18-29-year-olds more likely to play guitar than any other age group

Woman playing guitar
(Image credit: Getty Images)

18-29-year-olds are more likely to play guitar than any other age group, according to a new study conducted by YouGov.

Collated via a series of surveys of 3,000 adult US citizens, the study sought to understand people’s experiences with musical instruments throughout their lives, regardless of whether they still played.

Electric guitar, electric bass and electric piano have the highest levels of continued playing. Around two in five adults who have played electric guitar at some point in their lives still play the instrument.

On the flip side, 55 percent of adults who have quit playing the electric guitar regret giving up the instrument, making them the most likely former musicians to regret quitting.

YouGov’s study goes on to reveal that 52 percent of people who say they play electric guitar regard themselves as self-taught, versus 19 percent who say they’ve taken formal lessons.

The study doesn’t specify exactly what is meant by self-taught, however this usually means using available resources – books, tabs and online videos, for example – rather than having a personal teacher.

It should be noted that the study was conducted in three waves between June 2 – 5, 2022, June 6 – 9, 2022 and June 29 – July 4, 2022, long after a reported pandemic sales boom of guitars in 2020, driven by people spending more time at home trying new hobbies. This suggests the increased appetite for guitar playing among younger musicians could be a lasting phenomenon.

While information regarding the musical instrument-playing habits of those under 18 is unavailable due to the age of the surveyed participants, the fact that the guitar is most popular among the 18-29 age group could be indicative of the impact social and digital media have had on young people’s desire to pick up the instrument.

Woman playing guitar

(Image credit: Getty Images)

According to Sprout Media, a social media management service, Instagram’s biggest user base exists in the 25-34 age group at 31.2 percent – with 18-24 close behind at 31 percent – while TikTok and Twitter’s largest demographics are the 10-19 (25 percent) and 18-29 (42 percent) age groups, respectively.

It is perhaps the case that younger people are both more inclined to experiment with new hobbies like playing guitar, and more engaged with – and therefore inspired by – their musical heroes after following them more closely on these social media platforms.

As former Megadeth guitarist Marty Friedman opined last year, the emergence of a whole new wave of guitar players on socials means we’re living in a “very exciting time for the guitar”.

Citing the likes of Mateus Asato and Ichika Nito, Friedman said: “The guitar just got a lot of life breathed back into it and that’s thanks to a lot of people just showing how fun it is and showing the great things that you’re able to do with [it].”

Another driver of the popularity of the guitar in 2022 could be the inclusion of guitar-based music in mainstream films and TV shows.

After Metallica’s 1986 thrash metal classic Master of Puppets was featured in Netflix’s hit sci-fi series Stranger Things, online guitar lesson platform Yousician reported that it had become the number one song aspiring guitarists wanted to learn via its service, “despite it being a challenging song to pick up”.

And following the release of Baz Lurhmann’s new Elvis biopic, Fender reported double the number of users seeking to learn the rock and roll icon’s songs on its Fender Play platform.

“His music is still inspiring people across the globe, young and old, to begin their own musical journeys and this is evident via this spike in activity we have seen,” said Fender SVP of Marketing Matt Watts.

Based on YouGov’s study, the widespread availability and usage of social and digital media has helped facilitate a healthy climate for the next generation of guitar players. Whatever the conclusion, the data suggests a bright future for the instrument.

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Sam Roche

Sam was Staff Writer at GuitarWorld.com from 2019 to 2023, and also created content for Total Guitar, Guitarist and Guitar Player. He has well over 15 years of guitar playing under his belt, as well as a degree in Music Technology (Mixing and Mastering). He's a metalhead through and through, but has a thorough appreciation for all genres of music. In his spare time, Sam creates point-of-view guitar lesson videos on YouTube under the name Sightline Guitar.