The 4 Stages of Guitar Center Playing

 Is this you?

Is this you?

by Mike Geronsin of (

In my experience, there are 4 stages that we all go through during our guitar journeys that can easily be measured by our Guitar Center etiquette. 

Stage 1: You suck. You're so new that you're afraid to even turn up the amp in fear that the other guys will laugh at your wimpy skills. So you have the salesman grab a guitar off the wall, plug it in, and dial up the amp for you. Usually you'll marvel at how awesome the salesman is at playing Metallica riffs. They hand you the guitar but you just kinda look at it and play with the knobs. You decide to buy it because it "looks cool and Synyster Gates plays one just like it."

Stage 2: You still suck but you think you don't. You've learned three riffs off Youtube and are ready to show the world. So you grab a guitar off the wall, plug it in, and suddenly a heart-stopping squeal shoots from the Line 6 amp disturbing the customers and enraging the employees. Oh well, how were you to know the master knob was turned to 11? You struggle through Smoke On The Water, Enter Sandman, and Seven Nation Army, the whole time being slightly out of tune, out of time, and way too loud. The salesperson comes over, turns the amp down to 2, and gives you a half-crazy smile as they ask if you need any help. Your friends think you're pretty cool though because you made loud noises happen in public. You put the guitar down and go bang on the drums for no reason for the next hour. 

Stage 3: You're decent and want to "wow" the onlookers. You've graduated from the first two stages and have actually made some headway. Congratulations, most never make it out of those murky waters. You're good but probably haven't played many (if any) actual gigs. You grab a decent guitar (probably one that's not shaped like a death weapon with a lightning bolt paint job) and start playing some pretty sweet licks at a "way more than audible" volume. You wait for your first admirers to wander over and you bask in knowing that they're probably salivating at your tasty licks. They'll ask, "How long you been playin'?," to which you respond (while still shredding) with, "Ah, just a few years." By now there's a small crowd watching as you complete your Paul Gilbert legato exercises and shut the amp down. These mere mortals only deserve so much awesome for one night. You put down the $2000 guitar and walk away with your head held high, maybe purchasing a pack of strings on your way out. By the way, the employees still hate you.  

Stage 4: You've made it! You've not only gotten great as a player but now you have years of live experience plus some studio gigs in your pocket. You're only at the store to buy a bag of picks but you notice a rare-looking Gibson on the used wall. You bring it to the back room and plug it in only turning it up enough to hear the tone of the instrument. You don't care if anyone notices you and you actually hope the salesperson leaves you alone. Someone eventually walks in so you unplug and leave so you don't disrupt their guitar buying experience. You realize you've come a long way, from being a newbie who was afraid to be heard, to a professional who didn't care if people heard you or not. (