Epictetus guitar basics

Epictetus on Mastering (then Remastering) the Basics

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

“That’s why the philosophers warn us not to be satisfied with more learning, but to add practice and then training. For as time passes we forget what we learned and end up doing the opposite, and hold opinions the opposite of what we should.”


In layman’s terms, these words of wisdom for Epictetus say this:

  • Knowing something isn’t enough.
  • You have to practice it.
  • Then, when you’re good at it, you have to train with it (meaning you keep practicing it).
  • Otherwise, you’ll first forget about it, then slip into bad habits – habits of which you know better.

As Derek Sivers once said, “If information were the answer, we’d all be billionaires with 6-pack abs.

Learning something new is great. But even better is to put that knowledge into action. And best of all is to ingrain it, then continue to refine and hone it.

If we’re not moving forward in guitar practice, we’re moving backward. We never get to the point where we don’t need the basics. The basics are the basics because we need them all the time, forever.

Smart people who pick things up quickly are notorious for skipping or ignoring the basics.

If this is you, how could you approach guitar practice with more humility? What sort of systems or habits could you form to keep you training the basics? And what checks or reviews could you put in place to make sure you’re not playing with techniques or habits, as Epictetus warned, “the opposite of what you should”?

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, 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

-Tony Christopher

Those videos on practicing the piece were just awesome, Allen! I've always thought that learning songs might be something completely different than practicing exercises, but the way you teach it makes it much easier than I thought. I'm positive that joining the Woodshed has been the best investment I've ever done for learning the classical guitar. Thank you so much for these lessons.


~ Ulysses Alexandre Alves

-Ulysses Alexandre Alves

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