Why Can’t Girls Play Guitar? | Hub Guitar

Why Can’t Girls Play Guitar?

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Is There a Gender Difference?

Among professional guitar players

Wikipedia maintains a list of guitar players with ~1800 names on it. Another separate list dedicated to female guitarists has ~110 names, with an additional 39 names on a list of female classical guitar players.

At the professional level, there are many male guitar players and fewer female ones, except for classical guitar, where the ratio seems more balanced.

Among guitar learners

If the guitar appeals more to boys than to girls, this preference appears to begin forming at a young age, although there is no difference in aptitude for guitar between boys and girls.

Historically, our guitar enrollment has been about 65% boys, 35% girls. Certain factors have influenced this number, such as artists like Taylor Swift that brought many females to the guitar […] We definitely have a higher ratio of girls to boys playing the piano […] about 65% female. For voice lessons, the numbers are probably even higher: 80% female to 20% male. Mike McAdam, Owner, North Main Music, Nashua NH

It could be that girls are simply more interested in piano than guitar, but the piano lacks the convenience and portability of the guitar, so it is an instrument that is harder to remain dedicated to for life.

Why Worry about Gender Differences?

Even if there is a gender difference, so what? Since there are so many instruments for girls to choose from, why does it matter if not many guitar girls go on to become guitar goddesses?

Among all of the instruments that are popular to learn, only two of them are polyphonicA polyphonic instrument is one that is capable of playing chords (multiple notes at once).: guitar and piano. These instruments are normally called on to play solo music—meaning they offer a lifetime of entertaining all by oneself—and they are also relied heavily upon by composers and songwriters seeking to understand the big picture of their music. In the absence of a strong desire to play one of the more specialized instruments, these two instruments are the best choice for study because they are the most broadly applicable instruments.

Of all of the instruments children could learn, guitar offers extremely broad benefits. The instrument is portable, versatile, affordable, and has found a place in nearly every style of music. The guitar has universal appeal, and it should be the first instrument we think of as we equip young people with musical skills—including girls.

Is Guitar For Boys?

The guitar is not inherently masculine

Although there are certainly some masculine images of long-haired, shirtless guys using guitars to perform acts that are unlawful in some states, anybody who has ever played a guitar can testify that there is nothing inherently masculine about it. Nothing could be more inviting to people of all genders than sitting down with a guitar and playing your favorite songs.

The guitar suits both genders

Although it’s true some girls have smaller hands or narrower frames, there are many types of guitar with different neck widths, neck lengths, and body sizes. These three factors tend to most strongly influence the comfort a player feels with their instrument. This level of variation cannot be found on piano, which is a one-size-fits-all instrument.

So Why Don’t More Girls Play Guitar?

Guitar role models

Playing the guitar is a hobby that one often begins at a young age. And younger people are imitative. They are vulnerable to the images that they are repeatedly shown. A little girl who rarely sees pictures of other girls playing the guitar may begin to internalize the message from society that playing guitar is for boys.

Young girls jump to attention when they see another girl playing the guitar. It is a good idea to show these examples to girls that want to learn guitar.

NameKnown forExample
Bonnie RaittBlues/SoulSomething To Talk About
Kaki King FingerstyleGlow
Orianthi Rock/MetalAccording to You
Sandra BaeContemporary FingerstyleOver the Rainbow
Sharon IsbinClassicalAsturias
Muriel AndersonClassical, Contemporary FingerstyleWhy Worry?

Parents and Gender Roles

From the moment a child is born, he or she is quickly inserted into blue clothes or pink clothes, and from this moment on, millions of subtle decisions are made on behalf of the child. When it’s time to bring music into the home, or think about music lessons, parents may unconsciously choose a path for their child that they think is more suited for the child’s gender. And therefore you see alot of girls playing piano, flute and violin, and alot of boys playing guitar, bass and drums.

There’s nothing wrong with piano, flute or violin. It’s not that these are bad choices, but they shouldn’t be the only choices. Girls should have a chance to play guitar, if they want. (And boys should have a chance to play violin. Have you ever heard of Itzhak Perlman?)

Nails

It has to be said that some girls are hesitant to take up the guitar because it requires neatly-trimmed fingernails on at least one hand.

Others like to paint their fingernails, and don’t want to cut them short.

But before you give up the chance of a lifetime of playing music, you might want to ask yourself if those five slivers of hardened keratin on your hand are worth the sacrifice.

A shrinking gender gap

It’s possible that at one point the guitar had broad appeal to young men in a way it no longer does, and that more and more girls are learning guitar these days, but the reason that there are so few famous female guitar players is simply because their day has not yet come. In other words, perhaps the litany of male guitar heroes represents the gender balance of a passing generation.

Aversion to pain and discomfort

Some studies have suggested that women are more sensitive to pain than men are[1]. Given that learning guitar involves some minor pain and discomfort, this may be a discouraging factor for anybody just starting out. If so, it’s pretty limited. The initial discomfort typically lasts only for a couple weeks.

Some aspects of guitar design favor men

Perhaps the design of guitars sometimes favors men.

In times begone, parlor guitars were often marketed towards women. The shorter neck and smaller body was intended to be more comfortable for women to hold and play. Any notion that girls have different preferences when it comes to guitars seems to have all but disappeared today. But with so many products geared towards a specific gender, why should guitars be any different?

Today, the vast majority of players will have their first guitar encounter with an entry-level priced steel-string guitar, and for some reason most of these are larger-bodied dreadnoughtA larger-bodied guitar meant for having high sound projection when chords are strummed. guitars. Women sometimes find larger-bodied guitars uncomfortable to hold.

The guitar design that was chosen for mass-production seems to be the dreadnought, due to its historical popularity. According to Martin Guitars, dreadnoughts account for 80% of production[2]. Despite its popularity, many people (both men and women) prefer smaller bodied guitars. And yet when you walk into a guitar shop, you are likely to see mostly dreadnoughts.

Most electric guitars are comfortable to hold for everybody. But the styles of music that beginners might associate with electric guitar are often very much geared towards male listeners and players.

This may partly explain why many women play classical guitar. The classical guitar has a smaller body; the elegant posture ordinarily preferred by classical guitar players is appealing to many women, and in addition young girls are a bit more open-minded when it comes to learning classical music, and less likely to reject it. Add to that a sizable number of female role models in the world of classical guitar, and you’ve got plenty of reasons classical guitar beckons women to come try. But classical guitar is only one of a very large number of styles that guitarists play.

Coda

Girls are not always given a fair chance to take up the guitar. And that’s a shame, because it’s the best instrument to learn.

Name any style, and you will find female players who are extraordinary at it.

And girls should especially keep in mind that whether they want to learn to play steel string acoustic, electric, or classical, many of the instruments they come across may not be the best for their body size and shape, and that they should take their time and find an instrument that is set up properly, comfortable to hold, and a joy to play.


1https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2005-10/asop-srr102405.php

2https://www.martinguitar.com/about/martin-story/dreadnought-story/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_guitarists

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/7342168.stmhttp://www.bbc.com/news/education-29117849

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