Lao Tzu Practice Review

Lao Tzu on Heading in the Right Direction

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

“If you do not change direction, you might end up where you are heading.”

Lao Tzu

As children, learning is easy. It’s the most natural thing in the world. It’s what we do without thinking.

We try, and inevitably make mistakes. We fall, we get up. We do things, then notice the outcomes or responses we get.

We keep what works and change what doesn’t. Life is a grand experiment. Not because we try to make it one, but because it’s the only way we know to live.

Around the age of five, we create our self-identity. At this point, we concretize some things. We decide what we like or don’t like. We make decisions not just based on outcome, but also based on our ideas of ourselves.

And this continues and increases as we age.

It’s been suggested that we make 90% of our mistakes in the first 10% of any endeavor. Be it learning guitar or growing up, our mistakes are heavily weighted to the front.

But what happens if we never go back and reassess? Any mistake or bad habit we don’t catch immediately will remain long after it needs to.

The way we get what we want as children may not be ideal at age 30, 60 or 90. But if we never change it, we’ll continue to operate as children.

As a beginning guitarist, we can’t know what constitutes “appropriate” tension. We don’t have the muscular awareness. We may not understand how the hands and wrists work best. So our positioning may be non-optimal, and even harmful over time.

As we progress, we will naturally make fewer mistakes.

But just because we make fewer mistakes, doesn’t mean that we don’t continue to make unnecessary ones.

At all times, we can keep an open mind about our playing and habits. We can continue to explore ways to improve the basics.

If we fail to evolve, we will, at the least, fall short of our potential. And we may, without meaning to, bring ourselves pain or injury.

There is always room to revisit the fundamentals. We can always rechart our path and make changes for the better.

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.

Allen, your website and teaching methods are excellent. You have an easy going yet encouraging way of inspiring people to learn and practice their art. And you are always accessible to your students to personally answer questions. I appreciate ... that personal touch. The course on reading rhythm and playing higher up the neck I found particularly helpful. God bless you and many thanks.

~ Joe Bazan

-Joe Bazan

I have to say, two practices later [after a video review] with the new position - the difference it's made in my playing is... unbelievable, really. It's like many months of improvement overnight.

Everything is so much more secure, left-hand stretches are easier, I feel like I'm getting way more volume for the same effort, the tone is noticeably better all along the neck, and the list goes on.

Thank you!

~ Alexander Mosolov


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