British Columbia

The electric guitar is here to stay, says Vancouver music shop owner

Music shop owner Blaine McNamee says the number of female guitar players is on the rise in Vancouver.

Instrument's longevity due in part to female musicians

Blaine McNamee says women are to thank for a renewed interest in the electric guitar. (Lisa Chistiansen)

The popularity of electric guitars has waxed and waned over the years, but a Vancouver music shop says more women have become interested in the instrument.

Blaine McNamee, owner and operator of Rufus Guitar Shop on Alma Street, said sales have declined of Gibson and Fender brand electric guitars in recent years.

​"We did see a little dip in electric guitar sales," said McNamee. "I think that was because the acoustic guitar got really popular, but we didn't see the death of electric guitars."

But McNamee said there's been a significant increase in the number of young women picking up a Gibson or Fender at his shop.

In a conversation with CBC music reporter Lisa Christiansen, McNamee said there's been a resurgence in female players, especially in the Vancouver underground music scene.

His shop runs guitar classes and almost half the students are women.

"I have about 500 guitar students here at the shop," said McNamee. "Every year we do two concerts, and we have 10 to 15 girls who sing and play Taylor Swift songs."

Face undue criticism

While McNamee acknowledged sexism is a problem in the industry, he said it's electric guitar wielding women like Swift who are paving the way for equal appreciation and recognition among musicians. 

However, he said it's still not uncommon for women to face undue criticism in the guitar community.

"I've heard from a lot of friends of mine, my employees or our women customers," said McNamee.

"That they'll go into other guitar stores and be dismissed."

He said people wrongly assume a woman is there to buy a guitar for a boyfriend, father or brother.

From over-sexualized females in music videos to bikini-clad women on the cover of guitar magazines, McNamee said the guitar industry has done a poor job promoting female guitar players.

"They do not advertise towards women," he said. "I think a lot of the advertising guitar companies do is poorly done. It's not great."

McNamee pointed to the commentary made by American guitarist Anne Clark, better known by her stage name St. Vincent.

Musician Anne Clark mocked the common depiction of over-sexualized women on guitar magazine covers in a recent photo shoot with Guitar World. (Guitar World)

Clark, annoyed by the depiction of women on the cover of many guitar magazines, mocked the convention by wearing a long t-shirt with a picture of a bikini on it for a recent cover of Guitar World.

With files from On the Coast and Lisa Christiansen