Arlen Roth on Finding Your “Guitar Roots”
There is always a lot of emphasis put on a player’s “roots”, and just how they translate into their playing and their sound. Most of all, it’s really defined as to what ultimately gives you your identity as a player, and defines where you “come from” musically speaking.
I am coming from a place where I always had great “roots” that inspired me and influenced my style. I would never had ended up bending strings the way I do if I hadn’t played pedal steel guitar, and was fascinated by the sound of players such as Clarence White, Zal Yanovskyand others, but certainly would never have ended up as I did style-wise if I hadn’t loved Blues so much at the same time as loving country! To many players, these idioms seem miles apart, but I really see it all as American music, which all shares the same cadences, changes, patterns, scales and you name it.
When it comes to our American music roots, it’s very important to remember that all the styles influenced each other, and sometimes all it took was a strong enough AM radio station such as WSM in Nashville to reach aspiring musicians from East to West and North to South in America and even in Canada.
For many of us, the “roots” of out playing start off simply and humbly, but as we learn more, we also will tend to “branch out” and want to expand our musical horizons. For example, back in my earlier days, my Blues roots may have included players such as B.B. King, Buddy Guy and Otis Rush, but now as I get more into Jazz playing, I find myself drawn to Jazz players of a similar era, and even earlier, such as the great Charlie Christian, Tal Farlow, Hank Garland, Roy Smeckand many more! All of these “Jazz roots” players had that same broad spectrum of what they loved and what they listened to, similar to a person like the incredible Les Paul, who seamlessly melded all American styles into a fantastic and eclectic style.
Your own personal “roots” may be as simple as a Jimmy Page riff, or a Robert Johnson song, but as you grow as a player I really hope you can branch out and discover more and more wonderful music that you can call your “roots.” There’s nothing like having this kind of background, and it will only prove to keep giving your music more and more depth; a thing that can truly be heard and felt!
Gibson.com’s Arlen Roth, affectionately known The King of All Guitar Teachers, is music lesson pioneer and the quintessential guitarist. An accomplished and brilliant musician — and one of the very few who can honestly say he’s done it all — Roth has, over the course of his celebrated 35-year career, played on the world’s grandest stages, accompanied many of the greatest figures in modern music and revolutionized the concept of teaching guitar.