Arlen Roth on Starting a Band
When you want to first get together with some friends and really start a band for yourselves, you’ll find this to be a very exciting time! The early and formative days of anyone’s life in music can be a time when great memories are made, and when anything is possible. The feeling you get is basically like you can “rule the world” and that nothing will stop you or slow you down!
Of course, it doesn’t take very long for all this “innocence” to be lost, but at the same time, your spirit and drive to be the best should never be deterred. I know that it was like that for me in my early days, and no matter how “jaded” things may have gotten along the way, I still have refused to lose my true love for what I do, in its purest form.
Initially, what will happen when the word gets out that you want to form a band, any and all friends who even play an instrument slightly will want to be a part of it! This can get a little sticky, since you don’t want to hurt your friend’s feelings, while at the same time you really want the best players and the best relationships with those players possible! I believe that even in the early days of banding “forming” a group really does need a “leader” who provides the incentive and most importantly, the direction the band needs musically and otherwise. This kind of thing can occur in a very subtle way, and you’ll find that this “leadership” quality will help you throughout your career, even when you are not “the leader.”
The most important thing to remember to do, no matter what, is to truly have fun. As young players this is the whole reason for getting together, and all the things you will do together can make for some pretty amazing moments. I can’t believe some of the things I did when I was starting out so I could get heard! One time in Woodstock, at the Sled Hill Café, my band Steel, drove up from Philly, and we asked if we could “sit in” between Buzz Feiten’s band Bang’s set! To my shock, Buzzy said, “sure, just be careful”, and we proceeded to use their instruments, (except for my ’52 Les Paul) and to blow the house down! By the way, the club was flooded, and we all had to stand motionless on top of milk cartons!
Once we got booked there, that was an immediate jumpstart to my career as a guitarist, and I immediately became a fixture on the Woodstock music scene, even though I was only seventeen! Needless to say, as a band, we were over the moon with joy that we had been truly recognized and accepted….I think that feeling of acceptance is really something we constantly fight for our entire lives as players too! So, get out there, do the right things, and make your dreams come true….it’s ALL possible!
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.