There has always been a long-standing need for guitar players to be overly impressed and impressive with lightning fast playing, and all kinds of technical acrobatics, but in the end, your real success will be determined by how simple you can keep it. After all, even the most technically proficient players eventually will run out of acrobatics, and will really need to state a melody, a theme, or actually play with some pure emotion.
Don’t get me wrong, I am all in favor of great technical abilities on the guitar…some of my favorite players are technically amazing, but it’s the artistic and emotional content of what they play that really impresses me, and what holds me when it comes to watching and hearing them. It’s important for all players and guitar fans to realize what is really important, and to also realize that it’s not how many licks you know, but what you actually do with those licks that matters.
I can recall regretting naming my company Hot Licks back in 1979, because even though we were all about documenting the great players, and about real and in-depth teaching, the name seemed to insinuate a spoon-fed, quick way of learning, and that it only meant “licks.” Well, of course, that was the furthest thing from the truth, and the name also unfortunately spawned a lot of other “lick” companies who copied me, and of course, they tried to offer the more spoon-fed, run of the mill approach to teaching, and simply often dealt with teaching just “lick 1, lick 2”, etc.
Once you enter into the “real” world of guitar, which means recording, and sideman work as I have done for over 40 years, you’ll see that it’s the “restraint” you show that will impress the folks who hired you more, than automatically spilling out all of your technical prowess in one fell swoop! I know it was one heck of a shock for me in the beginning, when one after the other kept on telling me to play it “simple”, and that “less was more!” (I would always answer back “no, Les is Paul!”)
But seriously, if you really study the greats, such as B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Chuck Berry, Carl Perkins, Eric Clapton, George Harrison and countless others, you will always find that it was the artistic restraint and simplicity they exercised that really made them, and that really ensured their success over the long haul!
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.