Arlen Roth on Learning from Teaching
I can recall the other day, thinking about how much I seemed to know at an early age, especially when it came to the guitar-related subjects and styles I was so adept at. This was especially true in regards to the 3 or 4 books I was writing from the ages of about 20 to 22. I realized that this was because to know more about my subject, I was actually delving deeper into the subject without even truly realizing it! As years have gone on now, I have become even more aware of how this process is always “helped along” by teaching.
Teaching is by far, the best way to learn. And by this I mean that there is nothing better than “taking apart” just what your style and technique are really all about, and therefore understanding just what makes them “what they are.” I can recall that when I first started creating my early Hot Licks instruction tapes (audio only) in 1979, I did them when my “teaching chops” were high. This meant that sometimes when I felt really “in touch” with what I was teaching to my students at the time, I could suddenly run into the bedroom, just the door and turn on the tape recorder, and give a really in-depth as well as fresh audio lesson that all the right elements!
This really worked well for me, and since I was always self-taught as a player, it helped me develop a good “train of thought” approach to giving a lesson and moving from one topic to the next. This was how I learned, so therefore this seemed to really be the best way to approach teaching it. It’s actually become a very tried and true method for me as far as my recorded lessons go, and as far as my personal private lessons go too, since 9 time out of 10 I may suddenly play something off the cuff, and one of my students might suddenly say “what was that you just played?; And then I’m off and running! After all, many times all we need is that little light bulb over our heads to go off, or that “spark of interest to ignite what can become a really good presentation or lesson for the inquiring student!
And as always, this once again points to the fact that perhaps the best benefactor of any really good guitar lesson is the teacher themselves. I continue to learn every time I teach, and I can tell that my students know this. It keeps their interest up at a higher level too, and it gives the whole process a much more spontaneous air, which helps all parties involved to stay involved!
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.