Male extreme metal guitarists: are you only playing guitar to impress other men?

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Metal often seems to be a hotbed for odd claims. The latest being a new study that casts strange aspersions over male extreme metal guitarists and their motivations to play. Put simply, the study finds they're only doing it to impress other men… does it have a point?

The American Psychological Association (APA) study gained wider attention after it was referenced by the twitter account of the popular British TV show QI on October 2, echoing its findings. 

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'It could be that men engage in this genre mainly for status-seeking purposes: to intimidate other males with their technical skills and speed and thus gain social status'

"Research shows that heterosexual men who learn to play extreme metal guitar are mostly motivated to do so in order to impress other heterosexual men," read the QI tweet. So what about the study this claim is based on?

Undertaken in 2022, the study posted on psycnet looked at 'two main competing hypotheses for the function of music: sexual selection or byproduct of the complexity of the human brain. Although there is evidence that playing music increases male attractiveness, the sexual selection explanation may not be mutually exclusive to all types of music'.

And this is where the study justified honing in a particular genre of metal; 'Extreme metal is a genre that is heavily male-biased, not only among the individuals that play this style of music, but also among the fans of the genre,' it explained. 'Therefore, it is unlikely that extreme metal musicians are primarily trying to increase their mating success through their music. However, musicians in this genre heavily invest their time in building technical skills (e.g., dexterity, coordination, timing), which raises the question of the purpose behind this costly investment.'


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And then we come to the crux, as it were: 'It could be that men engage in this genre mainly for status-seeking purposes: to intimidate other males with their technical skills and speed and thus gain social status.'

The study surveyed 44 heterosexual male metal guitarists about their guitar practicing habits, sexual behaviour and 'feelings of competitiveness toward the same sex.'

So aside from loving this style of music, dedicating yourself to the achievement of learning its complexities or even trying to impress members of the opposite sex with your prowess, this study highlights another motivation for extreme metal guitarists out there; they're doing it to impress their male peers. 

We're expecting all you extreme metal guitarists out there to gasp incredulously or laugh at this revelation. 

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Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar. I've currently set aside any pipe dreams of getting anywhere with my own songs and I am enjoying playing covers in function bands.