Do Your Surroundings Define Your Guitar

It may sound farfetched but does where we live affect our guitar choices? I hope to find out.

logo
Ultimate Guitar
0

When you say the word "guitar" what comes to mind? Take a second now and think....

What did you think? Somethng along the lines of strings, music, rock and roll, head-banging etc? I bet one word that didn't come to mind was psychology. No you haven't misread that, psychology. From my minor research I believe I may have learnt how guitar trends are affected by location.

Now I may have studied psychology in high school but I'm no scientist (in fact I only just passed my final psychology exam!) but I have noticed a trend in guitars. I work in a guitar shop and from my own examinations and consulting with various guitar shops, it seems that where you live defines the type of guitar you buy. Now of course, immediate location will affect this; you won't see someone from a poor neighborhood buying a $3,500 Fender or someone in the middle of nowhere buying an elaborate custom guitar. However I'm referring to suburbs.

My theory started at school. I went to a private school and sitting in music class on my first day I noticed that all the guitarists were holding expensive guitars. I saw a Martin, a Gibson and at least two Fenders and not a single cheap guitar was in sight. Of course at this stage I did not realise or care about guitar trends, its only now at the shop that it really interests me. The obvious results (such as people in the country buying acoustics and people in rock bands buying electrics etc) were not entirely useful in my research but I did discover quite a bit.

My results are still very basic but this is what I can figure out:

The "Approx" results are estimations gathered from various guitar store owners.

1) (Approx 80%) People in low class suburbs buy rock and heavy metal guitars like BC Rich, Dean, ESP etc. A friend of mine who works at a guitar store in a low-class suburb tells me thats basically all they stock now, he rarely has requests for anything other than metal or rock guitars. He also says he sells very few acoustic guitars.

2) (Approx 85%) People in middle class suburbs tend to buy the big brands like Fender, Gibson, Ibanez, Martin and Taylor etc. I talked to two people who run an instrument repair shop in a middle class suburb and they said that they normally get these guitars in for repairs and little else.

3) (Approx 70%) People in high class suburbs buy unique guitars that are normally replicas of old guitars. These include Danelectro, Airline and Rickenbacker etc. A friend of mine who is a distributer for these guitars tells me few stores stock them outside high class neighborhoods because of the low demand.

Now as I said these results are still basic and may only be relevant to Australia where I live. So I ask you all to help me prove/disprove my theory, in any city around the globe you live. If you work in a music store, have friends in the music industry or have noticed these trends in guitars etc please comment. Once my research is complete I will write an article on the final results. Thank you all :)

