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Stairway to Heaven is the perfect song to play in guitar stores

As a guitarist, I have a collection of riffs I practice with. They allow me to practice certain skills, like alternate picking with “Thunderstruck” or tapping with “Eruption”. One song that’s always been enjoyable for me is “Stairway to Heaven”, the 1971 classic rock tune by Led Zeppelin. What I enjoy the most is how I glide over the arpeggios, especially when two or three notes chime in together to produce harmonies. I also enjoy replaying the solos of the guitarist Jimmy Page, who’s a complete legend with his guitar playing style. However, that intro riff has always fascinated me with its simple composition. 

 Yet I’ve heard that “Stairway to Heaven” is banned in music stores. If I were to go to Goodtimes Music downtown and play the intro riff, would the staff glare at me? Why can’t I play this incredible song without fearing my guitar playing will be banned? 

 Obviously, the song isn’t truly banned, and anyone can play whatever they like when trying out guitars in a store. What makes me curious is why this song specifically has been singled out as a banned song for guitar stores. 

The anti-“Stairway to Heaven” movement seems to have originated in this scene from the classic movie “Wayne’s World”, based on the Saturday Night Live sketch with Mike Myers and Dana Carvey. What really made this scene great was the giant sign in the back, proclaiming those four cursed words. Now, the internet is full of no “Stairway to Heaven” memes, with guitarists shooting joke videos like this. Others have made serious arguments dissecting why “Stairway to Heaven” shouldn’t be played in music stores, such as this article

What’s made “Stairway to Heaven” such a guitar store joke is how famous the intro riff is. When those arpeggios kick in, listeners might know exactly what song’s coming up. So, when someone plays the beginning incorrectly, it sounds terrible. The fact the simple harmony is interrupted by notes a half step off might make anyone familiar with the tune wince. Perhaps that’s why the song was originally targeted for that one-off joke in “Wayne’s World”. 

Even with the possibility this song could be messed up by a beginner guitarist, it should be unbanned. We should even encourage players to play it in a music store! It’s valuable for beginners to detect harmonies with the arpeggio notes. The key transitions from A natural, to E natural, to C natural, then B minor, are natural chord progressions useful in original song writing. Dynamics can also be explored, going from loud fingerpicking to soft picking. There’s several things to play around with the opening riff alone.

“Stairway to Heaven” is such a masterpiece in itself, a rock song that’s unique in its instrumentation, vocals, and rhythm. It’s an icon of pop culture and rock music that’s inspired many musicians over decades. The song is incredible, with a mythical atmosphere throughout. No matter what skill level a guitarist is, they shouldn’t have to worry about being judged for playing that iconic riff. 

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