Guitarists tend to be an equipment-collecting bunch. Ask most enthusiasts how many guitars they own and you’re likely to get answers ranging from “just one trusty instrument” to “well into the double-digits”.
But on average, how many guitars do most guitar players actually own? What drives them to own multiple instruments? And do your average amateurs accumulate as many as full-time professional musicians?
How Many Guitars Do Amateur Players Own?
The majority of guitarists would be considered amateurs or hobbyists – they play for fun in their free time without making a living off music. For these players, guitar is more of a leisure activity rather than the central focus of their lives.
When it comes to amateurs, the average guitar accumulation looks like:
Most amateur or hobby players own just one or two guitars, generally a mix of acoustic and electric. These musicians use their instruments for casual picking, playing covers of favorite songs, composing basic tunes, or occasional performances at open mics and backyard get-togethers.
Owning a couple of guitars allows amateurs to bounce between rhythmic acoustic strumming for campfire singalongs and cranking out classic riffs on an electric to keep the dance party rocking.
Amateurs who have played consistently for years often expand to around three guitars – generally an acoustic, an electric, and maybe an additional variation like a hollow body or 12-string. Three guitars satisfy an amateur’s interest in different tones while keeping collecting and maintenance relatively simple during limited playtime.
Factors for Amateurs Owning More
What motivates an amateur guitarist to accumulate beyond the usual 1-3 instruments? Common reasons include:
- Playing live more often: Amateurs gigging out more frequently may add a bass guitar or backup electric for shows
- Specializing in a style: Those focused on a niche style like heavy metal or jazz may need very specific instrument types
- Collecting: Some simply enjoy curating quirky guitar finds even with casual skills
But for the typical amateur just playing recreationally in their free time, owning 1-3 guitars generally fits their needs.
Semi-Pro & Gigging Musicians Own More Guitars
Musicians pursuing gigs, performing in bands, giving lessons, writing music seriously with the intent to release, or earning supplemental income could be considered semi-professional or working guitarists. Even if music isn’t their full-time career, it’s a major component of their lifestyle.
For this tier of committed guitarists actively performing and working in music, the average guitar count increases notably:
Most semi-pro guitarists own around 5 guitars on average, spanning both acoustic and electric varieties tailored to their live sound and style versatility needs. These musicians want to be prepared for multi-act shows, have backup options if equipment fails, and record demos easily in home studios by keeping go-to instruments well-maintained and gig-ready.
Owning 3-7 guitars also allows working musicians to indulge any preferences for alternate tunings common in certain genres – they can keep instruments in non-standard tunings ready without disrupting their standard-tuned go-to guitar. This flexibility and preparation support their ability to both practice and hop between lots of bands and musical configurations.
For semi-pro players, owning a small arsenal of 3-7 guitars facilitates their job while keeping costs reasonable and maintenance in check better than having just one instrument – or a vast, unmanageable collection.
Professional & Full-Time Musicians Own the Most Guitars
It will likely come as no surprise that the upper echelon of expert musicians owns the most guitars on average. Playing at the professional level – whether in a hugely successful touring band, as an esteemed studio musician, or as an instructor at a prestigious music school – demands next-level commitment.
When it comes to full-time pro musicians, the average guitar count approaches a staggering 9-10 instruments – vastly higher than the amateur or semi-professional bracket.
What’s more, the collections of celebrity virtuosos, esteemed composers, and famous band leaders often soar into the hundreds. While difficult to track an exact statistic given these musicians’ elite status, legends like Steve Vai, Buckethead, Eric Clapton, or Carlos Santana likely own 200-400 guitars each as they accumulate vast touring and custom-built collections over decades of iconic work.
Clearly, when guitar playing reaches the pinnacle level of focus in one’s life, the instrument count multiplies accordingly – both for practical stage and studio needs, as well as the side effect years of successful musicianship have on one’s collecting habits.
Special Cases: Signature Instruments
One interesting outlier is legendary musicians known for playing just one specific instrument model, sometimes called a “signature” guitar customized to their style. Famous examples include:
- Jimi Hendrix and his white 1968 Fender Stratocaster
- Stevie Ray Vaughn’s “Number One” Strat with unique wear spots that define his electrifying sound
- Slash of Guns N’ Roses and his Gibson Les Paul Standards equipped with Seymour Duncan pickups
- Eddie Van Halen’s striped red, white and black Frankenstein model
While these artists certainly own other quality instruments, they are defined by the one-of-a-kind guitar bearing their sound and literally shaped by their hands over decades of play. These icons prove that the magic is in the musician’s touch more than the raw number of instruments owned.
