Why is Stairway to Heaven banned in guitar stores?
At first, it may seem like a strange question. However, it is one of the most common questions I have been asked.
If you’ve ever been to a guitar shop, you’ve certainly heard someone play the opening of Stairway to Heaven on demo guitar.
It seems like the Stairway opening is the go-to riff to play every time you pick up a new guitar, whether you’re a beginner or advanced.
But if you’ve ever participated in an online guitar forum or Facebook group, chances are you’ve heard someone say that Stairway to Heaven is banned from guitar stores at some point.
This may sound strange, considering how iconic and recognizable the song is.
In this post, I will give a full explanation of why the introduction to Stairway to Heaven is known as the forbidden riff.
So why is Stairway to Heaven banned in guitar stores? In short, this is an ongoing joke that was originally seen in the movie Wayne’s World in 1992.
It’s meant to poke fun at Stairway to Heaven because it’s one of the most played songs in guitar stores when people try out new guitars.
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Why Is Stairway To Heaven Banned in Guitar Stores?
You can find the answer in an old movie from the 90s, and it’s a lot more fun than you think.
Wayne’s World, an American comedy film starring Mike Myers, hit theaters in 1992. It was based on a Saturday Night Live parody, showing Myers and his co-star Dana Carvey as hosts of a public access television show for rock fans.
In the movie, it was revealed that Wayne looks longingly at a 1964 electric guitar that was on display at his local guitar shop. He finally asked the store manager if he could try playing it, to which the latter reluctantly agreed.
To impress the girl he liked, who accompanied him to the guitar shop, he played the intro to Stairway to Heaven. However, the store manager interrupted him and then pointed to a sign that said, “There are no stairs to heaven,” and the rest is history.
“No Stairway! Denied!” – A Bit Of History
One of the earliest pop culture references to “No Stairway” comes from the 1992 slumber hit Wayne’s World, starring comedians Mike Myers and Dana Carvey.
It’s interesting to note that the riff that Myers plays in the movie doesn’t look much like “Stairway” except for the phrasing because they didn’t want to have the rights to the song.
“No ladder! Denied! “It was basically one of the many throwaway jokes in the movie, but the sentiment resonated because, for many unfortunate members of the guitar shop staff, it came too close to home.
If you worked in a guitar shop in the 70s or 80s, you probably couldn’t go a single day without a customer walking in and playing a performance of “Stairway To Heaven” on a guitar.
I say “some interpretation” because, honestly, there were probably many rookies who walked into the store and could barely pull it off. Of course, that’s part of what would start to drive you crazy as a guitar store clerk.
So, in short, it’s like someone showing up to a Halloween party in a Superman costume when you asked them to be original.
Also, clearly, it would not be easy to choose a more obvious classic rock riff.
On the contrary, if you showed up and played Pat Travers, viewers would probably be impressed with your taste and skill.
What is The Forbidden Riff?
Before we get into the details, here is some background to provide a little context.
Stairway to Heaven is a rock song by the English rock band Led Zeppelin in 1971.
It was written and performed by lead guitarist Jimmy Page and singer Robert Plant.
Stairway to Heaven is known as one of the best rock songs that paved the way for the progressive rock era.
He is best known for his clean and solo intro guitar section on electric guitar.
The guitar intro section is one of the most iconic guitar riffs ever written. As a result, it is an essential riff that all aspiring guitarists eventually learn to play.
Because of this, it quickly became “over the top” to the point that you couldn’t walk into a guitar shop without hearing someone play it while they were testing a new guitar.
Sure it’s a great riff and all, but after hearing people play thousands of times, often badly, it got old.
Whenever people hear newbies play the intro to Stairway to Heaven in guitar stores, it’s far from impressive. It’s the opposite where people will tease you for being “that guy.”
Is Stairway to Heaven Actually Banned in Music Stores? Is It a Forbidden Riff?
So is Stairway to Heaven really banned from music stores?
The answer is obviously no. I highly doubt that a guitar shop owner will kick a customer out simply for playing the intro to Stairway to Heaven.
It’s not necessarily illegal to play Stairway when you’re testing the Gibson of your dreams, but any guitarist will tell you it’s a misstep.
Playing Stairway to Heaven in a guitar shop is like going to a 5-star restaurant, ordering a steak well done, and then coating it with tomato sauce.
You won’t be kicked out or fined, but you may get some strange looks, and the staff won’t be too impressed with you.
Personally, I still hear people play it at my local Guitar Center almost every time I step foot in it.
People are definitely more aware of the joke nowadays, but it still doesn’t stop them from playing it, mainly because they probably can’t play anything else.
But as I mentioned, the Stairway to Heaven ban from guitar shops is just a running joke in the guitar community.
