Kourosh Dini on Stumbling to Mastery

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

“Mastery begins when we stumble.” 

Kourosh Dini

It’s tempting to think that masters of a craft do not make mistakes. But this is not so. Masters simply do not let the possibility of mistakes stop them.

They put themselves in the way of mistakes. This means they take risks in the hopes of learning something new or conquering a fear.

The path to mastery doesn’t have to be something in the far future. We can choose to pursue mastery each day. At any level, from beginner to advanced, we have the path of mastery before us and can choose to step upon it.

How do we do this? How do we practice for mastery?

Kourosh Dini offers this format:

  1. Decide on mastery daily
  2. Stay with the pauses.
  3. Aim for effortlessness.
  4. Break it down into its basics.
  5. Play and rebuild at its own pace.
  6. Stay on the path.

First, we decide to practice well. Slow, steady, deliberate, clear. If we come to an impasse, we stay engaged, even though we may not know the answer.

We create an aim of effortlessness. This creates a direction to move towards. This is effortlessness in the body and mind. We strive to release excess tension and let whatever we play feel easy. This is not always simple, which is why it is a worthy aim. By seeking ease, we avoid creating habits of unnecessary tension, confusion, and stress.

Dini has also written that “Most of mastery is a mastery of the basics.” And when we seek the basics in anything complex, we learn it faster and bring more ease to the task.

More, as we further train the basics they become more ingrained. Our basic movements become more reliable. And this in turn leads to more ease and effortlessness.

We may need a teacher or program to teach us the basics. But when learned, they continue to improve over a lifetime.

As we recognize the basics in our work, we can practice connecting one to the next. One simple move to the next, intentionally, with ease. In this way, we rebuild the complexity from its elemental parts.

And through this process the complex becomes simple.

And we do this again tomorrow. We trust that this work will bring us to higher levels.

Working in this way, we may fail repeatedly. We may abandon ease and grow tense. We may slip and fall, spilling notes everywhere. We may grow impatient and stray from the path to mastery. We may feel lazy or tired.

All this is normal. This happens to everyone. And by forgiving and redirecting ourselves, we return and learn.

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.

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

I just want to thank you for your lessons. You are helping us to understand how a piece is composed, the parts to analyze and how to do it. You are teaching a lot about how to read and play, and the most important part: PLAY with the music and ENJOY it.


~ R. Martinez

-R. Martinez

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