Why Is Stairway To Heaven Banned In Guitar Stores? – Forbidden Riff

So let’s set the scene! You go into a guitar store to have a look around. Let’s face it, going and checking out guitars is fun, even if you’re not planning on buying one.

You get to go in, look at the huge variety of guitars stuck on the walls, and you get to have a go on various different ones that you might not have had a chance to otherwise. 

why is stairway to heaven banned in guitar stores

The helpful guitar store assistant comes and takes one off of the wall for you to play.

They connect it to an amp, you have the beautiful instrument in your hands, plectrum between your fingers – there is a resounding silence before you begin to play…

And you play the first few notes of Stairway To Heaven by Led Zeppelin. 

Instantly there you see the guitar store assistant cringe, you see people rolling their eyes, and you can’t work out why.

All you did was play a riff – so why does it feel like you just played something forbidden? If you’ve ever found yourself in this highly specific scenario – then you are in the right place!

We’ve created a total guide that is going to outline for you the exact reasons why is stairway to heaven banned in guitar stores.

We’ll take you through some of the history of the song, of the band, and its relationship to popular music as well as guitar stores all around the world.

We’ve also made sure to include an extensive FAQ that will go into detail about everything Led Zep, to answer any additional questions you might have. 

Who Are Led Zeppelin? 

Let’s start with the very basics and assume you don’t know who Led Zeppelin is.

Well, they were a British rock band formed in 1968 by Jimmy Page (guitar), John Paul Jones (bass) Robert Plant (vocals), and Jason Bonham (drums).

Led Zeppelin released six studio albums during their career: Led Zeppelin I (1969), Led Zeppelin II (1970), Houses Of The Holy (1973), Physical Graffiti (1975), Coda (1977), and Presence (1997).

Their last album, Coda, was released posthumously after the death of drummer John Bonham in 1980.

Led Zeppelin’s Sound & Influences 

The sound of Led Zeppelin has been described as hard rock, heavy metal, blues-rock, progressive rock, psychedelic rock, hard rock, glam rock, punk rock, soul-rock, folk-rock, country-rock, Southern rock, roots rock, and art-rock. It is often considered to be one of the most influential bands in modern music.

The band’s sound was heavily influenced by the blues, particularly by artists such as Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and Chuck Berry.

However, Led Zeppelin would later develop their style, which incorporated elements of psychedelia, jazz fusion, prog rock, classical music, folk music, gospel music, heavy metal, hard rock, funk, R&B, soul, and pop. 

What Is Stairway To Heaven? 

Stairway to Heaven is a song from Led Zeppelin III, released in 1971 and featured on their album It has been covered numerous times since its release, including versions by artists such as Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, Black Sabbath, and more. 

The song itself tells the story of a man who is dying, and his last thoughts are of his wife. He imagines her coming home to him after he dies, and they spend their final moments together.

This idea of death and love is what makes the song so special, but when we listen to it now, we don’t think of death or love; instead, we hear a catchy riff, and instantly associate it with the guitar solo in the middle. 

The guitar solo is one of the most iconic parts of the song, and it is what gives us the impression that we should be playing along to the song.

However, the problem is that the solo is very difficult to play, and many guitarists find themselves struggling to play it correctly. 

This isn’t because the solo is too hard to play, though; it’s just that the key of E minor is a bit tricky to master.

There are several ways to play the solo, and each one requires a certain amount of practice to perfect. 

Why Is Stairway To Heaven Banned In Guitar Stores?

Well, now we come to the reason why Stairway to Heaven is banned within guitar stores.

It’s worth noting that this is more of an expectation rather than a rule, but we’ll explore the most extreme cases and explain why you might not want to play it when testing out a guitar at a store.

To understand why the song is banned, you have to see it from the perspective of a guitar store assistant.

Just as you like to come in and test out different guitars, especially if you’re looking to buy a new one, so do many other people.

This means that the owners of the guitar store are going to be seeing and hearing countless customers play their guitars throughout the week. This means that they hear a lot of songs over and over. 

Stairway to Heaven is one of the most popular rock songs ever written, and more than that, its opening riff is fun to learn and to play.

This makes it natural for you to break out when testing out a guitar because it will give you a good understanding of the tone, sound, and feel of a new instrument.

The problem is that guitar stores have just heard it too many times before. 

This leads to guitar store workers rolling their eyes when they hear it. Talk about a way to spoil a classic!

Stairway to Heaven is great, but imagine hearing that opening riff more times than you can count, daily? This is the main reason why it is “banned” within guitar stores.

What Does “Banned” Mean?

