Skip to Content

Why do guitarists make faces?

Guitarists often make interesting or exaggerated facial expressions while playing their instrument. There are a few key reasons why guitarists tend to make faces while playing guitar.

Concentration and Focus

One of the main reasons guitarists make faces while playing is to help them concentrate and focus on the music. Guitar requires very precise fingering and picking techniques and intense concentration. Making facial expressions can help guitarists focus their mental energy and block out distractions.

Guitar playing requires the brain to do several things at once – read musical notation, coordinate the hands, listen to the sounds, and shape the music emotionally. Scrunching up one’s face or staring intently at one’s hands can help focus the brain and direct energy into these complex tasks.

Think of the face a guitarist makes as their “game face” – it helps them get in the zone and shut out anything that might break their concentration. Many athletes have similar game face expressions for achieving intense focus.

Communication and Expression

Facial expressions can also help guitarists communicate feelings and emotion through their music. While playing, guitarists may make intense or exaggerated faces to outwardly reflect the emotion they are trying to convey through their playing.

For example, a guitarist might squint their eyes, grit their teeth, and lean forward as they play a particularly intense passage to visually communicate the energy and power they want the listener to feel.

Raising eyebrows, smiling, frowning, and other facial expressions provide visual cues to match the musical experience the guitarist is creating. Watching a musician’s face adds another dimension to the performance. So some exaggerated guitar face helps the audience connect with the emotions in the music.

Physical Exertion

Playing guitar can also be physically demanding, leading to strained facial expressions. Complex guitar pieces require the fingers to stretch, bend, and work hard to form chords and play notes cleanly.

The physical exertion involved in playing can naturally cause guitarists to make tense or uncomfortable faces. Tricky passages may require full focus and physical effort that contorts the face involuntarily.

If you pay close attention, sometimes the most difficult guitar solos coincide with moments where the guitarist’s face is twisted in focused exertion.

Muscle Memory

Related to physical exertion, many guitarists make faces because the expressions become linked with muscle memory. After practicing a particular song or solo many times, the brain starts to associate tense facial expressions with the coordination required to play the part.

It can become automatic for a guitarist’s face to crunch up right before playing a memorized lick or sequence of notes that requires advanced technique. The facial expression gets ingrained as part of the muscle memory along with the finger movements.

Habit and Ritual

Along the same lines as muscle memory, certain facial contortions become habit or ritual. Each guitarist develops personal tics and habits over time.

Some players stick their tongues out, some bob their heads, some mouth the words, some look intensely at their fretting hand, etc. These habits form over time as the person develops their unique stage presence and playing style.

Once a certain ritual or funny face becomes ingrained in a guitarist’s approach, it can be hard to break. Many famous guitarists have trademark facial expressions they instinctively make during solos or intense parts.

Getting Into Character

Guitarists in theatrical bands often take on a persona or play a character role. Costumes, makeup, and exaggerated facial expressions help them get into character.

For example, glam metal guitarists in the 1980s were known for their crazy hair, outfits, and over-the-top expressions that went along with their stage persona. Faces become part of the costume and performance.

Even guitarists playing more straightforward genres may alter their facial expressions on stage compared to real life. Putting on a “rock face” or getting into character helps them channel energy and put on an engaging show.

Emoting Through Sound

Certain guitar playing techniques like string bending, vibrato, slides, and hammer-ons/pull-offs emulate vocal techniques and human emoting sounds. Mouth and face movements can accentuate these expressive techniques.

As guitarists imitate singing or speaking through their playing, they may instinctively mouth words or make faces as if they were literally singing. The faces visually compliment the vocal-like sounds they create.

Reacting to the Music

Guitarists also naturally react to the music as they play – getting into the groove, responding to a drum fill, feeling a sudden rush of energy or emotion. Their face portrays the reaction even if the reaction only lasts a moment.

If you film any musician as they play, you’ll notice micro-expressions flashing across their face reacting to the experiences, sensations, and emotions tied to the song. Guitarists are no exception.

Performer-Audience Interaction

Exaggerated facial expressions also help guitarists interact and connect with the audience. Showing intensity and emotion through their faces keeps the audience engaged.

Playing with a “deadpan” blank stare would distance the audience. But smiling, frowning, and playing up reactions allows the guitarist to visually communicate and bond with the crowd.

Within reason, most audiences enjoy the theatrical nature of seeing musicians pull faces as they play. It shows the music is happening in the moment, not just going through rehearsed motions.

Individual Style and Personality

Ultimately, a guitarist’s unique facial expressions reflect their personality and individuality. No two guitar players have exactly the same technique, emotions, and reactions while playing.

From subtle winces and smiles to blatant tongue wagging and windmilling, facial expressions are as personal as a fingerprint. Letting this individuality shine through makes performances more engaging and human.

Some crowds even come to love and expect certain guitarists’ trademark expressions as part of the concert experience. Watching their live facial journey becomes part of appreciating their artistic style.


While funny guitar faces may look exaggerated or bizarre from an audience perspective, they serve an important purpose for the guitarist. Expressions help guitarists concentrate, emote, exert themselves, interact, react, enter a performance mindset, and stay in the moment.

Facial expressions also allow an audience to better connect with the musician and understand their personal experience and effort creating the music. When done tastefully, a musician’s facial expressions enrich the performance and communication of the art.

So don’t judge a guitarist just for pulling faces. Understand that often the silliest guitar face comes from total immersion and passion for playing the instrument to the fullest.