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Arlen Roth and the Terror of Open Mic Nights

07.16.2013
Arlen Roth

This whole new “open mic night” phenomenon that has basically swept the globe has offered many new as well as experienced players some great opportunities to be seen, heard and of course, to meet other players as well. They can also make for some of the more anxiety-producing experiences in many cases, and unfortunately, I know very talented players who simply have felt like they got “burned” at one of these events.
 
I have one friend/student who although vastly talented, had never really put herself “out there” in front of an audience, and who felt that an open mic night might be just the ticket for her. Boy, in this particular case, she was so wrong, and it ended up leaving some permanent “scars” on her from a personal standpoint. The people there were unkind to her, the open mic was mainly one person’s “ego trip”, a very unfortunate thing that occurs at many of these gatherings, and she with her very personal and creative style felt completely un-appreciated, and overwhelmed.
 
It really hurt me that she had gone through such an experience, especially when I felt that as her teacher, I was really there to also help “guide” her through some of the rougher terrain she was about to encounter, such as an open mic fiasco. The problem was, I thought that with her very sophisticated approach towards the guitar she had much more experience than it turned out she actually had! It really has to be a positive experience for you if you do decide to throw yourself into such a volatile situation, and it can affect any one of us, regardless of how much experience we really may have.
 
I can even recall one hysterical time when Mick Taylor, formerly of The Stones and I were hanging out in New York, and we were about to “sit in” together during a quasi-open mic night at The Lonestar Roadhouse. The stage consisted of an entire lineup of guitar players, some good, some not so good, and as they went down the line with their solos, we basically were giving them our evaluations. So one guy would play and we’d both go “he’s fine”, then the next guy played and we agreed “sounds good”, and then all of a sudden this incredible “full of himself” guitar player just started wailing uncontrollably with no sense of what any of the others had played, and Mick turned to me and said “now HE’s going to be a problem!!” We both had a major laugh over it, and decided not to take the stage at all, but just to continue having a good time in the audience!! Sometimes, that’s the safest place!
 
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.

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