Breaking down gender barriers: Women changing the country guitar game

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When one thinks of country music, images of cowboy hats, trucks, and men strumming guitars come to mind. However, the country guitar game is changing, and women are breaking down gender barriers one chord at a time. From the early pioneers like Maybelle Carter and Sister Rosetta Tharpe to modern trailblazers like Sheryl Crow, Maren Morris, and Brandi Carlile, female guitarists are skyrocketing to success in the industry. In this article, we’ll explore the emerging stars like Mickey Guyton and Tennille Townes and take a closer look at the impact of women on country guitar. We’ll also delve into the challenges women face in the industry, including sexual harassment and discrimination, and underrepresentation on country radio. Finally, we’ll speculate on the future of women in country guitar, hoping to inspire female artists and fans alike.

Early pioneers

Early Pioneers
The early days of country guitar belonged primarily to men. However, that didn’t stop a few pioneering women from making their mark on the industry. These trailblazers displayed an immense amount of talent and skill, proving that women have just as much to offer to country music as men. Some of these names may not be as well-known as others, but they certainly deserve to be recognized for their contributions. From the legendary Maybelle Carter to the iconic Sister Rosetta Tharpe, these women laid the foundation for future generations of female country guitarists. Learn more about these early pioneers here.

Maybelle Carter

Maybelle Carter certainly deserves a spot on any list of female trailblazers in country guitar. As part of the Carter Family band, Maybelle played a style of guitar that heavily influenced the genre’s development. Instead of strumming chords, Maybelle used a unique finger-picking method that allowed her to pluck out complex melodies with remarkable precision.

Maybelle Carter’s finger-picking style popularized the use of the thumbpick, which later became a staple of country guitar. Her innovative approach to the instrument helped the Carter Family become one of the most successful country acts of the 1930s and 1940s, and it continues to inspire musicians to this day.

In addition to her technical skill, Maybelle was also a gifted songwriter and arranger, contributing significantly to the Carter Family’s repertoire. She helped to bring the group’s traditional folk sound to a wider audience, helping to cement their place in country music history.

For more information about other trailblazing women in country guitar, check out this article.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Sister Rosetta Tharpe was a trailblazing musician in the world of country guitar. Though she was often overlooked by mainstream radio due to her race and gender, she made significant contributions to the genre and opened doors for future female musicians.

Born in 1915 in Arkansas, Tharpe began playing guitar and singing in church at a young age. Her unique blend of gospel and blues music drew crowds across the United States, and she even toured Europe in the 1950s.

One of Tharpe’s most notable performances was at a concert in Manchester, England in 1957. She played her hit song “Didn’t It Rain” to a packed audience, which included a young musician named John Lennon. This performance is often credited as one of the first instances of rock and roll guitar.

Tharpe’s influence can still be seen today in the music of artists like Sheryl Crow, Maren Morris, and Brandi Carlile, who have all cited her as an inspiration. Tharpe’s contributions to country guitar have also been recognized by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which inducted her in 2018.

While Tharpe faced many challenges as a female musician in a male-dominated industry, her legacy has paved the way for future generations of female guitarists. To learn more about the evolution of women in country guitar, check out our article on the acoustic country women guitar evolution.

Modern trailblazers

Modern Trailblazers
When it comes to breaking down gender barriers in country guitar, there are a number of modern trailblazers who have opened doors for female guitarists in the industry. These female musicians demonstrate that country guitar is not just a man’s game. From Sheryl Crow to Maren Morris to Brandi Carlile, these women have proven themselves as talented musicians who can hold their own in the competitive world of country music. They have redefined what it means to be a country guitarist and have inspired a new generation of female artists to pick up the guitar and make their mark on the industry. So, let’s take a closer look at these female country guitar heroines who have broken down barriers and transformed the industry with their music. If you want to learn more about women guitarists in country music, you can check out our previous article on pioneering women in country guitar.

Sheryl Crow

Sheryl Crow is a true icon in the world of country guitar. With her soulful voice and impressive skills on the guitar, she has made a significant impact on the genre. Crow first gained attention as a backup vocalist for Michael Jackson, but it was her solo work that really put her on the map.

