Colum McCann on Making the Journey a Joy (“You must burn!”)
Tuesday Quotes are short explorations of music, life, and the daily endeavor of practicing classical guitar. Find more here. Enjoy!
“The perfection is not so much in the performance as in the journey towards it. This is the joy. You must burn!”
Colum McCann, Dancer
The actor Sidney Poitier shared, upon receiving a lifetime achievement award, “…a simple observation: The rewards were in the journey and there were many.”
In guitar practice, the reward for work well done is more work. Meeting daily challenges is both the job and the joy.
We do have punctuated moments of special triumph. We get pieces to performance level. We have breakthroughs that leave previous limitations behind. We play for others and feel proud.
But these moments are fleeting. And they are the spinoff from countless moments of ordinary practice.
To an outsider, it could sound almost silly- That we could find such engagement in trying to connect two notes smoothly.
That we could play slowly and look for unneeded tension.
That we couldwrestle with a rhythm and then feel exhilarated when we master it.
These daily wins are not grand. They are small and personal. They are the simple pleasure of rising to meet a chosen challenge.
But they add immeasurably to life. These tiny quests bring a richness and meaning that can be difficult to find elsewhere. They allow adventure and trial from the comfort of home, on our own schedule.
The differences between elation and boredom are defined by the challenges we set to.
When we add small variations to our work, we create new obstacles. When we raise the standard another inch (cleanness, consistency, quality, etc.) we have new opportunities for victory.
The path forward on guitar usually doesn’t lay in new exercises or pieces. It lies in looking closer and demanding more of our existing work.
As we lean in, the seemingly mundane transforms into new trails through promising terrain.
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, it amazes me how good and precise your teachings are. The best thing I ever did was to download a piece of music from you and to listen to your videos. The enjoyment I now have from playing is ten fold. Thanks!
~ Tony Christopher
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
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