Music plays an important part in the modern information age, with walkman phones, mp3 players and iPods making music available not just on the move but absolutely anywhere. Whereas formerly, people would travel with their minds focussed on the intricacies of life, they can now settle their headphones into their ears and block out the world at large. With the lack of necessary expression on the internet, coupled with the ability to block out the world with music, the modern world thrives on turning the other cheek.
Also worthy of consideration is the fact that almost any music is available to anybody using the internet. Via torrents, download managing programs and simple point and click interface, music downloads are more common than ever before. While some consider this the beginning of the musical apocalypse, others relish the pleasure of downloading terabytes and terabytes of music that nobody could ever listen to in one lifetime. Addictive downloading has become an all too common reality, leading users to search for album downloads by bands that they've never even heard of. The right to copyright your musical property is now a thing of the past. A user can fill their mobile music player with any music that they desire, whether it is legal for them to own it or not.
Cashing in on the amazing potential revenue of the download stream, several companies began to aid consumers in the gathering of their favourites. Some were legal, and these were sued and shut down as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, those illegal sources flourished in the need for more. Alongside this, videos, games and programs became available via the constant download stream. Websites opened up containing download and streaming links to TV shows and the newest films before they were even released. Piracy became so commonplace that it is barely even punishable anymore.
Capitalising on the sudden and encouraging surge of musical availability, the video game market found an opportunity to become involved. First came PC games based around the concept of composition. These later developed into recording and composition programs, but that was many years down the line. Next, these games moved forwards onto consoles, while 'dancing' games became popular in arcades and, later, at home, due to the use of certain accessories. These were still focussed mostly on pop and dance music however.
The turning point for guitar-orientated music was the development of 'Guitar Hero'. Not long afterwards, the concept expanded to include more than just the guitar with the title 'Rock Band'. Since the original releases, the rush of popularity made for continual follow-up releases. Eventually, the developers began to create games that were specifically designed to appeal to fans of certain bands, such as Metallica or The Beatles. The fan base for these games became so large that it grew to a size that actually threatened the popularity of the real electric guitar.
This led to wide scale war between guitarists, guitar hero players, opinionated pacifists, people with opinions on opinionated pacifists, internet trolls, trolls of trolls and people who get bored extremely easily. In one of these groups was a member of Ultimate-Guitar called David Morris. In another was a member called Hugh Gee.
The school cafeteria was packed to breaking point, as it always was whenever food was being served. The children of the school, of all varying ages, were stuffed like salmon into the little plastic chairs, fighting over table space because their trays would not all fit on the same table. The sheer volume of the place was astounding. The scrape of chairs, the pound of footsteps and the shouts of conversation all came together to assail the ears at once. This was every day at this school, no matter what was going on. Today was no exception.
David Morris was late out of computer class. This meant that all of the good food would be gone, leaving him to fight with the late, desperate and excessively bullied peers that he had come to know very well in the last few weeks. He was late because he had been held back by the teacher. He had been caught wandering through Ultimate-Guitar again. The Electric Guitar forum was calling out to him lately, ever since he had first ventured out of the Pit and realised how much more the place actually offered that he had never noticed. His friends had gone on without him, and, hopefully, they had saved him a seat. However, he still had to go through the heavily diminished queue and pick up something that he could eat within the twenty minutes he had left before classes resumed. He was grateful that all of the bullies that usually attacked him at this point were already fed and wandering off to smoke at the back of the field outside.
David was sixteen years old, and small for his age. His short hair was scruffy, his uniform was battered and his eyes had already began to fail him. He was the perfect picture of somebody who couldn't care less about what they looked like. With his food on a tray in front of him, he moved quickly, with his head down and his eyes to the ground. He was hoping with all that he could that nobody would notice him, especially Richard Meyers. Meyers had caused him no end of trouble from the first day to the current one. Identifying the people that he would usually sit with, David took his seat and, with a cursory glance to make sure that no unseen fists were coming, he relaxed.
Looking up, he was met with the green eyes and small smile of his short and mousy friend Heather. She was his age, with fine, black hair and badges all over her blazer. "Why were you held back?" Heather asked in her high-pitched voice. "Being stuck in that classroom for more than half an hour doesn't really seem fair for being caught on a website."
"Not the first time though, is it?" Responded Jacob, David's younger brother, who was sitting to his right. The similarities between the two were mostly limited to physicality. It was rare for the two of them to see eye to eye on anything. "It's pretty much every class now. You're not really covered up; he can see you no matter what you're doing, so it's no surprise, is it? You should just get off of the websites before you get caught."
