Why Can’t You Jam Out to Stairway in Guitar Stores?

Video why can't you play stairway in guitar stores

Have you ever wondered why the iconic intro to Stairway to Heaven is considered the forbidden riff in guitar stores? It may seem like an odd question, but it’s actually quite common. If you’ve ever set foot in a guitar store, chances are you’ve heard someone playing that familiar opening melody on a demo guitar. It has become the go-to riff for anyone picking up a new guitar, whether they’re a beginner or an experienced player. But why is this beloved melody banned in guitar stores? In this post, we’ll delve into the full story behind the forbidden status of Stairway to Heaven.

The Origin of the “Forbidden Riff”

Before we dive into the details, let’s provide some context. Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven, released in 1971, is a rock anthem that paved the way for the progressive rock era. Written and performed by lead guitarist Jimmy Page and vocalist Robert Plant, the song features a clean intro guitar section and an electric guitar solo. The intro, in particular, has become one of the most iconic guitar riffs of all time. Aspiring guitar players inevitably learn to play it as a rite of passage. However, due to its popularity, the riff became overplayed to the point where it became tiresome for many. Walking into a guitar store meant hearing countless renditions of the intro, often poorly executed.

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The Running Joke: Stairway to Heaven Banned in Guitar Stores?

So, is Stairway to Heaven actually prohibited in music stores? The answer is a resounding no. It’s highly unlikely that any guitar store owner would ever kick out a customer for playing the intro. In fact, it’s still a common occurrence to hear aspiring guitarists strumming away at Stairway in music stores. The idea of the song being banned in guitar stores originated from the 1992 film Wayne’s World, a comedic tale about rock music enthusiasts wanting to bring their “Wayne’s World” show to television. In one memorable scene, the main character played by Mike Myers attempts to play Stairway to Heaven in a guitar store, only to be stopped by the manager, who claims the song is banned. This line, “No Stairway! Denied!” became a catchphrase that spread throughout the guitar community. This running joke, though more than 25 years old, is still alive today.

Why Does the Joke Persist?

You might wonder why people still joke about Stairway to Heaven being forbidden in guitar stores. After all, it’s been decades since Wayne’s World hit the big screen. However, several reasons contribute to the joke’s longevity. Firstly, Stairway to Heaven’s popularity plays a significant role. This song revolutionized modern music and solidified Led Zeppelin’s status as legends. Guitar players have always idolized Jimmy Page, and aspiring guitarists feel compelled to learn and play this iconic riff. Secondly, the song’s overplayed status in guitar stores reinforces the forbidden riff joke. Spending time in a local Guitar Center, you’re bound to hear countless renditions of the intro. Store managers must endure this repetitive riff day in and day out, leading to the original “No Stairway, Denied” joke.

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Moreover, Stairway to Heaven’s easily learnable intro adds fuel to the fire. This riff is often the first that beginners tackle, thanks to its simplicity, pleasing melody, and fingerpicking techniques. As a result, even newcomers can jump right in and play the forbidden riff. This contrasts with more challenging songs, like Dragonforce or Eric Johnson tracks, which only skilled players can master. Additionally, the embrace of the forbidden riff joke in meme culture and social media has helped keep it relevant. People know it’s overplayed, and some find humor in playing it deliberately, as demonstrated by popular YouTube videos. Lastly, recent controversies, such as the copyright case against Led Zeppelin, have propelled discussions about Stairway to Heaven in the mainstream. All these factors contribute to the persistence of the joke.

Jamming in Guitar Stores: What’s Acceptable?

So, what should you play in a guitar store instead of the forbidden riff? To impress the store employees, try something other than Stairway to Heaven. Consider playing your own original music, showcasing your skills and creativity. Improvisation is also an option; a fundamental understanding of the minor pentatonic scale or 12-bar blues can help you create unique riffs on the spot. If these options aren’t feasible, explore lesser-known riffs to avoid becoming the target of jokes. Remember, guitar store etiquette suggests moving away from the overplayed classics like Sweet Child ‘O Mine, Smoke on the Water, or Wonderwall.

In conclusion, the forbidden status of Stairway to Heaven in guitar stores is more of a joke than an actual ban. While the song’s overplayed nature and running gags continue to persist, there’s no harm in playing it. After all, Stairway to Heaven remains one of the best songs for beginners to learn, serving as a rite of passage. So, go ahead and strum this iconic tune, knowing it’s all in good fun. Rock on, m/

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