Monday, August 21, 2006

I Play the Guitar.


For my 28th birthday (two and half years ago, for those of you keeping track), I told my wife I really wanted to learn how to play the guitar. That kept up for about six months, and I haven’t played much since. Most of what I’ve learned has been through sites where musicians post tablature (“guitar tabs”) for songs that they have either picked out themselves, or copied out of books.

I can play “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd and “What’s Going On?” by Four Non-Blondes, and that’s about it. Egon tried to teach me “Creep” by Radiohead, but that didn’t stick very well. More practice is required! I’m planning on bringing my guitar for the second half of deployment. I also want to learn some kids’ songs for… well, my kids. I really got my daughter Kiddo interested in guitar and bought her one for her birthday, but all she remembers is an “A” chord. So if nothing else, it’s something fun we can learn together, and hopefully for Jack as well, when he’s older.

Now, according to Bob Tedeschi of the New York Times and Ian Youngs of the BBC, the music industry – which consists of people who would like to send you to prison for making mix tapes, by the way - is saying that guitar tab sites like are taking money away from hard-working musicians by teaching aspiring musicians how to play their songs.

No seriously. I can’t teach myself to play songs for my kids, or I’ll go to jail.

The advent of Internet made the sharing of ideas that human have always done for thousands of years really easy and lightning fast. So now, ideas are shared in bulk. This goes for music. When I was a kid, I’d buy tapes or record songs off the radio and mix tapes together and share them with my friends. Now, it’s done in such mass volume that it’s a crime. Now I can’t even learn how to play a song without paying ten dollars for sheet music per song? (Making up a cost, here. I remember that it’s not worth it.)

Now, I understand about copyright law and intellectual property law, but I’m a common sense guy. If I ever do write that book someday, I wouldn’t want anyone to steal it, copy it and sell it as their own. But, playing the songs of artists you like should be flattering to those artists. Why record albums and do concerts and shows if you don’t want people to enjoy the music? Are we seriously going to make laws that say it’s only OK for me to listen to a song if the original artist plays it?

Are there going to be middle-of-the-night raids on night clubs featuring cover bands and tribute bands? “Dude, did Lars Ulrich give you permission to play “Ride the Lightning”? No? You’re so busted!” How far will it go, I wonder? We have a petty officer onboard known only as “The Artist” who worships Prince and is able to perform like Prince, too. I have the video to prove it, which I will upload as soon as I get some freakin’ bandwidth.

What of him, U.S. Music Publishers Association? What of him?

UPDATE: More guitar bloggery from Earl at guitarguitarguitar. Thanks for visiting, earl!


Blogger earl bloody well said...

hey matthew,
i'm with you; the misdirected corporate greed involved with this tab legality based money grab is unreal. i think that this is chasing the wrong nogooders of the world, in fact, i don't think that it hinders or negatively impacts the music publishing industry at all; in fact, i think it helps it. it creates interest in songs and fosters involvement of other musicians in artist's songs, and, in the artists themselves! leave the tabbers alone.

21 August, 2006 14:15  
Blogger Kevin bloody well said...

Couldn't agree more. I recently had a great time playing guitar at a campfire with my family. I'm glad the music industry lawyers didn't break it up.
As John Lennon put it, "There's nothing you can sing that can't be sung"
Although this time may be different, lawyers have threatened OLGA before and somehow it's managed to stick around!

21 August, 2006 22:19  

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