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Does being a girl make you good?

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Illustrious Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 4921

Ok, first off... my observation about women pursuing music as a career wasn't just guitar based - of the 6 teachers in my informal survey, I'm the only guitar teacher. I was curious because the number of female students I have hasn't changed very much in over 25 years - it's always been about half. Yet, when I look at pro musicians on any instrument, in any style, there seems to be little gender parity except on violin and vocals, where women are probably more than half the field, and on flute, where they are the large majority.

But go to any school orchestra: there are more girls than boys on virtually every instrument. The hottest young brass player I've heard in the past ten years is a girl - Nicole Sasser - and while she's just in her late teens, she plays everything from classical to Dixieland with tone and expression that blow me away.

As a result, my musing leads me to believe this is NOT a guitar thing! It appears to me that at some point between instruction and career choice, women opt out of music. It's not because they can't teach (which I hope I didn't imply - I certainly didn't mean that) or perform, it's that they simply don't pursue music.

It's true that among student guitarists there's a stylistic difference in taste between boys and girls. Boys and men want to learn rock, almost exclusively. A few want to pursue blues, jazz, or bluegrass, but requests to learn rock styles are way above the others. Girls and women are far more eclectic: classical and folk are the most frequent requests, but they don't beat out the other styles by very much. Girls also request celtic, blues, jazz, and rock with some regularity.

I never really thought about differences in how women learn...everyone learns slightly differently, so the key to teaching is to be able to connect. Off the top of my head, here's the differences I see:

Girls tend to have smaller hands, so they do focus more on technique - they arch their fingers better than boys do. Many girls have played another instrument (often flute or piano), so they don't seem so put off by sight reading as boys. The number of smart-asses is a lot smaller among the girls... they don't waste time as much as boys as a very general observation.

Girls learn the basics better (faster) than boys. They seem to focus on doing it right, while boys are a bit more impatient - if they get some sound out of an open G chord, then it's "teach me something else", while girls are content to get it right.

Boys focus on speed. The average boy could care less if he plays all the notes cleanly, as long as he can blow away his friends with how fast he is.

If a student brings a CD of a song they want to learn... well, if I could bet even money on the type of music on that CD, with boys I'd be rich: it's metal. Sure, some will bring other stuff, but the frequency of metal really defies the odds - it's what 75% of male teen guitarists want to learn, and it can't be nearly that percentage of CD sales, radio airplay, or other influencing factors.

If a girl's got a CD, no bet - it could be anything. Weavers, Cranberries, Jewel, Bloomfield - it's all over the map.

Come to think of it, more boys bring CDs than girls, by a wide margin. They want to 'learn this song'. Girls as a rule just want to learn to play.

I don't see any difference in the rate of progress that's gender based. If they practice, they progress, if they don't, they stagnate. Neither gender strikes me as having an edge in practice discipline.

So I'm back to my original wondering: what is it about music that girls don't like as a career? It's not just rock, it's not just guitar - at some point in their late teens or early 20s, women leave the field. Why?

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL

Reputable Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 343

Sorry, I assumed you meant guitar players. You also did not imply that woman can't teach. I was just pointing out the teaching is usually dominated by woman and so it would seem that music teachers should have more woman than would represent the number of total woman in the field.

Women not pursuing music as a career, I think does have to do with what you said before, the living day to day and playing dive bars. Most women have a goal of being married with children, even the ones that are more career oriented but girls, I said most. In order to support a family, it requires stability. You should know better than me Noteboat, I know you have kids, they bought you a tele for father's day, which is way cool. Plus women don't want to spend most of their time in dive bars, at least I know I don't - It also isn't conducive to meeting a decent man to have a family with. I find men have the same desire as woman for a family though, but maybe woman are a little more concerned with financial stability. (Actually all the men I know are more set on having kids than most my female friends, maybe it's that whole 9 months thing.) I think the lack of female players in other instruments is credited to young girls usually want to play the flute or violin. No little girl wants to play the tuba and most don't want to play the trumpet or saxohphone, maybe this goes back to those instruments not being girly. Even if they start to play the trumpet, I guess they don't continue with it again because of stability. Maybe women are just more practical thann men when it comes to careers because all music careers are considered to have more of a rocky road. Regis, that's my final answer - it doesn't necessarily go back to family but practicality and a more realistic outlook on the difficulties of being a starving musician. But wait, in the end that would that mean women just aren't as committed to their dream? Did I just undo feminism?

Lastly, oh man, I thought I was unique :cry: . I sound a lot like your other female students. I am a bit ecclectic in what I like to play and I don't really focus on speed. I was going to say that the working until I get everything right doesn't apply to me but then again I play songs over and over because I can't stand hitting a wrong note, even just a buzzed one and I still do it all the time!

It's not easy being green.... good thing I'm purple.

Illustrious Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 10264

Going way back to 1980 or thereabouts, I saw the Pretenders on a music show playing "Talk of the Town", a woman guitarist playing guitar, singing at the same time.....and she writes the songs......and played a white cool was she!!! (Answer - Very!) Chrissie Hind changed my perception of women in rock music waaaaaaay back then......and almost a quarter of a century later, I still love their music.......Texas is another case in point, Charlene Spiteri plays guitar (electric and acoustic) and keyboards while fronting the band and writing the songs..........Bonnie Raitt, plays a mean slide........

The female gender tends to be more single-minded than the male gender in certain areas........but I have noticed, most female guitarists play Rhythm rather than lead.......and tend to focus on fingerpicking.....

Anyone old enough to remember the Honeycombs......"Have I the Right" way back in about 64 will remember the controversy .....not just a female drummer, but singing as well!!!......Karen Carpenter played drums as well as singing.....

Women tend to be better at multi-tasking than men, dunno why, possibly because men think about sex every eight seconds, and sport and guitars for the other seven,,,,,,,

But hey, it's a big planet, there's plenty of room for all of us out there.......
Gender is irrelevant, musicianship is the seems to me that music, and rock music in particular, has been a male preserve for so long that one forgets how many truly talented women there are out there....and no, they don't get the same recognition as I'd say that a woman guitarist may not have to be twice as good as a male guitarist to get noticed......she'll stand out anyway because there are so few women guitarists....but she'll have to work twice as hard to get the same respect as a lesser-talented male guitarist........


"Sometimes the beauty of music can help us all find strength to deal with all the curves life can throw us." (D. Hodge.)

New Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 2

No absolutly not, if your bad your bad and if your good then your good no matter if your a female or a male, even though girls might get the extra encouragement since they are doing something that is a prodominatly male activity

Eminent Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 14

You know what they say. Women have to do twice the work as a male to get half the credit... but lucky for us, thats not hard!!!

Right girls!!!

im not some kind of feminist, i just really believe that statement. We appear to be rare, but it is only because we get less credit and spotlight for what we do. Maybe if we played guitar and had no arms, we may... JUST MAY get some recognition then!

There has been years of investigation to find that 100% of statistics are made up

Active Member
Joined: 8 years ago
Posts: 9

It doesn't matter what gender you are, playing an instrument (guitar) is talent anyone can have.

That being said, I think female guitar players are a rare breed and its up to us to carve our own way to success, happiness and what ever other goals you personally have.

Danica Levy,
Marketing Manager for Levy's Leathers.

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