Disruption impacts virtually every business and platform – including the guitar.
Over the past couple of years, a possible trend signaling the decreasing influence of the electric guitar appears to be emerging. The trend toward electronic music, Gibson Guitars recently declaring bankruptcy, and guitar master Eric Clapton downsizing his vast collection are all read as signs of the instrument's waning impact on music.
And recently, even Metallica's Kirk Hammett got on the downer bandwagon when he made this pronouncement:
“Like all instruments, there's a time when it goes out of fashion.”
Then there's the fate of Guitar Center, a retail music mecca where millions of would-be rockers have grabbed a 6-string axe off the wall and started playing those power chords from “Smoke On The Water.” The bad news for this national chain of music stores – built around the guitar – is that many believe it is flirting with bankruptcy, much like other specialty retailers who have gone under in recent years, including Toys “R” Us, Payless ShoeSource, RadioShack and others.
Guitar Center is facing $1 billion in debt, but is fighting the good fight, attempting to battle against the forces of financial ruin.
Gibson's bad news was especially poignant for me. For the past decade, I've managed to squeeze in a visit to their massive parking lot exhibit at CES, a fixture in front of the Las Vegas Convention Center. With hundreds of guitars available for convention-goers to play, a runway stage featuring live bands, and a tribute to old school technology, Gibson has been traditional must-see point of interest for me at CES.
In fact, the first year we put together our CES CEO Jacobs Tour, the Gibson exhibit was the final stop – a place to kick back, play a little guitar, and grab a cold beer.
It looks like at CES 2019, there won't be that iconic Gibson tent representing the music community.
Somehow, the entire concept of the guitar going out of style just seems incongruous, especially to those of us who grew up with rock n' roll – and the electric guitar. Most rockers just look so comfortable with their guitars.
It's hard to picture a favorite rock star who somehow looks like they're missing an appendage without their signature guitar slung over their shoulders.
Rumors of the guitar's death may be a bit exagerrated. Towering over the Hollywood, Florida landscape, the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel has become an unusual shrine to the electric guitar.
Of course, the guitar represents the Hard Rock's brand, but the physical concept of a guitar-shaped hotel hasn't been an easy one to design and build. There's an artist rendering pictured at the top of today's post that depicts just how dramatic a structure this facility truly is.
The hotel tower containing 638 rooms turned out to be a bigger challenge than Jimi Hendrix playing an electric guitar solo with his teeth.
The concept was the dream of Hard Rock honcho Jim Allen who hatched the idea back in 2007. As he explained to Casino.org, “I said ‘We are talking about a building that is actually shaped like a guitar. This is another time in my life when people thought I was certifiably crazy.”
Or visionary. Or maybe just stubborn.
There are rumors of guitar-shaped Hard Rock Hotels coming to Barcelona, and maybe even Japan.
Allen's edifice to the guitar gods might symbolize a comeback for an instrument that is inexorably tied to rock n' roll. I will make it a point to visit the Hard Rock the next time I'm in Southeast Florida.
And I'll look forward to saying:
“Hold the D string elevator for me, please.”
In writing today's post, I happened across a cool website dedicated to the guitar and rock ‘n roll. 108 Rock Star Guitars looks to be a cool coffee table book, and a fun, interactive website. You can check it out here.
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B. Singer says
At some point in the distant future when all the great metal guitarists are too old (or dead) to play… some kid will uncover an old metallic album from the rubble and WHAM!! The quest to make those sounds will begin again.
Keeping the faith 😉
Fred Jacobs says
I think that’s right. It’s not going anywhere, but will the guitar become a mandalin – to be played by a tiny minority of musicians? (I don’t think so.)
Let’s speak the truth Hip hop, House Music (EDM, & R&B Won. You can’t dance to Rock. Even the best rock band in the world Radiohead 🙂 uses drum machines computers and synths. The Guitar companies did not figure out a way to use the guitar to control and midi device in a good way. So if you want to make modern music learn how to play piano or drums. I’m sorry to say but guitars are for older White males. Young people of all ages black & white use computers to make music . They want to be Diplo, Metro Booming not John Mayer and I’m a black guy who loves John Mayer 🙂 LOL . Guitars company need to innovate and stop selling vintage guitars from the 60’s and 70’s
Fred Jacobs says
Thomas, thanks for the perspective. As an old white male, your POV was just what I hope for when I write these posts. Thanks for participating & collaborating.
Duane Harris says
As long as the blues is alive the guitar will live too, and the blues will NEVER die
Fred Jacobs says
Duane, I hope you’re right!
Although I don’t play it, My daughter plays it all the time. The more instruments played, the better the music is.
That’s what I thought.
Kelsey Austin says
As a Guitarist, I can certainly understand your concern. However, I wouldn’t worry about “The death of the guitar”. It does not matter that music is changing or that Guitar Center might be flirting with bankruptcy. The guitar will always be inextricably linked to what it means to be cool.
The guitar is many things to many people, but at it’s roots the guitar is a tool that helps those who are already cool to express their coolness in the form of music. Therefore, the guitar will never go out of style.
Fred Jacobs says
Kelsey, I suspect that what you say is true. For those of us who think of the guitar as the dominant instrument of the past half century, any indication it may be experiencing some slippage. Thanks for the comment, and continue to “make that axe talk.”
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The Alone Place – The Best Place To Play Guitar!…time is running out is the one of the favorite article of mine. thanks for sharing a beautiful information about music and music instruments can you please some words on best acoustic guitar brands
Cristina florentina says
I don’t think its death of electric guitar. But it is a rejuvenation of guitar technology.
A very well written article, rich content and helpful information.
Thanks for sharing this nicely written article.
Electric Guitar can’t be dead because I see many millennials still using it.
Lori E. Burke says
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Michel Joachim says
How could possible electric guitar dead. I saw many guitar players are still using it just because they believe in own style to play guitar and old is always gold.
really nice article keep posting worthy stuff
David Sh says
In any case, the sales of electric guitar fell down in the last few years.
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After seeing this title I’m curious to know why the death of the electric guitar is as I see many people’s opinions with his/her own way.
harper rahul says
I don’t believe it’s the end of the electric guitar. However, it is a revival of guitar technology.A extremely well-written article with rich content, and valuable details.
Thank you for sharing this well written piece.
Bijendra Singh says
if we think about traditional things that are coming from years ago then why did guitar will death and people love their own guitar if it’s electric or whatever…
You are providing Best with rich content, and valuable detailes…..Fred Jacobs
Thanks for the post. I find it interesting how this article doesn’t reference the change in popularity of the electric guitar in popular music, which has been on the decline since the 2000’s. I think the evidence given here for the decline is circumstantial at best; Eric Clapton selling some of his collection. Is that an accurate reflection of the popularity of the instrument in society as a whole? I think not.