Anne Lamott on the mental landscape of guitar practice
Tuesday Quotes are short explorations of music, life, and the daily endeavor of practicing classical guitar. Enjoy!
“My mind is like a bad neighborhood, I try not to go there alone.”
To enjoy a fulfilling classical guitar practice, all it takes is to show up regularly and do the work. When we sit down and focus daily, we gain skills and see improvement over time.
That’s really all there is to it. But we can easily psyche ourselves out.
We may start to think, “I should be improving faster…” or, “This piece should be easy – something must be wrong with me.”
These thoughts are Trojan horses that soon have us “forgetting” to practice. We get “too busy” with other things.
Any thought about where we are in relation to some fantasy ideal is trouble.
We all want to be our best selves. We want to experience mastery. We want to actualize what we believe is possible for us on guitar.
But the only way to get these is to sit down and practice. A little bit today, a little bit tomorrow, a little bit the next day.
When we miss a few days of practice, it’s tempting to put a story behind it. We create a meaning, such as, “I’m not cut out for this..” or, “I’m too busy.” or “The world is conspiring against my learning guitar!”
But that’s all hooey. As the Bard gives us in Hamlet, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
Part of mastering guitar is mastering our minds. The question is, “What am I focusing on right now, at this moment?” In guitar practice, the answer should be something specific pertaining to our music or the act of playing in that moment.
Otherwise, we’re just distracting ourselves from the work that will get us what we want.
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.
I feel my guitar proficiency is improving considerably. Every day I’m exceedingly comfortable with my right hand technique and overall fluency. And my sight-reading has improved as well. Thank you for creating the Woodshed. It’s thoughtful construction and scope and sequence of knowledge and skills has advanced my guitar skills significantly. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.
~ Michael Immel
Those videos on practicing the piece were just awesome, Allen! I've always thought that learning songs might be something completely different than practicing exercises, but the way you teach it makes it much easier than I thought. I'm positive that joining the Woodshed has been the best investment I've ever done for learning the classical guitar. Thank you so much for these lessons.
~ Ulysses Alexandre Alves
-Ulysses Alexandre Alves
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