A nation riff hounds??

This may seem a trifle obtuse; however the more exposure I have to ‘experienced’ guitarists, the more I believe they simply are not capable of actually playing at all.

To give you a flavour of exactly what I mean;

Back a couple of years ago, the wife of a colleague of mine approached me and asked me what acoustic guitar to buy her husband as it was a special anniversary? I had no idea he was even interested in playing but she assured me he was ‘good’ and had been playing for many years. She knew I played and had been to a few of our work based gigs, so I quoted her a few desirable models within her budget and I heard no more about it until last November. A number of us were going on a team building exercise to north Wales and I usually took a guitar along, but on this occasion I was told that my colleague was taking his and so not to bother. A fortnight later, seven of us rocked up at the remote farmhouse for the fun and games.

The next day saw one of our number fall foul of a nasty injury and so the first evening was actually spent in a lengthy trip to the nearest hospital so no communal get-together actually took place that night. The second day was different, it passed without incident and the early evening found us all sat around a blazing fire in the tiny sitting room at the back of the house. I noticed the guitar case and shortly after the alcohol appeared, so too did the contents of the case, a fairly up market Takamine. I had no idea what to expect, but I remembered his wife’s words, he was ‘good’. He hit a few chords and then launched into the instantly recognisable intro of ‘A Horse With No Name’ and we all sang along. Okay, nothing taxing there, possibly the easiest song to learn there is.

With that, he then picked his way through the first couple of bars of ‘Stairway’ and I thought ‘Wow – this is going to be interesting’, I was impressed. Everyone sucked in a lung full of air and opened their mouths to sing the first line and he stopped playing! He then played the first few bars of ‘Hotel California’, everyone went to sing – he stopped and this went on and on and on. He played the opening bars of many many songs. He played recognisable riff after recognisable riff and that is where it finished. Someone eventually asked him to play something that we could sing along to, but in the best traditions of Father Ted and the DJ who forgot to bring any records except Ghost Town – his repertoire of ‘complete’ start to finish songs had already long been exhausted. People got bored with the ‘snippets’ and a card school started. The guitar was put away.

Now what this highlights to me, particularly in this heady climate of guitar magazines that seem to specialise in publishing page after page of riffs, is that we are fast breeding a nation/a world of guitarists with a very limited selection of material and ability. Yes, it is all very nice to know 515 song intros and 1374 riffs, but is that really what being a guitar player is about? You learn to play the intro to ‘Lola’ and then move on to another, what good is that? Where is the exposure to timing, to cadence, to chord changes, to solos, to structure, to being a guitar PLAYER.

When I first started playing, there were no riffs available in any format, only complete start to finish works and I/we learned to play entire songs and I am infinitely better for the experience. Is my colleague a guitarist? Well he owns a few instruments and knows a few chords, a pile of riffs and intros and seemingly only one song from start to finish – how many other ‘guitarists’ fit the same bill?

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Good to see you back Youngwasp.

I agree. Learning only parts of songs can be helpful, but if it's done all the time, well... It's like teaching a dog to fetch, but not how to return. It seems half assed.

Maybe it's a personal problem with attention spans? Maybe it comes down to the 'guitar player getting laid' image and knowing the intro to Stairway is enough to get the pants off? Does it depend what they want from playing.

You often find those players who only know bits of songs have never been in a band, when you joing a band you'll have to know a minimum of 30 songs from start to finnish, intros, riffs, solos, the whole lot, he cant call himself an expierenced guitarist if he doesnt know complete songs, maybe he's one of those that needs the old 101 Hits of the sixties songbook, we had a guitarist, well he called himself a guitarist in our old covers band and he always had a classic quote for songs, he'd say 'oh yeah sympathy for the devil, thats easy, its only 4 chords, E D A B' and i'd say, theres a little more to it than that, and then he'd play those 4 chords, but all in the wrong order.

