20140503_171118 One thing I noticed while working the Dallas Songwriters Association booth at the Dallas Guitar Show is something I notice most of the time when I visit a music store. Naturally, there are talented guitarists at the guitar show or store. The majority, I would think. But then there are the new guitarists who do not want anyone else in the store to know that they have not been playing very long or cannot play very well.

So they play the one riff they can play well from their favorite band. Unfortunately, that is the only cover tune riff they can do well enough to be heard in Guitar Center, Sam Ash, or any music store that sells guitars, as well as guitar shows. So, rather than risk embarrassment, they play that riff over and over. They change the settings each time so it sounds a little different and gives the impression that they are actually serious about buying a guitar. Which would work if they were not there three times a week and had never bought anything more than strings.

At guitar shows, these guitarists are the same, but incredibly louder. Particularly at booths selling amps that purport to be louder than all other amps. Then it is just painful. And it is made worse by their insistence in hearing themselves over all the other guitarists who are doing the same thing. That and the fact that, for some reason, the sound men for the various stages seem to feel that good sound is not as important as being heard in the next universe.

In the ‘70s and ‘80s, there was a dual lick. By that I mean that the lick I refer to was useful to guitarists and also those who wanted to “prove” they could play bass. That lick was from the song, Smoke On the Water, by Deep Purple. Whether you liked Deep Purple or not, you got tired of it quick – just because someone could play the riff did not mean they could do it well. These days, these irritating guitarists’ riffs span the scale of genres.

I was in a Guitar Center in the past week or so to pick up a couple of things. A guy was playing his favorite heavy metal riff. As the clerk was ringing up my purchase, the guy played it a couple more times, pausing for a few minutes between to change settings.

“I think you’ve got it down now,” I said outloud to the guy (who couldn’t hear me).

The clerk made a face that said he agreed with me.

“At least it wasn’t Smoke On the Water!” I said, and he laughed.

“Oh, he was in yesterday,” he replied.

It was my turn to laugh, but I was surprised that people still play that riff in public. I shouldn’t have been surprised, really. The song is still played on classic rock stations. And the riff is relatively simple to play. The funny thing, though, is that most people play it wrong. Which makes the pretense of displaying their talent all the more sad.

Peace be with you.