Joe Bonamassa: I Tend to Agree That Guitar Has Become an Endangered Species

"Kids today can get an iPad and a pair of headphones and be DJing in two weeks."

Ultimate Guitar
Joe Bonamassa: I Tend to Agree That Guitar Has Become an Endangered Species

Joe Bonamassa said he believes guitar has become an "endangered species," explaining how technology is causing kids to be less patient with honing their craft and therefore not pursuing guitar.

Joe told Montgomery Adviser:

"I tend to agree [that the guitar has become an endangered species].

"I've been playing guitar professionally, I've been playing 29 years. As a musician, I've been playing since I was four - 36 years. It took me seven, eight years to get good enough to play on stage.

"Kids today can get an iPad and a pair of headphones and be DJing in two weeks."

During the rest of the chat, Bonamassa acknowledged BB King as his ultimate guitar mentor, saying:

"He gave me a stage. He gave me an album. He gave me his friendship. He gave me a guitar. I knew him for 23 years. My desert island record was and still is 'Live at the Regal.' To me, it's the epitome of a blues album.

"You're not going to sound like BB. You're not going to top 'Live at the Regal.' You're going for the spirit of it. I can cover BB King, 'Live at the Regal' in its entirety, but I can't sound like B.B. But I can catch the spirit of it."

