Arts & Entertainment

Girls rock on with female guitars

Van Nuys-based Daisy Rock Girl Guitars makes guitars specifically for females. It was a popular booth at the recent NAMM Show in Anaheim.
Van Nuys-based Daisy Rock Girl Guitars makes guitars specifically for females. It was a popular booth at the recent NAMM Show in Anaheim.
Susan Valot/KPCC

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Tucked among rows and rows of guitars, drums and even accordions, a pink booth filled with girl guitars stood out at the recent NAMM Show in Anaheim, the annual trade show for music merchants.

Inside the booth, a little girl sits on a fuchsia rug and strums a bubble gum pink guitar. She’s surrounded by guitars that would be the envy of Barbie.

It's not just bubble gum pink, but sparkly grape, too, along with guitars shaped like red-hot hearts and rocking purple stars. They make the walls look like a candy shop.

This is the booth for Daisy Rock Girl Guitars. Tish Ciravolo’s girl guitar company struck its first chord in the music world 11 years ago.

"If we could get more girls to play guitar and if more girls wanted to learn how to play guitar, we could totally rule the world that way," she says. "It would completely change the way it’s been handled in the past 40 years."

That “handling” is why Ciravolo came up with the idea of designing a guitar specifically for women. She says she wanted things to be different than when she was an LA musician in the 1980s.

"Every time I would go to a music store or to a gig as a female musician, I was never treated as an equal. I always got hit with a lot of discrimination," Ciravolo says. "I’d go to buy my strings for my bass and it was always like, 'Well, who’s your boyfriend in the band?' You know, it was never like you were a player. And I wanted to have my kids, my daughters, have a different experience as musicians. I really wanted them to be able to go into a music store and feel like it was a community, like they were a part of it and not some groupie, which is kind of how I had been treated."

Ciravolo used a picture of a daisy that her daughter drew to design her first girl guitar. She added a neck and everything else a guitar needs. Then Ciravolo took it a step further.

"You know, I’d been a musician and I played bass and I had a hard time with a couple of the first basses that I had because they were heavy. I couldn’t put my finger around the neck. I couldn’t hold it, you know. It was really just cumbersome feeling and really hard to deal with," Ciravolo explains. "So we’re like, OK, so if we’re going to design something called a 'girl guitar,' which had never been done before, let’s make it a girl guitar. Let’s try to answer some of those needs that females have when they’re holding this piece of wood that we call guitars."

At the Daisy Rock booth, Diane Daybrow, a photographer from Orange and beginning guitarist, checks out one of the models.

"Look, it matches my shoes," she says with a quiet laugh as she grabs a pink guitar and points to her pink high heels.

Daybrow takes a few strums on the guitar.

"A thinner neck for me is easier, as a beginner, than you know someone who is experienced, who is really good at it, they can adapt to any neck," she says.

Jillian Riscoe is a little more experienced with guitar. Daisy Rock became the young pop singer’s sponsor about a year ago.

That’s when Riscoe switched from an antique guitar she’d found in a Kansas second-hand shop to a Daisy Rock guitar.

"The guitars are so lightweight and they have the thinner neck, you know, for smaller hands and it’s made just for girls, plus the fact that they’re colorful and, like, some of them have glitter, like both of mine. That really helps make them fun to play," she says as she laughs.

Youth appeal is why this style of guitar is so well known among the 6th- to 9th-grade set.

Kelly Hamman sees that every day. She’s a buyer for Meeker Music, a music store that largely caters to kids – and their parents – in Colorado Springs.

She hit the Daisy Rock booth during NAMM because she’s been pushing for Meeker Music to carry the girl guitars. She says the interest is there.

"I’ve seen an increase," Hamman says. "I think there’s always been a little bit, but I’ve seen it definitely increase since you have like Taylor Swift and people like that coming out and the girls want to come out and do that a lot more."

That, combined with guitars designed specifically for women, is what Daisy Rock founder Tish Ciravolo hopes will push women forward in the music world.

"I don’t think that the cultural shift has completely changed. You know, we’re still fighting with getting parents to see their kids that want to play guitar – their girls – like that’s a normal thing," Ciravolo says. "So I want them to look at it like, 'Oh, she wants to play guitar. She wants to play flute. She wants to play clarinet.' Instead of always having this, 'Oh, she should be playing the violin' or 'She should be playing piano.' There’s nothing wrong with those. I just want guitars to be looked at as a normal thing for a girl to do, not as an abnormal thing."

It’s a cultural shift that Ciravolo hopes she’ll see in her lifetime.

"And I hope every girl out there becomes a rock star and rules the world," she says, laughing.

That’s a tune the Daisy Rock founder wouldn’t mind hearing over and over again.