One of Crow’s most significant hits is “If It Makes You Happy,” which features her on an acoustic guitar. She also showcases her guitar prowess in songs like “My Favorite Mistake” and “Everyday is a Winding Road.”

What sets Crow apart from other female country guitarists is her ability to seamlessly blend genres. She draws from folk, rock, and pop influences to create a unique sound that is all her own. Her skillful guitar playing is often the backbone of her songs, providing a solid foundation for her lyrics to build upon.

Crow has been highly influential in inspiring other female guitarists to pick up the instrument and incorporate it into their own music. Her ability to transcend genre barriers has helped to redefine what it means to be a woman in country music.

If you haven’t yet, check out some of Crow’s work, as well as other women redefining country guitar to discover the diversity and talent of women in the industry.

Maren Morris

Maren Morris is a Grammy Award-winning country pop sensation who has taken the music world by storm. She has become one of the most successful and influential female acts in country music today, and her unique style and sound have attracted fans from all over the world. Let’s take a closer look at this modern trailblazer.

Morris was born in Arlington, Texas in 1990, and grew up singing and playing the guitar. She began writing songs at the age of just 12, and by the time she was 14, she was already performing on local stages. Morris later went on to attend the University of North Texas, where she studied music.

Since then, Morris has released several successful albums, including “Hero” and “Girl”, which have both received critical acclaim. She has also won multiple awards, including a Grammy in 2019 for Best Country Solo Performance for her hit song “My Church”.

What sets Morris apart from other country artists is her unique sound, which blends traditional country elements with modern pop and rock influences. She is also known for her powerful lyrics and her willingness to take risks and experiment with new styles and sounds.

Her influence on the country music scene has been significant, and she has helped to break down gender barriers in a male-dominated industry. Morris has become a role model for aspiring female musicians, and she has inspired many young women to take up the guitar and pursue their musical dreams.

Maren Morris is a true country guitar heroine, and her contributions to the genre cannot be overstated. She has paved the way for a new generation of female artists, and she continues to inspire and empower women all around the world to chase their dreams and make their mark in the music industry.

Birthplace: Arlington, Texas
Albums: “Hero”, “Girl”
Awards: Grammy Award for Best Country Solo Performance
Style: Country pop
Influence: Breaking down gender barriers in the industry, inspiring young women to pursue music

Source: Women Guitarists in Country Music

Brandi Carlile

Brandi Carlile is a Pacific Northwestern singer-songwriter with a soulful voice and a unique style of country guitar playing. Known for her emotive ballads and ability to capture raw emotion in her music, Carlile has earned three Grammy Awards and widespread critical acclaim for her work. However, it’s not just her vocal prowess that has made her a trailblazer in the music industry; it’s also her groundbreaking approach to playing the country guitar.

Carlile’s playing style is characterized by a distinct fingerpicking technique, which she uses to create intricate melodies and rhythmic patterns on the guitar. Her use of harmonics and open tuning has become a signature part of her sound, and she’s known for using unconventional chord progressions to create unexpected twists and turns in her songs.

In addition to her unique playing style, Carlile has also been an outspoken advocate for women in the music industry. She’s spoken out about the lack of representation for women in country music, and has advocated for greater visibility and opportunities for female performers. In 2019, she curated an all-female lineup for her own music festival, and has frequently used her platform to champion other female musicians.

Brandi Carlile’s impact on the country guitar scene can’t be overstated. Her style of playing has opened up new possibilities for female guitar players, while her advocacy for greater gender representation in music has helped pave the way for future generations of female performers. If you’re interested in learning more about acoustic female country guitar players, check out our article on female acoustic country guitar players.

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Emerging stars

Emerging Stars
As country music continues to evolve, there are many emerging women who are paving their way in the industry and changing the game for the better. These fierce female musicians are taking country guitar to new heights and proving that gender has no role in musical ability. From heartfelt ballads to guitar-heavy anthems, these up-and-coming country guitarists are pushing boundaries and inspiring the next generation. Let’s take a closer look at some of these talented musicians who are making waves in country music today.