What Does "Banned" Mean

Well, this is where the more subjective nature of this article comes in. When somebody tells you that it is banned within a store, they’re probably not being 100% serious.

What banned means, in this case, is that the workers are not going to be too happy if you start playing it when testing out a guitar.

This is because most guitar stores won’t just outright ban their customers from doing something that they enjoy, or might help them to select a product.

For most stores, the ban is more of a guideline – an unwritten rule that you should follow for fear of annoying those poor, overworked music-store workers.

You want them to be happy, and making them all roll their eyes by playing Stairway to Heaven is a sure-fire way to make them less likely to give you the best assistance and advice they can give.

It’s mostly a running joke, but some guitar stores take it to the extreme.

There have been cases of wanted posters, or polite signs explaining that Stairway to Heaven is not to be played when testing out guitars – sometimes warning of hilarious and over-the-top consequences.

It’s mostly all in good fun, but you can imagine that it would get annoying if you had to hear that opening riff so many times in your life. 

What Other Songs Are “Banned” In Guitar Stores?

You might think that it ends with Stairway to Heaven – it’s a pretty popular song, right? Well, you’d be wrong, because there are a few other classic tunes that guitar stores hate!

Take Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water” for example. This is one of the easiest songs to play and is picked up by many beginners.

Its simplistic, 4-note riff makes it a perfect thing to learn if you’re just getting started. More than this, because of its popularity, it’s another classic for people to play when testing out guitars.

Imagine hearing those 4-notes over and over – it would be enough to drive anyone mad!

Similarly, songs such as Iron Man – by Black Sabbath – also fall into this category. It’s a simple, catchy tune that is easy to pick up and play along with.

However, when you go to test out a guitar at a store, you’ll find yourself having to explain to the staff why you like this song. They’ll look at you strangely, and then tell you that it’s banned.

What Song Should I Play When Testing Out A Guitar?

Okay, so now you’re worried! you’re going to go pick up a new guitar but you don’t want the ‘stare of disapproval’ from staff, but you still need to play something that will help you to test out your new potential instrument. 

The answer is simple: play whatever you feel comfortable with. If you’ve got a favorite song, great! Go ahead and play it.

If you haven’t got any songs prepared, no worries, just play anything you can remember. Don’t worry about how well you know the song, or what chords you need to use. Just play it.

If you’re lucky, you may even get someone who likes the song to come over and ask you questions about it. If not, then you’ll just have to deal with the stares and awkward silence.

Either way, the point is that you shouldn’t let the ban stop you from trying out a guitar. After all, if your favorite song sounds amazing on this new guitar, you might end up picking it anyway!

What Does the Forbidden Riff Mean?

The Forbidden Riff meaing is a list of songs that are not allowed to be played in guitar stores. It is a little joke that was first created in 1973 in the street in Denmark, London.

The list below consists of songs that are all considered to be overplayed.

  1. Stairway To Heaven (Led Zeppelin)
  2. Smoke On The Water (Deep Purple)
  3. Iron Man (Black Sabbath)
  4. Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen)
  5. You Shook Me All Night Long (AC/DC)
  6. Hot For Teacher (Van Halen)
  7. Under Pressure (Queen)
  8. Another One Bites The Dust (Metallica)

Check out:- Why Do Guitar Stores Have Forbidden Riffs

Would People Dislike If I Played The Solo?

Listen, guitar solos properly played are awesome. The joke about a stairway to heaven being overplayed isn’t necessarily to do with the guitar solo.

It’s more to do with the fact that you could hear the same riff over and over again. If you can play the solo well, then most guitar store workers are probably going to be impressed.

After all, Jimmy Page is one of the most legendary guitarists in history, and playing something he wrote is always going to go down well! 

Final Thoughts – Why Is Stairway To Heaven Banned In guitar Stores?

So there you have it! The main reason why is stairway to heaven banned in guitar stores, is because it is a long-running joke due to how overplayed the opening riff is.

So next time you’re testing out a guitar, try to avoid playing this song. Hopefully, you won’t get too many strange looks for doing so! 

We hope that this guide has helped you to understand the concept and why the song is so despised within guitar shops.

If you still have some questions about this rule or any of the more technical terms used in this article, check below for our extensive Frequently Asked Questions section, which will help you with anything else you might need.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Frequently Asked Questions

What Does Banned Mean? 

This means that the song is forbidden to be played in guitar shops. Some people think that it is an actual law, while others think it is just a joke.

How Did These Riffs Become So Cliche? 

These riffs were originally written by Robert Plant and Jimmy Page. They were later covered by other bands such as Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Queen, and AC/DC.

The original versions of these riffs are quite good. However, they became cliches when they were reinterpreted and performed by different artists.

