Arlen Roth on Preparing for the Studio
This weekend I continue to cut tracks as well as doing overdubs for my new album project, and I feel totally consumed by equipment worries and preparations! It never fails to amaze me at just how much I love to “over-bring” too much stuff to these sessions, and there is, I suppose a sense in me that I don’t want to miss any creative opportunity that may arise.
This is a “Slide Guitar Summit” album, and there are so many ways to play slide guitar! Every song has its own tuning requirements, and any given track could use Dobro, acoustic or electric slide, Lap Steel guitar, or anything that can be slid upon! I certainly, with this in mind love to have as many options as possible on hand. Also, all the tunes are to be duets with other slide players, and we must complement each other’s tunings, tone and choice of instruments. On this session, for example I am recording with the great Sonny Landreth and Cindy Cashdollar. They each have their own distinct styles as well as their own choice of instruments. I have to be sure to properly “play off of” their sounds, and make the recording good and viable pieces of music for all concerned.
There are many reasons for different tuning choices with slide guitar, but many times it’s good to try something other than what your playing partner has chosen. For example, if Sonny is playing in D tuning, I may just decide to play my part in an open G tuning. This can of course, change the “voicings” of what each of us will be playing, and as a result, can also change just where on the neck the licks find their comfort zone. As a result, Sonny may be riffing down in the open position, while I may be on the 7th fret for the same key. This sets up a nice “high-low” approach to what we will be playing, and gives each of us a distinctive “voice” for that particular song.
So, when I do this, I’ll also be sure to have all the guitars at my disposal so I can make a level-headed decision about which one to play where. There will even be opportunities to actually change instruments during the song, like for example switching from a lap steel in the verses to a Dobro in the chorus! Why not; we’re actually recording here, and thanks to Les Paul, anything is 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.