Alan Cohen on Finding More Joy in Guitar Practice

Tuesday Quotes are short explorations of music, life, and the daily endeavor of practicing classical guitar. Find more here. Enjoy!

“Don’t postpone joy until you have learned all of your lessons. Joy is your lesson.”

Alan Cohen

Why do we play music? Why do we challenge ourselves with difficult pieces and challenging exercises?

Is it all for a future payoff? Is all our work to claim bragging rights on the advanced-level piece? or the faster scales?

In the day-to-day routine of guitar practice, it’s easy to forget the whole point of it all. We may lose track of why we started this game in first place.

For most of us, we came to guitar wanting a satisfying challenge. We wanted something that we could enjoy working on over time.

And we have started guitar with dreams of playing the grand showpiece. If so, we probably thought playing at that level would be fun and rewarding.

We wake each day with the opportunity to enjoy meaningful work. In any given practice, we have the power to set small challenges and meet them. We can focus our attention and reach for our highest standards.

Even in short practices, we can strive for excellence and meet each moment with our best self.

This type of practice may not always be “fun”. We may not register it as “pleasure” in the moment.

But it serves us at a deeper level. As we remain aware in each moment of our practice, we experience the joy of living.

It’s not the fleeting pleasure of cotton candy or chocolate cake. But the intimate rewards of a moment well-lived. The satisfaction gained from doing our best, flaws and all.

The prize of learning guitar does not lie in the future. The landmark triumphs are just steps along the way. Instead, guitar is a tool by which we engage ourselves. And that engagement is the prize.

Allen Mathews

Hi, I’m Allen Mathews. 

I started as a folk guitarist, then fell in love with classical guitar in my 20’s. Despite a lot of practice and schooling, I still couldn’t get my music to flow well. I struggled with excess tension. My music sounded forced. And my hands and body were often sore. I got frustrated, and couldn’t see the way forward. Then, over the next decade, I studied with two other stellar teachers – one focused on the technical movements, and one on the musical (he was a concert pianist). In time, I came to discover a new set of formulas and movements. These brought new life and vitality to my practice. Now I help guitarists find more comfort and flow in their music, so they play more beautifully.
Click here for a sample formula.

Hi Allen,
Greetings from the UK. I would like to thank you for providing such an excellent resource. The effort and skill which has gone into creating this program is very evident. I started classical guitar a year or so ago with a teacher but was unable to commit to same time regular slots each week.

The Woodshed Program was exactly what I was looking for. I have found the site very intuitive and well structured and have taken your advice and started from the very beginning of the program whilst still practising some of the pieces I was already working on. It is clear that I will benefit greatly from these early technical studies. There were clearly weaknesses and gaps in my knowledge even though I am still at an early stage. Once again many thanks for the program and very best wishes.


~ Rodger Paylor

-Rodger Paylor

Great Work!!!  I thank you sincerely for all the effort you have put in and the terrific work you do for the classical guitar community.


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