Mickey Guyton

Mickey Guyton is a rising star in country guitar known for breaking barriers in the industry. Born in Arlington, Texas, Guyton had a passion for music from a young age. She began singing in church and performed in school talent shows.

Despite facing numerous challenges and obstacles in the industry, Guyton persevered and achieved great success. In 2015, she released her self-titled EP, which gained critical acclaim and helped establish her name in the industry. She also made history in 2020 by becoming the first black woman to perform solo at the Academy of Country Music Awards.

Musical Style Traditional country with a modern twist
Influences Soul, gospel, and country music legends such as Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn
Notable Achievements
  • First black woman to perform solo at the Academy of Country Music Awards
  • Named one of Forbes 30 Under 30 in Music in 2017
  • Released hit singles such as “Better Than You Left Me” and “Black Like Me”
Impact on Country Guitar As a black woman in country guitar, Guyton has challenged traditional gender and racial norms in the industry, paving the way for more diversity and representation.

Guyton’s success serves as an inspiration for many aspiring musicians, especially young women of color, who often face significant barriers and discrimination in the industry. By telling her story and breaking down barriers, Guyton is making a significant impact on the future of country guitar.

Check out our article on pioneering women in country guitar to learn more about female trailblazers in the genre.

Tennille Townes

Canadian singer-songwriter Tennille Townes is one of the rising stars in the country music scene. Her powerful voice and soulful storytelling have captivated audiences and earned her critical acclaim. Townes began playing guitar at a young age and was influenced by country icons such as Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton. She honed her skills playing in small venues before eventually signing with Columbia Nashville.

Townes’ debut album, “The Lemonade Stand,” was released in 2020 and showcased her impressive songwriting abilities. The album features the hit single “Somebody’s Daughter,” which highlights the societal issues of homelessness and poverty. The lyrics, paired with Townes’ emotive vocals, make for a poignant and thought-provoking song.

What sets Townes apart is her commitment to giving back. She has partnered with organizations such as Save the Children and the United Nations Foundation to make a positive impact on the world. In 2020, she co-founded “Big Hearts for Big Kids,” an initiative that raises funds for a youth shelter in Canada.

Tennille Townes is proof that women are not only changing the country guitar game but using their platform to make a difference in the world. Her authenticity and passion for social justice make her a role model for aspiring musicians and fans alike.

It’s inspiring to see young artists like Townes making waves in an industry that has historically been dominated by men. As we celebrate the achievements of country guitar heroines past and present, it’s important to recognize and support the emerging talent that will shape the future of the genre.

If you want to learn more about other incredible women paving the way for women in country music, be sure to check out our article on Country Guitar Heroines.

The impact of women on country guitar

The Impact Of Women On Country Guitar
The impact that women have had on country guitar cannot be overstated. From early pioneers to modern trailblazers, women have played a crucial role in shaping the sound of country music. Maybelle Carter, known as the “Mother of Country Music,” was one of the first women to gain recognition for her guitar playing. Her signature “Carter scratch” technique, which involves playing the melody with the thumb and rhythm with the fingers, became a staple of the country guitar sound.

But it wasn’t just Maybelle Carter who broke down gender barriers in country music. Sister Rosetta Tharpe, a gospel artist, was one of the first women to play an electric guitar in the 1940s. Her soulful playing style and powerful vocals paved the way for future rock and roll guitarists, including Jimi Hendrix.

In modern times, women continue to make their mark on country guitar. Sheryl Crow, known for her pop and rock sensibilities, blended these genres with country elements to create a sound uniquely her own. Maren Morris, with her soulful voice and catchy hooks, has become a major force in the country music industry. And Brandi Carlile, with her introspective lyrics and emotional performances, has gained a dedicated following among fans of all genres.

But it’s not just these established stars who are making waves. Emerging artists like Mickey Guyton and Tennille Townes are bringing fresh perspectives to the genre. Guyton, one of the few Black women in country music, writes lyrics that challenge the status quo and promote diversity and inclusion. Townes, with her introspective songwriting and intricate guitar work, is quickly gaining recognition as a rising star.

