Monday, 18 January 2010

Putting A Ban on the Guitar

I stand atop the Empire State Building as the bombers scar the sky and the clouds of firey smoke rise above the burning trees in Central Park. The sirens are long gone and echoes of the explosions from the apocalyptic hell bringers are still ricocheting off the walls as the city slowly dies from inside. The stories below are filled with the papers of offices firebombed, the streets below only glimpsed through the smoke are blocked by cars, trucks, taxis and fire engines, all failing to escape the end, and the air is still apart from the sound of a radio.

In the corner is a single radio station, manned by the last valiantly broadcasting hero, playing the last five years of popular music slowly and steadfastly, and in the smoke filled world there is a sudden feeling that we could’ve done so much better if there just had been no guitar.

Imagine a band forced to have to create their sound scapes without the use of the six stringed clich├ęd that sits affront most indie rock bands and transcends that genre to the point of ubiquitous-ness. Is the guitar over used? Yes, I think so. It is a mainstay of pop rock, in the same way soaring stings and the piano are the mainstays of the ballad that the X Factor hand pick to bullshit us with. Is this overuse a problem? Not really actually, it’s something as a fan of the music that is predominately guitar led I have to put up with I suppose. However it doesn’t stop me from thinking what it would be like if a band just avoided using them.

Imagine The Beatles were forced to create all their pop rock hooks with electronic, or string based orchestra, or maybe even chip tunes, using only Gameboys and the Roland 808? Would it force a band to be more innovative when they are not allowed to resort to the other instruments to create… would necessity become the mother of invention?

I actually don’t think so – the ease in which an artist can build a song and melody on a guitar opens the world to more artists, and in quantity you’d get some quality. That’s the world we have right now – the number of guitar bands I listen to daily probably show me how wrong this line of thinking might be, and Keane, a self imposed guitar less band are one of the dullest bands around. They’d probably have been slightly more palatable if their music had been guitar based.

This is not to say that a band wouldn’t benefit from the lack of a guitar. Artists such as The Knife, Boards of Canada, maybe even La Roux, most certainly are more interesting for their less guitar / more instruments approach, if electronic music can be seen as a change, but surely there would be more jazz based artists, more saxophone, more woodwind based mainstream acts – it would change up the top 40 that’s for sure. In my apocalypse everyone is friendly, the world is becoming a better place, and instead of every teenage getting a Squire Stratocaster replica, they get a Scarlatti 120 bass Accordion.


  1. when you think about what % of the music you own is guitar-based, it's almost silly! but if i sort of think of non-western traditions - plucked stringed instruments are that popular from Mali to Indonesia. perhaps it's just chance; our ears as humans are naturally inclined to like guitar music more. or maybe it's just the dexterity of the style of instrument, giving rise to a greater number of styles and appeal to more people. oh, and western culture has effects pedals too, which can make a guitar sound like actually-not-a-guitar.

  2. My dad actually owns a 120 bass Scarlatti accordion. In black. He also has a 72-bass one in red. That is all.