Gendered Instruments?

March 29th, 2014
contra, gender, music
Are some contra dance instruments gendered, played more by one than the other? What are the patterns? I looked over six months of the schedule for the Thursday Night Dance at the Scout House and counted:

Instrument Female Musicians Male Musicians % Female
Fiddle 13 16 45%
Guitar 2 13 13%
Piano 6 3 67%
Bass 0 8 0%
Flute 1 4 20%
Accordion 2 2 50%
Mandolin 0 4 0%
Drums 0 2 0%
Clarinet 1 0 100%
Total 24 52 32%

I also counted up dance weekends, weighting by number of gigs:

Instrument Female Musicians Male Musicians % Female
Fiddle 35 100 26%
Guitar 6 88 6%
Piano 40 33 55%
Drums 3 28 10%
Bass 0 31 0%
Flute 11 18 38%
Mandolin 3 24 11%
Clarinet 8 6 57%
Accordion 2 11 15%
Cello 0 4 0%
Trombone 0 14 0%
Trumpet 0 8 0%
Banjo 7 3 70%
Hammered Dulcimer 0 2 0%
Total 115 370 24%

(Many musicians play multiple instruments. I counted each musician exactly once per gig, towards their primary instrument.)

While the musicians for Thursday night dances are one third female, dance weekends are only a quarter. Most dance piano players are female, and women are overrepresented among fiddlers, while on nearly all of the other instruments men were overrepresented.

(While the Free Raisins buck the trend somewhat by being majority female, our instrumentation is apparently pretty gender-typical.)

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