Acoustic vs. Electric Guitar Ownership Trends
Looking closer at the data on instrument types accumulated shows a few key purchase trends:
- Most amateur players favor affordable acoustic guitars, especially as beginners
- Semi-pro gigging musicians tend to own a mix of both acoustic and electric
- Professionals own more expensive, high-end electric guitars – especially those playing rock, blues, and metal genres
There are practical reasons behind these tendencies:
Acoustic Guitars: Affordable and Portable
Starting out guitarists often begin practicing on approachable and portable acoustic instruments. Without needing amplifiers and cables, acoustic guitars have lower barriers to entry – ideal while still deciding if this hobby is worth investing greater sums into.
Once amateur players want to round out their options for more playability variety, they may purchase an electric guitar later on. But acoustics remain staples due to their grab-and-go flexibility paired with low maintenance costs. For weekend hobby players not needing tons of specialty tones, acoustics check the right boxes.
Electric Guitars: More Tone Variety
Meanwhile, semi-professional and pro guitarists gravitate toward electric instruments which provide more diverse, customized sounds. Electric guitars produce almost endless tone options between guitar model types, the pickups and hardware equipped, pedalboard effects chains, and ideal pairing with high-wattage guitar amps.
Customizing electric guitar rigs allows working musicians to nail the exact tone for any style of band they play with, the album they record, or intricate technique they want to develop. The versatility explains the popularity of electrics amongst players who rely on optimal sound quality for performances or studio work.
While any guitarist can appreciate an acoustic’s organic resonance, electric instruments dominate the collections of experts chasing the widest diversity of tones through high-end gear.
The Nationwide Average: 4.2 Guitars
Accounting for all levels hobbyists to experts and weighing acoustic vs. electric ownership, industry surveys over the past decade indicate the average guitarist in America owns approximately 4 guitars.
This national average of around 4 guitars per guitarist encompasses blues-shredding road warriors loading up a tour bus to amateur campfire strummers with one trusty instrument. Factoring in both ends of the skill and commitment spectrum meets around the middle mark – 4 guitars.
While the average American guitarist has approximately 4 instruments, we’ve seen professional musicians own 9 times as many guitars on average. This shows guitar count directly correlates with musicianship level.
Owning 3-5 guitars fits the needs of all but elite professional guitarists focused intensely on recording and performing. Even expert-level players started out with just one instrument learning the basics.
Over time guitarists accumulate instruments allowing them to spread their wings creatively – exploring new music styles and techniques their very first guitar may have limited them from. The takeaway is there’s no right or wrong number of guitars to own, only what facilitates your personal musical growth and passion.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you’re wondering how your guitar collection compares or making plans to expand your tonal options, here are answers to some frequently asked questions:
What is the average number of guitars owned by guitarists?
- On average most guitarists own 4 guitars according to surveys. Broken down further:
- Amateur Guitarists: 1-3 guitars
- Semi-pro Guitarists: 3-7 guitars
- Professional Guitarists: 7+ guitars on average; famous virtuosos often have 200-400+ guitar collections
Why do some guitarists own so many instruments?
Some common reasons guitarists end up owning so many guitars include:
- Having different sounds and tones for playing various musical styles
- Needing backup instruments for gigs in case a string breaks
- Collecting rare vintage instruments over many decades of playing
- Customizing instruments for alternate tunings
- Owning both acoustic and electric guitars
- Building a studio arsenal to record a wide range of demo material
Do most guitarists stick to either acoustic or electric guitars?
While some casual hobby players focus their collecting exclusively on either acoustic OR electrics, most semi-pro or working musicians play both acoustic and electric instruments depending on context:
- Acoustics offer affordability and portability for practice and basic performance needs
- Electrics provide more tonal variety for recording, effects processing, and playing different genres of music live
- Advanced guitarists own quality instruments of both electric and acoustic varieties to cover diverse session work, teaching, band configurations, and solo gigging
Grow Your Collection at Your Own Pace
At the end of the day, there’s no requirement dictating precisely how many guitars you must own – follow your creative passion and let your needs determine when to add more instruments. Stay focused on the joy of expanding your musical horizons over arbitrary accumulation metrics.
Whether you’re an amateur strummer aspiring to gig or a busy sideman musician looking to open your home recording options, give mindful thought about why you want to expand your guitar stable. Set collecting goals tied directly to new sounds inspiring your songwriting instead of peer pressure or competitive accumulation.
Your ability to skillfully express yourself comes through dedication to the craft – no fast-track shortcuts simply by owning prestigious gear exist. But thoughtfully curating the right guitars facilitating your artistry over a lifetime remains hugely rewarding.
Here’s to every guitarist relishing the thrill of the hunt for that next special instrument urging their playing to new heights. Let your passion guide you to find fulfillment through your guitar collection journey. Just don’t let those beauties collect too much dust!