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Fret Burns: Everyone Plays Guitar PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 11 February 2008 20:49
karl.jpgBy Karl Greenberg - GJD Contributor
The only good thing about guitar is that Paris Hilton doesn't play it. Yet. But everyone else does. Everyone plays guitar. How many times have you thought, "Why didn't I learn harp?" How many times did you see, for the 17th time in one day yet another asshole carrying a guitar case. "Hey," you want to yell. "This is my territory."

Brotherhood of guitarists? No, there should be regional mixed-martial arts matches for guitarists winners getting exclusive guitar-player rights in their neighborhood. You should have to have a license to play. You should have to get a special green card to bring a guitar to an open mike. How many open mikes have you been to where you're number 673 on the list and everyone before you ends up covering Green Day?

You just want to grab the mike and scream, "Guys, learn the fucking spinet." But no, everyone's got to be the next Singwee Malmstein, or whatever his name was. How bad has it gotten? Here's how bad: Gibson made a Keifer Sutherland signature guitar. Who's he? That makes about as much sense as naming a new science building at Harvard "The Alberto Gonzales school of Memory Research." Actually that does make sense!

Or imagine picking up a copy of Field and Stream to find an ad spread for the new Smith and Wesson rifle with scope, signed by Herbie Hancock. You know what? The guitar is no longer an instrument it's an accessory. It's a fashion statement. "Duh," you say. "What else is new?" And you take me into Guitar Central and gesture to the walls covered with personalized axes. "Guitars have been accessories since Bo Diddley."

And you're right. Guitars are bling, partly because it's hard to play anything original on it. It's all been done. But not the flute. If you played the flute, you could do just about anything and it would be original. Look at Ian Anderson, no virtuoso on the flute, but he got big playing it like a Coke bottle. How about French Horn? Listen. You could be the Ian Anderson of French Horn.

Hell, if I learned Eddie Van Halen's solos on bassoon I'd be on American Idol inside a week. I'd be famous. I could open a restaurant chain. Or how about learning AC/DC on Harpsichord. Think about it: "Highway to Hell" on harpsichord. You could get arrested for that, probably. In some states.

I once wrote a song about the fact that everyone plays guitar. I Played it at an open mike recently. I thought I was being original and clever, writing and performing a song - on guitar - about how everyone plays guitar. But then some guy comes up to me afterward with his guitar and says, "I wrote a song just like that already. I was going to play it when I go on at 4am. Oh, here's my lawyer."

Well, okay, there's another way to look at the over-abundance of guitars and people who have to gall to play them. Realize that guitar only appears to be one instrument, but actually it's like fifty different instruments that look vaguelly similar to eachother. Because that's what's really going on with guitar. One can play rock, acid rock, hard rock, metal, soft rock, smooth jazz, hard jazz, acid jazz, Country, Country rock, folk, folk rock, Blues rock, blue grass, cajun, zydeco, classical guitar, flemenco, Tango, fusion, funk, Afro Cuban, classical - I mentioned that - New Age, old age, oldies, swing, bee bop, boogie, big band, free jazz, afro beat, reggae, samba, etc. etc. etc.

It can be used or adapted to any form of music. you can use it as a door jam. How many people play jazz cello? How many R&B timpani players? to get nearly the diversity of the guitar, a wind player has to triple on flute, sax, clarinet and penny whistle.

I was in the subway yesterday paging through a guitar theory book and the guy sitting across from me took a peek. "You a guitarist?" Sure, I said. "Yeah, I am, too." He said. "And you're like the fifteenth guy I've seen today who plays guitar."

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