Following on from our popular Happy International Women’s Day blog, we are once again taking a look at some of music’s most influential female musicians, alongside some of today’s most entertaining acts!
In celebration of International Women’s Day 2019, we’re going to discuss some of Professional Music Technology’s favourite female musicians. In fact, you could say they're some of our favourite musicians in general who, coincidentally, just happen to be women.
A Celebration of Women In Music
I’ve decided to list each of these fabulous performers by the instrument they’re usually associated with, but they’ve not been listed in any particular order. You’ll notice that some of these musicians were given a mention on our previous International Women’s Day blog too, but I felt they were too good not to discuss again.
So, Happy International Women’s Day folks, and without further ado, let’s talk about our favourite female musicians! Also, feel free to leave us a comment at the end of the post if you feel like we’ve missed anybody out.
Our Favourite Female Guitarists
Australian guitarist, singer, and songwriter Orianthi Penny Panagaris (aka Orianthi) began making waves on the guitar-playing scene with her debut studio album, Violet Journey, in 2005.
Orianthi subsequently went on to work along side some of the biggest names the music industry’s ever seen, leading to her well-earned reputation as a guitarist and stage performer. Most famously, she was hired by none other than Michael Jackson, with whom she was going to perform with on the ill-fated “This Is It tour” in 2009.
Orianthi’s guitar playing is, simply put, out of this world. Let’s face it: there’s not many guitarists out there who could go toe to toe with Steve Vai with such conviction.
Best known for her work with The Iron Maidens (an all-female Iron Maiden tribute act), Strauss has gone on to play with some true giants in the music industry this past few years – including a tenure with rock legend Alice Cooper.
As well as being Alice Coopers guitarist from 2014 to 2018, Nita performed at several WWE wrestling events – including Wrestlemania 34.
Multi-award-winning American singer-songwriter Annie Clark (better known as St. Vincent) is an incredibly talent multi-instrumentalist, as well as being a record producer, and even film director.
With five incredible studio albums to her name, along with an entirely acoustic rendition of Masseduction released in 2018, titled MassEducation, St. Vincent's guitar skills continue to blow us away with each offering.
Other Notable Female Guitar Players
Unfortunately we don’t have the space to discuss all of our female guitar heroes in detail here. However, we’d like to give a special mention to the following guitarists, for being hugely influential on not only the music industry, but on us here at PMT too:
- Sister Rosetta Tharpe - a true rock and roll pioneer, and often credited as being one of the first rock and roll guitar solo players
- Poison Ivy – guitarist and backing singer for US punk band The Cramps, also sometimes played bass guitar for them
- Lita Ford – lead guitar player for The Runaways, and subsequently a successful solo artist who continues to write and perform to this day
Our Favourite Female Bassists
An American jazz bassist and singer, Esperanza Spalding is widely regarded as one of the best jazz bass-players on the music scene today.
With seven studio albums released to date, along with countless accolades and awards (including a Grammy for Best New Artist in 2011), Esperanza’s jazz-fusion playing style is perfectly complimented by her use of Fretless Fender Jazz bass guitars, as seen in this live video of her performing in 2009.
Canadian born bassist Rhonda Smith began studying music at an early age, taking lessons in baritone horn, keyboards, and guitar, before eventually settling on the Electric Bass as her main instrument.
After gaining experience on the local rock music scene, Rhonda went on to work with a few professional bands, before eventually going on to work with none other than Prince - whose band she was a member of for the following 10 years.
Rhonda’s musical style is fairly fluid, but she’s best known for her work in the contemporary jazz, funk, and soul genres, which she often fuses together in her own work, as heard on the wonderful Calling to Say Goodbye, from her debut solo album Intellipop.
Melissa Auf Der Maur
Also hailing from Canada, we have the truly wonderful musician, singer-songwriter, photographer, and actress Melissa Auf Der Maur.
Known chiefly for her work with two of the biggest alt-rock outfits of the 1990’s - Hole and Smashing Pumpkins – Melissa Auf Der Maur has been working on a number of endeavours this past 15 years, including solo music projects, and collaborations with artists such as Rufus Wainwright.
Melissa was placed at #68 in a 2007 VH1 poll of 100 Greatest Women in Rock and Roll, and personally we think she should have been much higher.
Here’s a video of Melissa Auf Der Maur rocking out with a Fender Precision Bass on the song Real A Lie from her debut solo album Auf Der Maur.
Other Notable Female Bassists
There are so many female bass players that have been important to the evolution of music over the years that I’d soon run out of space discussing them all. However, I felt that, in addition to those mentioned above, special shout outs should be given to the following for their awesome contribution to the music industry:
- Carole Kaye - one of the most prolific recorded bass players in history, with an estimated 10,000(!!!) recordings made over a five-decade career. These include records from the Motown, Gold Star, and Capital record labels
- Michael Steele (aka Susan Nancy Thomas, aka Micki Steele) – one of the founding members of The Runaways, was also a member of The Bangles and a solo artist
- Suzi Quatro – credited as the first female bassist to become a major rock star, and an inductee of the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends Hall of Fame
Our Favourite Female Drummers
Sheila Cecelia Escovedo (aka Shiela E) began her musical career during the mid-1970s with The George Duke Band, before embarking on a successful solo career, and eventually going on to work with Prince during the recording of Purple Rain.
