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Thread: Gender and age distribution of mando players

  1. #1
    We're all mad here elbent's Avatar
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    Default Gender and age distribution of mando players

    Iíve noticed from my short time around the cafe and a few Facebook groups that the majority of players seems to be male. The author of the mandolin guide frequently requested here says that 95% of the requesters are male, and 80-90% are over 40. I have two questions:

    - Does this gender and age distribution sound accurate?
    - If this is accurate, why is this the case? Why so few women? Why so few young people?

    Iím not looking to start any drama, Iím just curious. Iím female and 26, so Iím wondering why more people like me donít seem to be part of this community. To be fair, the only reason Iím playing is a mando happened to land in my lap, but I didnít realize there were so few younger women in the mando scene. Thanks all!

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  3. #2
    Registered User Jake Biddix's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gender and age distribution of mando players

    Are you aware of Sierra Hull and Sarah Jarosz? 2 top level mandolin players roughly your age. They're out there, for sure.
    Jake B.
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  4. #3
    We're all mad here elbent's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gender and age distribution of mando players

    Quote Originally Posted by Jake Biddix View Post
    Are you aware of Sierra Hull and Sarah Jarosz? 2 top level mandolin players roughly your age. They're out there, for sure.
    Yes, and I love them. Iím not saying they arenít out there. Iím just wondering why they seem to be the minority.

  5. #4

    Default Re: Gender and age distribution of mando players

    Hi Elbent! As another perspective, in my mandolin setup and repair business, I see about 50/50 men and women bringing instruments for me to adjust or fix. Maybe 30% under 40 years old, the majority 40 or older, but no real correlation to gender in regards to age. I think that has more to do with disposable income than anything else.
    I think Rob's setup book has more to do with the male propensity to think we can fix things ourselves (whether or not it's true), rather than an indication of the mandolin-playing community. I think you may be seeing something similar on this site.. which to be fair, is fueled in large part by "aquisition syndrome" and the desire to wax poetic about various mandolin stats (you could call it mansplaining).

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    Default Re: Gender and age distribution of mando players

    Although you are correct about the gender mismatch numbers I will tell you this. There are more women on the cafe than you might realize. Many pick non gender defining names and don't bother to make their genders known.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    F5G & MD305 Astro's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gender and age distribution of mando players

    Its probably just the bad jokes and dull company that keeps them away.
    Seriously there are a number of world class female mandolinists and yes Sierra Hull and Sarah Jarosz are two of my favorites also. But I get the impression most forums are an older demographic. Younger folks tend toward faster paced formats (big generalization I know and not being judgmental at all). Its the same with The Gear Page, The Martin forum, Fender (although a little younger there) and they are likewise male dominated. And it seems most stringed instruments outside of the symphony are more popular with males. Violin might be the exception. I dont think there is a good reason other than social trends of norms. But female bands are more and more common these days as are female instrumentalists in mixed bands and Ive noticed a big uptick in female guitar players in the past few years too. And historically, mandolins were very popular parlor instruments for females so you have good precedent. Happy to see you here !
    No matter where I go, there I am...Unless I'm running a little late.

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    Default Re: Gender and age distribution of mando players

    I think there are a fair amount of female mando players out there, but the discussion of why we don't see more professional female mandolin players is a whole different discussion. To be clear, I think the mandolin community itself is very welcoming and kind, but the music industry as a whole has a history of being pretty tough on women. I imagine it doesn't take too many lewd comments from drunken audience members before you start to question whether performing is really worth it. It's a sad reality, but I do think it's changing for the better. The future looks bright!

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  13. #8

    Default Re: Gender and age distribution of mando players

    Among people I know personally it seems like there are about as many female mandolinists as male. There are quite a few a at the highest level as well, Sharon Gilchrist, Eva Holbrook, Marilyn Mair along with the two mentioned among others. Sierra Hull just amazes me. She may be the next Grismann or Thile. I think the smaller neck appeals to women because they usually have smaller hands. On the other extreme it seems like there is a disproportionate number of female string bass players. Not quite as much much professionally but at smaller bluegrass festivals and jams. Though Bryn Davies and Missy Raines set an awfully high standard.

    There do not seem to be proportionately as many women guitarists as men especially at the highest levels. I am not sure why that is.

    And not a lot of female banjo players except clawhammer. That may reflect well on their judgment

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    Oval holes are cool David Lewis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gender and age distribution of mando players

    Iíd look at it (and I donít agree with this) as the same two pieces of advice.

