I was perusing one of my favorite music blogs, when I recently ran across a page that was simply a collection of “guitar faces,” the patent expressions players great and small make when thrashing out a power chord or reaching for the heavens with a soaring lead line.

It got me to thinking: Does all that expressive snarling and grimacing actually help physically cajole notes from the instrument? Or is it just the player reacting to the emotional thrall of a riff well-executed?

I never could come up with a definitive answer, but in researching the subject, I started to notice certain patterns emerge—a veritable guitar face language. Here are but a few.

Metallic Orgasm Snarl

First and foremost is the classic metallic snarl, an expression that seems to predate even the genre itself. Some have even dared term it “orgasmic.” Let’s please all factions and call it the Metallic Orgasm Snarl.


Paul Kossoff, facially Free-spirited

At the other end of the carnal spectrum is the eyes shut half-grimace, in which the player appears to be either communing with a higher power, or locked in deep, introspective musical meditation. I'll respectfully call it the Face of God—perhaps the most respected, dignified, and universal guitar face of all.


B.B. King


Jimmy Page

The Face with No Name

Metallic Orgasm Snarl long ago crossbred with the Face of God to yield something far greater than the mere sum of their parts, the Face with No Name. The latter has served Angus Young well since the mid-’70s, and inspired succeeding generations of notable players as well, a circle gratifyingly unbroken.


Angus Young


Lenny Kravitz

Don’t Bother Me, I’m Soloing/The Face That Wasn’t There

While it is dismissively derided as Don’t Bother Me, I’m Soloing, it is more respectfully the Face That Wasn’t There, a truly vintage guitar face style that Slash has truly made his own, with a healthy regard for rock history and a veritable fire curtain of curly locks.


Jeff Beck; Don’t bother me, I’m soloing


Slash

Deep Focus Face

Another familiar look is the ultimate face of musical concentration, Deep Focus Face. Too often confused with the shoe-gazing pretensions of ’90s alternative rock, Deep Focus Face finds the player locking everything out of their universe but the instrument in their hands—especially when trying to remember how to finger that diminished 11th chord they now wish they’d never stuck in the damned song to begin with.


Noel Gallagher

Oh Man, This is So Cool

Perhaps the most universal and instinctive guitar face of them all is the uncontrollable reaction to an electric guitar plugged into a cranked amp. While it can take man shapes, Oh Man, This is So Cool needs no explanation.

Pete Townshend


Chuck Berry


Billie Joe Armstrong