Guilt-ar Lessons

Before I start this post a little disclaimer: I am not a great guitarist. I am an “OK” guitarist. Give me a campfire or fire-pit and a forgiving audience and I can strum and pick well enough to be entertaining and maybe even start a sing-a-long. I have never picked up a guitar with the ulterior motive to impress because I will not. Ok… end of disclaimer.

Question. Why is it a social gaffe to bring a guitar to a party? I mean, I will give you that if a person brings a guitar to a party with the idea that they are going to get laid after forcing their rendition of “More Than Words” by Extreme on a put-upon audience of the Less-Than-Interested then, yes, this person is a douche and deserves mockery. Lots of it.

Hello. Is it me you're looking for?

But… what about those parties made up of talented friends of many backgrounds… some are musicians, some are actors, some are writers or artists, etc… why is it wrong to bring a guitar to this party and pass it around?

I was watching a video on YouTube a while back (I can’t remember who made it or what it was called, otherwise, I’d post it here) and in it they made a reference of not wanting to be “the a—hole who brings a guitar to a party”.

This caused me to wrinkle my nose in both confusion and consternation because I immediately thought, “Hey… I’ve been known to bring my guitar to a party, does that make me an a—hole?”

Then, suddenly, I started hearing references to “the a—hole who brings their guitar to a party” in comedy routines everywhere.

I’m not going to pretend that I’ve never seen or heard these jokes before; John Belushi in Animal House being the best example… but I always associated such jokes with the douchebag who’s trying to get laid.

Guitar Guy: I gave my love a story / That had no end / I gave my... (Bluto smashes guitar) Bluto: Sorry.

Now I’m worried that this stereotype has expanded to include ANYONE who brings a guitar to a party.

I asked a friend about it and they said that they’ve always felt that it’s only okay to break out a guitar at a party A) if the instrument was already at the house (the property of the host) or B) if you were explicitly asked to bring it. Even if you know that the crowd at the party enjoys a good sing-a-long, never EVER bring your own, lest you be titled “that guy” (or gal).

Oh god, it's THAT GUY again...

I asked them to define “that guy” and they said, “you know, the guy who’s just trying to show off how cool he is because he can play the guitar.”

Then I said, “Yeah but what if ‘that guy’ isn’t trying to impress or pick up chicks or whatever? What if ‘that guy’ is bringing his guitar just because he thinks it would be fun to share and pass around with his group of talented friends?”

To which my friend replied, “Well, in that case, if his friends were really that talented, there would likely already be a guitar at the party (scenario A) or he would have been asked to bring it (scenario B). So, again, he still wouldn’t just show up with it.”

This answer left me depressed, unsatisfied and feeling very, very, uncool. Especially once I realized that at many of the parties I’d attended where a guitar was being enjoyed, the instrument was, in fact, already there. I hadn’t needed to bring mine. But, then again, no one seemed chagrined that I had brought it, because it generally meant that the more talented guitarists in the group could now play duets.

I guess it just depends on the people and party. That’s the only sense I can make of it. I have friends where a guitar at a party is just as common and expected as that dip you make out of sour cream and packet of dehydrated onion-y bits. I have friends where a guitar at a party would be as unwelcome as mouth herpes. I work very hard never to confuse the two groups.

Boy- OMG, if I learned the guitar maybe my date will sleep with me! Girl- That won't help you.

The danger-zone of guitar-gaffes comes with those new friends you make. The people who seem really cool and artsy and potentially guitar-friendly…but you just don’t know for sure. Believe it or not, just asking “Hey, is it ok if I bring my guitar the next time we hang out” isn’t necessarily enough of a barometer-check to be certain that it is truly cool or not. This is because new friends have that “I’m gonna be super nice until we know each other better” buffer in place, and they might agree to a guitar share when they are actually dreading it. Then you end up bringing a six-string to all of their parties not knowing that they secretly hate you for it.

Maybe if I play louder, they'll like it more...

So, you don’t ask about the guitar thing and then when they come to your house for a hang-out you have to make the decision whether or not to break the instrument out. I’ll be honest, I hate it when I go to someone’s house and they use the opportunity to put on an impromptu concert because it does wreak of attention and/or approval-seeking, which is lame. HOWEVER, if it’s a case of passing the guitar back and forth to share new songs learned, favorite riffs, or tips on how to transition between particularly difficult chord shapes, I’m all for it. All. Day. Long.

I guess what I’m saying is, not all parties are guitar-appropriate, but for those that are, passing judgment on the dude or chick wielding their axe is just as lame as being the douche who learned the guitar just to get laid.

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4 thoughts on “Guilt-ar Lessons

  1. The last time I picked up a guitar I must have been around 17 give or take a year. Then I carried the damn thing from Chile to the USA in 1996. It served for a ‘decoration” for many years. It was a midle of the road guitar. Non-electric…I played some Argentinian sambas and Chilean folk songs. Then one day I ran ionto it with the vacuum cleaner. End of story…

  2. right there with you.
    I often bring a guitar in the back of my truck, that way I have it if it’s appropriate, but it’s out of the way if it isn’t…

    What do you play?

    • I play mostly alternative folk, but also have been known to bust out a handful of Jonathan Coulton’s more popular tunes. Love me some “Skullcrusher Mountain”. 🙂

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