There’s an argument to be made that the guitar in 2022 is in a more diverse and interesting place than it’s been in decades – possibly ever. All across the globe, an unprecedentedly diverse cast of dreamers, shapers, players and makers are pushing the instrument into new territories and audiences.
Whether it’s through the music they make, the culture that they build, the products they make, or the brands that they steward, the best and brightest of guitar culture are building a vibrant world for us all to play in, and Guitar.com is here to celebrate that.
Welcome, then, to the Guitar.com Awards – a celebration of what makes us proud to be part of the guitar community and to call ourselves guitarists.
From the most innovative and interesting new products of the year, to the bands and artists who have provided our soundtrack, to the people behind the scenes trying to ensure that guitar culture continues to reflect the best of us – you’ll find it all in the categories below.
And as for the winners, don’t worry, we got you – check back later in November to find out who’ll be taking home the winner’s trophies this year.
Product Of The Year
WINNER – PRS SE Silver Sky
The award that needs no explanation, but it’s the one everyone wants to win the most – the product of the year is simply our favourite new piece of guitar gear from the last 12 months.
Chances are, each of our nominees could have been featured in some or all of the categories below, but that universality and across-the-board excellence is what elevates them into our highest award. Chances are you might own one of these things already, if you don’t, you should be making a shopping list as we speak…
The Gamechanger Award
WINNER – Blackstar St James 6L6 Head
Every year, the guitar industry shocks us with its ingenuity – for a passion that primarily focuses on the celebration of things that were created somewhere between 50 and a hundred years ago, barely a month passes without someone finding an ingenious new way to give us the stuff that we love in an innovative, more user-friendly or more affordable fashion.
But amongst these products there are some that stand out from the crowd – ideas whose impact ripples beyond the product itself and has the potential to permanently shift the needle when it comes to their particular sector or niche.
The Hype Award
You know the feeling. You open up the ‘Gram and before you can barely get through half a dozen stories you’ve been inundated with the great and the good of the guitar world getting hype about a brand new product that’s about to drop. And look, we all see it – some people just like to get excited about new stuff, there’s no harm in that! But it’s nothing more than that.
Sometimes, however, that buzz doesn’t go away. This isn’t just this week’s new hotness, it’s a product that has seen all the noise and chaos and expectations around it and lived up to all of it.
This isn’t just hype, this is living up to the hype – and in doing so making itself one of the most wanted new products of the year.
The Best Value Award
You might have heard, we’re in the midst of a cost of living crisis. And no matter what your circumstances, chances are you’ve probably got less cash to devote to your favourite hobby than you did 12 months ago, and so getting the most for your money is more important than ever.
These nominees hit that perfect sweet spot on the graph between value for money and how much fun you’ll have using them. If you haven’t got a lot of funds to work with, these are the best bang for buck products of 2022.
The Design Award
It’s to our continued delight and amazement that, nearly a century after it seized its place as the ultimate instrument of popular music, people are continuing to do wonderfully innovative and original things with guitars and things that you plug guitars into.
The Design Award celebrates the seemingly infinite capacity for the brightest and most creative minds in guitar culture to come up with inspirational new ways to put a spin on a bunch of wood, strings and early 20th century technology.
Whether it’s big guns finding new ways to do things that would have been unthinkable a few decades ago, or maverick geniuses working out ways to make sounds we’ve never heard before, the spirit of the Design Award is the primary reason why 70 years on, the guitar remains undefeated.
The Essential Award
Look, we get it – there’s a LOT of new guitar gear out there, and the pace with which new stuff causes a stir on social media before being replaced by the latest hotness is hard for anyone to keep up with – even us.
But some products cut through the noise. They’re not always the most affordable things that get released, hell some of them might be downright expensive but what they are, above anything else, is inspirational.
And that’s what the Essential Award is for – these are not just great products, they have the potential to transform your entire creative process, and for that reason alone they are essential. If you want to know what you need to put at the top of your demo list next time you’re in a guitar shop, it’s all of these nominees.
Artist Of The Year
The world of guitar has never been a more diverse or varied place than it is right now, and so it’s entirely fitting that the most interesting and influential guitar players out there come from genres or backgrounds in which the guitar has not traditionally been a focal point.
But that is the enduring power and genius of the instrument – no matter where it ends up, it seems to find its way into the most inspiring and inventive musicians, who put their own unique spin on the guitar and drive the whole culture forward in new and unexpected ways.
For 2022, there’s one artist above all others that has truly captured the zeitgeist of both guitar nerds and general music fans, all while making technically astonishing and aurally challenging music.
It’s no mean feat, and that’s why the Guitar.com Artist Of The Year is…
Winner – Polyphia
Album Of The Year
Like Artist Of The Year, the job with Album Of The Year is not necessarily to pick an inevitably subjective ‘best’ record, because there are so many wonderful, varied and interesting guitar albums released that describing it in such terms feels a bit reductive.
Instead, Guitar.com’s Album Of The Year is the album that has most moved the needle in the guitar world, that has pulled us in with its riffs and hooks, and spawned an inevitable wave of imitators who want to capture this record’s zeitgeisty spark.
In 2022, there were plenty of contenders but one stands above all the others…
Winner – Wet Leg – Wet Leg
Track Of The Year
You’ve been humming that riff in your head for days, that’s a good sign isn’t it? Or maybe you instantly went and sat down to learn that solo as soon as the song finished, that’s another.
The best guitar tracks inspire something primal in guitar players – the way isolated snippets hang around in our brains like the most embedded earworms, causing us to sit down and work out exactly how they managed to create a song so great that we can’t get it our of our heads.
They can be challenging, they can be reassuringly familiar, some of them will sound like nothing else we’ve ever heard before – that’s the magic of a guitar song.
Winner – WILLOW – ur a <stranger>
The Progress Award
A big part of why the guitar has endured as a vital tool of music creation for over seven decades is its adaptability. Instruments that stand still rapidly get consigned to the history books along with the music made on them, but guitar’s chamaelonic ability to adapt and change with pop music is unique and remarkable.
But in 2022 progress is not just measured by how many genres you’ll find the guitar in – the guitar industry cannot ignore the wider world, and it’s the responsibility of those involved to reflect the changing society we live in.
That is why we created The Progress Award – to celebrate those who are pushing things forward, whether that’s in terms of diversity and inclusion, environmental concerns, workers rights, or anything else that helps move the guitar forward, and creates a culture that we can all be proud of.
Winner – Taylor Guitars
Launch Of The Year
As fiction’s favourite advertising genius Don Draper once opined, “It’s useless to be creative unless you can sell what you create”. But in 2022, marketing is about more than just taking out a glossy ad in the back of a magazine.
In such a noisy and crowded marketplace as the guitar industry in 2022, if you want your product to really stand out, you have to get creative – and nobody did it better this year than our winner.
The Collab Award
Two heads are, as the saying goes, better than one – but the guitar industry has always been at the vanguard of collaborative design, going all the way back to when Les Paul and John Huis teamed up to make a solidbody guitar, and beyond.
In 2022, collaboration is everywhere – from interesting and exciting new signature products, to brands big and small combining their knowledge and varied viewpoints to create stuff that might never have even been conceived otherwise.
Winner – MXR x AnalogMan Duke Of Tone