Yes, the guitar looks cool to play and is a fun tool to impress your friends. Although, those factors alone are not enough to justify its popularity. If it were then eventually the reward factor of those benefits would fizzle out completely over time. Instead, there are 5 main reasons why the guitar is so popular, most of which are backed up by scientific findings.
Why is guitar so popular? The guitar is a popular instrument because of its effect on dopamine modulation (how it makes us feel), the high sense of achievement, creativity harboring, affordability, and its ability as a self-reliant instrument.
Continue reading to find out what makes the guitar so interesting, the 5 reasons it is so popular, and when the guitar started to become popular.
This article aims to go outside the typical rationale of “because the guitar looks cool to play” and look into some of the neuroscience reasons why so many people are drawn to the guitar.
5 Reasons Why Guitar is So Popular
The guitar is so popular because:
- Mood Balancing: Dopamine Modulation
- High Sense of Achievement
- Harbors Creativity
- Self-Reliant Instrument
Let’s dive into each of these reasons to understand how each affects the popularity of the guitar.
1. Mood Balancing: Dopamine Modulation
The first reason the guitar is so popular is because of dopamine modulation. In other words, playing guitar makes you feel good mentally.
In a study performed by McGill University, hearing music releases dopamine in the brain. When playing guitar for hours a day or week, dopamine continues to be released throughout the practice. You do not have to be a stellar guitarist to be able to achieve this dopamine release. Even just playing a nice lick that you recently learned is enough to trigger a release.
Furthermore, through their studies, these scientists found that stress can be greatly reduced by simply playing guitar. This is performed at the cellular level which releases higher quantities of dopamine, an important neurotransmitter that regulates humans’ moods and feelings of motivation and rewards.
“Playing guitar actually reverses your body’s chemical response affect to stress and pressure.”Dr. Wasson, CreativeGuitarStudio
Of course, most people in the world are not neuroscientists, and even fewer are guitarists. So the reason they pick up the guitar is not to specifically increase dopamine releases. Nor do most people understand the science behind the stress reducing effects of playing guitar.
Instead, people realize that playing the guitar makes them feel good. There is simply no need to explain it, it just happens (through the process above).
This effect of feeling good is the main reason why the guitar is so popular. No one would play the guitar if no positive feeling was derived from it. Through the marketing tactic of word of mouth, except for the dopamine-releasing guitar sensation, more and more people are picking up the guitar in pursuit of the positive feelings that come from the guitar.
2. High Sense of Achievement
The second reason guitar is so popular is because of the high sense of achievement one feels after learning a song by one of their guitar heroes.
When first starting to play guitar, and if you are a Hendrix fan, the idea of even remotely playing a Hendrix song can seem like 10000 years away. For SRV fans, Pride and Joy can seem like this style of play is only for the exceptionally talented. Although, this feeling fades as you get better and realize that their songs are achievable. So what am I getting at?
It is when a guitarist first learns the songs of their idols that a euphoria courses through their body. A sensation that is unmatched by anything. The pride you have in your achievement keeps you hungry to learn more songs.
It is this sense of achievement that is one of the main reasons for guitar being so popular. Songs that we have admired for years previous to learning guitar become math problems that need to be solved on the guitar. And once they are, your confidence shoots up.
3. Harbors Creativity
The third reason playing guitar is so popular is because of its ability to harbor and enhance creativity.
Creating and covering music is such a creative process that triggers multiple pathways in your brain.
In a recent Cambridge University study, researchers found that musicians continue being creative much longer, even after putting their guitars down. People who play guitar tend to visualize the song in terms of shapes and process that visually even after putting the guitar away.
For guitarists, we see our scales, arpeggios, chord shapes, chord patterns, etc as different geometrical patterns on the neck. After practicing these patterns, guitarists often visualize them either subconsciously or consciously when not playing.
After years of practice, improvisational creativity is birthed. Improvisational guitar, often in solos and especially in blues music which emphasizes a lot of feeling, is the goal we all strive to reach as guitarists. This creativity just flows from your brain to your fingers automatically, a surreal feeling.
The creative aspect of playing guitar is a major reason why the guitar is so popular.
The fourth reason the guitar is so popular is that they are affordable.
On the outside looking in, guitars look expensive. Especially electric guitars. Although, this is not the case, especially today when many top brands are releasing high-quality less expensive models. Companies like Fender have Squier, Gibson has Epiphone, and PRS has their SE line. These guitars are all quality guitars, especially the PRS SEs, and allow more people with different price points to start playing guitar.
As one of the main reasons guitars are so popular, price dictates demand. Becoming a guitarist is extremely accessible because of these lower prices on gear. For example, a beginner can get a Squier startup set with everything they would need for under $300.
According to the Music Trades Census, the average price of a guitar is $433.
5. Self-Reliant Instrument
The fifth reason the guitar is a popular instrument is that it is entirely self-reliant. Meaning you do not need anyone else to both learn how to play guitar and to just simply play the guitar unaccompanied.
The days of hiring a guitar instructor to teach you how to play guitar are over. With YouTube and the large amounts of online courses available, there are tons of options for guitarists to learn from. This is half the reason why the guitar is so popular. Because of how easy it is to learn on your own, in the privacy of your bedroom.
The learning curve with guitar, when self-reliantly teaching yourself, is not as steep as it seems. This makes the guitar an extremely accessible instrument, from a skill perspective.
Find Out If Online Guitar Lessons Are Effective Today
Secondly, the guitar sounds good on its own. Meaning you do not need a 3 or 4-piece band to make learning the guitar worthwhile. Yes, playing in a band is fun, but it is not necessary.
As John Mayer has mentioned before, he did not have very many guitarists to play with growing up. He had a small band in high school but they did not play much. Instead, he was able to learn the SRV/Hendrix style of rhythm and lead playing. In doing so, he had a rhythm and lead section all in his hands.
This style of playing guitar fills the entire sound needed to make a song sound complete. And you can do this too. It is this ability of the guitar to administer the complete sound of a song, that is not available to many other instruments, that makes the guitar such a popular and fun instrument.
Why is Guitar So Interesting?
Guitars are interesting because, with just six strings, a distinct and unique sound can be outputted by changing the tension on these strings. Guitars form to the body well and have the ability to create sounds that span genres from bluegrass to metal.
To a non-guitarist, a guitarist you see performing makes wild faces and makes impossible sounds come from a small object. They play with their teeth, behind their back, and smash their guitars. All of these theatrics and loud sounds contribute to the allure of the guitar. The allure that makes the instrument one of the most interesting ones around.
When Did Guitars Become Popular
Guitars became popular in the late 18th century, as parlor guitars in Europe had started to take hold. In the last 100 years, the guitar became popular in the post-Beatles era when millions of guitars started to be sold each year. Rock music had started to become more popular and bands started sprouting from every corner of the world, particularly in Europe and the United States.
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