The Enduring Popularity of the Guitar (and Why People Love to Play)

What is it that draws people to the guitar? What is that feeling you had when you first picked up a guitar? Just a wooden case, with a hole in it, and six strings pulled across?

Yet, that simple instrument construction has produced some of the greatest musical sounds the world has ever known.  That box and strings has been around hundreds (thousands?) of years and had thousands of people play it.

And it continues to this day. In 2019, more than 1.5 million acoustic guitars were sold in the U.S., along with another 1.25 million electric guitars.1 And that’s not just a one-year phenomenon. With over 260 guitar manufacturers and total revenues at nearly $1 billion, the guitar industry is booming! Don’t let the news about Gibson’s bankruptcy fool you in to thinking guitar interest is fading…it’s more popular than ever. Gibson’s woes are a reflection of poor business decisions, not waning consumer interest. It’s industry rival, Fender, actually had one of its best financial years of all time last year (pre-pandemic).2 

But we’re not here to talk about corporate sales.

Our interest is in the enduring joy and fascination that people get from the guitar!

Let’s explore some of the most common reasons that adults start playing the guitar.

  1. It’s fun! – No doubt this is, and should be, the number one reason for wanting to play the guitar. It is so much fun. No matter how long you’ve been playing, everyone who plays this instrument gets excited when they strap it on and start to play. The first time you strum a chord you can feel the energy race through your body. Even if you’ve played for decades, it never gets old. Playing guitar is fun.

  2. It has a nice sound – Although this is a matter of personal preference, you’re reading this blog so we can assume we have at least one thing in common…we love hearing the guitar. And, frankly, it has such a wide range of musical tones and pitch ranges, that it can feel like the musical options are unlimited. Be honest, how many air guitar solos have you busted out when your favorite rock tune comes on the radio? Or the first time you learned how to play a chord progression and basically played the same thing over and over and over for hours, not caring what others thought because you loved the sound so much.

  3. It makes you look cool – Ok, so while I hope the number one reason you play guitar is to have fun, let’s be honest…it’s looks pretty damn cool too! When you strap on the beast you become an elite god. You’re a rock hero. A force to be reckoned with. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing at a family barbecue or on stage in front of thousands of screaming fans. If you’re holding a guitar, you’re the one they want to be like.

  4. You have some free time on your hands and need a hobby – Ok, so maybe money wasn’t really the issue in the past, but time sure was. You didn’t have any before! Again, if you were busy with young kids around, or working non-stop, or busy out on the road or whatever, other things in life needed to take priority. Hey, I get it. But now that you’re older and you not only know what you want to do (play guitar!), you have a little bit of daylight to go pursue it.

  5. You need to relieve stress – Some people like to go for a jog to relieve stress. Or curl up by the fire with a good book, or glass of wine, or watch a movie. Me? I pick up the guitar. I may be having the crappiest day, but when I start playing guitar I seem to forget all about it. I’m sure there are some MIT studies out there that shows how playing music does something to the wires in your brain. I dunno, doesn’t matter, I just know I feel so much better when, and after, I play. Trust me, you will too.

  6. It can be a great workout – We know this is a physical activity, so it only makes sense that you can start to burn some calories playing guitar. Albeit, this may apply more to an on-stage band setting, when you’re standing up on stage and rocking out. Nonetheless, when I jam with some friends for a couple hours and check my calorie app, it always tells me I’m burning away some fat. Having fun and exercising? Bonus!

  7. It makes you smarter – playing guitar take both physical and mental energy. C’mon, you think this is easy! Haha. Finger dexterity, mental cognition, memory, agility, you name it. The guitar can feel like a demanding instrument at times, and the effort it takes to not only being playing but also grow as an artist shouldn’t be dismissed. It’s an educational journey for as long as you play.

  8. You can make extra money – They say the music business is tough and only something like .0001% or so of people ever really “make it.” So what. If your goal is to have fun, learn a new skill, and connect with people, money probably isn’t your goal anyway. That’s what makes it so cool when you do something extra that people will pay for. Maybe it’s getting booked for a gig at a bar or coffee shop. Maybe it’s producing some background music and selling it online. Maybe it’s just blogging about the experience. It’s pretty cool if you make a little extra cash doing something you enjoy.

  9. You (finally) have some money to spend on yourself – For grown-up guitarists and those who started playing later in life, the reality is that your delay may have been economical. It’s no shame that other priorities came first in life. If you were raising a family and working to raise kids and put food on the table, the last thing you were going to spend money on was guitar equipment. But, times are different now, and the grown-up guitarist can put aside a little cash for themselves. Now it’s time to pursue that interest you’ve had for so long and start rocking.

  10. You want to make new friends – When I first moved to a new state and was working to get re-established, I didn’t think too much about going out and meeting new people. A year or two later though, I realized I was losing touch with friends and needed to get out of the house more. Playing guitar helped lead me to find other musicians in the area and ultimately make some new friends.

Learning to play the guitar is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done in life. Whether playing in a band or just strumming to your favorite songs on the radio, having a guitar in your hand can make you feel invincible. It can take you to another place emotionally and be a source of joy and inspiration for many years!


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