I recently came across this recent post on igblog reporting that there are an estimated 30 million guitarists in the USA, roughly 10% of the population.

I was working on some articles about guitar and the environment - they'll be appearing here later - and I got to wondering how much energy all those guitarists consume. So, I took out an old scrap of paper and made some back of the envelope calculations on it. Here are the results.

Firstly, I decided to assume that half of these guitarists are playing electric guitar; this is the USA, the home of rock 'n' roll and stratocasters, after all. That makes for 15 million electric guitarists.

My next guess is that on any given day a third of these guitarists are playing or practicing. Let's say they play for an hour on average. These assumptions give us 5 million hours of electric guitar playing per day.

To calculate the electricity consumed, let's say these guitarists are using a 30W amplifier. Interestingly, I found few manufacturers publish their amps input power on web sites. I did find figures for some amplifiers at Musicians Friend:

- Fender Blues Deluxe Reissue 40W tube - 180W max consumption.
- Line 6 Spider III 15W solid state - 75W max consumption.
- Roland Cube 30X 30W solid state - 34W max consumption.

I chose to use a maximum power consumption of 60W for an average amplifier. This could be a little low given the figures above, but let's go with it for this estimate. I further assume that the amp is played at 30% of its maximum volume, and that its power consumption is linear. This gives an instantaneous consumption of 60W x 30% = 18W.

With a little bit of electrical maths the energy used works out at 0.018 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per guitarist each day. Multiply this by our 5 million guitarists and we get the total electricity used of 90000 kWh per day.

For comparison the average US household used 29.2 kWh per day in 2001 (Dept. of Energy via Michael Bluejay). This estimate for guitarists is the equivalent of just over 3000 households.

This is only a very rough estimate. I had to make a number of guesses that could be wrong. Of course, this is pretty minor compared to bigger energy consumers like heating, air-conditioning and transport. But I think it shows that we can all think about our daily habits and ask ourselves what their impact on the environment might be.

What do you think of the guesses used to make this energy estimate? What kind of amplifier do you use? Do you know how much power it consumes? Leave your answers in the comments.

Meanwhile, I'm off to practice my acoustic guitar... ;-)

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