Arlen Roth on Preparing for a Major Gig
If you’re about to embark on a really big and important gig, you know the many, many feelings that can come up as the result of this kind of pressure. The first and foremost thing is to try not to give in to the “pressure” of it, and to rather be sure to have a positive and good time. I know it can sound a little far-fetched, especially when you are about to go onstage, or when you are preparing mentally for this gig, but believe me, if you keep it fun it actually will be fun!
I have had to face many a “pressured” gig in my time, and yes, sometimes it can seem rather overwhelming, but as someone recently told me, “if you didn’t feel nervous, you wouldn’t really care.” And that is true…you certainly need a certain “edge” as a performer, and sometimes that can mean you are actually “channeling” that nervous energy into positivity for the show.
I have such a gig tonight, as I will be playing to a surely sold-out crowd at The Iridium in NYC (the home of Les Paul!) for a Roy Buchanan Tribute concert. I’ll be playing a lot of material I haven’t done that much before, some songs never, and with a lot of folks, some whom I’ve never even met before, let alone played with! Still, all in all, I realize this is for the music and for the memory of a truly great guitarist, and there should be a lot of good feelings and love in the house.
Sometimes I feel it’s tougher on me in a way to do these odd gigs now and then that carry a lot of weight with them as opposed to doing a tour, where you are playing a “big” gig almost every day or night. I suppose the “road” has a way of easing up on the actual pressure you may feel onstage night after night, but of course there are just sometimes when it’s impossible to cut that nervousness with anything except the show itself!
This was the case when I was getting ready for that first stadium concert with Simon and Garfunkel in Akron, Ohio, where the entire band’s nervousness and the tension in the dressing room could be cut with a knife! People were jumping in place, punching bags, doing whatever they could do to stay loose, and once we hit the stage it was as if all our fears were allayed, even though fans tried to tear our clothes off, and people were screaming! It was unlike anything I had ever seen for sure, and it was on such a crazy and high level, that those 42,000 people out there felt like one!
So, always try to keep an even keel when preparing for a big gig, because even though the stakes may see high, and they most certainly could be…the gig is only as big and pressured as you make it to be, and you should always keep it uplifting and fun, and most of all, always about the music first!
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.