Arlen Roth on Making Guitar Your “Life”
It’s funny how it all happens, but the making of an instrument essentially your “life” is something that you can almost know from the start, or it can end up happening gradually, as it sneaks up on you! Either way, it is a phenomena that I certainly am familiar with, and I’m sure that many of you have felt this, or are certainly “on your way” to feeling this! I really knew of my special relationship with the instrument from the moment I held it. I was playing violin for a couple of years prior to the guitar, and even though I had become quite good at it, it always eluded me truly “falling in love” with it!
In the case of the violin, it was probably the heavier “strictness” in which it is learned, with all of its classical traditions, and also there was something about how it was held, and that F-hole blowing loud screams into my left ear! The guitar seemed to be such an opposite…so much more friendly to hold, and the fact that all fingers are involved, as opposed to using a bow. Also, when I finally saw a cello, I was like “where have YOU been all my violin-playing life?” It seemed so much more comfortable to hold also, and there was no burden put upon the player to actually “hold up” this instrument. Not to mention how rich and deep it sounded compared to the comparatively “whinier” violin!
Well, in any event, the guitar really took over when I realized just how “vocal” it could be, and how much of that “voice” spoke for me! I was still very young, but I somehow knew (as well as my father did!) that this was the thing for me. I had other “loves” that also took up a lot of my time and attention such as photography, stamps, coins, baseball cards, you know, all of the classic “American boy” sorts of things to be into, but I always seemed to love all these things with more of an aesthetic appreciation than my counterparts. This also was largely due to my father being an artist and cartoonist, and someone who loved to collect things and always appreciated the finer side of all things “artistic.” Coming from this kind of a family, it was only right that I end up loving so many creative and artistic things.
It’s probably the primary reason for my kind of make-up, which made me far more likely to learn on my own, as opposed to taking lessons, even though I did love my first few classical guitar lessons I took down in Greenwich Village as a ten year-old!
How or whether or not you make the guitar “your life” is really up to you and many other of life’s circumstances, but the passion you can acquire for this or any instrument can truly fuel your playing and its improvement. It always amazed me when I’d see students who decide to “come back” to the guitar after many years away from it! I could never imagine being separated from my guitar, nor from the love and passion I have for it! It’ll only make you a better player to at least make the guitar a big part of your life, even if it never becomes your life!! There’s plenty more to enjoy in life too, but I guarantee the guitar will only make it “that much sweeter!”
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.