(Pictured: Elise Trouw)
The electric guitar isn’t dead; it’s just in the hands of a new generation of increasingly diverse players with more humble aspirations. A new study conducted by Fender and consultancy Egg Strategy, surveying emerging guitarists in the U.S. and U.K, confirms their 2015 findings that women account for 50 percent of all new guitar players. The study also shows the number of African-American and Hispanic players is growing, with African-Americans accounting for 19 percent of beginners and Latin players making up 25 percent of developing players.
Learning from their own findings, Fender used female-led bands Warpaint and Bully to help promote their Offset Series to great success among all demographics. However, Fender isn’t the only guitar manufacturer taking note of this previously underserved market. In recent years, Ernie Ball released their first mass-produced guitar designed by a woman—the St. Vincent signature model, which has spawned an entire series of variant models and configurations. And earlier this year, Alice Cooper guitarist Nita Strauss became the first-ever woman to have a signature artist model, the JIVA10, with Ibanez guitars.
Some argue that there are no longer “rock gods” or virtuoso guitar heroes to help inspire new players to pick up the guitar, but Fender’s research shows that the market is strong and that the majority of this generation have less grandiose motivations for learning an instrument. Seventy-two percent of those surveyed cited gaining a life skill or a means of self-betterment as the reason for picking up the guitar, and 61 percent simply wanted to learn songs to play by themselves or socially. "Today's players have grown up in a different cultural context and popular music landscape,” said Fender CEO Andy Mooney. “Rising artists like Mura Masa, Tash Sultana, Youngr, Daniel Caesar, Grimes and Ed Sheeran are changing the way guitar is being used.”
Beyond the guitar, music as a whole is being consumed in drastically different ways than in the past. With music discovery taking place on YouTube more than anywhere else, an artist’s number of views, shares and subscribers is the new barometer of success. One-woman bands like the aforementioned Tash Sultana, as well as multi-instrumentalist Elise Trouw, who's gear and process we recently profiled, have garnered millions of views online, and are just a couple of the many female artists parlaying viral view counts into more mainstream notoriety. While this change in how artists find and interact with their audience can start on a smaller scale, it can also help inspire the next generation of musicians in a far more immediate, personal and impactful way.
If you’re looking for a constant dose of new and stand out female guitarists, be sure to check out She Shreds, a magazine that celebrates women guitarists and bassists. Earlier this year, we spoke with She Shreds founder and editor-in-chief, Fabi Reyna, about the musicians who inspired the magazine, as well as the importance of perpetuating the conversation surrounding female representation in the music industry. Read more >>>