reminded what a great guitarist Prince was. I went to the movies to watch “Concert For George,” the fantastic 2002 tribute show for George Harrison at the Royal Albert Hall. It brought together Eric Clapton, Jeff Lynne, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Tom Petty and many other outstanding artists to celebrate Harrison’s music. Of course, one of the songs they played was “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” And while it was solid, as Clapton was playing solo, I just couldn’t help but think that Prince’s performance at the 2004 Rock & Hall of Fame probably set such a high bar that is pretty much possible to reach. I’m not even sure Prince could replicate it if we would still be alive. I think it really happened in the moment, and he got totally carried away.

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    1. I love “Concert for George”! One of those rare occasions when a group of outstanding musicians get together and honor one of their own. It’s a beautiful tribute concert. I love Paul McCartney playing “Something.” Though Eric Clapton’s version will always be my personal favorite, Prince’s was so revolutionary and exposed just how outstanding he was. Two amazing musicians that’s for sure!

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