FEMALE musicians are being credited with a huge boost in guitar sales, as more and more women are being inspired by celebrities like KT Tunstall, Avril Lavigne and the late Amy Winehouse.
Guitar purchases have doubled over the last ten years, and industry bosses say that female stars have played a large part in attracting young women to the hobby.
Traditionally, when people think of great guitarists it’s not long before names like ‘Jimi Hendrix’, ‘Eric Clapton’ and ‘Slash’ are mentioned.
But the male-dominated market appears to be changing, with some guitar manufacturers even producing smaller guitars specifically for women.
And, with acoustic guitars now outselling their electric counterpart, it’s thought that the rise of six string-wielding female artists may be responsible for inspiring women and girls to take up the hobby.
In recent years the charts have been filled with more and more successful female solo artists and popular bands featuring guitar-playing frontwomen.
Until now, just a handful of legendary female musicians were recognised for their guitar playing skills, such as Joan Jett and Joni Mitchell.
But a younger generation of artists including Laura Marling, Taylor Swift and Hayley Williams, of chart-topping rock band Paramore, have been responsible for making the girl-with-a-guitar image increasingly common.
And with indie musician Anna Calvi receiving a Mercury Award nomination for best album just last week, female musicians are no longer being pigeonholed as singers.
Data from the Music Industries Association showed 835,000 instruments were sold in 2010, compared with 450,000 in 1998.
Chief Executive of the MIA, Paul McManus, said that an increase in the affordability of instruments and more access to music in today’s society has contributed to the rise of women in music.
He said: “It’s a combination of factors, there are some great female role models, and the number of female singer songwriters in the last few years has gone off the clock.
“You just have to look at someone like Adele for an example of that.
“It’s not that men have suddenly stopped playing, anything but, in fact, but it’s become much easier and more attractive for women to pick up an instrument.”
He added that the availability and increasing prominence of music also had a part to play.
He said: “Music is much more around us than it was, people listen to their iPods on the train, and TV shows centered around music.
“There is more and more inspiration for more and more young girls, whether it’s on TV shows like the X-Factor or from women in the charts.
“It all has a ripple effect, of course.”
Carl Whiteside, general manager of one of the UK’s largest on-line retailers, Nevadamusic.co.uk, said he had also noticed the difference.
He said: “We’ve had an upsurge in women buying guitars. We are dealing with daily enquiries for advice on good quality starter guitars that look good and are a suitable fit for the female frame and smaller hands.”
Mr Whiteside added that traditional guitars can sometimes be awkward for the more slender female body.
He said: “Part of the pleasure of guitar playing is in the comfort fit.
“You’ll see many well known guitarists have battered and worn guitars that they’ve had for years.
“It’s important to get advice on what’s best depending on a person’s build.”
Schoolgirl Marianne Devereux, 14, has also recently taken up the instrument. She said: “I was heavily influenced by Avril Lavine to start with but more recently I really like Taylor Swift. I actually ditched the piano in favour of the guitar because it’s more portable and it looks cooler.”
Two of the world’s biggest guitar manufacturers, Gibson and Fender, have debuted female-focussed lines over the last few years.
Gibson created two models – the ‘Vixen’ and the ‘Goddess’ – thin-necked, lightweight versions of its iconic Les Paul range in order to respond to growing demand from budding female guitarists.
The Fender brand, meanwhile, went one step further by designing a guitar based on popular cartoon character ‘Hello Kitty’.