Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino and Fender’s SVP weigh in on why young people should play the guitar.
June 19, 2017
“I’ll just flat out say it: I’m not a very good guitar player,” reveals Bethany Cosentino, Best Coast’s rad-as-hell lead singer, and (still quite apt) guitarist. “But I’ve gotten away with being a guitarist in a band and it’s amazing,” she continues. “I love what I do, and I feel like I’m good at the guitar style I play, even though I’m no virtuoso! Something about that is empowering to me. I’ve been able to have a lucrative career as a guitarist and songwriter, and I’m not trained or anything. I learned to play by learning Blink 182 and Green Day songs, which have the fundamental power chords. It’s cool because that’s all I need.”
While it’s unusual to hear an artist in a successful band admit that they’re not an expert at their instrument, it’s also encouraging. Realizing that you don’t need to be an expert to enjoy and even have a career playing music takes a lot of its intimidation factor away. Fender, the brand synonymous with the world’s most covetable guitars, hopes to push that idea one step further by encouraging more young people to pursue their sonic passions and express themselves through strings.
“Music, in general, helps with cognitive development, dexterity and is therapeutic,” says Justin Norvell, Fender’s Senior Vice President, and former punk rocker. “But the guitar as a whole is on a different level. You sit at a set of drums and a piano or keyboard or laptop if that’s what you use to make beats. But the guitar—you hold it to yourself, and it becomes a part of you. It’s a fantastic individualistic instrument that can help create an identity for someone.”
Indeed, if you think of guitar greats from Jimi Hendrix to Kim Gordon, their instruments are almost an extension of themselves. Their performance almost looks like a dance between instrument and person and their sounds are all their own. “The way that someone plays the guitar and holds notes, bends notes, how hard they pick—that creates a style,” says Justin. “You can recognize who’s playing the guitar just from listening. It lets you craft sounds around yourself and expresses to others who you are.”
Not only in the sonic sense, but in the physical sense as well. How many times have you see your favorite guitarist onstage and wanted to pick up the instrument, only because theirs looked so cool? It’s one of few instruments that’s so easily customized; you can choose a style, color, you can add glitter and get a custom guitar strap. As Justin puts it, it’s a form of stage fashion. “It lets you say something about yourself before you even play a note.”
Okay, so the guitar is cool. Why, then, are people hesitant to pick it up? “These days, people look for things that provide instant gratification—guitar is not one of those things,” says Justin, noting that time and practice must be put in to see results. But whereas years ago music lessons were the only avenue to learning how to play, the internet has significantly widened those options via YouTube and instructional websites. Another deterrent is the notion that the guitar community is intimidating to break into. “It’s completely inclusive—we foster the idea of being able to express oneself creatively and believe that there is no wrong way to learn or play the guitar,” says Justin. “If someone just wants to strum a couple of chords and play with their friends, that’s fine. If they want to become an artist in their right, that’s great too. It’s just a great life skill; it’s something that people react to and is psychologically fulfilling.”
If that wasn’t inspiration to get to strumming enough, we rounded up our favorite female guitarists who have helped to break down the gender imbalance within the music industry and prove that girls can shred. Check them out below:
- Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth
- Patti Smith
- Avril Lavigne
- Michelle Branch
- Melissa Etheridge
- Sheryl Crow
- Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast
- Taylor Swift
- Esperanza Spalding
This article is a re-post, with small modifications, of “The Many Benefits of Playing the Guitar” an article published on teenvogue.com by Ariana Marsh.
Click here to visit the original content.