Frank Sinatra Tells How to Always Improve on Guitar

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

“Dare to wear the foolish clown face.”

Frank Sinatra

Researcher Karen Shultz has a wonderful TED Talk. In this presentation, she asks the question, “What does it feel like to be wrong?”

The general response of the room was negative. Thumbs down. Tongues out. Expressions of distaste.

Few if any of us enjoy being wrong. We’re rewarded by school and careers when we get things right. And often our self-image becomes propped upon being smart and on point.

So we learn to avoid mistakes. Especially public ones. Without even realizing it, we try to protect ourselves from the pain of being wrong.

But the masters of history, the top-shelf figures of any field, do things differently.

The best of the best embrace the possibility of being wrong. Some call it “the beginner’s mind.” This is the willingness to risk temporary discomfort in exchange for the possibility of growth.

To those on the path to mastery, the lessons learned are more important than “saving face.” These perpetual students are ready to play the fool and ask the silly questions. They welcome the chance to unearth something new. They understand that this exercise may bring them forward towards their goals.

The answer to Shultz’s question came as a surprise to the room. What does it feel like to be wrong? It feels exactly the same as being right.

It’s discovering we are wrong that stings – not the state of being wrong itself. Until the moment our wrong is exposed, we’re convinced we’re right.

Masters in any field, including guitar, prod the bounds of their knowledge and ability. They flirt with challenges just outside their comfort zones. They perform little experiments. They tinker and play. They ask questions. They find details to get curious about.

Babe Ruth was famously the strike-out king. Evel Knievel crashed more than others. Getting things wrong is the other side of the proverbial coin.

We learn more and enjoy practice more when we have skin in the game.

Luckily, the stakes are very low in classical guitar practice. Most mistakes will be for our ears alone. This doesn’t mean it’s any easier, psychologically, to risk experimentation. But if we can muster the courage, we can reap the bounty.

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 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

Hi Allen, just wanted to provide some feedback. Since I've started doing the exercises [in The Woodshed program] my guitar is sounding a lot better, with fuller sound, less effort. Its as if I bought a new guitar or got a new pair of hands (or both). Amazing my friend. Thank you!


~ Nusret Aydemir

-Nusret Aydemir

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