Why ‘Stairway to Heaven’ is the ultimate song to learn for a beginner

It’s the ‘May I help you?’ riff for guitar store.  It’s the first song people ask you to play when they hear that you are learning to play guitar.  *Everyone* learns it, and there’s some good reason for learning it.  It’s Led Zepplin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’.
 
My friend, Rick, has been learning to play guitar.  He’s doing a good job, too!  Recently, he asked me about learning to play ‘Stairway’.  This question started me thinking about ‘WHY’ ‘Stairway’ is the ubiquitous ‘first song’ for guitar players.  After a few moments of careful thought, I came up with some ideas.
 
My idea as to why ‘Stairway’ is so popular is because the song contains many disparate parts.  Each part is usually only a measure or two, and is easily learnable.  The song also jumps through almost *all* of the different styles in rock. 
 
The song starts out with an acoustic guitar, fingerpicking arpeggios, with a little bit of strumming with the fingers.  There are basically two main ‘theme and variations’.  The voice movement and chord changes are a little bit of a challenge, but they can be learned fairly easily.  Getting the chord changes to be smooth and seamless is a excellent exercise.
 
The next sections are a mix of strumming guitar and picking arpeggios.  The chords shapes in this section are very interesting, because of the location on the fret board that they are used.  Two skills can be worked on here, strumming and switching between strumming and single note lines.
 
The ‘heavy’ guitar section is the blueprint for many of today’s rock songs.  The section is driving powerchords (root + 5th) with a couple of single note riffs thrown in.  The skills that are learned from this section are power chords, percussive playing with palm muting, and just generally how to ‘rock-out’.
 
The solo is one of the most classic guitar solos of all time.  It’s one that you can hum and easily hear in your head.  There’s not a lot of background noise, and it’s mixed so that you can hear *everything* that Jimmy Page did.  Plus, it’s a fairly easy solo, it has a lot of the building blocks that most solos use, including hammer-ons, pull-offs, string bending, arpeggios, and even a little bit of slide guitar.  Being able to master this solo opens up the ability to learn *many* other solos.
 
So, there’s a little bit of the breakdown of *why* guitar players learn or should learn ‘Stairway to Heaven’.  It’s virtually an encyclopedia of ‘rock ‘n roll’ guitar playing!

Reasons for Blog slowdown

Ok, my blogging has slowed down. I have too many things going on, and that means some things are slipping. Between regular work and my ‘side jobs’, I’ve not had much time to write in the last couple of weeks. Other than Sundays, today has been the first night I’ve had off in over three weeks. I like helping people get their computers working, and I certainly like the extra money, but I’ve GOT to back off a bit.

The other thing that’s been keeping me busy is my guitar playing. I had worked my playing to a new level recently, and I can feel it slipping a bit. It feels wonderful to be able to play some of the ‘speed’ licks that I thought I never could play. More practice, and I’ll get them right and comfortable. Maybe… <grin>

Last, but certainly not least, with AMD dropping the prices on their processors, I’ve been in the market for some new parts. My friend Rick decided to build himself a new system. That lit a fire. I’ve had my system for two years, and have been *EXTREMELY* happy with it (hey, I get good frame rates in FarCry, what more can you ask for?) But, with dual core processors going as low as $150, it was too hard to resist.

Now, I have one of the 754 Athlon 64s with an AGP video card. This meant that I would have to replace darn near everything in this upgrade. Fortunately for me, the 939 x2’s *also* went on firesale. I was able to pick up a 4400+ X2 939 + mobo for a *very* good price. I did need a new video card, but I will NOT have to replace the memory. I’ll take my *little* victory. <grin> Hopefully, this stuff should be in by Friday, and I’ll have something to play with on the weekend.

Rockstar was ‘rockin’ tonight!

Ok, I admit it. I *love* Rockstar: Supernova. The first week, the performances were great. Second week was a lot weaker. The songs that the producers selected for the singers to perform was week. Very little energy, except for ‘Ring of Fire’. This week, the energy level seemed to come back, in spades! Great performances all around. The vote off show is going to be interesting tomorrow!

Yesterday marked two years

Yesterday, a major milestone for me passed, very quietly. Yesterday marked two years working for the same company. For me, this is a major milestone. The longest I’ve ever worked at a job has been 4 years. The second longest had been a year and a half. I am very happy where I work, now. Sure, the company has had their ups and downs. Right now is a down period. I do plan to stick with it though. I would like to make *this* job the longest one I’ve ever worked for.

Pirates of the Caribbean Review

I’ll keep this short and sweet… It Rocks! Excellent movie, great ending, great setup for the next one. So far, this has been the best movie of the summer. Yes I saw Superman. It was OK, but nothing to write about. POC/DMC is just pure fun. It’s a long movie that you will not want to move a minute for.

Back into playing music

I go through cycles. Sometimes, it’s computers, sometimes it’s the job, and sometimes it’s music. I’m back into the music phase! Here’s why:

First off, I volunteered to play classical guitar for my friend’s wedding. I was just supposed to play for an hour between the ceremony and the reception (it’s at the same location). He asked if I could play the music for the wedding ceremony itself! Uh-oh, I had to find the sheet music for it. It turns out that they only need the bridal march and the wedding march. I was able to pick the Wedding March up quickly… so… I agreed to play the wedding. What was I thinking!?! Fortunately, it’s not for a couple of months, so I have a lot of time to get everything right.

Second, my friend Rick has started playing guitar. He’s come a *long* way in a year. I’ve been trying to help (with varying degrees of success, I’m not a good teacher). That has opened up my eyes quite a bit. Trying to explain *how* to play is very challenging! My hat is off to all of the teachers out there, music and otherwise! Plus, watching him make progress pushes *me* to start making some progress.

Third, I picked up a *monster* of a guitar. I told the story of ‘Goldie’ in an earlier post. Now that she’s ‘legit’, I’ve been more inclined to play her. This guitar is a tone demon. I dusted off the tubes from my amp over the weekend. Oh my Gawd! Goldie sang! Tone, tone, tone!!! Even playing through my POD XT Live, it sounds terrific. I can’t believe that I’m allowed to play this guitar. Someone like Joe Satriani or Steve Vai, or Warren Haynes, or Derek Trucks should have this guitar. It’s amazing… It’s so good, I want to get hooked up with a band and go back out playing.

Finally, live music is coming back into my life. I’ve got tickets to see Journey and Def Leppard on Monday (how do you have a rock concert on a MONDAY!?!) Also, a friend of mine’s band is playing on Friday night, and I plan to go see them. And the TV show ‘Rockstar: Supernova’ has kicked off. Very cool, having a live band on stage with some incredible singers.

All in all, it adds up to having a fire lit under me to get back playing again, and maybe even pushing myself to a new level. One can dream!