Study suggests metal guitarists practice to “intimidate other males with their technical skills and speed”

The study was conducted with 44 heterosexual male metal guitarists.

A new study suggests male extreme metal guitarists are “motivated” by the need to impress other men.

The American Psychological Association study was referenced by British TV show QI recently, in a tweet which wrote: “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,” though it did not quote the study as a source.

MusicRadar located the 2022 study on psycnet, which looked at two different hypotheses on the function of music, which were thought to be “sexual selection or byproduct of the complexity of the human brain”.

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The study was conducted with 44 heterosexual male metal guitarists, who were asked about their guitar habits, “feelings of competitiveness toward the same sex” and sexual history.

The study also states, “Although there is evidence that playing music increases male attractiveness, the sexual selection explanation may not be mutually exclusive to all types of music.”

The study found that extreme metal as a genre is heavily male-biased, in regards to both the artists involved and fans alike. “Therefore,” the study continued, “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.”

The study then posits a possible explanation for the discrepancy, suggesting that men engage in the genre to “intimidate other males with their technical skills and speed and thus gain social status.”

Displays of technical ability have long been a subject of scrutiny, with Yngwie Malmsteen recently labelling people who call his shredding emotionless as “tone deaf”. Weighing in on the ‘speed vs emotion’ debate, Malmsteen said, “I’m sure there are examples of empty fast notes. Those examples do exist.”

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“But if you listen to the way I play, and you hear a fast slur or a fast run, a fast arpeggio, or whatever I’m playing, if you slowed that down, it would have full harmonic value along with passion and expression. And just listen to my vibrato – that’s all I have to say.”

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