Kourosh Dini, MD, on creativity in music practice

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

“Creativity is a guidance of play in resolving a vision.”

Kourosh Dini, MD

In improvised music, the creative element is obvious: choosing notes and rhythms. But in practicing composed music, the notes and rhythms are given us. In many cases, we’re also told where to swell or fade, or when to slow down or speed up. So where does creativity enter?

In practicing composed music, and developing our technical skills (speed, precision, versatility, etc.), creativity comes in a different form.

In Workflow Mastery, Kourosh Dini writes:

Creativity is a guidance of play in resolving a vision.
Organization is a process of supporting and clearing a path for an intention’s development.
One is river; the other is riverbed.”

Playing composed music, we start with a degree of organization. The composer has created a scaffold with which we can build a piece of music. We’ve got the blueprint.

We then use our creativity to manifest it.

We form a mental concept of the piece. We “hear” it in our heads. We find the emotional meaning, the line of drama threading from the first note to the last. We envision sonic textures and forward movement. We may even create stories and plotlines to get deeper insight into the emotional character of the music.

These are all creative acts. These are acts of imagination.

Then to bring these imagined musical possibilities to life – this is the real act of creation. To sit down and create sounds that move ourselves and others to a premeditated emotion – this task is wrought with difficulty and challenge.

And before any masterful act of expression, we first just have to get the notes. We have to get our fingers to the right places at the right times. And this is hard, too.

Choosing the right tool for each job and toying with various elements of a problem or tricky spot take creativity. They take experimentation, and trial and error (aka “play”).

In Dini’s analogy, organization forms the riverbed through which the river of creativity can flow. Others have spoken similarly of “creative constraints”. Organization is useful to the extent it facilites the creative play of musical practice – using our minds and bodies to resolve our artistic visions.

Our vision of what we want to create (be it a piece of music, a skill, a physical experience, or anything else) guides our practice. How we get from where we are to the realization of that vision – this is our creative work.

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,
Greetings from the UK. I would like to thank you for providing such an excellent resource. The effort and skill which has gone into creating this program is very evident. I started classical guitar a year or so ago with a teacher but was unable to commit to same time regular slots each week.

The Woodshed Program was exactly what I was looking for. I have found the site very intuitive and well structured and have taken your advice and started from the very beginning of the program whilst still practising some of the pieces I was already working on. It is clear that I will benefit greatly from these early technical studies. There were clearly weaknesses and gaps in my knowledge even though I am still at an early stage. Once again many thanks for the program and very best wishes.


~ Rodger Paylor

-Rodger Paylor

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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