    John B says Ďcut the nut .0092 mm for better actioní

    Response - thanks man


    Jane b says Ďcut the nut 00.82 mm for better actioní

    Response - Iím not sure this can be trusted.

    (Figure made up - I canít be trusted)

    For me I read lots here and thereís very little bad advice. I donít care if the advisor is male or female. (Which I know is problematic in itself) but good advice is good advice.

    Mine is not a unanimous opinion though.
    Last edited by David Lewis; May-24-2020 at 12:14am. Reason: Typo

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    Default Re: Gender and age distribution of mando players

    I was much younger 50 years ago. Always been fatt-dad; however.

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  17. #11
    '`'`'`'`'`'`'`'`'`'`' Jacob's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gender and age distribution of mando players

    Those of us who are Cafe members are being asked why others aren't?
    How would we know?
    That question can only be answered by people that aren't members.

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    Default Re: Gender and age distribution of mando players

    Some truth, but plenty myth in my opinion. To really get a feel for any resource you'd have to identify everyone not using a name by their gender identity. Even that wouldn't identify a gender neutral name like Lee, Sam, Shannon, so many others. I know of a number of "cloaked" members that have told me they wish to keep gender out of it. Then you'd have to observe and calculate all the social posts within this Forum, their own separate area--the most active group led by a woman. Then you'd need to count those that drop in to ask about the old mandolin they found in grandma's basement, get their answer and move on. Wherever discussions occur online, it's a revolving door.

    I'd rather see this kind of claim backed by data, but I don't personally care enough to do that work. Who among us thinks someone that says, "90-95% of yadda, yadda," used any kind of hard data to come to a conclusion? We see this all the time. Someone notices 3-4 (brand_name) mandolins for sale somewhere and says, "I've noticed everyone is dumping (brand_name) mandolins! Are there serious defects, what's the real story!?" So much of this it's become a game many of us call out: example.

    25 years ago I would have found it difficult to come up with more than a handful of female mandolinists I'd consider for a feature interview. Now, there are too many to count, and I doubt we'll ever get them all, and a new subject with a remarkable following unlike others set to publish next Tuesday. The just retired president of California Bluegrass Association told me recently 4 or 5 mandolin players signing up with them are female. Say what? That was data, not an off the cuff remark. Lots of women led or are leading the way but I really think Sierra Hull is creating a tidal wave among young women. It's not just her, many others contribute, but she's kind of the alpha rock star with unlimited chops, appeal and ideas that young women are identifying with.

    I do think the majority of conversation here is male dominated, but what's the definition of that? 51% or 95% and how does that opinion get calculated? Who among us disagrees that there hasn't been a huge increase in the number of female mandolin players in the past 25 years? I think it's not even in question, and I couldn't be happier about it. The music is far better off with the diversity.

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    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gender and age distribution of mando players

    As for the age spectrum, I suspect there is a filter at work here. After all, this is not electric guitars.

    Assuming you start playing at an age when the mandolin slowly looms out of the mists of teenage mainstream music employing other instruments, you'll be, say, 35. After that, it takes another 10 years to get acquainted with the instrument well enough for even daring to talk to others about it, let alone joining a forum. It takes courage to be told all you've been doing wrong so far, but by the age of 50 your level of caring about prestige has dropped low enough to make you give in. You know it's now or never.
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    Default Re: Gender and age distribution of mando players

    From experience of many sessions around the world, I'd say women are more prevalent in fiddling, fluting and whistling and there are fewer female mandolinists, guitarists, pipers and accordionists. But not that much fewer.
    Bren

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    Default Re: Gender and age distribution of mando players

    Quote Originally Posted by Bertram Henze View Post
    As for the age spectrum, I suspect there is a filter at work here. After all, this is not electric guitars.