The impact that women have had on country guitar not only extends to the music itself, but also to the industry as a whole. Through their success and innovation, women have inspired a new generation of guitarists and songwriters. However, women in country music still face unique challenges.

Sexual harassment and discrimination are unfortunately all too common in the industry. Women are often subject to inappropriate comments and behavior, and they may face barriers to success that their male counterparts do not.

Underrepresentation on country radio is another issue that women in country music face. Despite their successes, women often struggle to get airplay on country radio stations. This perpetuates a cycle in which women have a harder time gaining recognition and opportunities for success.

Despite these challenges, the future looks bright for women in country guitar. As more and more female artists gain recognition and success, the industry is slowly but surely becoming more diverse and inclusive. With their talent and perseverance, women will continue to break down barriers in country music and beyond.

The challenges women face in the industry

The Challenges Women Face In The Industry
Despite the significant strides made by women in the country music industry, it remains riddled with numerous challenges for female artists. The road to success is paved with hurdles such as sexual harassment and discrimination and underrepresentation on country radio. The persistence of such issues begs the question of whether women will ever have an equal footing in country guitar. In this section, we will explore the struggles faced by women in the industry and the current state of gender dynamics in this genre.

Sexual harassment and discrimination

While the country music industry has been slowly opening its doors to more women, the road ahead is still fraught with challenges. One of the biggest obstacles that female country guitar players continue to face is sexual harassment and discrimination. Here are some of the most pressing issues:

  • Unequal treatment on tour: Women are often relegated to lower-paying opening acts and given less stage time, while male performers are prioritized for headlining slots. This means that women also have less opportunity to showcase their guitar skills and build their fanbase. In some cases, women have even been asked to perform for free or receive lower compensation than their male counterparts.
  • Objectification on stage: Female performers are also subject to a disproportionate amount of sexualization and objectification. They may be asked to dress provocatively or perform suggestive dance moves, despite the fact that their male counterparts are not held to the same standards.
  • Explicit harassment: In some cases, female country guitar players have been subjected to explicit harassment from industry insiders. This can include unwanted advances, inappropriate comments and physical touch, and even assault. Sadly, many women feel that they cannot report this behavior for fear of retaliation or being blackballed from the industry.

All of these factors contribute to a culture that can be extremely challenging for female guitarists in the country genre. It’s important for the industry to continue to actively work against these biases and ensure that women are treated equally and with respect. Only then can we truly break down the gender barriers holding women back from taking the country guitar game to the next level.

Underrepresentation on country radio

Women in country music face several challenges, one of which is the struggle for representation on country radio. Despite the fact that women are excelling in the industry and producing great music, they are not getting the airtime they deserve.

A recent study by Dr. Jada E. Watson found that female artists received only 10% of airtime on country radio stations in 2020. This is a discouraging statistic since female listeners make up a substantial portion of country music fans. The study also revealed that male artists are almost twice as likely as female artists to be played in heavy rotation, and the disparity is even more significant for solo female artists and female-fronted bands.

The following table highlights some of the gender representation issues on country radio:

Male artists Female artists
Heavy Rotation 80% 20%
Moderate Rotation 82% 18%
Light Rotation 86% 14%

This gender disparity has been a long-standing issue in the country music industry, leading some female artists to go as far as to say that they are “forced to sing like a man” in order to get played on the radio. However, women in country music are not giving up, and many are finding success through other avenues such as streaming platforms and social media.

While the issue of underrepresentation on country radio is disheartening, it’s not deterring the talented women in country music who are breaking down barriers and carving a path for future generations. By continuing to create compelling music and refusing to be silenced, women in country music are laying the groundwork for a more inclusive industry.

The future of women in country guitar

As more and more women continue to break down gender barriers in the country guitar game, the future looks bright for female musicians. Strong vocal advocates for gender equality in the industry, such as Brandi Carlile and Amanda Shires, are paving the way for a new generation of female country players. With greater access to music education and mentorship programs, these emerging stars have the tools and opportunities to become a force to be reckoned with.

