SMG Revised: Being a Female Guitarist Takes Balls!
Guest Post by Abby Markson
Like anything else in life, being a female musician has it’s ups and downs. It’s something that has always been challenging for me and for every other female musician I know. It seems that every move you make, note you play, song you sing, chord you strike, drum you hit, etc. is analyzed and critiqued to no end. It’s much different for girls in the music world than it is for guys. Not only because there aren’t that many, but also because we have to constantly prove that the stereotype of “girls can’t play” is a load of crap.
This has always been a male dominated industry and females are just now starting to break through and become more accepted as players/musicians. I myself being a female guitarist, have struggled my whole playing career with this issue. Getting to the point where people take me seriously as an actual guitarist, a real player instead of just a chick that can play or just being “good for a girl” has taken years.
I attended Musicians Institute (GIT) for a year and a half to study guitar. During my time there, being one of about 6-8 girls in the program was a huge struggle for me. I felt like everyone was just waiting for me to screw up, just waiting to throw me into the category of chicks sucking at their instrument. My classes usually consisted of about 50 people and a lot of the time I was the only girl in my class. The anxiety, fear, and pressure seemed to consume me at times. I had severe performance anxiety and often had to take a Xanax just to be able to play on stage. Of course you had to play live to get credit so there was no getting around it. I had to just suck it up and get through it.
In my experience, often times people don’t take you seriously if you’re a female musician, let alone a guitarist. I walk into guitar center and the guys working there just flock to me asking if i need help and when I say “no thanks, I know what I’m looking for”…it’s like they don’t believe me or something. They think I have no idea what I’m talking about or what I’m looking for. They try and explain things that I already know to me and pick out things for me that they think I would like because I’m a girl. The fact is, if I was a dude that walked in there, this would absolutely not happen. This also brings to mind the fact that there are “guitars for girls,” which really pisses me off! Those are the kinds of things that just add to this whole mess. All that does is project the idea that girls can’t play a real guitar. That what, we’re so fragile and naive that we need special instruments made for us? It’s really quite insulting if you ask me. Daisy Rock Guitars is one particular that drives me nuts. The woman who made the company claims that she wants everyone to know that girls can rock out. How is giving girls sparkly pink hearts, butterflies and flower guitars going to do that? They’re not even full scale necks, which is very insulting in and of itself. Daisy Rock comes with a CD of female guitarists featuring such artists as Courtney Love and Sheryl Crowe. Now no offense to these women, but I hardly consider them good enough guitarists to be putting them on a CD to inspire young girls to play guitar.
Now in a guys world, the artists on that CD would most likely be players such as Jeff Beck, Eric Johnson, Zakk Wylde, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Steve Vai, and so on and so forth. I understand that people think because girls have smaller hands that they should have smaller guitars, but this is just not true. Every girl I know that plays guitar is very capable of playing a regular guitar.
Many of these things are created simply just to make money, so when they’re put on the market people start thinking “oh yeah, I guess I should get a guitar for girls since I’m a girl and I want to learn how to play”. The fact that there are girl bands out there that play in nothing but bras and undies doesn’t help the real female musicians out there look any better as well. It’s so rare to find girls who really do take their instrument seriously and don’t use their breasts to get them gigs.
I love meeting girls that really kick ass on guitar (or any instrument) and know what they’re doing. Now don’t get me wrong, I know I’ve been going on and on about the negativity’s but there are many amazing things about being a female musician as well. You can go out any night of the week and see a guy play guitar, but seeing a girl play isn’t so common. So for me, it’s great knowing that I can draw people in to see something they probably haven’t seen before. If you really know your stuff, then being a girl can be quite an advantage for getting gigs and making a living as a musician. It’s really all about who you are as a musician and how seriously you take yourself. I have played music for as long as I can remember, and although there is a part of me that is so bitter towards people and their assumptions of me, I wouldn’t change a thing.
There is nothing more fun to me than showing people that girls really can rock just as hard as guys. This issue is something I’m going to have to deal with for the rest of my life, but finding new ways to do it is the best part. We are all musicians here, all players, all in it because we love it. Gender, race, religion, etc. has nothing to do with it. Music is a universal language and I’m just glad I can be a part of it.