61 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I doubt it. Thing was before the internet you'd only see the people who WERE doing stuff. Now everyone broadcasts their life online all the time so that perception has become diluted. If anything I think there are more budding guitarists today than in the 70s.
    I completely agree.  All this article and most of his commentary on the current state of guitar just shows how completely out of touch he is.
    I think that you should get your head out of wherever it is, and look at the reality.  Sales of new and used guitars are steadily declining.  It is hard to believe even for me, that guitars will ever completely disappear but not at the level that they have been. It's not a "those damn kids are bad" thing, it's because there are so many different ways now for people to entertain themselves. More choices, that's all. 
    Guitars are endangered because Joe keeps buying them all 
    Well somebody has to buy them. Look at electric guitar sales. Fender & Gibson are both down, Guitar Center sales are way down. Used guitars are plentiful. Guitar playing may trend back up, but not like it was. I got my first pawn shop guitar doing odd jobs as a kid. How many kids do you see doing any kind of work lately. Guitar takes effort. Effort is in short supply these days.
    I see loads on a daily basis.  I teach most of them 
    Maybe it's a regional thing. There's hardly anywhere to even do a gig around here. When ever I do go to music stores, most of the browsers are my age. The younger guitarists I run into are all into shred.
    I think it is regional.....where I live right now, it does suck, all the places I've played in the last 10-12 years....gone.  Boarded up to make new condos/overpriced apartments for Microsofties and Amazon workers.  The pawn shops are busting at the seams in used guitars so much that if I wanted a Billy Gibbons sized collection of dubous quality - I could easily go out and purchase guitars all day at $25-75 apiece, Guitar Center has reduced it's stock of instruments quite a bit, but it does get busy on the weekends - mostly with 40+ year old blues lawyers and whatnot.  Basically, Bonamassa's crowd. But then there are other friends whom are musicians in other parts of the country, and their guitar shops are doing well, they still have venues to play, and things are pretty hopping for them.  
    Maybe it's a coastal thing. I live in VA beach area, & there isn't much to work with here if you wanna play anything but extreme drop tune & rap. Of course being south of the Mason Dixon line there's plenty of faith based bands, but that gets boring real quick.
    ebay and craigslist make the used market more accessible.  I would love to see the total numbers of guitars being purchased in a year and see new vs used.  Maybe there are just as many guitars being bought as 10 years ago, just not brand new from Guitar Center and other retailers.
    Oh I see plenty of them on there, especially around here. & they sit there for a long time or get reduced down to nothing. A lot of them are parents off loading guitars their kids won't play.
    If Gibson puts efforts in building guitars that aren't shit (and cost plenty of $$$ eventhough quality is clearly down), then maybe people will put efforts into buying them.
    So your first guitar wasn't a guitar center sale, then?
    Not exactly a lot of Guitar Centers in rural Oregon. Actually not a lot of anything in Oregon period. Hell my first "guitar" amp was an old bogen tube amp I resurrected, and added good ol' realistic speakers from radio shack. I put the guitar cable into the mic input and whaled as loud as those cheesy speakers could take it.
    From where I'm at, there's a lot in Oregon, and California, and Washington.   
    Back in them olden days, a town of 15,000 was a metropolis. Outside of Portland, Eugene & maybe Medford it's still pretty much the same. Closest place to even get strings was 50+ miles away.
    You got acreage?  If so, jealous.  
    Don't live in Oregon anymore. Left there in high school & ended up in the sticks of Texas. All I ever heard on the radio then was Seger & Skynyrd. I'm still traumatized.
    I don't think it's fair to attribute a lack of guitar players to people becoming less patient. Some of these "DJ" friends I have regularly spend hours each and every day producing stuff. It's fine to prefer actual instruments but claiming that no effort or skill is required in electronic music is a bit ignorant.
    Captain Insano
    Exactly - people act like music theory doesnt apply to electronic music. You still have to know the notes, the scales, the modes, the chords, etc. Music Theory makes you a musician, not the ability to move your fingers really fast.
    You can learn all the theory you want but if you don't "get it" you'll just sound robotic.  It's got to have some soul to go with that theory man!
    Joey Radical
    How can it be ignorant if it's the truth? Just compare what Avicii does at one show compared with what any band would do, and there you go. We millenials need to come together as one and realize that the music of our generation is pathetic.
    I dunno man, we still have great bands. Every generation has great music. The thing is, we don't remember the bad music and only remember the good stuff. So you know, the 70, 80s, 90s might have had all this great music, but it's certain that there was a lot of bad music too, it just got forgotten.
    The music Avicii makes still takes a bit of skill. Call it a "pop sensibility". Avici, however, is the DJ-equivalent of simple pop tunes, like the electronic variant of the most simple Ed Sheeran song, basically. There's tons of interesting electronic music out there, made with skill and emotion. Listen to some Flying Lotus, for instance, which is electronica-infused jazz.  And when you look at techno DJ's for instance, their role is not comparable to a live band. Sure, the absolute mainstream plays the hits with a light show and calls it a day (which is easier than performing it with a band) but in other places the DJ doesn't "play" as much as they select tracks, create the vibe and get the crowd to dance. It's not easy to make a full crowd in a club dance for two to eight hours on end, and it's completely different from a "gig".
    Flying Afros
    "We millenials." Dude why are you over-generalizing? There's so much good music out there being made by people in their 20's, you just gotta look in the right places, investigate your local scene. You sound like the classic old-man-yelling-at-cloud. Or Joe Bonamassa. 
    It's not the music that's the problem, it's a mixture of control of the artists and the population through it's music/subcultures, low cost production, and quasi bullshit articles like this one breeding rebellion against the guitar because the people playing them are sounding like cranky old grandpas.
    I don't know, for years people have been talking about guitar becoming an "endangered species", but I don't think guitar is going anywhere. Sure, in terms of radio-play it might not be as popular as it was in the 70s, but come on, it's not like it's disappearing. These things come and go in phases, I mean look at the violin, it was pretty much the most popular and most prominent musical instrument from the 1600s to the early 1900s, until rock n roll and pop music became a thing. But even today there are tens of thousands of professional violinists who make a good career out of it, and hundreds of thousands of people who enjoy classical music and pay tickets to go to concerts.  All around the world hundreds of kids are picking up the guitar for the first time, I'd say it's doing just fine. The guitar is not going to disappear for a very long time.
    Plenty of kids still play guitar. I don't really care for much of anything this guy says lately. He seems out of touch, and hell bent on being a blues player from 50 years ago. He is a prime example, in my mind at least, of technical player 1st and foremost - rather than having something artistic to say with the guitar.