David turned to his brother with a glare. "Don't you have your own friends to go and sit with or something?" He asked, quite spitefully.
Jacob turned his head to regard his usual group, currently sitting far across the cafeteria in an organised huddle. "Nick's been talking about me behind my back again," Jacob began angrily. "None of them will talk to me anymore. It's like last month when he told everybody that I watch beast porn. They'll come around, and then I'll have to pretend to like Nick again. It happens all the time."
"Same thing happened to me," included Heather, sadness seeping into her tone. "Well, not exactly the same thing though, is it? It would be weird to be accused of watching any porn when you're a girl, certainly not beast or anything. I just had other girls accusing me of trying to steal their boyfriends. That's the big deal for them. If one girl cries witch over that then the rest do just the same. At least I've always got you guys to fall back on. The best friends always live across the road, right?"
"Yeah," Jacob said with a wide smile. "So are you coming 'round tonight? We can sit and relax like usual. Maybe play some Guitar Hero again?"
Heather made to begin an answer, but her lips had barely opened before David leapt in and cut her off. "Don't you guys ever get sick of just pretending to play guitar?" He asked of his companions. Both of them looked at him as though he had just declared himself the new master of the universe. It confused him, likely almost as much as they were being confused as well.
It took a moment for either of them to make a response, but Jacob took the opportunity fast enough. "Since when is it about pretending to play guitar at all?" He inquired with a small smile. "I've never done that except when there's a good song on and somebody else is playing. That isn't faking it either, that's air guitar. Weird how people like doing that, but stick a little guitar shaped controller in their hands and suddenly it's a completely different story. Since when do you care anyway? I thought you liked Guitar Hero."
"I do," answered David. His words made him consider his current standpoint, but it didn't change his mind. "I've been playing a fake little guitar controller for ages now. I think it's about time I start playing the real thing. I've played that thing a lot, I should be quite good with an electric guitar by now, right?"
"You're a weird man if you really think that," added Heather, her opinion putting an extra weight on to the counter argument. "It's just a game. Is this about what that guy on Ultimate Guitar said? Playing a game doesn't make you gay and would it be so bad if you were? I don't get what everybody has against that little lifestyle choice. I'm telling you, you'd be a lot better off if you'd stop listening to that Hugh Gee guy. He's probably some kid our age who doesn't listen to anybody and makes stupid inappropriate jokes whenever he sees a hint of cleavage."
"You mean like that kid who was hitting on Meyers' girlfriend?" Inquired Jacob. Nobody knew the name of the complete idiot who had done it, but shouting 'I cum blood' at the top of his voice in a crowded house directly into the face of Sammy Jackson had made him something of a laughing stock for the entirety of the school. "I can see him fitting the bill pretty well, can't you?"
"It doesn't matter," began David. "You guys are wrong anyway. I'm not doing it because of something anybody else said, I'm just doing it because I feel like I want to do it. I've been through the Electric Guitar forum and the Musician Talk forum and I'm learning all of this cool stuff about making music. I don't know, I just want to make something that sounds that good, you know? I sit and I play that game and wonder what it would be like to play guitar like the bands on there. You know, great guitarists like Tom Morello, Slash and that guy Lou who called himself 'The Devil' for all of his career."
"You are such a strange man," repeated Heather. "You don't even own a guitar. What are you going to do about it? You can't play, you don't have a band and you don't really have a point in mind, do you? You just want to learn to play because you think it's more 'real'."
"See, that's where you're wrong, Heather," David countered. He had been planning this over the course of the last couple of days and, to his own surprise, he had made a decent amount of progress. "My new guitar is going to be turning up in the next couple of days. After that, I've got plenty of tabs and Musician Talk threads to look through. And, here's the fun bit, I have a band with an opening for a rhythm guitarist next week. From here on in, everything's going to go as smooth as anything."
The passing fortnight had proven to be an exercise in patience. Anything that could have potentially gone wrong had gone very wrong indeed. The guitar that David has ordered had been delayed incessantly until, one day after he had missed his audition with one of the local school bands, it had finally arrived. His happiness at the final arrival evaporated almost instantly as soon as he picked the instrument up, tried to play a C chord and hurt his ears.
The next five hours had been spent tuning, cleaning, missing strings and making annoying noises until, at last, he had given up and gone downstairs to play Guitar Hero with Heather and Jacob. They had mocked him horribly, but this came as no surprise.
