On the Shoofly - September 2016
Our guest columnist this month considers the finer points of playing the most inexpensive instrument of all.
- by John McKellar
Why air guitar? Air guitar allows ready access to a musical instrument while shortcutting the troubling learning curve, and the expense is manageable. You don’t have to buy guitars, amps, cords, microphones, or other accouterments.
Also, storage is easier. Guitarists tend to collect guitars, thinking each will make them a better player. With the air guitar, your fourth and fifth guitar won't end up under the bed using space otherwise reserved for dust bunnies and out-of-season clothes.
Finally, not only does one forgo the agony of band break-ups due to artistic differences when one plays air guitar, but also air guitar gives the performer an incredible range of musical styles.
When there is an audience of one, it is often a situation in which we attempt to attract a mate by exposing our creative side. Song selection is very important and if well selected, allows the performer a certain sincerity of expression. This can backfire. Don't do this on the first date. In fact, this is best done when you are sure your audience is predisposed to overtures of affection. It wouldn't hurt to delay your performance until the viewer is well into the second glass of Merlot.
Pre-song can be important. You must strike the right posture dependent upon your song selection. I prefer a slouch and a seeming indifference to the audience. If you turn the imaginary volume and tone knobs of your guitar or maybe install a capo, it displays an attention to detail and dedication to craft. Take your own sip of Merlot prior to the opening chord. This is evocative of the rock star lifestyle.
Again, song selection is key to a well-received performance. As compared to rock, folk and country have a less exuberant presentation. Technique overshadows expression unless you are singing about mothers or missing dogs. Punk rock is exceedingly energetic but only uses power chords, which, with little practice, the air guitarist could play on an actual guitar. It is the most aerobic and recommended by the AMA.
With the digital era’s wide availability of music, you don't have to limit yourself to guitar. Ghandi is said to have been a capable air sitar player until the incident with the unraveling loincloth. Air tuba would be an unfortunate choice. Its motion is akin to Donald Trump’s mocking of the handicapped reporter. Air violin is the absolute most expressive. Seriously, you never open your eyes. The physical articulation is fluid and wide ranging except for your neck, which is crooked and holding your air violin. Orthopedic surgeons warn against the constant playing of this instrument due to damage to the upper vertebral segments.
The air piccolo is frequently misinterpreted as an obscene gesture and risks embroilments. I would not recommend this in southern states with open carry gun laws. Pan flute: really? If you are considering this, you need to stop reading now and run to your back yard. Your unicorn caught his horn in the sasanqua bush. You need to be there.
As for public performances, live concerts, open air, and arena venues promote the camaraderie of multiple guitarists in a somewhat competitive setting. Turn your ball cap backwards to better showcase the agony on your face as you shred the neck to nail the piercing upper register notes. Slide over to your buddy on the tambourine and syncopate your motion to his in a spontaneous air pas-de-deux. After one verse, leave him and prepare to really explore the space. As you bring the song to its fullest moment, your gyrations are maximized to improve the quality of the musicianship. The song’s end is always followed by an outbreak of high-fives and stimulant refueling. Here, as in every situation, your mission is to show what a song might be if the actual performer had your chops and depth of feeling.
I admit it. I play air guitar, a bit of saxophone, drums when I am kidding myself about my rhythm, and stand-up bass in a trio setting. In my greediest moments, within the same song I have switched to whichever instrument is playing lead. I do not do this in public. There’s the rub. I feel that we need air guitar support groups to help break through the stigma of full-on public performance and to wholly examine the air instrument ethos. We have only begun to develop the genre. It is a journey. Bend to it.
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