Arlen Roth

There are many “aha!” moments when it comes to being a creative spirit, but there are surely some that stick with you more than others over time. I have had many times of amazing “clarity” and realization on the instrument that seem to rival and feel literally like a “religious” experience.

There was one moment last year when I was in the middle of playing “Ain’t No Sunshine”, which is a regular staple of my show. In the middle “open” section, where the lyrics normally go “I know, I know, I know, etc.”, I always really go off on wild tangents there that for me, become hypnotic in nature. On this one occasion I literally felt like I had “lifted off” the stage, and that everyone else was somewhere “down there.” In fact, after I reached this “high” I opened my eyes and noticed that everything in the room had become prism-like, and all the people and tables etc. had become flat crystal-like surfaces. All depth of perception was gone, and the place looked 2-dimensional to me!

That was really a wild experience, and I actually became a bit scared by it, and then went back to ending the song rather abruptly, before something even stranger happened!

I also can recall back when I was about 19 years old, and I was sitting alone, just playing my guitar at home, and it suddenly dawned on me, in one defining moment, that even though I didn’t know everything on the guitar, I was suddenly at one with it! I will never forget that particular moment of clarity, because it told me that I was really “speaking” with the instrument, and that whatever I wanted to say on it, it was getting said! That is one incredible feeling, and I know that others have felt it, because folks have told me that they’ve also experienced this. It’s an important moment to arrive at, and particular poignant when it happens as it did with me. Instead of my typical “highs” achieved during live playing, it ended up occurring during a more contemplative and meditative moment in the privacy of my own home, lost in my own thoughts.

So, all I can say is try to aim for moments like these, but at the same time, it will most likely just “happen”, because just like other great moments such as falling in love, this kind of clarity will end up showing itself to you, often when you least expect it!

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.