A lot of the things I found out about studio work I sure found out the “hard way.” I had started very young doing sessions in New York, and even though folks would see me play live and then love it and call me in for sessions, it often would become quite apparent that what I did live with such freedom had absolutely nothing to do with what they really wanted from me in the recording! It’s not say they didn’t want Arlen Roththe “talent” that they saw, but I think that they were so used to “studio guys” who would just crank out the tracks, regardless of style, that they somehow figured I’d be like that too.

Well, nothing could be further from the truth, as I was still a very young and raw player, but I suppose my poise and ability on the guitar for such a young age made it seem like I had seen more experience than I had so far! So, I would find myself, number one, not being able to read music, heavily relying on my ear, but it still ended up effecting the sessions since almost everyone else did read music! The fact that tracks had to be layered was such a new concept for me, since I was so used to hearing a song, and just playing how I interpreted the guitarist’s role in that song. It was a harsh and very abrupt change in approach I had to take, and it really taught me a lot, and actually gave me a necessary boost of technical discipline, which I would much later on, start to apply to my own record dates.

I had all kinds of mishaps, right down to not remembering a patch cord, and the studio not even having one I could use! Sometimes, being stuck in New York traffic, I’d come falling in to a TV show for example, with just enough time to actually have the camera rotate and catch me in the shot! (That was with Art Garfunkel on the Dick Cavett Show, and I was amazed at Art’s total relaxation and apparent non-anxiety over the situation!)

What starts to happen after a while as you develop more and more studio experience, is that you can immediately perceive when the engineers, producers or anyone else on the other side of the glass are beneath your level of experience and professionalism. This is a tough one, as they are still “the boss”, and it’s your job to please them. It’s basically how you gingerly handle this kind of situation that shows your level of experience and professionalism. Much better than the time I was being hammered over and over on a session where maybe I’d make $25….for hours, I’d do one inspired take after another, but no, it was “can you play that again more like Clapton, maybe more like George Harrison, maybe more like whoever…….This went on for like 4 torturous hours, and then all of a sudden, they accidentally sent the highest volume screaming feedback right into my headphones, and after all that aggravation, I had only one knee-jerk reaction…I actually threw my cherished guitar right against that Plexiglas that separated me from them! Needless to say, session over! That never happened again, but I think you get the picture of just how “wound up” one can get during these recording dates!

More to come…

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.