BY CHIP MINEMYER
In June, Bo Moore will hold a recital for his music students. And as many as 80 percent of them will be performing on guitars.
Thanks to video games such as “Guitar Hero” and “Rock Band,” Moore says, guitars are the hot thing right now.
Contrary to the notion that kids playing video games would mean they aren’t playing instruments, Moore says he’s never been busier. The private music teacher says he’s seen a jump of perhaps 35 percent in the number of young people coming to him for lessons in the past two years. And most of them dream of becoming the next Eric Clapton or Carlos Santana.
“A lot of kids have been getting into it because of games, especially ‘Guitar Hero,’ ” said Moore, who owns Bo Moore’s Downtown Music in a second-floor shop on Main Street in Johnstown. “Kids who might never have become interested in learning to play the guitar are now coming to us.”
Moore recently closed an instrument sales shop at street level and is focusing on giving lessons. He said he has more than 100 students.
“We’re so busy right now, and I think these games have been a big factor behind it,” he said. “We especially see a big boom right after Christmastime. We’re always swamped, with a long waiting list.”
The first “Guitar Hero” game was released in November 2005 and became an instant sensation – allowing gamers to “play” the licks and leads of classic rock and heavy-metal tunes.
By the time “Guitar Hero III” hit stores two years later, well-known guitarists were endorsing the game and making guest appearances – at least in animated form.
Now you can buy “Guitar Hero” games built entirely around the songs of Aerosmith and Metallica. Or you can play as your favorite guitar legends – Jimi Hendrix, Ted Nugent and others.
In 2007, the “Guitar Hero” craze spawned “Rock Band”
– a video game that includes vocals and drums, and even features a version that’s all songs by AC/DC.
You can surf YouTube sites and find videos of people jamming to “Guitar Hero” songs.
Although you can’t make a direct transition from the video games to real instruments, Moore does see physical advantages.
“The game is a completely different concept from playing a real guitar,” Moore said.
“But it does help with dexterity in their fingers.”
The biggest advantage is that kids are interested in learning to play music – even if it’s Bon Jovi and Boston, not Beethoven and Bach.
“Kids are coming to me wanting to learn to play, which is wonderful,” Moore said. “My background is in radio and I used to do Top 40.
“Kids wanted to be like Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake. Now it’s nice that bands like Foghat, the Steve Miller Band and the Rolling Stones are cool again. Kids come here focused and with a game plan.
“For guitar players, it’s all about songs like ‘Smoke on the Water’ and ‘Sweet Home Alabama.’ Maybe it’s a western Pennsylvania thing, but everybody has to learn how to play those songs. And what’s great about some of those power chords – the garage rock songs – is that they’re relatively easy to play. If that inspires a kid to pick up an instrument, I think it’s great.”
Maybe some of those young musicians will make the transition from guitar to violin, from electric bass to bassoon.
Or maybe we need a few new games.
Perhaps “Cello Star” or “Oboe Hero” would reel them in. I’d like to see “Xylophone Xanadu” – maybe for the Wii system! Whatever works.
“When I talk with other teachers, they tell me that lessons are generally down regarding other instruments.
“That’s a shame,” Moore said. “We need more kids learning to play woodwind instruments. We need more piano players.
“But guitar’s doing increasingly well.”
Chip Minemyer is the editor of The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 532-5091.