Eight Non-guitarist Musicians That Every Guitar Player Should Know

Guitar players tend to listen mostly to other guitar players. Although learning from masters of your instrument is a must, it should not stop there. There is so much to discover from other great instrumentalists. Most great guitarists have influences that extend well beyond their instruments. Listening deliberately to sax players, pianists, drummers, trumpet players, bassists, and more; can add tremendous depth to your playing. For instance, trying to adapt piano voicings to play on guitar can take your accompaniment and theory knowledge to a new level. The same is true for learning, playing, and trying to emulate a saxophone solo on guitar. Listening to other great instrumentalists is a fantastic way to expand your knowledge and dexterity as a guitar player. Please don't miss out on that. Here are the eight non-guitarist musicians that every guitar player should know.


John Coltrane

John Coltrane is considered the god of improvisation. He was an absolute master of his instrument. His practice routines became legendary, as he could go for 16 hours daily.  He would practice for hours before a concert, during intermission, and keep practicing after the concert. The ultimate tenor saxophone player, Coltrane pushed the boundaries of not only jazz but music in general. He has been a massive influence on musicians and guitar players are no exception. His influence extends well beyond jazz, as Coltrane was a pioneer in the use of modes. Guitarists that have been influenced by John Coltrane include Joe Satriani, Alan Holdsworth, and Pat Metheny. "Trane", as he is known by many, is studied extensively in music colleges around the world, as well as by private students. His playing and compositions have become legendary and are still alive today.


Vinnie Colaiuta

The drummer's drummer. Colaiuta is perhaps the greatest session drummer ever. His command of the instrument is astounding. Perhaps the most impressive fact about his career is its diversity. Vinnie Colaiuta has recorded with jazz master Chick Corea, metal powerhouse Megadeth, pop icon Billy Joel, legendary crooner Barry Manilow, Fusion guitar hero Alan Holdsworth and country superstar Faith Hill. He also played a major role in the groups of Frank Zappa, Joni Mitchell, Sting, and Jeff Beck. An absolute monster on the drums, Vinnie Colaiuta is still just as highly rated today as he was forty years ago.


Miles Davis

Arguably, the most influential musician on this list. Miles Davis was the embodiment of cool. He changed the face of music at least five times. Miles could play a melody like no one else. His album Kind of Blue is one of the most influential recordings ever, and it features John Coltrane on tenor sax. Interestingly, Miles Davis is more recognized for his ideas than his trumpet playing. Legend has it that during a star-studded benefit concert in the 80s, a line formed just to talk to Mile for a few seconds. And who was on that line? Madonna, Sting, Phil Collins, and many others. 


Jaco Pastorius

Jaco marks a before and after for the bass. You simply can’t talk electric bass and leave Jaco Pastorious out. However, his influence goes way beyond the bass. He is well-regarded as a composer and arranger. His stint with Weather Report cemented the groups' legacy. His album Jaco is regarded by many as a definitive statement on bass playing. Jaco's groove is very unique and his technique and level of expression on the instrument are unparalleled.


Ravi Shankar

Ravi Shankar took the sitar to unprecedented levels thanks to his immense influence. From performing at the legendary Woodstock Festival in 1969 to meeting with American president Gerrald Ford, Shankar took Indian music to western masses like no one before him. He toured constantly, received a plethora of awards (including five Grammy Awards), and received high praise from the public as well as his peers. Ravi Shankar is responsible for the interest of George Harrison in Indian music. Harrison even used a sitar to record the classic "Norwegian Wood", introducing the sitar and Indian music to the rest of the Beatles.


Antonio Carlos Jobim

Jobim was one of the last great composers of the twentieth century. He is the author of one of the most celebrated songbooks of western music. Although Joao Gilberto is credited with exporting Bossa Nova, he was playing Jobim songs almost exclusively. The Brazilian composer, pianist, and arranger is the writer of some of the best-known songs of the past fifty years. By combining rhythms such as samba with classical music harmonies, bossa nova was created. Jobim is the only musician on this list that created an entire style of music.


Nadie Boulanger

Juliette Nadia Boulanger was a French composer, conductor, and teacher. She became one of the best students at Conservatoire de Paris but did not believe she had enough talent as a composer. In turn, she became a teacher. She is one of the most influential music teachers ever. Legends such as producer Quincy Jones, Serialism innovator Aaron Copland, American master Phillip Glass, and tango pioneer Astor Piazzolla studied and were influenced by Boulanger. She was the first woman to conduct the BBC Symphony, Boston Symphony, and the New York Philharmonic. She also conducted world premieres with works by the likes of Igor Stravinsky and Aaron Copland.


James Brown

"Mr. Dynamite" was the progenitor of funk music. His influence on countless musicians and styles cannot be over-stated. His career lasted over fifty years, quite an accomplishment. James Brown has been inducted in the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame as well as the Songwriters Hall of Fame. His energy and demeanor on stage and off-stage helped cement his legendary status. He is one of the greatest artists of all time, a consummate performer with great songs.


Wrapping it all up

Devoted musicians should spend quality time listening and learning from other great musicians. Guitar players sometimes tend to only listen to other guitar players. Although it is imperative to check out the masters of your instrument, it may be just as important to listen to as many types of music as you can, from all instruments. The musicians on this list are awe-inspiring and I'm sure you could learn a thing or two from all of them.

Peace Out!

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