The FORBIDDEN RIFF – Is Stairway to Heaven Banned in Guitar Stores?

The iconic song ‘Stairway to Heaven’ by Led Zeppelin became so overplayed and badly attempted by beginner guitar players that guitar stores started referring to it as the FORBIDDEN RIFF!

Guitar store employees also jokingly threaten to ban people from their stores if they play the riff.

Stairway to Heaven is just one of the forbidden riffs that makes guitar store employees cringe when they hear, along with other classic songs such as smoke on the water, seven nation army, and wonderwall!

Stairway to Heaven is an absolutely fantastic song. It’s commonly referred to as one of the best songs in rock history. However, when overplayed so much, people are bound to get sick of it!

Why can’t you play stairway to heaven in guitar stores? Let’s get into the reasons!

Is Stairway to Heaven Banned In Music Stores?

Stairway to heaven is not banned in music stores. However, playing it is quite a breach of etiquette!

If you start playing this song in store you might get jeered or joked at by store employees and other guitar players. But, you’re very unlikely to actually get kicked out of the store.

If you want to keep your street cred up, maybe you should add some other songs to your arsenal (or just improvise!) when you were trying out a guitar!

The reason why guitar store employees started to dislike hearing the song so much was because it was played so often, and so badly, by beginners.

They found that the people that came in to play Stairway to Heaven were least likely to actually buy guitars, i.e. they were just coming in to show off their new ‘skills’ or just try out a few different guitars!

The Forbidden Riff has Become a Pop Culture Reference

The running joke of Stairway to Heaven being a forbidden riff has become a pop culture reference ever since it appeared in the movie ‘Wayne’s World’.

It’s now so well known amongst the guitar player community that when you play this at a guitar store, people will instantly think about this forbidden guitar riff reference, and may pass some remarks about it!

Stairway to Heaven is Forbidden Because it’s Overplayed

When you hear a song too many times, you’re going to eventually stop liking it so much. This is especially true when you have a lot of beginners badly attempting a rendition of the song every day around you!

Employees that work in guitar stores have to be subjected to a lot of different songs and playing styles from people all day long.

When they hear the exact same song, it can really start to infuriate them over time!

This for the exact same reason that some people find busking or street performers very controversial. Many buskers in busy districts often regularly rotate between a short list of songs in the same set, which can greatly irritate employees in nearby shops!

Stairway to Heaven is Also Banned Because It’s So Easy to Learn

The song sounds great but it’s so easy to learn, which is why it’s played so much. Stairway to Heaven is one of the first songs that many guitarists learn.

This song has an incredible combination of being really easy to play while sounding amazing when it’s played well. It has such an amazing character and goes so well together with the lyrics.

To somebody who’s never played guitar before, Stairway to Heaven can seem like quite a difficult song to play, even though the picking is actually quite simple.

Therefore, it is another way for beginner guitarists to make it look like they’re a lot better, or a lot more experienced than they actually are!

Yes, this is another reason why it’s one of the go-to songs for beginners when they go into a guitar store.

They don’t want to just show a few chords, they want to play a nice strummed pattern of a very popular song. This is yet another reason why this song is forbidden in many guitar stores!

How Popular was the song Stairway to Heaven?

Stairway to Heaven was (and still is) an immensely popular song, it was it’s one of Led Zeppelin is most well-known songs, and is commonly referred to as one of the Best Rock Songs of All Time.

This is yet another reason why this is so often played amongst guitarists.

What should you play instead of the forbidden Riff?

Instead of reverting to the standard forbidden riff, just play what you would normally play. If you want to try out some new guitars, then play the kind of music that you want to play.

If you just strum a few chords when singing along to a song, then that’s what you should do.

If you play fast riffs and solos, then that’s what you should play to make sure that you know that it’s a guitar for you.

Therefore, when you’re playing in a guitar store. Play the music for YOU. Do not try and show off to anybody else. If you have your own material then play that.

If you really want to Stairway to Heaven all day long, then just go ahead play that when in the guitar store… but be ready for the jokes, dirty looks, and general disapproval of your fellow guitarists!

Summary – Stairway to Heaven as a Forbidden and Banned Song in Guitar Stores

It has simply just become a running joke within the guitar community that Stairway to Heaven is banned in guitar stores.

However, it’s still not very far away from the truth. People do not really appreciate this being played because it is so heavily overplayed almost all the time by people.

Therefore, keep the respect of your fellow guitar players… Try out some other less cliched songs, try out a few of your own riffs, or just play around and improvise.

Make sure to suit your own style when you are trying out a new guitar. It’s not a time to try to show off to the guitar store employees. They hear people hearing guitars all day long, they really don’t care about what you’re playing! Unless, of course, you’re playing the FORBIDDEN RIFF!

Featured Image by tony morelli, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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