We’ve all watched electric guitar players on Instagram deliver impossibly precise performances at insane bpms and wondered, ‘How can they play that clean?’ Well, as it turns out, they might not be playing it at all.
YouTube guitar teacher Jack Gardiner has posted a video entitled ‘Fake guitar playing - it needs to stop!’, where he alleges your favorite players - not naming names - might not actually be playing.
Gardiner opens the clip with a very familiar example of this fake guitar playing, before demonstrating how he achieved the effect by speeding up the audio.
He even goes on to say that some players will go to the lengths of exporting MIDI from Guitar Pro and convert it to audio to play through an amp sim, as demonstrated in videos by fellow YouTubers Levi Clay and Leon Todd, the latter of whom you can watch below.
Key to disguising the sped-up audio is the shimmer reverb that appears on many of these players’ clips, which masks any audio weirdness such as ultra-fast vibrato, says Gardiner.
The UK-based tutor notes that these videos set unrealistic goals for aspiring players, resulting in negative effects on mental health - because what these Insta-guitarists produce simply isn’t achievable (unless you’re Guthrie Govan, natch).
Gardiner even claims that if the trend continues, it could kill the instrument entirely, before providing a comprehensive list of guitarists who are taking the instrument forward without speeding up their performances.
Eagle-eyed YouTube guitar giant Jared Dines has also weighed in on players who have been called out as clip speeder-uppers, sharing his views on what’s been edited and what’s just jaw-dropping technical ability.
What these commentators have in common is a shared belief that there’s no problem with increasing the tempo of clips if players will just come clean (pardon the pun): it can be a valid compositional tool - as long as audiences aren’t being fooled into thinking it’s actually playable.
Make no mistake, we’re huge fans of many of the players that could plausibly come under this kind of criticism, but we’d love to hear them play at a regular tempo, too - for some of the more melody-driven players, it’s the songwriting as much as the technique that we admire.
So, Instagram speed-fakers, we implore you: prove you’re human and the guitar community will feel a whole lot better for it.
We’ll keep you posted if any Insta-guitarists do eventually own up to manipulating their playing.