Photo by Ian Urquhart
There is a sentiment that guitar players and rock admirers have heard over, and over again since the early 2000s; "Rock was murdered!" or "Guitar is dead!" Both have echoed through the news on a seemingly once-every-2-months basis. For people who love the instrument and for the absurd wealth of music it can, and has create, and has created, these written funerals are tiring.
They're also misguided.
Guitar music - Rock 'n' Roll in particular - has a nasty habit of being shoehorned into a certain identity, dependent on what generation is scrambling to define it. When you hear the word "Rock," what do you think of? Perhaps it's everything leather and enormous hair, like Van Halen. Maybe it's the iconic crunch of Chuck Berry's yellow Gibson ES-350, or Jimmy Page and his awesomely impractical double-necked SD.
"Guitar isn't dying, it's is evolving."
Or, maybe you're more contemporary, and your first thought goes to Avenged Sevenfold, Metallica, or Bullet For My Valentine. Rock has always been fluid, changing from decade to decade. The guitar has been right there with it throughout.
As a life-long Rock fan, I grew up listening to The Allman Brothers and AC/DC, reveling in how vastly different they sounded, but never understanding why. Once I learned how to play the guitar, it clicked. Some people like to say that Rock is an adjective - spouting "that's rock 'n' roll" when something awesome happens. Some like to think that Rock is an attitude - sticking it to The Man and breeding anarchy. These ideas aren't wrong, they're just dated when you consider the grand scheme of popular music. Of course, anybody viewing Rock through these narrow lenses would think that the guitar, as a face-melting, girl-getting, anthem-pumping instrument it once was to them, is dying.
Guitar isn't dying, it's evolving.
According to The Washington Post, both the public opinion and the financial figures of electric guitars among youths is waning, and that there is an upward spike in acoustic guitar sales. It does make sense, when you consider which artists are the most popular today. Taylor Swift, Shawn Mendes, Ed Sheeran, etc., they all utilize acoustic guitar accompaniment. Therefore, young people become inspired to emulate their heroes, just like the last generation did, and the generation before them. That's not to say, however, that there aren't guitar players in the limelight who are inspiring and innovative.
For instance, artists such as St. Vincent, Synyster Gates, and Jack White are pushing the genre in all different directions of pop, blues, and metal. Alternative rock is exploding lately, with bands like Nothing More and Deaf Havana gaining steam, bringing new fans every year. Sales may be down, but sales fluctuate. Guitar playing hasn't changed, but guitar marketing has changed to fit the narrative of today's top charts.
This evolution of guitar has been stretching it across genres, and it is reliant on us, the fans. As Rock changes through the years, we not only have to support its evolution, but also challenge it, and bring the genre we all love to new heights.