His eyes were stinging horribly from the hours that he had spent with tiny Verdana characters on his computer screen. Theory had been a blur thus far, and trying to move from a C major chord to a D minor chord had proved even more difficult that he had imagined. The tips of his fingers ached if left holding a chord for too long and every note that he missed felt like a personal punishment. He was strongly reminded of when he first began to play Guitar Hero. In truth, he found himself liking it. Similar to a new difficulty with many new buttons, he wanted to face this fresh challenge with a smile on his face.
It was a Monday morning, not long after school lessons had ended. Still wearing his shirt, blazer and tie, David had wandered to a music store local to him in the hopes of buying some new plectrums. Strangely, all of those that had arrived with the guitar had disappeared almost straight away.
Inside the claustrophobic little shop, a smartly dressed but somewhat overweight and thickly bearded man behind the counter locked eyes with him and, while David explored the wall of guitars, he could feel the owner's eyes burning a hole in his back. It was rather intimidating to be watched move around. It made him much less likely to approach the front, so, instead, he chose to examine the gathered Gibson, Fender and Jackson guitars. The lights were low, almost obscuring the lettering on the front covers of the theory books stacked in a thin bookcase near the counter.
There was only one other customer in the store. He looked to be of a similar age, or just older, than David, though he was not wearing anything that suggested he was still a school goer. He was wearing jeans and a plain black t-shirt, and he was sitting on a stool, playing with the little drum kit in the window. For such a small place, it had quite a collection of accrued merchandise.
It took a little while, but when David finally managed to gather the courage to approach the hairy owner, he found that only the mans eyes had moved. "Where are the picks you're selling?" He asked, still feeling more than a little nervous.
Seemingly in answer, the owner grabbed hold of a wooden case from underneath the counter and placed it on the top. The case had many little wooden squares inside, all of which held a different type of plectrum and a pricing sticker. Keeping his eyes down, David began to peruse the selection on offer.
"Can you put this in the window?" The other customer asked, approaching the two of them with a small white card in his hand. Taking it from him, the owner glared down at it, almost as though he was about to spit on it, but, thankfully, such was not the case. Without a word, he went over to the window where the drums were arrayed and looked for a spot to put the card. David chose not to watch for too long. He was just grateful that he himself was not being watched anymore.
Unfortunately this was not the case, as became clear when the other customer laughed briefly, and then said: "so you play guitar then?"
The fact that he was in a music store looking at guitar plectrums seemed to have been completely missed by this man. "No," he began calmly, "I'm buying picks for Guitar Hero."
"Hey, that's funny," said his companion. "Everybody knows that people who play Guitar Hero can't really play guitar. You're a funny guy." Seemingly attempting to illustrate this, the boy let out a serious of long and drawn out fake laughs that were extremely annoying. "So how long have you been playing for?" He added once he was done.
"About six days," David said simply, trying to avoid the feelings of aggression that were rising in his stomach.
This was apparently the answer that the other man was hoping for. "That's good, a beginner? Wow," he said, almost as though this were some wonderful title to be desired. "Well, you should look in the window when you leave. I'm looking for a newbie or two. My name's Carl."
Carl extended his hand for David to shake, which David did after a moment of hesitation. He considered what he might say next, but nothing came to mind, nor did Carl say anything else. When the owner returned from the window, he said his first words by informing David of the price of the plectrums currently in his left hand. He paid up, said goodbye to both of them, then left the store.
Outside, he stopped to look for the little white card on display. At the top was a phone number, and beneath was a small write-up which read:
'looking for a second guitar to play backup when I solo for a couple of little recordings. Call me.'
Before he left, David noted down the number.
As it turned out, Carl was from the same school, one year above him. He just had a habit of not turning up. David had called him later that day and, as it turned out, the two of them had both been sitting with their guitars on their knees as they talked. Carl had played a range of stupidly fancy things, making David feel small and worthless, but they had arranged to meet up in one of the school music rooms to go over some things.
Jacob had mended his issues with his friends, so he hadn't been seen for a few days now. Sometimes, David would have no choice but to sit alone for his dinner, while sometimes he had Heather for company. Today, she came with him, eager to see what was going on. Thus far, she hadn't heard him play. He wasn't looking forward to it.
The school had several amplifiers that students could use. They were all Line 6 Spiders, which David had no experience with, but he set it up as best he could and spent a while playing with the tone - hitting the low E while Heather turned the mids and the bass up or down at his instruction. It proved difficult, but mostly because David had never had the opportunity to so much as touch an amplifier before. Most of it went right over his head.
