International Women's Day: Women in Rock (Updated March 2023)

Published on 07 March 2023

In celebration of International Women’s Day, we’d like to recognise the innovative, powerful and inspirational female guitarists who are shredding their way through the world of rock, tearing down the prejudice and stereotypes one solo at a time. 

On the 8th of March we’re taking a look at women who shaped the world of guitar music back in the day as well as those fresh talents making huge noise right now.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe

And at the beginning, there was… Sister Rosetta Tharpe. If we’re talking about pioneering women in the music industry, we need to start from the most iconic shredder who started it all for us: the ‘godmother of rock and roll’.

Gibson wielding Sister Rosetta  was one of the first female artists of the 1930s (and of colour, too!) to front her own band with an electric guitar. 

Sister Rosetta not only blended her intricate gospel melodies into her bluesy songs but was also one of the very first few artists to use heavy distortion, giving rise to early raw energy of rock & roll! And it was long before Elvis and Chuck Berry, we’ll have you know.

In  2018, Sister Rosetta Tharpe was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in the category ‘Early Influences’. 

Mary Ford

Couple goals for all us guitar nuts: Les Paul and Mary Ford! 

As much as Les Paul needs no introduction here, Mary’s name is slightly less known. Born Iris Colleen Summers, she adopted her stage name, Mary Ford, from a phone directory to make it easier for people to remember. She remains one of the most crucial and early examples of a female appearing on TV singing and playing guitar. 

Along with her husband Les, Mary helped push electric guitar music into the masses. She was also one of the first guitarists to play early prototypes of Les Paul Gibson, as designed by her husband (she often used 'Number One', the first Goldtop model approved Les for production). 

The duet became early 1950s superstars putting out 28 mega hits via Capitol Records, including Vaya Con Dios or How High The Moon. One of their most popular shows was a performance of a mock guitar battle (watch the video below!). Mary implemented soaring harmonies in her singing and her guitar playing was full of intricate, jazz style melodies plucked at a high speed before shredding was even a thing! 

Joan Jett

Joan Jett defined the genre of early female punk scene for generations to come, and continues to be one of the most recognisable acts in rock to this day.

Joan picked up the guitar at the age of 13 and struggled with the same prejudice most female musicians experience: growing up being told “it’s for boys”, having a teacher refuse to teach anything but lovely folk melodies when all she wanted to do is rip through power chords. 

Perseverance and a strong attitude were what helped Joan rise above these struggles and in 1975 she became a founding member of The Runaways. Today she is best known for fronting her own band Joan Jett & the Blackhearts. Joan’s heavy guitar sound, husky voice and characteristic tomboy look became a huge inspiration for the early 90s  Riot Grrrl movement. 

It is fair to say that every single guitar-wielding girl has played Jett’s version of I Love Rock & Roll at least once in her life. Let’s blast it out today!

Sophie Lloyd

Modern times call for modern actions and nobody knows this better than high-flying super-shredder influencer Sophie Lloyd! Living the dream we all want, from YouTube sensation to the world stages, Sophie proves it’s all possible. She shows us we can do it.

Lloyd is one of the most prolific guitarists on the internet and she is also a professional composer with First Class Honours degree achieved at BIMM University. You see, dreams don’t happen overnight. Instead of partying hard in her teens, Sophie chose to study music hard instead and this makes her a great role model if you ask us. Especially now, when her peers graft at their 9-5 jobs, she tours the world with Machine Gun Kelly or collaborates with metal scene greats like Trivium’s Matt Heafy.

Vixen

From London’s ICMP to LA recording studios and TikTok phenomenon, Vixen is becoming the modern real-life guitar hero. 

This session guitarist extraordinaire has worked for a bunch of big names, such as Zara Larsson or Craig David. But it was her creativity, self-expression and energy that won the hearts of masses on social media platforms. @vixens_diary has a staggering 12 millions views of her shredding content! 

Vixen leaves no space for aimless noodling: every performance is loaded with brutal riffing, melodic vibratos and two-handed tapping. Perfect recipe for an endorsement, right? You guessed it. Vixen not only became a Jackson Guitars artist, she also features in their latest ad for the brand new all-American made Soloist SL3 series!

Success is the name of the game and Vixen is using her position to advocate for the voice of the LGBTQ community as a trans woman herself and actively promotes the brands’ parent company, Fender, for its forward-thinking proactivity in representing minorities and their inclusive stance in the music industry.

Marta Gabriel

As native English speakers, we are bombarded with American and British music, and we are often missing out on what is trending in other parts of the world. For many of us, festivals are that one place where we get to witness some overseas greatness, open our horizons and discover new acts. Crystal Viper is one such fine example. This female fronted heavy metal band hails from Poland and was founded by vocalist and guitarist - Marta Gabriel. She is the band’s main songwriter, lyricist and composer and on top of that, this multi-talented artist also offers session work.

Marta is currently one of the most prominent female guitarists to come from Europe and her talents have been acknowledged by the industry early on in her career. She is endorsed by ESP guitars and just recently scored herself a sweet spot on the Blackstar amps’ artist roster for bass!

Marta’s biggest inspiration stems from the 80’s female-fronted heavy metal bands and as a mark of respect, in 2021 she recorded a solo album called “Metal Queens” dedicated to those early trailblazers!

Reba Meyers

Heavy, heavier, …. Reba!

If you've heard the American metal hardcore giants Code Orange you would have heard their lead guitar shredder in residence: Ms Meyers. The utter behemoth of a wall of sound she creates with guitar using insane, head-bending techniques and fusions are a thing to behold. Reba Meyers skillfully blends chainsaw chugging with hip-hop samples and crushing beatdowns with digital squeals. A breathing proof that not everything has been done in music before! 

Oh, and she also made history by being the first female to have a signature ESP guitar built. And just like that, all those who, let’s be honest, have no life and spend their time leaving snarky comments about a woman’s place being in the kitchen, have now shut up. Unless they’re expecting a sandwich made with one clean cut by the axe that is ESP RM600!

International Women's Day

Here at guitarguitar we pride ourselves in being an inclusive store as well as an equal opportunity employer. We have been lucky to work alongside plenty of talented women and we are lucky to have a multitude of incredible female players as our customers. 

We'd also like to say thank you to the outstanding contribution of the ladies of guitarguitar, past, present and future. We salute you.

And to all the girls out there: keep on shreddin’, redefining and reigniting the music industry. We need more of you with guitars!

Happy International Women’s Day!

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Anna

Marketing and Social Media Assistant, Warehouse

Obsessed with guitars, live shows & travels.

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