    Assuming you start playing at an age when the mandolin slowly looms out of the mists of teenage mainstream music employing other instruments, you'll be, say, 35. After that, it takes another 10 years to get acquainted with the instrument well enough for even daring to talk to others about it, let alone joining a forum. It takes courage to be told all you've been doing wrong so far, but by the age of 50 your level of caring about prestige has dropped low enough to make you give in. You know it's now or never.
    That is when life begins.
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    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gender and age distribution of mando players

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandolin Cafe View Post
    I'd rather see this kind of claim backed by data, but I don't personally care enough to do that work. Who among us thinks someone that says, "90-95% of yadda, yadda," used any kind of hard data to come to a conclusion? We see this all the time. Someone notices 3-4 (brand_name) mandolins for sale somewhere and says, "I've noticed everyone is dumping (brand_name) mandolins! Are there serious defects, what's the real story!?" So much of this it's become a game many of us call out: example.
    97% of statistics are made up on the spot.
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Default Re: Gender and age distribution of mando players

    I think it would be interesting to look at the mandolin world in Europe and ask this question. Take a look at this video of the Dutch Mandolin Orchestra and view the number of men and women. Also, in Europe there are many, many unbelievable female classical mandolinists such as Caterina Lichtenburg. Japan is also “mandolin crazy” - it would be interesting to know the gender/age distribution of these countries. We might be surprised, but I don’t know that for sure.

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=TH248D-lpCY

    Also, Marty Jacobson mentioned “mansplanning”. I think he is very on point.

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    Default Re: Gender and age distribution of mando players

    "Baseball is 90% mental. The other half is physical." Yogi Berra

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    Default Re: Gender and age distribution of mando players

    Data from the past 30 days of our Google Analytics: they don't even list visitors under 18, and I know we have those numbers here, 42.16% of our visitors are age 45 or younger. Might make 45% with under 18. Hardly makes a crowd of geezers which I know some think this it is.

    More telling: the older the age group the more time they spend here. The younger, the less time. Do people have more time on their hands as they're much older? Depends, but that'd be my take.

    According to same stats, 21+% of the Cafe's visitors are female. This is the entire site and you have to remember there is a lot more to it than just the Forum which doesn't get anywhere near the traffic of the Classifieds.

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    Default Re: Gender and age distribution of mando players

    In general, your statistics reflect my jamming experience. Although, there is probably a higher percentage of women.

    There are also a fair number of women who are taking up the mandolin after their kids are out of the house who don’t know, or care, that the Cafe exists.

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    Default Re: Gender and age distribution of mando players

    Anecdotal and also specific to playing irish trad music on the mandolin, but I've attended two of Marla Fibish's Winter Intensive workshops and the attendees were a pretty even split between male and female. Also have taken Marla's group intermediate-advanced mandolin classes in the past and they were all female, barring one male attendee if I recall correctly.
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  36. #22

    Default Re: Gender and age distribution of mando players

    I have the impression the forum skews older and male, but there are also plenty of posters who don’t make their age/gender known. I think MikeEdgerton makes a good point about posters choosing non-defining names. I’m a good example of this. I’m female and in my 20s, but you wouldn’t guess that by my screen name. Dein is short for deinonychus, my favorite dinosaur. I never use my name on Internet forums. I don’t know any mandolinists in real life, but agree there seems to be a good number of female professional players.

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  38. #23
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    Default Re: Gender and age distribution of mando players

    Quote Originally Posted by Ranald View Post
    97% of statistics are made up on the spot.
    This article says you're a bit harsh; it's more like 73.6%

    On the topic at hand: I've taught a couple mandolin classes over the last two years, and students were equally divided male/female. Age was 40's-60's.

    Our little mandolin ensemble in Rochester is about 25% female.
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  40. #24
    Registered User Louise NM's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gender and age distribution of mando players

    Hi, elbent. You are asking interesting questions.

    With age, younger people are in the years when establishing a career and a family necessarily take precedence, and time and money for hobbies like music are harder to come by and justify. I really admire the Cafť members who sneak in a few minutes of practice time after working all day then getting multiple kids fed, bathed, and to bed. The other factor with age is that people who are now in their 50s, 60, and up are much more likely than the younger people to have been involved in school music programs. Growing up with the idea that music is something you can do yourself is huge. Even if it was just a few years struggling with a trombone in elementary and middle school, the seed is planted.

    Gender, that's an interesting one. My guess is that mandolin is often associated with bluegrass, a genre that is heavily male-dominated. I agree with Carl M, above in post #8, that there are a surprising number of women playing bass in bluegrass and old-time bands. I went to a music festival last summer and almost every band had a female bassist. Small sample, of course, but it was noticeable. I would argue that bluegrass in general is traditionally a guy thing, although that may be changing.

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  42. #25
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    Default Re: Gender and age distribution of mando players

    I'm under 18 and Male. I know that most people my age have no clue what bluegrass, mandolins, or forums are, and the ones that do usually are too busy with school to be active on one. If you check Instagram you'll find a lot more young mandolinists (and female mandolinists too)
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