Why My Eyes Gently Roll

Last week, an article from the Washington Post titled Why my guitar gently weeps made its way around the internet’s various music circles. The article makes some noise about falling guitar sales and draws conclusions from interviews that the author conducted with various captains of industry; its thesis is that sales are trending down, the industry is shrinking, and a lack of “guitar heroes” is to blame. Young people – apparently – just don’t have enough rock stars to look up to and emulate.

If you decide to read the post (it’s not long) prepare yourself for some extreme eye-rolling. Also, the article uses some weird JavaScript scroll hijacking, so have fun.

Almost as an aside, the article mentions a shift towards more women and girls learning guitar, but brushes their increased interest aside as trivial – or based purely in aesthetics.

Andy Mooney, the Fender CEO, calls [Taylor] Swift “the most influential guitarist of recent years.”

“I don’t think that young girls looked at Taylor and said, ‘I’m really impressed by the way she plays G major arpeggios.’ ” Mooney says. “They liked how she looked, and they wanted to emulate her.”

This sounds dismissive. After all, young folks of the past were focused only on the sounds of musicians and not their looks (for example, this is why KISS is known for wearing only dull boring outfits during performances). Girls don’t care about music, just about looks. Uh huh.

From a writing perspective, the biggest weakness of the article is that the author neglected to include perspectives from actual guitarists. Instead, Geoff Edgars tacitly implies that falling guitar sales = declining industry = declining guitar popularity. A lot of folks around guitar forums and YouTube have pointed out this fallacy, and they further refute the claim that there are no “guitar heroes” by offering their own list of popular players. Usually men. Actually, all men.

(I’m starting to think that just maybe our society has some kind of problem with attitudes towards women.)

I agree with the musicians’ rebuttal, that there are still “guitar heroes” (gosh I dislike that term). I can name a few bands that really influenced my decision to pick up the guitar.

Furthermore, there’s such an abundance of educational resources on learning guitar that, since starting in December, I’ve at times felt overwhelmed by just how much there is to learn, and just how many ways there are to learn it all. I would be interested in reading an article discussing these resources, the rising popularity of YouTube as a music education platform, and hearing from a variety of musicians (of all genders) about their perspectives on the guitar industry’s decline. But that would require the Washington Post to investigate – which is apparently too much to ask.

Posted on June 28, 2017