    Sure thing. Whatever. Not-so-old man yells at the same fucking cloud over and over. Bonamassa, what a good name for a pizza brand. 
    In all fairness, kids could get a guitar, learn the concept of power chords, and be gigging in a punk band within 2 weeks. A low bar of entry for a means of expression does not mean that its potential is limited. It's ludicrous to assume actual DJ'ing is a skill acquired without countless hours of practice, or to assume that playing a 'real' instrument is necessarily a more valid form of expression.
    Let's be honest.. you can't be a gigging DJ/musician if you started two weeks ago.I think all that Joe said (without adding hypothetical words to his very clear statement) is that if you want to you can start learning how to DJ without thousands of dollars of equipment. It's just a lot easier to get into now then ever, which pushes some more people down that avenue that didn't have access before. That guy is right on all accounts and didn't really say anything negative about it either way.
    I totally get what Bonamassa is saying, yes the DJ world is slightly more accessible and popular at the moment (dare I say easier...) but I don't think thats taking away from guitar music. Go on Youtube and Instagram, there are LOADS of kids jamming and shredding away on guitar/drums/bass. There is probably the same amount, if not more videos of young guitar players than young DJs spinning sets on youtube.  Also, go to any Pop/mainstream show (Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Madonna, any rapper), there will always be a lead guitar player soloing/shredding during the show, why you may ask? Live guitar is just irreplaceable, its exciting and looks cooler (imo) than a guy behind a table looking at his computer/hardware. I'm not saying it doesn't take skill to DJ, especially the actual production of it. DJs are great for partying, but when it comes to an art form or deeply engaging entertainment, it falls slightly flat in my opinion. 
    All he said is "he tends to agree" and that you can start DJing with nothing more than an iPad and headphones. What's wrong about what he said? How isn't it true haha? Stop reading through the lines and take it for what it is. The guy is nothing but humble and respectful of those who helped him get to where he is. He's not bashing anything you crybabies! 
    Yes, another "kids these days" speech... Lack of patience for learning a musical instrument is nothing new. At all. Do you know how many people my parents' age have told me "Yeah, I tried playing guitar once, but I gave that up quick"? On the flipside, do you know many kids that are half my age out there who can shred far beyond my capabilities? This website wouldn't exist if what he said was true.
    Not that I agree with the delivery of his point, but he may not be wrong.  But is that even bad thing?  There are a lot of guitarist around at the moment and have been for years. More people focusing on other areas and instruments of music might mean there are new pioneering styles in the future.  There will always be guitarist about and people who are into guitar orientated music but maybe the instrument won't end up as popular as it has been over the last 20 years. 
    I've been a guitar teacher for 10 years now and I teach 12 hours a day Monday-Friday and 8 hours on a Saturday, with about 180 students on my books. Guitar is doing just fine Joe, chill out 🕶
    I think Joe is right to a certain extent, we have become an ADHD society.  There is so much out there right now, video games, On demand video, etc etc.  The great guitar players, like Joe, that is all they did.  It was and still is an obsession.  If you lose that obsession, that insatiable drive to be a great guitar player, than you won't be.  
    You are all arguing about the decline or non-decline of guitars when really you should all be praising the incredible greatness of Live at the Regal. I couldn't agree with Joe more. It is the absolute peak of BB King and his power over an audience and  the spirit of the Blues. Definitely the greatest live blues album ever made and I could argue it is the best live album of any genre ever made. 
    He has a very legitimate point. It’s sad, but legitimate nonetheless. At one time I was teaching private music lessons. I had 50 students at one point. Of the 50, maybe 5 of them were dedicated to actually learning how to play an instrument. The other 45 were either there under duress because their parents were forcing them into it, or they were there because they got real good at Rock Band and figured that automatically meant that they’d be good at playing an instrument. The kids that were being forced in to it were never going to practice anyways so that was no surprise. The kids that were the Rock Band warriors, every last one of them, we’re all hyped up about the instrument. Until it was explained to them (and then later they finally figured it out in their own) that yes, you actually have to fucking practice. When the words “daily practice” get put forth, it’s deer in the headlights time. Those kids lasted maybe 3 months at the most. Then they quit. It’s not instant gratification. I dealt with that for the better part of ten years. I finally closed up shop and it was directly because of that that I did close up shop. I kept 5 students of the lot. I do their lessons in their house. I no longer take on new students.
    Most kids don't really get passionate about anything until about 15 (puberty).  I believe that what really separates guys like Joe and others who started really young is that they had the passion and patience to learn something as tedious as a real instrument.  
    Also Joe, kids today can buy a guitar and learn how to play from a huge variety of instructional material. I'm a not a fan of DJ music, but lets not act like that all that is done now, geeze please get of your high horse sir,
    What high horse? Read his quote.. everything he said is true. I don't DJ but I certainly could be a beginner enthusiast by the end of the day. That's simply reality in the world of technology that we live in now. He didn't even say it was good or bad lol. Why is everyone bashing him for being honest? 
    No one is bashing him because he was "being honest", they're calling him out for making an unsubstantiated claim. It doesn't take much searching to see that love for guitar with younger people is thriving. Yeah, today's tech can give people the means to be a DJ, but it just as easily gives the means to have a free, instant guitar teacher.
    I think you need to read the article/quotes again.. none of his claims are unsubstantiated. UG loves to hate!
    I'm not hating. Truth be told, I know little to nothing of this guy's music. However, his claim that guitar is an "endangered species" cannot be substantiated. The proof is overwhelming against that claim.
    Again, not his claim - read the article. If you know nothing about him maybe it's safe to say you don't what he meant too..
    The first sentence is literally "I tend to agree that the guitar is an endangered species". That is most certainly a claim that guitar is somehow dying as an art, which absolutely isn't the case. Even if he didn't mean to that extreme, it's still not completely true. The same technology that can enable one to be a DJ can also teach someone how to play any traditional instrument. That doesn't mean less guitarists, just more DJs. Also, my familiarity with him is irrelevant. If that exact quote came from someone with whom I was more familiar (say, James Hetfield), my stance wouldn't be any different.
    I don't think that the guitar has become an endangered species. The problem (I guess) is related to the music industry/business; also,  there are so many options that people can choose whatever they want. it's like christmas: people get a lot of different presents based on the fad of the moment but the classics are always there.