Answer: It depends.
The majority of parts belonging to modern guitars are made with vegan-friendly materials, but several parts are still made with animal byproducts.
Ah, music. Who doesn’t need it? When I first bought my guitar, I thoroughly check with the manufacturer about how it was made, and from which material it was derived. Of course, I needed to make sure it was vegan-friendly.
For the most part, modern guitars are crafted with non-animal-sourced materials. However, some parts are made with animal-sourced materials, including bone, beeswax, abalone, and more. So, not all guitars are vegan-friendly, especially since it depends on the manufacturer.
If you’re a vegan and you play the guitar, I understand how important it is to own one that’s crafted with ethical materials. In this article, we will also help you find vegan-friendly guitars!
What Is A Guitar?
A guitar belongs to string instruments, along with ukulele, mandolin, banjo, harp, violin, cello, and more. It usually has six strings.
There are two types of guitars:
- Acoustic Guitar
- Renaissance and Baroque
- Resonator, Resophonic or Dobros
- Steel guitar
- Acoustic Bass
- Electric Guitar
- Seven-string and eight-string
- Electric bass
A modern guitar is usually crafted to cater to both right and left-handed players. It has three types:
- Classical Guitar. This is the Spanish guitar or the nylon-string guitar.
- Steel-String Acoustic Guitar. It’s the electric guitar commonly used by musicians during concerts.
- Hawaiian Guitar. The Hawaiian guitar is played across your lap.
The traditional acoustic guitar includes the following types:
- Flat Top Guitar. This is usually with a huge soundhole.
- Archtop Guitar. It’s mostly used by jazz guitar players. It’s also called jazz guitar.
A guitar is widely used in most musical genres may it be reggae, blues, rock, bluegrass, flamenco, country, jazz, folk, mariachi, jota, metal, punk, pop, and soul.
What Can Make A Guitar Non-Vegan?
Back in the day, the first guitars were made with wood, and the strings were crafted using catgut, which is derived from a natural fiber that’s found in the walls of animal intestines. These are usually from goats or sheep, and sometimes from horses, hogs, cattle, donkeys, or mules.
Cat intestines though aren’t used by manufacturers as opposed to its name catgut. The term may have derived from cattle, which is shortened to catgut.
Some parts of guitar such as strings, nuts, inlays, and pickups are usually made from animal-sourced materials. These are beeswax, abalone, bone, shellac, and ivory, which are all derived from animals. Unfortunately, these types of guitars aren’t ethical and we consider them non-vegan.
If you’re buying a guitar, you should look out for these animal-sourced materials. It’s important to ask the manufacturer first before purchasing one.
- Abalone, Nacre. Inlays and side-markers, binding, rosette, as well as electric guitar knobs or pots are usually made with these types of shells, which are sourced from sea snails. They are farmed and killed to collect their meat and shells.
- Bone, Ivory. The guitar nut sits in between the fretboard and the headstock, which is usually black or white. The bone nut is commonly made with the leg bone of a cow, while the ivory nut is made with elephant tusks. The same goes with the guitar saddle, which is either made from genuine bone or ivory.
- Catgut or Gut Strings. Although it’s very rare to see modern guitars made with catgut strings, there are still a few manufacturers who use catgut. As mentioned earlier in this article, gut strings are made from animal intestines.
- Glues. The traditional guitars are crafted using animal hide glues, which are sourced from the animals’ connective tissue, usually from horses. It’s already rare these days unless you’re buying vintage guitars or those high-end guitars.
- Shellac. Before the nitro lacquer was invented, the traditional guitars are finished with shellac, which is sourced from female lac bugs. It’s estimated that around 300,000 insects are collected to have at least one kilo of shellac. This kills many of their eggs.
- Beeswax. Wax potting the guitar pickups is common to prevent feedback and vibrating during live music. The process will have to have the pickup dipped in beeswax.
- Horn, Bone, Shell, Leather. Although most picks are made with synthetic materials, some are crafted using shells, bones, horns, and leather too. The tortoiseshell was also common in the past although it’s becoming very rare these days.
- Leather or Animal Skin. Guitar straps made from animal skin are common, but there are many alternatives to this.
Vegan-Friendly Guitar Materials
Since most traditional guitars are usually non-vegan, this is rare these days, especially when it comes to modern guitars. Although you still need to ask the manufacturer if you’re buying one, most modern guitars are crafted with vegan-friendly materials in replacement for animal-sourced ones.