How Can I Know What Riffs Are Forbidden In a Guitar Store?

If you are lucky enough to walk into a store where the owner and staff have a sense of humor, you may be lucky enough to find a poster with forbidden riffs. Remember that the ban, though on a poster, is not enforceable. 

However, it can be an added way of passing along the message long before you receive disapproving glances. The other option is the obvious one, receiving disapproving glances.

What Is A Good Guitar For A Beginner? 

If you want to start learning guitar, then you should consider getting yourself a cheap acoustic guitar.

This type of guitar is perfect for beginners because it doesn’t cost much money and is easy to learn. The best thing about them is that they don’t require any maintenance or repairs.

Is There Any Reason That I Shouldn’t Play Stairway To Heaven? 

We’ve already mentioned this above, but we’d like to reiterate it here: if you love this song, then you should play it in guitar stores.

Just make sure that you don’t play the opening riff. Instead, focus on the solo. It will impress everyone around you!

What Are The Best Guitars For Learning How To Play Guitar?

The best guitars for learning how to play guitar are those that are inexpensive and easy to use. You’ll find that they are also very durable, and therefore last longer than expensive ones.

Why Do People Hate Playing Stairway To Heaven In Guitar Shops? 

Some people hate this song because they think it’s boring. Others dislike it because they feel that it is overplayed. Many people also claim that it sounds bad.

Who Was Jimmy Page?

Jimmy Page was born James Patrick Page on April 3rd, 1943. He grew up in West Bromwich, England, and began his musical career at the age of 14.

At the age of 18, he formed a band called The Yardbirds. They released their first album titled “Having a Rave Up” in 1968.

Two years later, they released their second album named “From Here To Eternity”. This album included the hit single “You Shook Me”, which reached number two in the UK Singles Chart. 

Their third album was entitled “Over Under Sideways Down”, and featured the singles “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago” and “Train Kept A-Rollin'”.

The fourth album was called “Blow Out And Go Crazy”. This album had the hit single “Whole Lotta Love”. After recording the fifth album, Page left the band.

His replacement was Jeff Beck. During the 1970s, Page worked with Deep Purple and Thin Lizzy. He also recorded three albums with John Paul Jones from Led Zeppelin.

What Is The Meaning Of ‘Stairway To Heaven’?

It is often thought that this phrase refers to a stairway leading to heaven. However, this isn’t true. It comes from the title track of Led Zeppelin IV.

When asked what the meaning of this phrase was, Jimmy Page replied: “I’m not going to tell you.”

How Much Does A Used Electric Guitar Cost?

A used electric guitar can be purchased for anywhere between $100-$1000. If you’re looking to buy one, then you may want to check out our guide on buying an electric guitar.

What Is The Difference Between An Acoustic And An Electric Guitar?

An acoustic guitar is a string instrument that produces sound through vibration. On the other hand, an electric guitar has pickups attached to its strings.

These pickups detect the vibrations made by the strings and convert them into electrical signals.

What Is The Best Way To Learn To Play Guitar?

There are many ways to learn to play guitar. One of the most popular methods is to take lessons from a professional guitarist. Another option is to purchase a book or CD that teaches you how to play.

Finally, there are online courses that teach you how to play guitar. All of these options have their advantages and disadvantages.

What Is The Most Expensive Song Ever Written?

This question is difficult to answer. Some say that the Beatles’ “Yesterday” is the most expensive song ever written.

Other people believe that the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy For The Devil” is more valuable. Still, others say that Pink Floyd’s “Money” is worth more money than anything else.

What Is The Greatest Rock Instrumental Ever Recorded?

There are many great rock instrumental songs. However, it’s hard to pick just one as the greatest. Many people think that the best instrumental song is “The Rain Must Fall” by Cream.

Others believe that “Crossroads” by Cream is better. Still, others claim that “Tales From Topographic Oceans” by Yes is the best instrumental song.

What Are The Differences Between A Bass Player And A Drummer?

Bass players and drummers both use instruments. But, bass players usually use a double bass while drummers use only drums. Both types of musicians perform different roles during live performances.

What Is The Purpose Of A Pickup On An Electric Guitar?

Electric guitars have pickups attached to their strings. These pickups detect vibrations made by the strings. Then, the pickups convert these vibrations into electrical signals.

Can You Use Your Cell Phone As A Mic?

Yes, you can use your cell phone as a mic. There are several apps available that allow you to do this.

Once you download the app onto your smartphone, you’ll be able to record music using your cell phone.

If you enjoyed this article, you might enjoy our post on ‘What Is A Guitar Lick: Guitar Licks Explained