Arthur Rubenstein on How to Live a Musical Life Well

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

“We only begin to live life when we learn to accept it on its own terms.”

Arthur Rubinstein (pianist)

Flaky fingernails, slow fingers, short attention span… we all have challenges in our guitar practice. We have room for upgrades and improvements.

The question is not whether everything is right. Because it never is – or not for long. The question is whether we will show up and do the good work anyway.

In practice, we do our exercises and learn our pieces. We drill our scales and hone our right-hand patterns. But to thrive in the daily practice of guitar, we need more.

We need to accept ourselves as we are, in the moment.

We are not computers. We cannot run a program once and remain consistent ever after. No – we have ups and downs. Some days we play better than others. One day we have razor focus, while the next we find easy distraction.

It’s tempting to wish we had started earlier in life, or had more time in the day. We may feel we should be further along by now. We may think other people have an easier job of it. But this is all just story.

When we release the stories and accept reality as it is in the moment, we practice better. Without the ramblings of “if only…” or “when…,” we can get to the business at hand.

In the moment, we can create a clear and attainable challenge. Then we can strive to meet it.

We can test our recall memory by trying to play our new piece from memory (and stay with it past the first falter). We can explore the subtle points of our right-hand movement or left-hand position.

In reality, we find ourselves sitting alone in a room with a guitar, working to master our minds and bodies. And it’s just for the sake of the challenge. It’s for the intrinsic reward of learning.

We have it in us to drop the stories and accept our practice as it is. Instead of comparing and pining, we can feel the satisfaction of aware endeavor. We can be grateful for the chance to push ourselves, safely and comfortably each day.

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.

I appreciate the organized, well thought out progression of each level, as well as a measurable means to determine when to proceed to the next level.  I had burned myself out by pushing too hard and playing beyond where I was comfortable.  This course is just what I needed, and I am happy to be back on the road to playing again.


~ Susan Kidney


I just upgraded. I have been thinking about it since day one, but wanted to see how it works out for me. I have to say, even though I did not put as much effort in as I expected to, I already hear and feel Improvements when playing compositions I learned some time ago, before joining The Woodshed.



~ Alexey Neyman

-Alexey Neyman

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