Arlen Roth

One of the oddest aspects about starting to be a musician is when some folks decide mid-stream to change the instrument that they make their main one. I had started out with two years of violin that no doubt showed I had a musical “soul”, but that left me feeling cold and too regimented when it came to learning to play it. Of course, this happens with the older, more established “classical” type of instruments, especially since they are highly judged against each other, and are mostly played in orchestras or ensembles that require absolute precision, and the ability to play all kinds of heavily arranged pieces of classical orchestral music.
Those kinds of instruments are the kind that really butt heads with the guitar, which is learned and used in so many much freer and less structured situations. Of course, many players such as myself, are self-taught, and the “passing on” of this kind of self-taught information came naturally to me at a very young age. It was also the true impetus behind my creation of Hot Licks video and audio tapes where we had so many guitarists who were self-taught, teaching almost by default half the time, and helping others to be inspired, and to also teach themselves.
Today I had a new student who after years of playing the drums well, wanted to switch to guitar. He’s not giving up the drums, but he just feels that he has more “music” in him, and wants to be able to write, and to sing and of course, to play the guitar a lot better! I was happy to see that he had been so dedicated to the drums and to music in general, because it definitely “spilled over” into his love and playing of the guitar. Of course, I was able to right away point out to him just how important the picking hand is in guitar playing, and its rhythmic pulse being what really drives the instrument forward.
So it’s hard to say he’s really switching instruments, but what he is doing is really expanding his musical horizons, and in the end, his guitar playing will be totally aided by the fact that he is already a good drummer. Music is music after all, and there are an incredible amount of musicians out there who are gifted on several instruments at the same time. Just looks at what a Stevie Wonder or Paul McCartney can do!!! So keep all this in mind as you venture forth….if you play something else, and want to play the guitar, let that “former” instrument help you in finding your way musically around that six-string baby!!