A Comprehensive Look at the Number of Professional Guitarists in the U.S.

Discover the number of professional guitarists in the U.S. and how technology, regions, and genres impact their success

Guitar is arguably one of the most popular instruments in the United States. According to a survey conducted by the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM), the guitar is the second most popular musical instrument in America, following closely behind keyboards and pianos.

The popularity of the guitar can be attributed to its versatility and dynamic range, making it an essential instrument across multiple genres – from rock, pop, blues, country, jazz and more.

Explanation of the Guitar as a Popular Instrument in the U.S.

From teenage bedroom strumming sessions to legendary concert performances at music festivals like Woodstock and Coachella – guitars have played an integral role in American culture for decades. The guitar’s portability also contributed to its wide acceptance as a popular instrument.

It can be carried around easily; allowing musicians to play anywhere they go. The acoustic guitar’s melodious sound has been used for intimate gatherings since before electric amplification was invented while electric guitars have brought rockstar performances within reach for more performers than ever before.

Brief History of Guitar’s Popularity in American Music

The history of guitar playing in America can be traced back as early as 1792 when Spanish guitarist and composer Fernando Sor began touring North America playing concerts on his six-stringed instrument. However, it wasn’t until 1900s that guitars became an integral part of American music with iconic figures such as Robert Johnson and Jimi Hendrix pushing its boundaries through their unique techniques.

Throughout history artists like Chuck Berry, B.B King., Chet Atkins have made significant contributions to increase its popularity by introducing new styles or genres that relied heavily on guitars., Today we continue to see rising innovation with modern-day artists such as John Mayer or St Vincent using digital technology mixed with traditional playing techniques adding new dimensions previously unseen.

Guitar player

Overview of Professional Guitarists in the U.S.

It’s difficult to get an exact number of professional guitarists who make a living from playing music as the industry is somewhat decentralized. However, a rough estimate suggests that there are around 1 million guitar players across all genres and skill levels in the United States.

It’s worth noting that not all of them are professional, and those who make their living solely from playing music are estimated to be fewer than 10% of this number. Nonetheless, the number of individuals looking to make it as professional guitarists continues to rise each year as more and more pursue this dream career path.

High-Level Overview of Professional Guitarists in the U.S.

Statistics on the number of professional guitarists in the U.S.

According to a 2018 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were approximately 42,000 musicians and singers employed in the United States. Among these musicians, guitarists held a significant presence. However, it is important to note that not all guitar players are classified as professional musicians.

The report further breaks down the employment status of musicians and singers, indicating that only about 28% are considered full-time employees. This means that only a fraction of those 42,000 individuals who identify as performers or singer-songwriters make a living solely by playing music.

Comparison to other countries with high numbers of professional guitarists

The United States remains one of the leading countries with a high number of professional guitarists. However, countries like Japan and Brazil have contributed significantly to changing this narrative.

Japan has become known for its thriving music industry with an estimated 2000 gigs per day played by local artists at various venues throughout Tokyo alone. Similarly, Brazil has produced some of the most respected and influential guitar players such as Baden Powell and João Gilberto.

How many professional guitarists make a living solely from playing music?

As previously mentioned, only about one-third of all musicians and singers are full-time workers in their field. While demand for live performances remains steady throughout cities and towns globally; the rise in digital streaming platforms has made it increasingly difficult for independent artists or bands to earn enough income from streaming royalties alone without going on tour.

This means that many professional guitar players diversify their income streams with avenues like teaching private lessons or owning their own home studio spaces.

Overall, while there is no denying that being a professional guitarist can be rewarding both creatively and financially, it remains a complex and challenging career path. The saturated market and the ever-changing industry landscape make it challenging for guitarists to thrive solely by playing music.

Specialized Skills for Different Genres

The guitar is an incredibly versatile instrument that can be found in almost every genre of music. However, different genres require different skills to play the guitar well. For example, jazz guitarists need to have a deep understanding of music theory and be able to improvise over complex chord progressions.

Guitar Player

On the other hand, heavy metal guitarists need to have lightning-fast picking techniques and be able to play extremely intricate riffs at high speeds. Country guitarists often use fingerpicking instead of standard picking techniques and utilize open tunings for unique chord voicings.

Classical guitarists must master complex fingerstyle playing and read sheet music fluently. These are just a few examples of how specialized skills are required for specific genres.

