Judge Learned Hand problem solving

Judge Learned Hand on Musical Liberation and Freedom

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

“The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right”

Judge Learned Hand

The best way to go blind to an issue is to believe that you’ve already solved it, and for good.

When we “have the answer”, we stop questioning. And when we stop questioning, we stop learning. We stop looking, and therefore stop seeing.

A well-earned confidence comes from experience and familiarity with the challenge. As we progress in our studies, we naturally become more confident.

But we can remain confident and still accept the possibility that we have it all wrong. We can have what some call “Strong opinions, loosely held.” We can act with decisiveness and confidence, with one eye peeled for other possibilities.

In our music, we can fully commit to a fingering, technique, or phrasing. And as we do, we can also know that there may be a better way. Still, we have to do something, and until a better option presents itself, we can commit to the current decisions.

The well-named Judge Learned Hand calls this openness “liberty”.

And when we assume there are factors we don’t know, and possibilities we haven’t thought of, we are indeed liberated. Our egos and identities are no longer threatened by new information. We’re less likely to succumb to the “sunk-cost fallacy”.

This non-attachment to our beliefs can lead to curiosity, exploration, and new discoveries. And this can lead us to become more comfortable with the unknown. In this playground of openness and possibility, our daily practice becomes the adventure of a lifetime.

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.

Great Work!!!  I thank you sincerely for all the effort you have put in and the terrific work you do for the classical guitar community.


I have lost my entire metallic sound while I am playing now. Even my single note practice sounds more melodious, less tinny. [The Woodshed technique practice] has made a major difference in my tone. Thank you.


~ Harlan Friedman

-Harlan Friedman

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