There is a new blog post circling through Facebook that lays into runners about stickers on cars – and generally why we are all the worst. We aren’t going to link to that post, but wanted to bring back a few entries from last November, where there was a similar post by Chad Stafko at the Wall Street Journal called “OK, You’re a Runner. Get Over It.” We feel this post is once again viable for the newest incarnation of runner bashing. Enjoy.
There is one kind of bumper sticker I see almost daily here in my large Pacific Northwest town: a small oval printed with “Gibson” or “Fender.” In case you’re lucky enough not to know what these mean, let me explain: They indicate that the driver or someone in the car…plays guitar. There is only one reason guitar aficionados display the stickers. They want the rest of us to know about their musical feats. So let me be the first to offer my hearty congratulations. I’d even offer to give them a pat on the back—once they’re done doing it themselves.
What’s with this infatuation with playing guitar and the near-mandatory ritual of preening about it?
Almost every day I see people playing or carrying a guitar: on street corners, at bus stops or out in the bars. They’re everywhere and at all times, from dawn until dark, their guitar cases strapped to their backs.
I thought I was imagining this spike in the popularity of guitar playing; but that’s not the case. According to a website on guitar lesson statistics there were some 26.2 million who took guitar lessons in 2012, compared with approximately 13.1 million in 2010. These 39.3 million are taking lessons, learning scales, learning to read music and even starting to play gigs.
When they’re not out there shredding the high notes, they can relax with a magazine on guitars. There is Guitar World, with its approximately 130,000 annual subscribers, but also Guitar Player, Electric Guitar, Guitarist Magazine and several others. Reading. About playing guitar.
Or these musicians, when they’re not playing, can go shopping—at a guitar store. There’s one such store less than four miles or better said, just a bit over half the notes in a Blues scale from my house. It sells only guitars and other musical instruments. The store has been in business several years, so apparently it is making money.
This “equipment,” of course is nothing but guitars, drums etc and all the accessories that go with them. You can buy these same musical instruments at a Guitar Center or online, probably for much less.
But the guitar picks—well, those are a different story. Many of them have guitar brand logos, pictures of Flying Vs and images of stick people playing guitar!
Like the “I’m a guitar player” bumper stickers, this apparel serves a clear purpose: We can look at them and immediately know that the person wearing it…is a guitar player—perhaps even an accomplished one.
I have several friends who are guitar players, or at least I did before writing this. Some have played gigs in Seattle, Washington and Boise, Idaho. One even played a show in New York.
A few days ago, one of these guitar playing friends said, after describing a recent show: “Why do I keep doing this?” I have no idea.
Why would someone want to get up at 5 a.m. and practice playing guitar for two hours vs. having the good sense to simply stay in bed?
I have a theory. There is no more visible figure in a band than lead guitar player. When serious shredders are on the stage, they know that every person who bought a ticket, every ticket taker, and even every security guard keeping an eye on the crowd can see them.
These days, people want more than ever to be seen. This is the age of taking a photo selfie and posting it on Facebook with the announcement that you’re bored—in the hope that someone will “like” that information. People want attention and crave appreciation. If you’re actually doing something like playing guitar—strumming chords, even learning new progressions —what better way to fulfill the look-at-me desire? The lone guitar player is a one-person band. Yay.
OK, I know, this isn’t the case for all players. Many of my friends who regularly play have done so for years, decades before there was a thing called social media to put humanity’s self-absorption in overdrive. These folks also tend to be infatuated with music anyway. If they’re not out on the streets showing the non-guitar playing world how it’s done, they’re at a lesson or a guitar tuning class.
But what about the others? You can spot them, wandering through the mall or killing time at Starbucks, proudly wearing their “Eddie Van-Halen” T-shirts. They’re getting what they want, without missing a note.
I saw a great new bumper sticker the other day, it read…I’m much too ignorant to learn to play guitar. I’ll take one of those, please.