How to Air Guitar


Basic Rules

The art of air guitar lies in the accuracy with which you perform it; thus, you need to understand the fundamental “logic” of the actual guitar. There is a visceral aspect to air guitar which, while not necessarily empirical, is indeed analytical. There are 6 strings: the one closest to your nipple is the lowest, and each string underneath is 5 “steps” (except in one case, 4) higher. You will not need to understand what a “step” is, as demarcated by frets, only that it’s a generic increment of tonal value or pitch. Also, somewhat obviously, the notes closer to your balls are higher than the opposite direction along the hypothetical “neck.” Now are only two more basic things: when you hear a chord, simply configure your hands in a rigid bar-like manner; and when you hear individual notes (often quickly played next to one another), make congruent movements with your fingers to mimic each note. This is called “soloing,” the pinnacle of air guitar skill. Generally, but not always, chords are played away from your body along the neck, while notes are played higher along the neck, near your balls. Once you understand the theory behind each note, you can “go off” like a sick bro.


There are many “moves” that you can and should engage in. Passively following the basic rules, while imperative, can lead to a scholarly and boring performance if relied solely upon. You will need to apply dramatic flourishes — borrowing from the past greats — before earning a convincing performance. You can (1) stick out and flick your tongue in a lascivious manner, as if performing musical cunnilingus to an imaginary groupie [à la Gene Simmons]; (2) with controlled torque, aggressively swing your fully extended arm clockwise (this is called the “windmill”) in time with the resonant chords [à la Pete Townsend]; (3) stumble around with lowered head as if you are either on drugs or severely depressed, idly strumming notes in an unconventional somewhat autistic manner [à la Kurt Cobain]; (4) dramatically squint with masochistic grimace each time you hit a piercing high note, as if self inducing an orgasm [à la Steve Vai or Santana]; (5) close eyes with retrospective solemnity (and an open mouth) as you “feel” the space between the notes, and almost cry [à la Eric Clapton]; (6) bring right strumming hand to the fret board and tap notes in harmonic unison to the notes derived from the left hand while smiling like a retard [à la Eddie Van Halen]; (7) wear an afro wig and fuck imaginary flames coming from guitar on which you committed arsony [à la Jimi Hendrix]. There are many more moves which would be too overwhelming to relay at this juncture. But please, do not do the Billy Corgan. That would be unfortunate.


You will need to be alone. If you must air guitar in the presence of others, make sure you are with loved ones, and beware that such love will be tested. Air guitar is like sex: only you think you look good doing it. For the outside world, you will look like you have a cognitive disorder, or are from West Virginia. Please do not air guitar to a two decade old song in front of a jukebox, because that would be a sad barely ironic scene only appropriate for a Coen brothers film. Best not air guitar to the riff portions of rap songs in racially segregated neighborhoods, because you might get shot.  The best place to air guitar is in your bedroom with the curtains or blinds down, wearing only your socks and boxers, between the hours of 7:oo – 9:0opm, perhaps a lava lamp safely placed to the side with at least a four foot “clearance” radius of which your flailing body is the center. Load up on carbs. If you are air guitaring with headphones on, make sure you do not trip over the chord, or accidentally “lasso” a  door knob or bed post with the chord, resulting in a sudden snag of head and disruption of airing.  If your mother, grandmother, wife, girlfriend (or any nagging woman) is around, tell her to get the fuck out. In short, define your area and make it clear. Do not air guitar in Canada or Asia, it’s just not right.


The honor upon which you bestow a song by air guitaring to it is part of the beauty of this brotastic enterprise. This is called democracy. You are hereby committing to your character, the type of person, on a moral level, that you wish to be. What you air guitar to, essentially, is self prophecy. For example, if you air guitar to Slayer, then you fucking rule. If you air guitar to John Mayer, you are a douche. If you air guitar to The Rolling Stones, you are a decent warm blooded male who simply cannot attain no satisfaction, who might be in need of a facelift buy that’s okay. If you air guitar to Death Cab for Cutie with a listless wrist, you are a sort of a “fake benign gay dude” who still won’t get any head from Zooey Deschanel, despite the faux-feminist friendly sensitive affectations you and your satchel/’man purse’ are carrying. From the grave of 70s punk, past the purgatory of 80s MTV, air guitar is the last apparition of contemporary secular hope — you, a ghost inside your bedroom, eyes closed and the awesome bodily umlaut of two tïts resting at the edge of the stage just for you, pyrotechnics behind your head, and the imminent, penultimate, ultimate great moments of a siren’s song just tingling in your hands.

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