On a computer in the corner of the room, most often reserved for teachers, he had signed in to Ultimate-Guitar and opened up a few theory lessons that he had been looking into most recently. He had began to explore the column sections and landed, quite easily, on the 'Ultimate Guide to Guitar' by one ZeGuitarist. It had certainly been the beginnings of an enlightening read. The major scale was no longer such a mystery to him, and he had mastered switching between a C major chord and a D minor. However, barre chords still sounding horrible and made his hands ache. He had no intentions of claiming to be a good guitarist, he simply planned to be honest.
School had long since finished by the time that Carl arrived, once again out of uniform. By the looks of things he had chosen to skip school and then, once it was over, he had decided to come in. This was a fact that Heather found quite marvellously stupid, while David chose to keep his mouth shut and just get on with it. He helped carry in the bulky amplifier that Carl had brought and they were both set up quickly in the tidy little room.
"Y'alright," Carl said first, shaking hands with David again. "I've got some tabs I wrote out for you, I've got a drum and bass track on a flash disc if I'm alright to stick it in that computer too. Is that fine?" David nodded easily. It was not his computer, it barely mattered to him. "I didn't know you were bringing your girlfriend too," continued Carl. "You should have said, I would have brought the girl that I'm f---ing right now."
The crudity of his comments caught David off guard. His only attempt at recovery was to say: "she's not my girlfriend, just a good friend." Looking over at her afterwards, he was confused by her expression. Apparently he had said something wrong.
"What are you doing learning theory?" Asked Carl in disbelief. Having reached the computer, he was glaring almost angrily at the lesson that was up on the screen. "This is stupid. Hendrix didn't know theory, Slash didn't know theory, Petrucci didn't know theory. It's stupid, I can write good music without any of this crap."
"Did you just pull three major names out of the air there?" Heather questioned with a smirk. "Petrucci especially is the sort of unforgivable oversight that no idiot should make."
"Oh, it talks," replied Carl, sneering at her. "Well once you hear my stuff I'm sure you'll know better. It doesn't matter anyway Dave," he began, turning to David and excluding Heather, which she didn't like one bit. "You shouldn't bother doing all of that book lessons and stuff, you should just play with feeling."
"And I suppose that shows your fingers exactly where to go for each note, does it?" Heather questioned once again.
The anger in the room rising, David felt that he had to step in, so he quite literally stepped in between them. Unable to see each other, Carl and Heather both focussed on him, so their expressions softened. "So what am I supposed to be playing and when?" David asked quickly.
The forty-five minutes or so that followed were no fun whatsoever. His guitar plugged in and his amp up high, Carl played his song again and again, trying to point out the broken down minute or so in which David was expected to play. David's part sounded very Greenday. It was four bars of root powerchords, four bars of fifth powerchords, four bars of fourth powerchords and, finally, four bars of fifth powerchords once again. It was just simple enough for him to manage, but Carl insisted on playing his song several more times before he felt that David could handle it.
Heather became bored very quickly, and David's attempts to make jokes to lighten up the mood did nothing to appease her. Every time that he managed to make a smile form on her face, Carl would pull him back to the four minute long punk rock song that they were working on.
Once Carl was confident that David could handle the simple part that he had been given, he started the backing track that he had provided on the computer. At this point, the song went from bad to worse. The repetitive snare and the badly timed smash of the cymbals did nothing to keep the beat, while the bass clashed horribly with every chord that either guitarist played. Somehow, Carl thought that this sounded pretty good, since he began to play with a rather wide smile. David caught Heather rolling her eyes as they ran through the song again, but, once again, he chose to keep his mouth shut.
It was at this point that the door opened and, as both guitarists stopped playing, a boy from the lower year stuck his head in. "You fags going to be long?" He asked without reservation. Behind him, both a tall and ginger boy and a short and rounded boy shook their heads at their friend's words.
Carl did not react too well to this intrusion. "What the f--- do you want?" He asked. "We're recording in here, we need people like you to get out and stay out."
"Lol," came the boy's simple response, almost as soon as Carl had finished. "You've used up your hour, everywhere else is taken and George needs to practice or he's going to fail music. Every time Mr. Woodman passes us by he bitches at us, so you need to get out so that we can get in. Don't make me report you to a teacher, or you'll end up getting banned."
