A Tough Racket

Being a guitar player is a tough racket. It begins with, “How does Dave Mustaine do that?” and ends with a hostage situation at band practice, and a bloody shootout with the cops on the five o’clock news. For years you sat at home working through craptastic songs to eventually get to the cool stuff, then you’re told that you have to know why things work. Chords, scales, modes, substitutions, dumbass songs, “Ahhh!” The torture never stops. You’re expected to bow down to the man and learn all this math stuff, when all you really wanted to know was how to play the opening riff to “Holy Wars… The Punishment Due.”

It gets worse. You can’t just play your music and be happy. They want you to play with people. You’re expected to leave your mom’s basement where all your gear is setup just the way you like it, and make music with people. The kind of people who think Metallica’s St. Anger is a good album. Christ! Has the whole world gone completely insane!? But you suck it up, pop a couple of Ritalin, check out some Craigslist ads, pack up your V, and walk into the abyss.

To help you along on this odyssey, here are five sure fire warning signs that it’s going to be a complete waste of your time:

1. They Told Me To Learn All These Songs But…

On the phone they sounded like really cool guys with cool tunes, who have their shit together. You talk about musical influences, gear, and what kind of music the band is into. You thought you’d struck gold right out of the gate because they get it. They understand the true meaning of metal. The other guitar player in the band plays a Fender Squire Strat, but you can over look that for now. These guys have the beginnings of something that could be something. You make it clear you want to do all the cookie monster vocals and they’re cool with that. You agree on twelve songs for the first meeting, set a date, and your destiny begins.

You show up like a pro ready to rawk. You worked your ass off learning all these songs note for note, when you discover that you know the tunes better than they do. They can’t even get through one song without someone screwing it up, making an excuse, and going off on a tangent with a long story. The other guitar player is a complete mouth breather and knows none of the songs. He just wants to solo over everything. His gear is utter crap. When you try to show him how to play something he gets hostile, “Get away from me! I am The Fury!” Here’s the biggest red flag in the history of red flags: “You guys start, I’ll just come in.”

2. The Singer’s Girlfriend Decides She’s The Musical Director

Everything is going really well. You’re at a totally big money rehearsal loft owned by the singer’s girlfriend who is rolling in serious dough. The drummer is absolutely killin’. He looks like the drummer from Iron Maiden but plays like Mike Portnoy on crack, but in a good way. The bass player doesn’t say much and uses only one facial expression for everything, but who cares? He’s nailing the tunes. He can play! He’s sportin’ a Yamaha Billy Sheehan signature bass. Need I say more?

The singer has some serious vocal chops. I mean you guys are playin’ old school Queensryche for Christ sake and you’re just warming up! This is going to be awesome! You’re the only guitar player in this well-oiled machine, and already you’re thinking about expanding your amp and pedal board to fill out the sound. You’re brainstorming some kind of wet-dry, tri-amp stereo set-up using Ernie Ball volume pedals to fade in the different amps and effects. You’re fantasizing about all the tunes you could cover. Dreams of Opeth and Testament fill your head.

Meanwhile the singer’s girlfriend has been sitting on the couch checking out the band the whole time without saying a word. During a break between songs she finally says, “Do you guys know any John Mayer?”

3. Whoa. Why Do I Feel Sleepy?

You had a nice talk with the dude on the phone. He was really cool. So when you arrived at his apartment, you didn’t think it was weird that he wanted to hang out for a bit, and have a little drink before you went down to the basement to meet the other the guys. Then everything goes black.

4. They Said They Were Into Metal

So yeah, slavery still exists and prostitution is hard work. After your kidney scar heals you make your way back to the states and persevere. You’re really itching to get back on track and join a serious metal band. You meet a drummer at the methadone clinic who seems cool enough. He says, “Just come on down and we’ll see what happens.” After you arrive at their rehearsal space you quickly realize that these guys do not understand the true meaning of metal. Night Ranger is not metal. Cinderella is not metal. Autograph is not metal. You never thought of yourself as an elitist, but when the keyboard player asks you if you know the intro to White Lion’s “When The Children Cry” you quietly and calmly pack up your V and bail.

5. Ageism Affects Millions of Americans Every Day

How you wound up at a male pattern baldness and beer gut convention you’ll never know. You dig Sabbath and Rainbow just as much as the next guy, but these dudes are going to look ridiculous on stage with you. It’s like being in a band with a bunch of weird know-it-all drunk uncles. And at what point did you ask for a lecture on the roots of metal every half an hour? And why do they sweat so much? And what’s with all the body hair? That can be shaved off! Why don’t they shave it off?! The bass player was cool because he doesn’t say much and uses only one facial expression for everything, but still…

All you wanted was to find some guys who you can relate to. Dudes who understand the true meaning of metal. This is a bummer. Bands suck. It’s back to your mom’s basement, DragonForce instructional guitar videos, and eternal damnation.