On Guitars and Women

Guitar Woman

The hips of a guitar transfix the eyes of boys almost as completely as the hips of a woman. Even female guitarists the world over can attest to the pleasures of the physical flow of a well-made instrument. Even the piano, which most agree to be the world’s most popular instrument (guitar is usually considered 2nd) features a sensual curvature to its design. So why was the guitar designed to evoke a female figure?

Realists will explain that the curve of an acoustic guitar allows it to be cradled comfortably on the thigh of the musician. Fair enough. But it still doesn’t explain why the proportions are consistent with the human anatomy. Notice that the top pair of curves in the picture here are smaller than the lower curves, just as it is on a woman’s body. Ralph Denyer, in his book The Guitar Handbook (in a curiously titled section titled “The anatomy of the acoustic guitar”), explains that the shape of an acoustic guitar’s “soundbox” amplifies the sound of the vibrating strings. The question presses on: why is the female figure the ideal shape for this acoustic amplification?

The different parts of an acoustic guitar are even designated with names like “waist,” “back,” and “rib.” Symbolism can be drawn from this idea. The distinctly Freudian neck of the guitar is the decidedly “masculine” part of the instrument, which pairs with the female “body” to give birth to sound. Music. This could be what draws poets, adolescents, and hopeless romantics to the instrument. Not just the ease of its portability, but the subconscious sexuality and romance at work when a guitar is used to create music. The idea of instinctively using music as a metaphor for existence is not a new concept. Look no further than Pythagoras’ notion of musica universalis–the so-called “music of the spheres.”

The image of a guitar seems to get its power from its feminine form. It is a form ideally suited for the creation of both life and music.

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13 Responses to On Guitars and Women

  1. pistolpete says:

    Nicely written tribute to a fine instrument. I’ve always wanted to play the guitar, but never quite learned. Same with women.

  2. EarthboundBob says:

    This is an interesting idea.

  3. […] unknown wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptThe distinctly Freudian neck of the guitar is the decidedly “masculine” part of the instrument, which pairs with the female “body” to give birth to sound. Music. This could be what draws poets, adolescents, and hopeless romantics to the … […]

  4. Chris says:

    Haha, interesting. I don’t know how much I buy into Freudian subconscious imagery, but I enjoyed this nonetheless.

    What would one say about electric guitars that are growing distinctly away from the imagery of the classic, acoustic guitar?

  5. lithe says:

    Chris: Seems like a good question to me. Bo Diddly played a square guitar, Hamer produces “skewed” electrics with sharp angles, and then there’s the famous “flying v” guitar with not a curve in sight. It would make an interesting study–to see how a guitarist’s personality and music is reflected in the shape of his guitar. Definitely food for thought.

    But the fact that each of these shapes is the exception rather than the rule is definitely saying something. Thanks for the comments…

  6. lithe says:

    pistolpete: I’m telling you, guitars and women have a lot in common. Now that you’re on the lookout you’ll start to realize it too. Both great vices to have though…

  7. davidjcarney says:

    Check out the movie, “The Red Violin.” A violin maker’s wife dies in childbirth, and he uses an unusual technique to finish a violin that he builds to remember her. The Red Violin passes through the hands of many owners over several centuries. None of it’s owners are aware of why it produces such a haunting sonority until…well, watch the movie.

    I once chatted with a female luthier in Birmingham, AL who said that in the shape of guitars and violins she saw a moon in the upper curves and the planet it orbited in the lower curves. While I’ve heard male musicians make that guitar-female anatomy comparison, I wonder what female guitaristas would say.

    Originally, the shape of early guitars was an attempt to improve on the acoustics of the lute, especially in the upper register notes. In the acoustic realm, nobody has dramatically improved on that shape to this day.

  8. lithe says:

    davidjcarney: I haven’t seen the flick, but you’ve definitely got me interested!

  9. theclectic says:

    You go through six decades of life wondering what is it that attracts one to the guitar,and acoustics is only one part of it . I always loved the sound of the guitar playing, from the classicists like Carlos Montoya to the “Shadows” ( from the 60’s to the 80’s) and the Ventures which gave us many hits.
    Frankly I have always wondered why it felt so sensual holding it while strumming it. The visual and the kinesthetic appeal of the shape of the acoustic guitar has been one of the integral parts escaped me all along.
    Still I wonder if I would have enjoyed the Guitar any less.

  10. Niko says:

    I guess the lower curve of the guitar is bigger so that one can lie it on the lap perfectly balanced.

    In my case, as a hopeless romantic, I have named my guitar Jiawen, as my secretly loved neighbour. They both have endless eyes, dark hair, a come from china.

    N.

  11. Alba says:

    Hi!. Thanks a bunch for the info. I’ve been digging around for info, but there is so much out there. Yahoo lead me here – good for you i suppose! Keep up the good work. I will be coming back over here in a couple of days to see if there is updated posts.

  12. Deea says:

    Reblogged this on The colourful RhYtHm of my life and commented:
    I love the guitar sounds and this is an excellent article on guitars and women 🙂

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