Songs You Play in Music Stores to Test Out Instruments (and, let’s face it, impress other customers)
Here’s a personal favorite from a few years back. I’d never heard this song before it was mentioned by a Townsman. The resulting video that I uncovered is astounding on at least 25 levels. Plus I’m still fascinated – and intimidated – by the practice of playing a flashy song on an instrument in a music store. I’m way too clumsy and way too self-conscious to ever pull this off. I don’t even know what I’d play if I could play anything substantial and flashy. As it is I’m most likely to play the riff to The Kinks’ “Gotta Get the First Plane Home.” That’s easy, and it’s a good test of the low strings, which I favor.
This post initially appeared 3/29/07.
Very simple set up: Yesterday General Slocum mentioned a Stanley Clarke tune called “School Days” and the theme from Barney Miller than any bassist of a certain age felt compelled to play when testing out a bass in a music store. He likened this to guitarists playing the intro to “Stairway to Heaven”. What songs to you play on your instrument of choice when giving an instrument a test run in a music store? What do you play in hopes of turning on the other customers?
And while you’re at it, please see if you can’t help me list 25 things that are so wrong they’re right in this video.
I look forward to your responses.
every breath you take
shadowy men on a shadowy planet songs
star trip (velvet crush)
september gurls (big star)
sparky’s dream (teenage fanclub)
outtasite (outta mind)
pretty straight ahead beats, but that’s me.
I’m surprised no one has come forth with this yet! 😉 How about I’ll start it off with 5…
1. The fake wood panel-like stickers on the keytar.
2. All that hair, open-chest action and pink satin!
3. KEYTAR SOLO!!! Like the Kool-Aid Man said: “Oh Yeah!!”
4. Spirit-Fingers on the Bass.
5. The man behind the Key”tar” going for a soft Key”board” solo.
I’m feeling a bit like Dave Letterman. I need a Top Ten here, someone help me out!
Three things that are good about this performance:
1. The part in Stanley Clarke’s ‘fro
2. George Duke’s medallion
3. The positivity
You guys are off to a great start with identifying all the things that are so wrong they’re right with this video! Especially excellent calls on the fake wood panelling and the part in Clarke’s ‘fro!!!
Keep ’em coming, RTH. There may be more than 25 instances to identify and discuss.
As for songs I play in a music store, I’m really shy about exposing how limited I am on guitar, and I don’t really know any tricky/annoying guitar intros, like “Blackbird” or “Stairway to Heaven”. I like to lay into some power chords and work some double-bends, so I’m sure to play “No Fun”, one of a handful of Clash songs that lays on an E chord I can play in the “A” barre position on the 7th fret, allowing the low E to ring open. Then a few double bends, on the 12th fret, some pinky rock, and I’m content.
For me it’s about embracing embarassment. As I begin playing Dear Prudence, that E string stuff in Level by (I think) Jimi Hendrix, or maybe that two string thing Bruce Thomas does in the quiet part of Human Hands, the next thing I do is drop the bass on the floor to see if it stays in tune, because naturally, any bass I own is going to fall off of me while I’m playing it. After that, if some staff guy doesn’t come running up to kick me out of the store, I’ll start complaining about the “active” electronics and the buzzing roundwound strings.
soooo funny;) 🙂 🙂 🙂
soooo true! 8^u
the next thing I do is drop the bass on the floor to see if it stays in tune, because naturally, any bass I own is going to fall off of me while I’m playing it. After that, if some staff guy doesn’t come running up to kick me out of the store, I’ll start complaining about the “active” electronics and the buzzing roundwound strings.
soooo funny;) 🙂 🙂 🙂
I usually go through some songs of bands I’ve been in, which usually include a swing and/or a Professor Longhair kind of blues. As far as identifiable songs, I always get in “What’s Going On.” No one’s impressed. If anyone ever noticed that that’s what I was playing, I’d be impressed.
Oh, and as for the video:
Guitar solo face!
Bass solo face!
Keytar solo face!
Cleanest-looking guitarist ever!
Les Paul way up high!
The unabashed joy that the keytar player (George Duke?) is taking in his keytaritude! The unabashed joy that the keytar player (George Duke?) is encouraging Stanley Clarke to take in his keytaritude!
The fact that nobody, including the keytar player, got through a solo without twiddling knobs!
Additional notices in video:
1. The almost close-up on the guit player’s knob (NOT the ones on the Les Paul). See the 1:30 mark. Sidebar: if the Les Paul was placed in the proper low position, I certainly wouldn’t have noticed this.
2. George Duke’s shirt, esp. the elastic at the end of the sleeves (see 1:58 for good close-up).
3. The Eddie Van Halen trick on bass (5:00 mark). Or did he cop that one from Hendrix?
I’m pretty self conscious about playing the guitar in a guitar store due to my modest skill set so I usually play some random chords and bend a note or two. I might try the intro to Feels Like Rain by John Hiatt if I’m feeling bold.
And when I worked at Haight Ashbury Music, no one played Stairway. Everyone played Little Wing. That was about 20 years ago but I’ll bet Little Wing is still high on the list for Saturday morning guitar store talent shows.
I usually do a fast chicken-pickin’ thing that’s at the top of my bag of tricks. Lasts about four seconds, sounds impressive, makes it seem like I’ve got a huge go-to bag of licks to choose from, whereas in fact I basically have one fast chicken-pickin’ thing at my disposal. Leave ’em wanting more, that’s my motto.
I play my own songs and riffs rather than take the pressure of attempting and blowing some sancrosanct riff while being judged by all those superior 14 year-olds. No one knows when I flub one of my own riffs.
I watch that video and I think, “You know, what would make that song actually be pretty cool? A really grooving bass part!”
The first time that I saw Stanley Clarke Live, he had a rhythm bass player in the band.