Study Explores Link Between Extreme Metal Guitar Skills and Male-Male Competition

by Madonna

In a recent study published, researchers delved into the connection between extreme metal guitar skills, mating motivation, and intrasexual competition among heterosexual male guitarists. The study, titled “Extreme metal guitar skill: A case of male-male status seeking, mate attraction, or byproduct?” conducted by Tara DeLecce and colleagues Farid Pazhoohi, Anna Szala, and Todd K. Shackelford, sheds light on the motivations behind mastering complex guitar techniques within the realm of extreme metal.

DeLecce, the lead researcher, expressed her interest in evolutionary perspectives on music but found the dynamics within extreme metal music—specifically, the prevalence of virtuoso-level guitar skills—to be at odds with traditional hypotheses related to heterosexual mating. The study aimed to uncover whether there was an adaptive function behind the heavy investment in learning technical guitar skills in this genre.


The researchers conducted an online survey involving 328 participants, narrowing it down to 44 heterosexual male guitarists who were fans of metal music. The study delved into various aspects of their lives, guitar-playing habits, and preferences.


Participants were asked to rate their liking for both a traditional heavy metal song (“Iron Man” by Black Sabbath) and a more technical extreme metal song (“Shards of Scorched Earth” by Rings of Saturn) to gauge their metal style preferences.


The study also introduced a custom survey, the Guitar Practicing Habits Inventory, focusing on aspects of guitar playing, including practice time, balance between chords and single-note exercises, technicality, and perceived speed compared to other guitarists. Additionally, participants were asked about the maximum tempo at which they could play cleanly, providing a measure of their technical proficiency.

The findings indicated a positive connection between the time spent playing guitar and the desire facet of the Sociosexual Orientation Inventory-Revised, suggesting a potential higher motivation towards casual sex. However, this did not necessarily correlate with a higher number of lifetime sexual partners.

Moreover, the study identified a significant link between the speed of guitar playing and the Intrasexual Competition Scale. Guitarists who perceived themselves as playing faster than peers exhibited higher levels of intrasexual competitiveness, finding pleasure in feeling superior in skill compared to other male guitarists.

The overall conclusion suggests that within the extreme metal genre, virtuoso guitar playing may be more about asserting dominance and gaining status among male peers rather than directly contributing to mating success.

DeLecce acknowledged certain limitations, including the small sample size and the focus on hobbyist musicians rather than professional guitarists. She emphasized the need for further research before firm conclusions about motivations behind extreme metal guitar playing can be drawn. Additionally, the study’s exploratory nature calls for more comprehensive investigations in the future.


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