Charles Kettering on Finding Simple Solutions to Musical Problems

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

“This problem, when solved, will be simple”

Charles Kettering

It’s natural to fear the unknown. We may not have lasted this long as a human race without a cautious conservatism in daily life.

So it’s no wonder we feel our blood rise when faced with confusing problems.

Our instincts have been honed over millennia. They don’t turn off because we invent microscopes and digital databases. Meeting new challenges, we feel what people have felt since before recorded history.

In the deep creases of our brains lie the same switches and gears that govern the lives of lizards. When we perceive something as a threat, we bristle and prepare for battle or flight.

But this is all a bit heavy-handed, if the challenge we meet is musical.

Musical problems bring no swords or germs. They bring little consequence at all, outside of personal interest.

Musical problems offer a safe playing field for creative experimentation. They are like puzzles. They’re best solved when turned this way and that until something falls into place.

This is why learning to play classical guitar is learning to play with problems.

Most every piece of music will have at least one spot that resists polish. And it’s in these measures that we test our meddle. It’s here we find the opportunity to dance through various potential solutions.

And after the twirls and spins, after we’ve exhausted ourselves striking from every angle, the simple fix shows itself.

The problem now solved, we may wonder how we ever had such trouble with it. It all seems so easy. But that’s only after.

Until then, the game consists of trying and failing and trying again, in some other way. And the more problem-solving tricks we keep in our belts, the more able we are to play. Without fear, without trepidation, knowing at the final unveiling we’ll find the simple answer.

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


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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