Education and Mentorship: The country guitar industry needs to start cultivating more opportunities for young girls. Programs like Girls Rock Camp and other initiatives provide intensive training on how to play guitar and write songs, as well as access to high-quality instruments and equipment. Such education and mentorship opportunities not only provide girls with the tools they need to play guitar but also help in building the confidence they need to pursue their dreams.

Industry-wide Changes: A pivotal part of advancing women in the industry is addressing the systemic issues that continue to exist. Music festivals and events, recording studios, radio, and other music-related industries need to change and are needed to provide equal opportunities to women. This includes everything from booking more women artists to ensuring that female producers, engineers, and other industry professionals are genuinely seen and valued.

Shifting Mindsets: To change the industry significantly, we need to shift attitudes and mindsets that have been embedded in the music industry at large. Female organizers and industry executives can also shift attitudes towards gender equality in the country guitar game by offering quality work, higher payment, and networking opportunities at prestigious events like The Academy of Country Music Awards or the Country Music Association.

The future of women in the country guitar game is promising. With more women becoming proficient in playing and songwriting, breaking down barriers, and advocating for change, the country guitar industry has a good chance of becoming more inclusive in the coming years. Women in country guitar have the future in their hands and are making progress towards creating a more diverse, equitable, and exciting country music scene.


As we wrap up our exploration of the role of women in country guitar, it’s clear that they have come a long way in breaking down gender barriers and making their mark in an industry that has traditionally been male-dominated. From early pioneers like Maybelle Carter and Sister Rosetta Tharpe to modern trailblazers like Sheryl Crow, Maren Morris, and Brandi Carlile, and emerging stars like Mickey Guyton and Tennille Townes, women have been changing the game and carving out a space for themselves in country music.

However, the journey has not been without its challenges. Women still face issues of sexual harassment and discrimination in the industry, as well as underrepresentation on country radio. But despite these obstacles, they have continued to persevere and take the guitar world by storm.

Looking ahead, the future for women in country guitar seems bright. With more and more talented musicians breaking into the scene and pushing boundaries, there’s no doubt that they will continue to make their voices heard and inspire future generations of female guitarists.

In conclusion, women have not only changed the country guitar game, but they have also opened doors for all women in music. They have proven that with hard work, passion, and determination, anything is possible. And as we continue to celebrate their contributions, we can look forward to a brighter, more inclusive future for country music and beyond.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who are some early female pioneers in country guitar?

Maybelle Carter and Sister Rosetta Tharpe are two notable examples of women who broke gender barriers in country guitar.

Who are some modern trailblazers in country guitar?

Sheryl Crow, Maren Morris, and Brandi Carlile are examples of women who continue to change the landscape of country guitar.

Who are some emerging female stars in country guitar?

Mickey Guyton and Tennille Townes are two up-and-coming female artists who are making waves in the industry.

What is the impact of women on country guitar?

Women have brought diversity and creativity to the genre, challenging traditional gender roles and expanding the scope of country music.

What challenges do women face in the country guitar industry?

Women face sexual harassment and discrimination, as well as underrepresentation on country radio.

How do women in country guitar make a difference?

Women are making a difference in country guitar by challenging traditional gender roles, bringing diversity to the genre, and breaking down barriers for future generations of female musicians.

What is the future of women in country guitar?

The future of women in country guitar is bright, with many talented female musicians breaking into the industry and changing the game.

How does country music benefit from having more women in guitar?

Having more women in guitar brings diversity and creativity to the genre and helps break down gender barriers, ultimately making country music more inclusive and representative of all voices.

What can be done to address the challenges women face in country guitar?

Addressing sexual harassment and discrimination and promoting gender diversity in the industry can help address the challenges women face in country guitar.

Why is it important to have female representation in country guitar?

Having female representation in country guitar is important to break down traditional gender roles, promote gender diversity, and ensure that all voices are heard in the genre.


About the author

Hi there! I’m Jack Little – an avid country music fan with tons of live country performances in the past. I used to play banjo in a country band with my best friend John Peters, who’s a true country harmonica master. Those were great years and I’m still mastering new banjo playing techniques, writing my own country songs and lyrics, and collecting banjos!

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