If you play the guitar—as a profession or an avocation—if you’re a producer, engineer, arranger, or composer who works anywhere near the intersection of genres defined traditionally by the electric guitar, you ought to read an article published today (Thursday, June 22, 2017, for the record) in The Washington Post: “The Death of the Electric Guitar,” by Geoff Edgars.
The future of the rock’s principal instrument is not as bleak as Edgars’ title suggests, and his piece offers a balanced and nuanced take on the contemporary slump in guitar sales and the concomitant effects on dealers large and small—those in big-box outlets or the vertiginous on-line marketplace.
But anyone standing within earshot of pop music in recent years will have seen the symptoms of the guitar’s present cultural decline: A thriving and ascendant EDM scene; the incipient take-over of pop music by electronic-oriented styles over the past two decades; the gradual disappearance of the “guitar hero” phenomenon that attended the Boomer generation; the development of affordable digital audio technology, which has put in every teen’s bedroom (or pocket) a means of crafting music not predicated on traditional “instruments” (electric or acoustic) but on beats, samples, and grooves.
Personally, I’m not a fatalist (maybe it’s the teacher in me), so I side with Fender CEO Andy Mooney, who asserts that “the death of the guitar, to paraphrase Mark Twain, is greatly exaggerated.”
Indeed, I know plenty of youngsters saving their pennies to buy Teles and 335s, and I see many kids devouring classes at the local Academy of Rock Music. But there’s scant doubt that a paradigm shift has occured: more and more kids in my orbit want less to learn what distinguishes a Strat from a Les Paul or a Vox from a Marshall than which cheap DAW is going to give them the quickest access to constructing “beats.” And I’m fine with that.
Generational shifts and technological innovations inevitably involve a transformation of the “instruments” by which “culture” is crafted—but not, as Linkin Park’s Brad Delson suggests in Edgars’ article, some broad diminution in creativity: “Music is music,” he says. “These guys are all musical heroes, whatever cool instrument they play. And today, they’re gravitating toward programming beats [in] Ableton. I don’t think that’s any less creative [than] playing bass. I’m open to the evolution as it unfolds. Musical genius is musical genius. It just takes different forms.”
So what do you think? Check out Edgars’ piece. As a friend of mine is fond of saying, it’s “good fodder.” Here’s the link: