The past few decades have seen a steady decline in guitar’s popularity as an instrument. Most younger generations don’t listen to music that is guitar-based, and sales of the instrument have gone down consistently throughout the late 2000s into the 2010s. However, the COVID-19 pandemic seems to have turned this downward trajectory around. Due to lockdown measures, many are turning to learning the guitar over other instruments, and guitar manufacturers are selling more six-strings than ever before. To find out what has caused this guitar boom, we invite you to read this article.
Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.nytimes.com
At the cusp of the 2010s, the guitar’s future seemed less than bright. Between 2007 and 2017, sales of the instrument lowered by one-third. Hip hop and pop have taken over the mainstream charts. These genres rarely include guitar in their instrumentation – and if they do, it’s typically a sample rather than a live recording of an actual guitarist. In fact, between 2014 and 2017, the majority of Top 40 songs didn’t include the six-string instrument. Another concern is that most of hip hop and pop’s fans belong to the millennial or Generation Z demographic, making it hard for guitar to become popular with younger generations. It certainly doesn’t help that most former guitar heroes are either dead (like Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen, and Stevie Ray Vaughn) or are in their seventies (like Peter Frampton and David Gilmour). Even Eric Clapton, the famous blues guitarist known for his hit blues-rock song, “Layla,” mentioned in 2017 interview that “maybe…the guitar is over.”
However, almost miraculously, the COVID-19 pandemic and its subsequent lockdown orders seemed to catalyze a huge guitar comeback, with people beginning to learn the instrument, or returning to it after months or years of no play. All the big name guitar brands (Martin or Taylor for acoustics, Gibson and Fender for electrics, and retailers such as Sam Ash, Guitar Center, and Sweetwater) hit the biggest sales they’ve ever had in their entire history as companies in just the spring of 2020. There has also been a surge in views of tutorial videos on YouTube, and Fender’s “learn-how-to-play” application, FenderPlay, has surged from 150,000 users before the pandemic to over 900,000. No one was more surprised than the guitar companies themselves. Andy Mooney, CEO of Fender Musical Instruments, said in an interview that “he would never have predicted this” at all. Considering that purchasing a guitar usually requires spending several hundred (or thousand) dollars, it’s not a purchase one would think people would make during a time like this, as the economy plunges and unemployment rises. Most companies were expecting they, like many other business, would experience a huge economic downturn because of the pandemic.
What might have made so many people decide to make the investment and learn to play the instrument then? When lockdown orders became commonplace in April, the first reason is likely that many people who didn’t have the time to learn an instrument but always wanted to prior to the pandemic, now had time to do so. From a more analytic perspective, James Curleigh, CEO of Gibson Brands, Inc., suggested that a reason is that this turn toward guitar was also “a signifier of deeper psychological currents circulating among a traumatized population.” Apparently, a lot of testimonials suggest that typical coping mechanisms for many people, like Netflix, Instagram, and Facebook, weren’t working anymore. Learning an instrument seemed like a better alternative, as it requires intense focus. It’s quite hard to think about how the pandemic has turned life upside down when you have to pay attention to your finger placement, the chords you play, and your strumming pattern, all at the same time. Learning to play an instrument alsoleads to positive feelings of achievement and self-actualization. As neuroscientist Dr. Levitin claims, “Using your brain for something that is challenging, but not impossible, tends to be rewarding, and hence comforting.”
An inevitable question lingers, however: will this guitar boom last, or is this just a fleeting fancy amidst the pandemic? Once lockdown lifts and people can return to their regular sporting events, bars, movie theaters, restaurants, etc., it’s inevitable some guitars bought during the pandemic might end up in the back of a closet. There are already some preliminary signs of enthusiasm for the instrument dwindling, with a recent dip in YouTube tutorial views and a 2.4 percent sales dip since the end of the summer. However, one key fact to recall is that many of those who picked up the guitar during lockdown were young adults and teenagers, many of them women and/or female-presenting, with 20% of beginners under 24 and 70% younger than 45. The former belief that the guitar isn’t popular with younger generations is now moot. However, the question of guitar heroes still remains, as many of the new players who picked up the instrument are not turning back and looking at the music made by the old virtuosos. Perhaps a few of these new guitarists will be this generation’s new shredders.
For more information, visit the source article at the New York Times website.
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