With venues closed for much of the past two years, many guitarists have taken to social media to stay inspired and relevant. From Sam Fender and John Mayer to Nile Rodgers and Yusuf/Cat Stevens, the ‘guitarTok’ community boasts some bona fide guitar stars who are making creative use of the platform.
Despite this celebrity cast, though, the most popular videos tend to come from smaller creators reimagining classic songs in inventive ways.
We recommend taking a trip down the guitarTok rabbithole yourself. But if you’re short on time, here we’ve picked out five of the best tracks for you to appreciate.
@tomspinley – Everybody Wants to Rule The World
The layered soundscapes of Tears for Fears’ 1985 hit might not seem the obvious choice for a solo guitar cover. However, armed with his black Jazzmaster and loop pedal, Tom Spinley makes it work.
Based in Manchester and a member of up-and-coming alt-rock act Offset Pearls, Spinley makes use of throaty wah and generous helpings of reverb. His cover is a clear nod to the original without trying to imitate it.
This is among Spinley’s most successful videos, raking in 1.6 million views and more than 450,000 likes. It formed part of his ‘Isolation’ series, which saw him turn out other Jazzmaster covers, including the Jackson 5’s I Want You Back, as well as a keyboard rendition of Bill Withers’ Just the Two of Us.
@_hudsondavis – Take On Me
Swapping out synths and vocals for Fender tones is a common motif in this list. And while the popularity of A-ha’s iconic Take On Me makes it a daunting challenge, Hudson Davis meets it heads-on with wild vibrato and Sultans-style triads.
The Nashville player wields a Mercury-finished AmPro II Stratocaster to sensational effect and, in truth, most of his videos might have made this list. Some of his more interesting work includes recreating Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody and Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb in the style of John Mayer.
The guitarist clearly favours Strats, with three appearing across his TikTok, as well as a Cherry red Gibson ES-335. Davis’s entry on this list is by far his most popular song, accounting for about 800,000 views.
@naomikei.music – Where is My Mind
Playing the undisputed king of starter guitars, a black Squire Mustang, here Naomi Kei brilliantly demonstrates how to use a loop pedal to craft a soundscape through the subtle layering of rhythm parts and riffs.
She begins with a beat created by tapping on the humbuckers, before adding a bassline comes in, the rhythm part and finally the melody, before suddenly we’re listening to everyone’s favourite Pixies tune, only served as a stripped-back, lo-fi guitar cover.
This is among Naomi’s most successful videos, having pulled in 1.4 million views and 300,000 likes. She has also had success with other covers, including Feel Good Inc by Gorillaz and The Cure’s Boys Don’t Cry.
@gbliz – Smells Like Teen Spirit
This isn’t Bliz’s most successful cover – that would be his guitar solo for Internet Money’s Lemonade, which has close to 3 million views – but it is his most interesting.
Guitar.com previously covered Ry Ecko’s reimagining of Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights as a grunge song. Here Bliz goes the other way, turning this Nirvana hit into a mellow R&B track.
Bliz extracts warm tones from his black Stratocaster, replacing powerchords with seventh chords and adding jazzy embellishments. It couldn’t be further from the original but it just about works.
Outside of his covers, Bliz also posts videos explaining his rig, demonstrating how he achieves his R&B tones using a Fender Mustang GTX50 and the new all-three-pickups setting on his Tequila Sunrise Player Plus Stratocaster.
@Jamesmarchaant – Story of My Life
One Direction are one of the most covered bands on TikTok, so it would be wrong to leave them off this list.
Looping forms the basis of so many guitar videos on the platform. In this video, James Marchant uses it for a muted string beat. His playing may not be as adept as some others on this list but he picks his way through the song with an effective warm tone. He has also mastered the TikTok guitar aesthetic, golden-hour sunlight catching half of his face and half of his Strat.
This is the most viewed video on this list, having notched up 6.3 million views.
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