Remember the days of smoke-filled clubs and denim-clad legends bending six strings to their will? The guitar hero was a mythical creature, conjuring sonic spells onstage, fueled by rebellion and raw talent. But fast forward to 2023 and the axe-wielding warrior has traded leather jackets for laptops, trading stadiums for social media feeds.
A new study called Rock Guitar Virtuosos: Advances in Electric Guitar Playing, Technology, and Culture dives deep into the evolution of this iconic figure. Authors Jan-Peter Herbst and Alexander Paul Vallejo paint a fascinating picture of the modern guitar hero, grappling with the double-edged sword of digital fame and the elusive concept of authenticity. The study is currently available here.
"Guitarists appear to be caught in a paradox," the authors explain (via Guitar World). "They cannot merely publish a spontaneously produced, seemingly authentic video of their playing, yet neither can they afford to release anything less than perfect. If performances are perfect, guitarists must prove authenticity or be accused of cheating."
Remember the 2019 Instagram scandal, where guitar gods like Manuel Gardner Fernandes and Syncatto's Charlie Robbins faced accusations of faking their chops? This, the study argues, is just one symptom of a larger paradox. Authenticity, once measured by sweat-drenched stage presence, now hinges on the delicate balance between raw talent and pixel-perfect polish.
The definition of a guitar hero is expanding. Shredders like Mateus Asato and Ichika Nito are proving that building a fanbase doesn't require a record deal. The internet has become their stage, their bedroom studios their amps, and their social media channels their loyal crowds. They're composers, producers, graphic designers, and marketing whizzes all rolled into one. They're the "virtuoso-guitarist-composer-innovator-producer-promoter-YouTuber-teacher-entrepreneur," as the study aptly puts it.
"Guitarists write, arrange, record, and produce their music in a DIY manner, often adding extra elements such as electronic beats, live electronics, and other forms of contemporary sound design. They create artwork and animated videos for their songs. They run websites and sell their music, tablature, lessons, and merchandise on other platforms. They regularly produce videos for their social media channels." the study reveals.
"What once was delegated to labels, managers, or other support staff is now carried out by artists themselves. They have become ‘cultural entrepreneurs, defined by the ‘hyphen’: virtuoso-guitarist-composer-innovator-producer-promoter-YouTuber-teacher-entrepreneur."
It seems that gone are the days of the passive rockstar waiting to be discovered. Today's guitar hero is a self-made warrior, carving his path through the digital landscape. They're pushing boundaries, embracing technology, and redefining what it means to be a six-string legend. So crank up the volume, hit record, and let the world hear your unique blend of talent and hustle. The future of guitar heroism is here, and it's anything but a solo act.