Marnie Stern’s Top 10 Female Guitarists


Indie guitar goddess Marnie Stern has been busy making T-shirts to match her Best Coast/Wavves headlines, all while wrapping up a US tour in support of her self-titled third LP. But let’s not forget the hammering, trilling guitar powers she wielded to make it happen in the first place. Stern had some time before trekking to Europe to work with Flavorpill on her top ten list of female guitarists — pleasantly surprising in light of her tongue-in-cheek track “Female Guitar Players are the New Black,” which she explains was written in response to “being asked so many times what’s it like being a female guitar player and having the focus be my gender.” Click through to find out who made the cut.

1. Nancy Wilson of Heart

Marnie says: “Nancy Wilson wrote the intro to ‘Crazy on You,’ and that beginning guitar is so intricate. I’ve seen her do it live and it’s really neat. I don’t think I really paid attention to that intro until 10 years ago. I’d say she’s my #1.”

2. Kaki King

Marnie says: “Kaki King is a guitarist who has been around for a while. She plays intricate guitar that’s very inventive. It’s acoustic, but she uses all her fingers — it’s kind of like tapping, but she uses her elbow to hit the guitar in weird ways.”

3. Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney

Marnie says: “Listening to Sleater-Kinney was one of the main things that inspired me to start playing a lot. I like the way the guitar lines interweave with each other and how trebly and shrill the notes were. Sometimes they got low and deep, and kind of hectic and playful too.”

4. Jenny Hoyston of Erase Errata and Paradise Island

Marnie says: “The bass and electric guitar in Erase Errata are really cool. They had a record on Kill Rock Stars a couple of years ago but before that they were on Troubleman and they were a big inspiration to me. It’s a trio of girls. It’s like No Wave, really quirky but rhythmically really interesting.”

5. Joan Jett

Marnie says: “I like Joan Jett’s attitude. I think she does what she has to do, but that’s her style, kind of no-frills, play straight chords and punk it out. She does that really well and she’s got a crazy cool voice.”

6. Kelley Deal of The Breeders

Marnie says: “Gotta have the Deal. Her playing was inventive and real melodic. Poppy, gritty, melodic, minimalistic, which is something I don’t know how to do.”

7. Patti Smith

Marnie says: “I’d pick Patti Smith more for her as an artist, period. I read her biography recently and she puts everything she has into what she makes. She is such a powerful presence as a person, and in terms of a strong role model I’d definitely say her.”

8. Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders

Marnie says: “I would put Chrissie Hynde with Joan Jett, kind of two people whose style is more of an energy and attitude. What’s odd to me is I don’t think The Pretenders’ music really reflects Chrissie Hynde’s attitude as an individual ’cause the music seems relatively gentle, but yeah, I’d put her with Jett as two really cool musicians overall.”

9. Sara Register of Talk Normal

Marnie says: “Talk Normal is two girls who are based out of Brooklyn. I’ve toured with them and the guitar player Sara Register does really neat texturing with the guitar.”

10. Amy Klein of Titus Andronicus and Hilly Eye

Marnie says: “Amy’s in Titus Andronicus now, and she sent me a demo of another project she was doing recently. Her playing is very delicate and introspective, meandering lines and cool vocal melodies with it.”