Gillespie Dizzy Practice Horn Guitar

Dizzy Gillespie on the Ups and Downs of Daily Practice

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

“Some days you get up and put the horn to your chops and it sounds pretty good and you win. Some days you try and nothing works and the horn wins. This goes on and on, then you die and the horn wins.” 

Dizzy Gillespie

“Puppy Love” is a delightful rush. When a relationship is new, we may feel myriad positive emotions. We swoon with the ecstasy of it all.

And we think to ourselves, “Now this is what real love feels like. This will go on forever.”

But things change.

After some time, feelings normalize. We still love, but it’s not as heady. The euphoria is less frequent and less intense.

All lasting relationships make this transition.

A music practice follows this same path. Like all relationships over time, some days are more enjoyable than others.

As Dizzy says in the quote above, some days feel good. And some days feel like nothing is working. And this continues for the life of the musical relationship.

There are differences between those who manage to keep a music practice going for years and decades, and those who quit. One big difference is the way veteran practicers view the down days.

Instead of becoming discouraged, they know that this is part of the process. Plateaus often precede breakthroughs.

Or as Steven Kotler, expert on peak performance and “flow” says, “Flow doesn’t always feel flowy.” The days that feel like nothing is working are part of the inner workings of progress. This is often the brain reorganizing and reassociating information.

If we continue to show up and give our energy, attention, and time, we move through both the up days and down days.

Masters in any field, from woodworking to programming, dance to counseling go through these same cycles. It’s all part of the game.

The only way to lose this game is to assume that it will go otherwise.

If we believe the up days will go on forever, we’ll be disappointed when they don’t. And if we think that a down day means that all is hopeless, we become disillusioned and frustrated.

One way to nurture a healthy musical relationship is to keep the big picture in mind.

Another way is to seek constant improvement in the quality of our practice.

In effective practice, we work on tangible and clearly defined small challenges. This way, we learn to notice the fine details, and we enjoy more victories.

And when practice feels like a struggle, we can adjust these to compensate. Give and take.

Over time, practice yields deeper satisfactions. Just doing the work becomes the success. We learn about ourselves, watching various areas grow and expand. We come to nurture and support ourselves, as we would with any other long-time love.

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 have to say after over 12 months of one-on-one training with a teacher before joining The Woodshed, this is the first time that I feel I’m making technical progress.


~ Nusret Aydemir

-Nusret Aydemir

I am a 61 year old physician, reconnecting with the classical guitar after a hiatus of nearly 40 years. After a couple of weeks [in the program], I’m now producing a much clearer, yet somehow more mellow and beautiful sound. It was really good to feel it happening in my hand, and that it felt more comfortable and somehow “right”, compared to the way I had played before (“curved picking”). The fog started to lift and I found that I was remembering more, and it felt great (also a bit of a relief!), giving me confidence to keep going. Thank you for making your course available - your love of music and the guitar shines through the teaching. I am very happy I found and registered with CGS.


~ Brian Davey

-Brian Davey

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