Having finally embraced my inner pink girlie-girl, in addition to giving up on the idea that tiny mutant hands would get any bigger at this stage in life, I’ve embarked on a quest to find a guitar specially made for saucy Metal Divas (TM). Say, a great sounding 24-to-27 fret super-strat type guitar with excellent neck access, a decent locking trem and other components, but built with a slim neck and shorter scale designed with itty-bitty girlie hands in mind.
I turned to the mighty oracle for the answers to two questions:
1) Does anybody even make guitars for girls?
2) Do they come in pink?
Here’s what the oracle told me:
1) Yes, some manufacturers build guitars specially for girls.
2) Yes, they come in pink.
3) But you’re not gonna like ‘em.
It turns out the oracle was right on all three counts.
Upon further investigation I discovered what appears to be a massive gap between what the guitar manufacturers THINK girls want, and what girls (well, girls like me anyway) actually DO want. For example, which one of the guitars below do you think exists in real life?
In case it isn’t obvious, the guitar on the bottom is real, but the one on the top isn’t. It’s the product of my wishful thinking and some quick’n'dirty photoshopping (it’s a discontinued 27-fret Hamer Californian, if you’re wondering).
Here’s the deal: With one notable exception (see my next post), all of the “guitars for girls” that I found look** like they would be total poo for serious playing (unless you’re serious about yer chord strummin’). In fact, even the online communities I’ve found that focus on female guitarists seem to be geared towards chord-strumming singer-songwriter types, or maybe “alternative” rocker GRRLs.
Before all you singer-songwriters and alt-rock GRRLs ignite your flame throwers, hear me out: I’ve got nothing against chord strumming or female singer/songwriters or rocker GRRLs. Hooray for all you and all you represent. But what DOES f’n bug me — and what guitar manufacturers just don’t get — is that these genres do not represent the pinnacle of musical aspiration for all girl guitarists.
Frankly, I am baffled by the closed-minded stereotypes that seem to drive the guitars-for-girls manufacturers’ product design: that girls like pink glitter and like strumming chords — they couldn’t possibly be interested in owning the ultimate metal shred guitar. Don’t believe me? Look at the following photos and tell me that these two manufacturers don’t have a rather narrow view of the kind of guitar a girl might actually want:
Daisy Rock Guitars
Golly gee whiz, they sure are cuuuuute. All pink and purple and flowery and girlie. Some even sparkle like a cheesy MySpace glitter gif.
I have to admit that I’d love to try a Hello Kitty Fender for recording clean parts. Those guitars are beyond cute, and would probably work well for that purpose. But seriously, when it comes to “playing in anger,” would you be interested in any of those guitars? I’m not saying that you couldn’t shred on one of them. Of course it would be possible. The problem is that they are not designed with shredding in mind. Because they think girls don’t want that.
This raises the question: do girls see guitars primarily as fashion accessories? Or as toys, perhaps? I don’t think so. But most of the guitar models above look as if they were designed to appeal to this mentality. I think there is an untapped market out there for guitar manufacturers who want to take a different approach. Couldn’t they make just ONE model that invites technical “shred” guitar playing? I can’t be the only girl with tiny hands who would love to see that happen (and I’m not even into “shred”). Where are girlie versions of guitars like these:
Caparison Horus (drooooool!)
Tagima K1 (Kiko Loureiro Signature) Warning: annoying Flash website
Hamer Californian (no longer manufactured )
And another thing: for people with small hands, neck access is paramount. In fact, it’s one of the most important factors when choosing a guitar. But why do the girlie-guitar manufacturers not provide photos of the heel joint, like Caparison does?
Caparison Horus heel joint
Do they think that girls’ interest in a guitar begins and ends with assessing its sparkle factor? One can only make inferences based on how they present their products to prospective customers.
I do think the guitar makers mean well, but are merely misguided by the persistent stereotypes about girl guitarists (i.e. we’re just not interested in playing screaming, technical lead guitar). I guess they’ve not heard of the incredible Jennifer Batten.
One manufacturer claims to have “a desire to ‘level the playing field’ for dedicated female guitarists and bass players of all ages…” This is indeed a noble cause, and a welcome breath of fresh marketing air. But assuming that girls see guitars as cute fashion accessories that are good for strummin’ chords is probably not the most empowering way to level the playing field. And neither is viewing girls as perpetual beginners who need the lure of something cute, pink and sparkly to even want to pick up a guitar.
Guitar makers, you can do better.
Because I hate to end on a sour note, I saved the good news for last: to my great surprise and delight, there IS one manufacturer out there who seems to be on the right track. In fact, I am actually excited about what I saw on their website. More about them next time!
**[Disclaimer: I have not actually played any of these guitars because they aren't available in the shops where I live. But based on what I've seen, I wouldn't want to bug my local music shop to order any. But I regularly bug them about Caparison...]