This is interesting; I can confirm that it is a WORLD problem, not just a UK thing.
Though I have been lucky enough to work with some astounding players, including the guitarist in my current band, I've seen the same thing over and over in auditions, open-mic nights, and jams. Young and old people who have picked up a guitar and figured out the intro to "Crazy Train", or possibly the whole of "Badge" (2 perrenial favorites here in the states) and try to pass themselves off as a guitarist.
Now, I probably shouldn't be judging, because, though I've been playing for (mumblety-mumble mum) years, I don't even consider MYSELF a "guitarist", as I don't play leads, or indeed, do anything more complicated than strum chords. I am first a songwriter, and secondly, a vocalist, who plays guitar when there is no-one more capable around to do it for me. That is how I have introduced myself for years- yet I keep finding myself at jam sessions and auditions having to show supposed guitarists how to play!
I wouldn't play outside my bedroon closet until I could creditably pull off at least 10 Peter, Paul and Mary tunes, and a handful of Simon and Garfunkel and James Taylor. I may be dating myself, but I learned to play in utero, you understand! Where are these people getting the idea that all you need is a few riffs and you are a player? Blame American Idol- or maybe it's part of the remote-channel-changer, video game world of too much choice?[/i]

I don't think it's that recent a phenomenom. In guitar shops of the 70s, you could earn a quid for hitting people playing the intro to "Stairway" or "Smoke". I retired shortly after getting my first million. I used to give them a chance, though. "Play the rest of the song", but they never could. Like Wasp implies, it's that short attention span. Knowing the first 16 bars is enough to impress the mates or the girls, so that'll do.

Related link: http://www..co.uk/news/s/207/207169_its_a_fiddle.html

Music shop boss Steve Kowalski has been told he will have to pay to play if his customers want to try out his instruments before they buy.

A "404" link, Mike. Still, the well-known pricey guitar shifter Ed Roman pretty much brags on his site that you're not supposed to touch his high-end gear. No way does he want his classy stuff fingered by the proles. The idea seems to be that you look at it hanging on the wall and hand over a four-figure sum to take it home. But he dislikes eBay because you don't know what you're getting. Go figure, as the saying goes.

I just knew the PRS would be behind that :roll: . They know squat about anything, always behind the times, heavy on stationary objects, like live music bars and guitar shops. Know nothing about the net, downloading, mp3 - total dinosaurs. PRS kills live music faster than Domestos.

Example, my band plays our own music in a pub. We get exactly butkus from PRS for the public performance of our material. Instead, the pub landlord pays a fee to PRS who assume that we must have done covers. So, Elton John, Shakin' Stevens and anybody else we wouldn't cover under anaesthetic get a slice of our miserable payment. It's like the old Cassette tape tariff. I only used cassettes for rehearsal recordings, but every tape I bought contained a tax to compensate Elton because I "must have been" pirating his latest album.

Useless outfit, first against the wall...

most of the original material bands ive been in have to pay to play (in other words you dont get anything, so the petrol money it costs are paid by you, so in effect you pay to play) in any decent venues, otherwise you have to play to 2 pool players, i bored looking barmaid and an 80yr old regular sipping a pint and reading a newspaper, I think its fair to say, most pubs employ the 'Covers' bands, a good Covers band can pack a pub out on a sat night.
But like you Bass i think the public performance payments are rubbish, and i will be loading up my shotgun alongside you on judgement day.

2 pool players, i bored looking barmaid and an 80yr old regular sipping a pint and reading a newspaper

Blimey! I wondered who was depping on lead guitar that day! Seriously, we've had gigs involving "three men and a dog" and the standing-on-chairs-cheering crowd (admittedly, in an average-sized pub) but you're right; neither pay the expenses (Elton gets the same money regardless).

F'me, I'd rather do our own songs and take the hit on payment. OTOH, I bought a leccy piano off a guy who did covers three nights a week. I wrinkled my nose when he told me, but he kindof shut me up that he was getting a decent weekly wage playing music instead of working in a biscuit factory; his old job. I used to be snobby about being an "originals" player, but not after I had that conversation.

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