David Allen Intelligence Guitar

David Allen on Preparing for Our Less-Intelligent Moments

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

“It’s the less intelligent consciousness that doesn’t plan for periods of less intelligence.” 

David Allen

Do we have a set level of intelligence? Purveyors of IQ tests would have us believe this. These tests show that we have a certain score. This may change some over the years, but it’s fairly fixed.

Of course, these tests only grade for one type of intelligence, and there are many. And more, this fails to account for the fluctuations we experience throughout the day.

A very smart person may become not-so-smart when hungry or tired. Likewise, an emotional trigger may compel us to abandon our better senses of reason and logic.

For example, when we release adrenaline, blood moves to our extremities and away from our brains. And this makes clear thought difficult.

Most of us know all this intuitively. We have our ups and downs – mentally, emotionally, and energetically. This is part of the human condition.

So it makes sense to plan for the downturns. Especially in regards to the parts of life we care about maintaining over the long term.

For our guitar practice, for instance, we can set ourselves up so we need less willpower and discipline.

We can have everything we need in our practice space. We can make practice part of a larger daily routine so that scheduling and “finding time” is not a daily struggle. We can practice when we’re at our best and have our top “smarts” activated.

And in planning our practice, we can decide on the skills and pieces on which we’ll focus. Every couple of weeks or months we can narrow the scope and shrink the menu.

This allows us to sit down and get right to it, even if we’re not at our best.

Likewise, we can adjust our daily expectations based on our present state.

If we are mentally or emotionally fatigued, we may opt to focus mainly on physical training. Or we may feel the need to play through pieces that day and forego any structured technique practice.

Having a plan in place lets us trust that we are moving in the right general direction. Then, the days may veer slightly this way and that while we continue to progress.

The important part is that we recognize that we are not always at our best. Then, when we come to the guitar in one of these non-optimal states, we don’t question the practice itself. We hold the experience as an isolated event.

In these valleys, we can remain compassionate and understanding, as we would with a young child. No shame, no blame. Tomorrow is a new day.

If low-brain practice becomes a trend, we can then spend a few minutes of high-intelligence time to troubleshoot and plan. Then test and see how it goes.?

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.

Hi Allen, I am a Dutch guy who plays classical guitar (solo and together with a flute player). Unfortunately I have been suffering from focal dystonia since begin 2016. Of course I tried physical therapy which didn't help… But I tried some of your [technique] lessons (I had teachers before but I was never taught your techniques) and to my big surprise the nasty feeling in the back of my right hand which pulls my index finger upward was gone! So now I practice your lessons. Anyway, I am very happy to have found you on the internet. Thanks very much!


~ Arnoud Reinders

-Arnoud Reinders

Allen, your website and teaching methods are excellent. You have an easy going yet encouraging way of inspiring people to learn and practice their art. And you are always accessible to your students to personally answer questions. I appreciate ... that personal touch. The course on reading rhythm and playing higher up the neck I found particularly helpful. God bless you and many thanks.

~ Joe Bazan

-Joe Bazan

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