I often like to say that many times, I can even have the album cover and concept of choice decided on even before I record any music! This is certainly not the usual way it happens, but me being a very visually oriented person, it only makes sense for me to have these concepts ahead of time.

Of course, when it comes to the music itself, I seem to always have a few ideas lying around that could find their way onto the album, and these are things that actually do help me in conceptualizing the finished product, even if they are not finished in their own right. I also find that once the concept of the album is solidified, the songs seem to then start to take shape more readily, and the ideas seem to flow through those floodgates of creativity that much more easily.

Arlen Roth

You as an artist may be a long ways away from such a pattern, and many never acquire this kind of creative status at all…..but still, I feel that it is an important thing for your music and your persona and image to at least try to develop your projects in a more forward-thinking way. You’ll find that if you are in a relatively democratic band situation, it’s a good idea to have all the members take part in helping create this “concept” you will want for your album, both musically as well as in its visuals.

For example, I already have an album planned that will have an image that is not like anything else I have ever conceived of before, and the whole thing that ignited its cover and musical direction was just one photograph I took about three years ago, which definitely struck a “chord” with me!

I will record this album this fall, and even though certain songs have been chosen, there’s no question that the rather austere look and feel this album will have is already making me both choose or reject song ideas based on this feeling I have about how I see the project presenting itself.

So pick your songs wisely, choose them carefully, and most of all, try to conceive of your album projects with as much of a forward-thinking approach as possible…it’ll really make a rewarding difference, both visually and musically!

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.