"Well, we haven't used our hour yet so you'd best get out," replied Carl furiously. The amused little smirk on the boy's face was more than reason enough to become annoyed.
"K, koo," said the boy in answer, raising a laugh from the chubby friend behind him. "Don't be too much longer. If you break the rules I'll get you banned." He backed out quickly afterwards and closed the door behind him. Carl sighed in annoyance and, after checking his watch, declared it time to record.
As Carl began to set up the microphones, David returned to his seat next to Heather, who had now taken out one of her Science textbooks to read through, and simply said: "I miss Guitar Hero."
"Too much like work, is it?" She asked, without looking up from the book. He didn't need to think hard about the answer. His fingertips were dented and throbbing, his wrist had cramped up and all he had been doing was sliding up and down in exactly the same position. The answer was obvious.
"Yeah," he responded. "There's just so much more to it. I mean, I can move my fingers independently, which is good I guess, but not for this sort of thing. Maybe it'll help more when I get around to playing lead."
"Well at least we're only here another five minutes or so," she said. "Or, at least, he's only here another five minutes or so. I think you're doing well anyway. It doesn't look easy to play guitar, and you've only been at it two weeks, haven't you?" She looked up so that they might make eye contact before continuing. "I'm impressed."
"Well thank you," replied David, his chest swelling at the compliment. "I'd better ace this recording then, hadn't I? I wouldn't want to let you down."
"Up you get, Dave," Carl shouted, despite the fact that the room was tiny. "Just make sure not to make any noise other than what you're playing. One, two, three, four."
The count was irrelevant, as all he did was press play on his backing track and his recording software, then nobody played for a good twenty seconds. David put himself into position, his left hand already prepared to play, while his right hand strummed air back and forth to warm up and try and push away the cramp. When he was needed, David played his sixteen second burst, providing the backing so that Carl might play some small and accidentally dissonant solo, which typically consisted of two bends and a fast chromatic run. David was extremely happy when the repetitive and dull song finally came to an end. An hour of playing it had proven more than enough.
Breaking his own rule, Carl decided to end the song by cheering himself loudly while he was still playing a D chord for the track. He even improvised a little addition, which David barely listened to. A few badly chosen notes broke through his wall of ignorance, but otherwise David was free from the assault of sound. As soon as it was done, Carl cancelled the recording, saved his track and removed his flash disc, taking with him any evidence that anything had happened during this hour.
Hugh watched the three of them file out of the room. The one braggart, the quiet one and the girl with breasts, a left one and a right one. She glared at him as he stared at her, but kept walking. Finally empty, the music room was quickly occupied by Hugh, Jimmy and George.
"Did you really have to tell them it's because of me failing music?" George asked, whining away, mostly to himself. He busied himself exploring the cupboard at the back of the room, where a few old keyboards were stored along with a few sheets of music. The three of them had been waiting for an entire hour so that George could do something to keep his mother from grounding him, or at least two of them had. In actuality, Hugh walked into the room, took a seat in front of the computer and immediately logged into Ultimate-Guitar.
"Hey, listen to this," he said after a moment of browsing. Jimmy and George both looked at him in annoyance, but kept themselves quiet. "A while ago, somebody was talking about Guitar Hero, and I posted saying that it was a game for queers, right? Well he's taken it personally. He posted just a minute ago. He's gotten himself a Kramer guitar, started recording songs and he says he's been impressing girls too. He still plays Guitar Hero though, the queer."
"It's just a game, Hugh," announced Jimmy, now leaning against the wall behind Hugh so that he could watch what Hugh was doing. "You don't have to insult everybody you know, even if you think you do."
"I don't insult everybody," replied Hugh. "Just people who really deserve it."
"You called the lunch lady a fascist because she gave you less peas than she gave me," Jimmy answered with a smirk.
"Well she deserved it didn't she?" Continued Hugh. "She's denying me my god-given right to equality in peas."
"You're an idiot, man," said George. Having plugged in the keyboard, he began to hit the keys at random, hoping to come up with something improvised that he could show to his teacher. Jimmy went over to help him, pointing at the icons on the sheets of music next to them and trying his best to guide George's fingers.
Something occurred to Hugh as he was sitting there, reading over the Guitar Hero thread. Somehow, a complete beginner at guitar was recording songs and attracting women. Some girl had been willing to sleep with him at a party just because he listened to her play, and it gave him the chance to make one of the most awesome jokes in the world. Maybe there was something to this guitar business after all. Perhaps he would try learning guitar.