The March 2017 issue of Guitar Player magazine studies what Editor in Chief Michael Molenda calls a “potential extinction-level event”—the number of teens and Millennials who leave the guitar under their beds and forgotten after just a few months of attempting to play.
“It’s obvious that myriad distractions face young people today,” says Molenda. “It’s also true that the guitar is not enjoying the cultural interest that it did in the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s. But we need to keep ‘making’ new players in order to ensure guitar music and the guitar industry stay healthy, and I strongly feel that both media and gear manufacturers must do a better job at reaching out, attracting, nurturing, and educating young people about the everlasting coolness and life-long joy of playing guitar.”
The March 2017 cover story is the first article in an on-going series detailing what guitar-gear manufacturers, other guitarists, and guitar publications are doing to seduce and retain new players. The initial article focuses on the opinions, research, and efforts of companies such as Bloomberg.com, Fender Musical Instruments, Optek Music Systems, Line 6, and The Brainyard.
“The guitar is a very intimidating instrument,” states Ethan Kaplan, Fender Digital’s Chief Product Officer and General Manager, in the Guitar Player cover story. “The way it’s sold is intimidating, and the way it’s appreciated is intimidating. So we needed to make playing more accessible.”
“The guitar industry is basically a ski resort with no bunny slope,” adds Rusty Shaffer of Optek Music Systems. “Think about that. The industry doesn’t embrace the beginner. It’s ‘good luck and come back when you can play.’”
The “Who Will Save the Guitar?” series is one of the thought initiatives Guitar Player is undertaking during its 50th anniversary, as it celebrates its five decades of guitar journalism. In addition, the magazine continues to support its “Play It Forward” program that not only seeks to have experienced players mentor beginners, but also help older players who have given up the guitar for whatever reason find their way back to it.
“We are eternally grateful to Bud Eastman, who started Guitar Player as the very first guitar magazine back in 1967,” says Molenda. “And the current staff remains obsessed with evangelizing guitarcraft. This year, we are pulling out all the stops to honor those planks of wood and strings that we love so much.”