Why Do People Still Say Stairway to Heaven is Banned in Guitar Shops?
As I mentioned, this joke originally started in the movie Wayne’s World over 25 years ago.
So why do people still say that Stairway to Heaven is banned from guitar shops?
One would think that this common joke would have been long forgotten.
However, there are several reasons why this joke is still relevant today.
Also, there has been some recent news and controversy about Stairway to Heaven, unrelated to the joke, which might have something to do with it.
The fact that this song from 1971 is being discussed in the mainstream media could definitely have something to do with the joke’s revival.
Here are a couple of possible reasons why people keep saying Stairway to Heaven is banned from guitar stores.
Is Stairway to Heaven Hard to Play?
Despite the stigma, is Stairway To Heaven the best song ever? It’s pretty hard to say that any song is the “best song”, but I think it’s safe to say that it is one of the best songs ever.
As a song, Stairway has a lot to offer. It is not a “simple” song, although it is somewhat easy to play. It was a difficult song to write for Led Zeppelin.
Jimmy Page said, “It’s not just one of those things where it goes verse-chorus-verse. It was complicated because it had sections, but they didn’t repeat exactly the same thing every time. ”
The song also changes the tempo from beginning to end, quite drastically. Studio musicians aren’t supposed to speed up or slow down, but this song is.
The lyrics are interesting too. They were written by Robert Plant, inspired by his search for spiritual perfection. Contains references to the book “Magic Arts in Celtic Britain” which Plant had read at the time of writing the song.
The song’s lyrics may seem a bit dull, silly, or pompous, but the truth is that the mystical nature of the lyrics is part of what made the song so magical when it first came out.
People, especially children and teenagers, fall in love with Zeppelin for the same reasons they fall in love with The Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter – there is a certain style of mysticism or fantasy that ignites the imagination!
What Should You Play in Guitar Stores Instead of the Forbidden Riff?
If your goal is to show off at your local Guitar Center, try playing something other than Stairway to Heaven.
Honestly, you could probably play anything else and get a better response from the guitar store clerks.
I suggest you play some of your own original music if you can. That will show that you are someone who really knows how to play the instrument rather than a kid who saw a YouTube video teaching you how to play the introduction to Stairway.
Another thing you could do is improve your improv skills. If you only have a fundamental understanding of the minor pentatonic scale or 12-bar blues, you can create some really unique riffs on the fly.
Either of these options will earn you a lot more brownie points than playing Stairway to Heaven at a guitar store.
But if you can’t do any of these options, I suggest you play some riffs that are not so well known.
Try to steer clear of any of the overloaded guitar riffs I mentioned above if you don’t want to be the butt of people’s jokes.
Tips on What to Do Instead At a Guitar Store
Wherever you go, you can hear guitarists play your favorite guitarists in guitar shops.
John Petrucci. Oblique bar. Brian May. Stevie Ray Vaughan. Joe Perry. John Mayer. Ritchie Blackmore. And so.
I think it gets a little old. I mean, it’s okay to take inspiration from your favorite players. Maybe even include some popular riffs at the guitar shop.
But the guitar is an expressive instrument. Why not play a bit of your material, or at least put your own spin on popular songs?
If you’re under a lot of pressure to play your own stuff at the guitar store, you might be asked to practice harder before you even go. And this is good.
If you don’t have good riffs, you will be forced to make up some.
If you can’t play your best riffs or haven’t memorized them, again, you’ll be forced to spend some time practicing. Everything is alright!
I’d love to walk through a guitar shop, hear a great riff, and say, “What was that?” and start conversations with other musicians.
If you’re going to sit down and play guitar at a guitar store, why not try your own riffs on various guitars, effects, and amps? That way, you will have a better idea of whether the equipment is right for you and your projects.
Stairway to Heaven is a great song. It’s one of the best songs of all time, and definitely one of the best rock songs.
It’s so cool, tons of people have learned it, and that’s not a bad thing! Every time you learn something new on the guitar, it’s a win!
Over time, the song became hyped and tired, especially in guitar stores. Remember that it is the best selling rock sheet music of all time.
And as a result, people like to joke around and give new players a hard time.
It’s one of the most iconic riffs out there, and everyone should learn to play at some point.
So don’t be embarrassed to play the song when you’re testing new guitars at a store.
Some people may think that playing it is against proper guitar store etiquette, but it is definitely not illegal.
They certainly won’t kick you out of the store for playing the “forbidden riff.”
The worst thing that can happen is that people look at you strangely or make jokes.
You don’t need to follow our advice; you can try whatever you want.
But now that you know the story behind “No Stairway,” you might give it the reverence it deserves.