The Impact of Technology on Professional Guitar Playing

Advancements in technology have had a significant impact on professional guitar playing, both positive and negative. On one hand, digital recording technology has made it easier for musicians to record high-quality music from home studios without the need for expensive equipment or studio time. The internet has also made it easier for musicians to promote their music worldwide without the need for traditional record labels.

However, technology has also increased competition among professional guitar players due to the ease of access to online resources such as instructional videos and online lessons. This means that aspiring musicians have more resources available than ever before and can learn at their own pace without the need for private lessons.

Famous American Guitarists and Their Impact on Modern Music

American musicians have played an instrumental role in shaping modern music by pushing boundaries with innovative playing styles and techniques. From blues legends such as Robert Johnson who inspired generations of musicians with his unique fingerpicking style, to Jimi Hendrix who revolutionized rock with his use of feedback and distortion effects, American guitarists continue to influence modern music today.

Other influential American guitarists include Chuck Berry, whose fast and rhythmic playing style laid the foundation for rock and roll, and Eddie Van Halen, who popularized the use of tapping techniques. These musicians have left a lasting impact on music history and continue to inspire new generations of guitar players.

Different Regions and States have Unique Styles and Techniques for Playing Guitars

It is a fact that different regions and states in the United States have their unique styles and techniques for playing guitars. For example, the Southern region has a distinct sound characterized by the use of slide guitars and fingerpicking techniques.

The West Coast, specifically California, has been known for its surf guitar sound with its use of reverb effects. Jazz guitarists, on the other hand, usually incorporate chordal progressions and harmonic structures into their playing style.

The rock genre has seen an evolution in playing styles as well. The East Coast rock scene in New Jersey had a distinct style that featured power chords, while Seattle’s grunge scene features alternate tunings often used by bands like Nirvana.

Certain Brands or Types of Guitars are Preferred by Specific Genres or Regions

Specific genres or regions are also known to prefer certain types or brands of guitars. For instance, Telecaster guitars are commonly associated with country music due to their signature twang sound.

Guitar player with Telecaster

Moreover, Les Pauls are usually associated with classic rock sounds due to their heavy structure; they tend to sustain notes longer than other models. Certain genres such as metal require specific types of guitars like the Ibanez RG series which is ideal for shredding solos due to its thin neck profile allowing ease in movement around the fretboard.

Contributions from Different Professions Support Professional Guitar Players

Professional guitarists often rely on different professions such as luthiers (guitar makers), sound engineers, producers, record executives amongst others for support during their careers. Luthiers create custom made instruments which can be better suited for certain guitar players who may have specific preferences in regards to tone or weight.

Sound engineers assist professional musicians during live performances by ensuring that they get optimal sound quality from their guitars. They also work in-studio to record music, mix and master tracks, ensuring that a guitarist’s performance is captured and presented in the best possible way.

Producers also play a critical role, helping guitarists with songwriting ideas, guidance on musical arrangements and controlling the overall creative process. The contributions from these professions are invaluable towards achieving success as a professional guitarist.

Professional guitarists in the US often face competition and rely on different elements to succeed. Understanding these small details will give aspiring guitarists an edge towards achieving their goals.


Professional guitar playing in the U.S. is a competitive but vibrant industry that attracts many talented musicians. The guitar has been a popular instrument in American music for over a century and continues to captivate audiences with its versatility and unique sound.

Looking Forward

In recent years, technology has revolutionized the way music is produced and consumed. Despite some challenges for professional guitarists, new technologies have also opened up new opportunities for creativity and collaboration. As we look to the future, it is exciting to think about where professional guitar playing will go next.

Appreciating Diversity

The U.S. is a large country with many different regions, each with its unique style of playing the guitar. From Nashville country strumming to Mississippi Delta blues fingerpicking, there is no one “right” way to play the guitar professionally. It is important to appreciate and celebrate this diversity as it adds richness and depth to American music.

The Role of Supporting Professions

Beyond talented musicians, there are other professions such as luthiers or sound engineers that contribute significantly toward making professional guitar playing possible in the U.S.. It’s important not only to recognize these contributions but also support them so they can continue assisting professional players.

Despite being a competitive industry with ever-changing challenges; professional guitar playing remains an essential part of American music culture today. Though new technologies may present hurdles at times; they can also bring exciting opportunities for creativity collaboration between musicians from all regions of America.

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