In a lot of ways, the modern day guitar is a male dominated instrument. This is so common that an accomplished female guitarist is noteworthy. But this hasn't always been the case.
In the past, the guitar was a smaller, quieter instrument than the one that we play today. In fact, there are many paintings from the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries showing women playing the guitar.
In the 19th century the guitar was considered a "parlor" instrument. It was suitable for an evenings quiet entertainment in the front parlor. In fact, learning to play the piano or guitar was part of a proper young lady's upbringing.
That began to change at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. Several developments happened that turned the meek little parlor guitar into the instrument that we know today.
These developments included steel strings and larger body sizes with heavier bracing. The guitar began to roar.
Why didn't more women take part in playing the "new guitar"? There are probably several reasons. The new larger size may have been uncomfortable to hold. Or maybe it was the music now being played on it. The type of music in the types of places that a decent young woman wouldn't associate with.
So women's involvement with the guitar began to die.
Beginning in the 1940's, more women could be found playing the guitar. Prominent female players included Memphis Minnie, Mother Maybell Carter, Elizabeth Cotton and Sister Rosetta Tharpe
Today there are some fantastic women players. In the fingerstyle world they include Mary Flowers, Del Rey, Muriel Anderson and Petra Babankova.
There are several problems that are unique to women players. One of the first problems a female player faces is in being taken seriously. This is especially true when buying an instrument. It
makes where the woman shops a major consideration.
The ideal situation will have knowledgeable staff acting in a non-condescending manner.
Another big issue is finding the right size instrument. How the instrument is held is a real factor in that decision. If the guitar is held on the right knee, a bigger guitar can be used.
If the guitar is used on a strap, a smaller guitar might be more comfortable.
If the guitar is worn on a strap, it may be most comfortable worn below the bust. This will effect where the left hand meets the neck. This can mean that one manufactures neck feels more comfortable than anothers.
So, as you can see, women face unique choices when it come to the guitar. But they often have unique ways of approaching and playing the guitar that benefit those who hear them.
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