Colum McCann Joy Guitar

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.

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 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

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I have lost my entire metallic sound while I am playing now. Even my single note practice sounds more melodious, less tinny. [The Woodshed technique practice] has made a major difference in my tone. Thank you.


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