Arthur Rubenstein on accepting life

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 came on board three months ago and I’m loving it more than ever. I have maintained my practice pattern. I’m sticking wholeheartedly with the program as written. That makes it easy to see what I NEED to work on rather than just playing the shiny places I’ve gone beyond…..I’ve learned to focus 100% on what I’m doing that very minute….I’m developing strength in my left hand...I spend time with the videos in the evenings and always find something more to help me. I’m not looking for info anywhere else. Everything I need is right here in The Woodshed. You say “Jump” and I say “How high.” I’m so grateful I found you. You speak in a language I understand.


~ Gloria Mader

-Gloria Mader

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

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