Arlen Roth

I have always been a big believer and advocate of learning “out there” in real life. There truly is no substitute for real experiences when it comes to the lessons one can learn, but these days there are definitely adjunctive things that can help augment this approach. A mother of a student of mine today came to me with a question about whether or not he should go to a “music School” or not. He’s 17 years old now, and really doesn’t care much for standard school, but would love to go to a “music”-oriented school instead.
The problem I have with this is that even a “music” school is just that; still a school. If one has problems with the idea of a school already, they may also have some difficulty with being “over-structured” in a school environment that stresses music. Sometimes, it can be just too downright “competitive” for a sweet, artistic and un-suspecting soul, and the whole experience can be so intimidating that some folks may just give up playing music altogether!
I can recall years ago when the late, great Levon Helm, a man whom I made an album with in 2008, tried to go to the Berklee School of Music. According to friends of mine in Woodstock, he actually came out of Berklee saying he “was not a real musician” and that he was “no good” and that he was even thinking of giving up music! Now, say what you will about college in general, but there is no way any music school should have this kind of impression on such an amazing natural musician as Levon was!
This is the dilemma, but for me there is only one true and clear choice. Go out and do it on your own. Yes, be inspired by certain players and certain teachers, but it’s far better to be in the “unprotected” environment of the real world, becoming a better and better guitarist, musician and person as the result of your own true and unforgettable experiences. I was just on the phone with my daughter Lexie Roth, and she is near the tail-end of a massive 28-city tour she just did of America, and we were talking about how this experience was something that she desperately needed, and also talked about my similar experiences on the road, and what I learned at her age, and even younger as the result of all the touring and recording I did out there in the “school of real-life guitar!” I hope you get to experience the same as you venture out in the world….it’s really the only way…the “real” way, that is!!’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.