H.L. Mencken on the True Definition of Wealth

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

“Wealth is any income that is at least one hundred dollars more than the income of one’s wife’s sister’s husband.” 

H. L. Mencken

Learning guitar today, we can enjoy millions of videos of other people playing. We see young people playing hard pieces and making them look easy.

In fact, we may search for a favorite guitar piece by, say, Francisco Tarrega or Andrew York. And we see that thousands of players all over the world have learned this piece. And not only that, but they have recorded and posted it publicly online.

So it only follows that these pieces can’t be so hard after all. If they were, fewer people would be able to play them.

Then we sit down to practice.

And here is where nasty inner-dialog can bully its way in. We think, “Something must be wrong with me!” Surely we have some innate deficiency. And this keeps us from playing the clean, polished pieces we hear from others.

Comparison drains our energy and clouds our focus. It obscures the real point of practice and learning guitar.

It’s normal and natural to want to be better than others. We have an evolutionary instinct to seek status and stability in the pecking order.

In guitar practice, however, this causes more damage than benefit.

If playing better than someone else motivates us, then it is good for something. But the quality of the practice may suffer. And the present-moment enjoyment will as well.

Classical guitar is complex and finicky. Even for the best of players, this is so. Masters in every field make it look easy. But to get to this point they have invested time, energy, and attention. There is no other way.

Watching videos online, it may be more productive to celebrate people’s hard work. Instead of comparing and judging ourselves wanting, we can marvel at their dedication.

There is no finish line. There is no race. There is only one moment of alert focus directed at a challenge. Then the next.

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 also want to thank you for including more video lessons on the Bridges Guitar Series. I have learned to play Calatayud's Waltz. The most exciting thing about having done this is that I sight-read the entire piece as I was learning it. Six months ago looking at a sheet of music was like looking at Egyptian hieroglyphics. Learning to read notation is empowering and I appreciate the sensible way you are teaching us to learn to read music.


~ Steve Simpler

-Steve Simpler

I think the program levels are a great way to teach the guitar. I have had several teachers over the past few years and none came close to the structured organization that you have put together.


~ Peter Marior

-Peter Marior

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