20 comments sorted by best / new / date

    HellFury
    I'd say your surroundings do have something to do with your love of music and which genre you like... Most people that grow up in ghettos like Hip-hop (approx), and therefore won't buy any guitar at all... I think it's too narrow to pinpoint the SURROUNDINGS. I'd rather use the word 'culture', which takes your parents, friends, schooling and housing (small house means no probably no drum set) into account.
    AA00P
    You appear to be talking more about sociology than psychology. Also, what you've got is a hypothesis, not a theory. You'll need more than just observational data, too, and better defined parameters/more rigorous methodology. It's an interesting idea nonetheless, and it certainly couldn't hurt to look into it a bit more.
    drx14iskwl
    i think metal guitars would be more popular in australia because hadcore and metalcore are the dominant metal genres here and heaps of kids that play guitar get into those styles
    Kioshi
    All you said is that people who have more money buy more expensive guitars.
    Just1Guitarist
    I'm not sure about this theory. I think that any good musician that tries out an instrument before buying one will make it a point to get the one they want. You're also making a statement about sociology, not psychology. I live a life inbetween low and middle class society, and I won't buy a Gibson 'cause I don't like their tone. I don't care for Fender too much. B.C. Rich is too deep of a tone. I like most Ibanez guitars because their not too lightly toned and not too deep, not because of my social status. Not to sound rude, but this may be why you JUST passed psychology. Thanks for reading.
    seemeel
    Dude, you must gone to some outrageous school if little kids were packing Gibson and Martin guitars... I also live in Australia and went to a fairly good school, but the most impressive privately-owned guitar was a Pacifica. The guy who owned that is now a professional guitarist, btw. Having said that, I'd agree with most of what you've said. I would fit in the middle class slot, and I would definitely buy a Fender or Gibson over a BC Rich (yuck) but then I would also like a Rickenbacker (they're damn expensive though).
    )Eric(Draven
    AA00P wrote: You appear to be talking more about sociology than psychology. Also, what you've got is a hypothesis, not a theory. You'll need more than just observational data, too, and better defined parameters/more rigorous methodology. It's an interesting idea nonetheless, and it certainly couldn't hurt to look into it a bit more.
    This. You're dealing with sociology and statistics, not psychology. Also, you're not looking at the effect of surroundings on what kind of guitar you own, you're looking at the effect of socioeconomic class on the kind of guitar you own. "Surroundings" is vague. Replace this word with socioeconomic class.
    palm mute
    You have to look at the psychology of the music associated with those instruments as well... the more "metal" guitars are popular where metal is popular, and since metal's roots are in working class music it makes sense for your low income areas. Your middle class "big name" guitars are popular there because majority of famous musicians use those brands, they are the most popular brands and so that fits with what they play. The middle class is more prone to listening to the more famous/popular musicians so they would want the brand associated with them. And the high class "unique" guitars are obvious, they are the most costly and portray that sense of wealth, that you were able to afford one. That one has little to do with music in my mind, as with the class associated to it. But that just my opinion, I think the guitar is a more lower-mid class instrument
    mity88
    I think its an article with alot of potential,but ur final results could bring alot of frustration to those who dont fit in ur results
    2good2breal
    ...a guitar store in a low-class suburb ?? Most of the guitar stores I know are close to some shopping mall or is Nashville,TN more upper class than Birmingham, AL or Jacksonville,FL ?? What about internet sales. Maybe the "middle class" is buying Rickenbacker's over the internet. I just read that Elvis Costello bought a few of his guitars in Clarksdale, MS fare away from his "neighborhood". I like to buy used "cheap" guitars with that special sound fitting my kind of music and some kind of MOJO where ever I can find them. There are people out there who can't play, but buy expensive guitars as investment or piece of art or wallpaper not related to any kind of musical genre.
    Lou108
    the final result could be interesting but right now your not really telling us anything "new"
    Sakke
    Tomo009 wrote: ESP not a big brand? I'd say I'm pretty much middle class, yet I fit upit "low class" clasification perfectly. I think its a bit basic, youd need a wider criteria to get any worthwhile results. I have an ltd deluxe H 1001 and go to a private school.
    Haha yea well I think ESP is a big brand.
    Nothingface
    Tomo009 : ESP not a big brand? I'd say I'm pretty much middle class, yet I fit upit "low class" clasification perfectly. I think its a bit basic, youd need a wider criteria to get any worthwhile results. I have an ltd deluxe H 1001 and go to a private school.
    He did say 85%. But yes I think as a basic rule I think you are pretty much correct. As M4RK3H said Its all about money and as your surroundings are a by-product of the money you have I would say this fits.
    FreekBos
    I think this article could get the discussion going. Of course this has to do with where you live. If you can afford a big house you most likely have a little more money to spend on guitars. If you really would like a Gibson but can't afford it you buy a Epiphone. And if you can't afford it, you most likely also try to pay all the bills in time. Culture could have some influence but I don't think that is the case here in the Netherlands. We don't have the extreme hip-hop-like 'ghettos'. (With all my respect to hip hop artists) But basicly yes, I think it does make a difference where you live. Thanks for the nice article. Freek Bos The Netherlands
    buttcord
    you really shouldnt have written this article about geography if all you know is variations of suburbs
    Tomo009
    ESP not a big brand? I'd say I'm pretty much middle class, yet I fit upit "low class" clasification perfectly. I think its a bit basic, youd need a wider criteria to get any worthwhile results. I have an ltd deluxe H 1001 and go to a private school.
    sonic_777111
    Interesting concept, but wouldn't it be more interesting if you described areas larger than parts of cities? I find tastes in guitars vary depending on geography: for example, in this part of Florida everybody and his brother plays a Strat, in Nashville they all play Teles and Gretsches, etc.