10 Reasons Why the Electric Guitar is Alive and Healthy in Music Today


The rise of electronic music in the last decade has made the electric guitar less popular as a staple sound in both mainstream and underground music. Many music engineers and producers can attest to this fact, including Forbes contributor and longtime producer-musician Bobby Owsinski. And while it’s true that the increasing prevalence of electronic production methods are leaving little room for the electric guitar in mainstream music, these same methods also provide modern guitarists new ways to explore the instrument’s other possibilities. Here are some of the musicians, genres, sub-genres, collaborations, and events that keep the classic sound of the electric guitar alive.

Experimental, Melodic, Soulful, and Ambient Rock

Electric guitar is mostly known for defining the sound of aggressive genres like rock, punk, and metal. However, many artists with roots in these genres continue to develop in a melodic direction that has come to characterize the type of ambient rock that fits really well into contemporary electronic tastes. Tesseract is doing this with djent and melodeath, the same way Radiohead is redefining alternative rock. Meanwhile, Minus the Bear is a melodic powerhouse with obvious soul influences.


The tradition of using samples particularly in hip hop pretty much ensures that significant bits of music will survive for as long as audio recording technology exists. Many of these samples feature electric guitar from every recorded musical era, allowing the classic sound to lend its soul to even live EDM sets. Check out the work of Amerigo Gazaway for a taste of artful sampling and production.

The Lines Between Genres Are Disappearing

Gone are that days of strict divisions between musical genres. We’ve recently reported on how the rap trio Migos has been recognized by the ASCAP Rhythm & Soul Awards for their blend of rap with guitar-heavy genres. Moreover, John Mayer effortlessly inserts classic rock guitar into RnB and hip hop. If you want to hear the perfect synthesis of hip hop and blues guitar, check out how the Black Keys collaborates with various rappers on the album Blakroc.

The Rise of Multi-Instrumentalism

Musicians like Tash Sultana, Jacob Collier, Tom Misch, FKJ, and Mabanua are proving that individual minds are capable of mastering several instruments and playing with genres. The more well-versed these artists are at traditional instruments like the electric guitar, the better and more expressive their electronic output is.

Live Music Web Shows

The rise of live music shows on the Internet are allowing older audiences to hear young musicians and showing young audiences what the oldies are capable of. This amount of free access to new music courtesy of shows like Sofar Sounds, Colours, BBC’s Live Lounge, NPR’s Tiny Desk concerts, and even the amateur and professional instructionals on YouTube are keeping the electric guitar in the contemporary mix.

The Blues Refuses to Die

The blues has been around for more than a hundred years, but somehow, the current prophets of the genre are still finding ways to make it sound original. Both Dan Auerbach and Jack White are taking the sounds of old, Mississippi Delta blues and churning them into the new foundations of rock. On the other hand, Southern band Alabama Shakes is singlehandedly ushering in a new era of classic blues-soul.

Guitar Events Around the World

Although Joe Satriani admits to having trouble getting fellow guitar legends to participate in World Guitar Day, there’s no doubt that it’s still an event that garners the attention of many producers, fans, and musicians. Similarly, events like the New York Guitar Festival, the India International Guitar Festival, and the Alternative Guitar Summit have been influential in keeping the instrument relevant to the zeitgeist.

Guthrie Govan

There are plenty of electric guitar virtuosos and soloists who are unparalleled when it comes to technique, and Guthrie Govan is simply the most passionate among them. The problem of guitar solos becoming “too technical”, tedious, and boring has never happened and will probably never happen to Govan. To see and hear what we mean, check out his album Erotic Cakes.

St. Vincent

In the contemporary scene, arguably no other guitarist has attained the combination of a high level of musical diversity and pop mainstream stardom that St. Vincent has achieved. At first glance, she may look like yet another perfect pop superstar, but just 20 seconds into listening to one of her songs immediately makes it clear that her songwriting and guitar-playing are unlike no other. St. Vincent is the future of alternative rock.

Jimi Hendrix

Contrary to popular belief, the electric guitar is very much alive and healthy in music today. Its popularity may be going down, but it continues to be a staple instrument in studios and stages literally everywhere. As long as musicians find new ways to play and create with its unique sound, this iconic instrument is here to stay.

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