Shiela E parted ways with Prince in 1989 to embark upon another solo career, which was cut short due to ill-health, but she reunited with him in 2008 to perform in a number of live shows.
Commonly referred to as the Queen of Percussion, Sheila E is widely regarded as one of the most talented contemporary drummers of the past four decades – and to think, she achieved all of this whilst wearing high-heels when she performs, as seen in this video
A relative newcomer to the music industry, Taylor Gordon has wasted no time in establishing an incredible reputation. Despite being a newcomer, she's already shared the stage with artists such as Beyoncé, Musiq Soulchild, Robert Glasper, and even Stevie Wonder.
Taylor (aka The Pocket Queen) is proving to be hugely influential upon aspiring musicians, and often shares videos of her drumming to her social media fan-base, helping them develop their love of music.
Here she is jamming along with a James Brown track on her YouTube channel.
American musician and singer Moe Tucker is best known for her work with one of the most influential rock bands of all time: The Velvet Underground.
Her unconventional, minimalist play style (preferring to stand as she played, rather than sit, and rarely using cymbals at all) is why she is often referred to as “where the punk notion of how beat works begins”.
Here is the track Work from Moe’s 1989 solo album Life in Exile
Other Notable Female Drummers
As well as those mentioned above, there’s many other female drummers of note that have had a huge impact on the music industry, some of which I’m going to mention briefly now.
- Karen Carpenter – singer and drummer for pop duo The Carpenters, was often praised by other musicians and critics for her ability to sing whilst playing
- Dame Evelyn Glennie – a percussion virtuoso, who has been profoundly deaf since the age of 12. Evelyn taught herself to hear the percussion with parts of her body other than her ears, and has performed on several albums and film soundtracks since 1990
- Meg White – best known as the other half of rock duo The White Stripes, Meg White’s drumming style is often viewed as “simple, but effective”
Our Favourite Female Vocalists
No list for International Women's Day would be complete without Lady Gaga. The American multi-instrumentalist and performer is currently impressing film critics with her incredible performance in the 2018 movie A Star is Born, but is without a doubt one of the most important female vocalists in recent years.
Renowned as much for her on-stage theatrics as for her songs, it’s often easy to overlook just how talented a singer and musician Gaga is. Let’s face it, you don’t win nine Grammy Awards just for putting on a flashy stage show.
Just to prove how much of a talent she is without the big stage shows, here is Gaga solo-performing her hit song Paparazzi, stripped back to just piano and vocals.
Not a lot is known about this incredible UK-based rock 3-piece – in fact, most of their promotional posters ask the question “Who are THE MYSTERINES?”. One thing is certain though: you’ll certainly know them after you’ve seen them.
The Mysterines are relative newcomers to the UK music scene, but are already making a name for themselves, impressing critics up and down the country with their 90’s-inspired alt-rock sound. Fronting the group is Lia Metcalfe - easily one of the coolest vocalists and talented songwriters in the UK right now.
We might not know much about them, but we know that the future is certainly looking bright for The Mysterines.
As one half of husband-wife pop duo Tennis, Alaina Moore’s silky-smooth vocal style has been making waves on the US music scene since 2010.
To date, the pop duo has released four studio albums, the latest of which (Yours Conditionally) debuted at number 3 on Billboard’s Alternative Albums chart, and number 2 on the Vinyl Albums chart.
Singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers, a relative newcomer to the international music scene, released her debut single on Ryan Adams’ record label PAX AM in 2016. She then released her first solo album, Stranger In The Alps, the following year under the Dead Oceans label.
During 2018, Bridgers went on to work alongside Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus as the supergroup boygenius, and recently released an album titled Better Oblivion Community Center with Conor Oberst.
Other Notable Female Vocalists
As with the other instruments, there's no space to list all of our favourite female singers here. However, here is a list of notable names that we felt also deserved a mention:
- Aretha Franklin – The Queen of Soul, and renowned for having one of the most powerful voices in music, as well as having recorded a huge 112 Billboard charted singles, 77 of which entered the Top 100, 17 of which were Top 10’s
- Marina – formerly known as Marina and the Diamonds, an incredible singer-songwriter from Wales, who recently released her fourth studio album (titled Love + Fear)
- Ellie Roswell – singer and guitarist for 4-piece rock band Wolf Alice, with 2 studio albums, 3 EP’s, and 16 singles released to date
Be sure to leave a comment below, letting us know what you think of our choices, and especially telling us who you feel we missed out that should be up there!