Check these vegan-friendly materials that are commonly used in modern guitars.
- Clay, Wood, Gemstones. Inlays and Side-markers are also crafted using any of these materials. For cheaper modern guitars, simple plastics are also used. Synthetic abalone or MOP (Mother Of Pearl) are commonly used as a vegan-friendly alternative. They’re called Pearloid.
- Synthetic Shell, Metal, Plastics. The modern guitar knobs or pots are crafted using synthetic materials that are vegan-friendly. Binding is usually made from plastics or wood, like a man-made imitation to make it vegan-friendly. The same goes with modern guitar rosettes, as well as picks that are made with synthetic tortoiseshell.
- Brass, Graphite, Ebony. Guitar nuts and saddles are crafted using these synthetic materials that are vegan-friendly such as Tusq, a man-made ivory-style alternative to real elephant tusks.
- Steel, Nylon. These synthetic gut strings are now commonly used in crafting modern guitars.
- Polyvinyl Acetate (PVA). Instead of using animal hide glues, most manufacturers today use synthetic glues like PVA.
- Polyurethane, Polyester, Nitrocellulose Lacquer. Manufacturers of modern guitars now use these vegan-friendly finishes instead of shellac, which is sourced from female lac bugs.
- Paraffin Wax, Epoxy. Most pickups these days are potted using paraffin wax or epoxy. Some aren’t even potted. So, you can look for these types of guitars that don’t use beeswax to pot the pickups.
Vegan-Friendly Guitar Brands
Although most modern guitars are vegan-friendly, except for some of their parts, it still makes a big deal to buy one that’s vegan-certified or those that are confirmed vegan by manufacturers. The list below can be your ultimate guide to a vegan-friendly music journey if you’re searching for guitars.
I found these few vegan brands below. Some of these brands aren’t fully-vegan manufacturers, but you can have them customize your guitar according to your needs.
- Bedell Guitars
- Ruokangas Guitars
- Caparison Guitars
- Aclam Guitars
- Annihilator Guitars
- Moondot Music
If you also need vegan-friendly straps, these brands are great to pair with your vegan guitar.
- Art Tribute Vintage Guitar Strap. You can buy this on Amazon.
- None More White Guitar Strap.
- Black Recycled Seat Belt Guitar Strap
- Hippie Weave Guitar Strap
- Vintage Cadillac Sunburst Guitar Strap
- Psychedelic 60’s 70’s Jacquard Guitar Strap
- Pink Vintage Candy Guitar Strap
- Irish Celtic Hemp Guitar Strap
- Non-Leather Guitar Straps by Cowless by Onori
- Dinatone Vegan Guitar Straps
The Impact Of Non-Vegan Guitars
Being vegan has a huge scope to deal with, not just with food but also with other stuff, including the things you use, such as your musical instruments. Although modern guitars are commonly made with synthetic materials, there is still a percentage of these guitars that are crafted with animal-sourced materials.
The gut strings, for instance, are traditionally sourced from animal intestines. According to PETA, the natural gut string is crafted from “serosa,” the outermost layer of a cow’s intestine. Obviously, this is an animal byproduct, which is not suitable for vegans.
May it be for ethical reasons or health reasons, vegans avoid using these types of guitars. Would you pluck or strum a string of a guitar that’s made with an animal intestine? That sounds disappointing, right?
Additionally, some shells are also used to make guitar picks and pickguards. Tortoiseshell is derived from hawksbill sea turtle, which is often made as a decorative, souvenirs, and more. This led to its species’ huge decline, which alarmed many environmentalists.
Fortunately, there have been different laws that protect these endangered species, especially in the United States. This is why many guitar manufacturers have opted for producing synthetic materials that are vegan-friendly instead of using animal byproducts that cause a severe decline in their species.
The Bottom Line
There are many guitars that are either accidentally made vegan or are crafted ethically by manufacturers. But these days, modern guitars are ethically sourced, which means they are animal and vegan-friendly.
If you find it difficult to get a vegan guitar, try to buy second-hand guitars to help tone down your carbon footprint. This means that there will be less procedure to make the guitars, keeping animal slaughter at bay.
Thankfully, there have been manufacturers that have responded to the calls of environmentalists and animal rights activists to produce vegan-friendly musical instruments. This has been a good start!