louis l'amour guitar quote

Louis L’Amour on Braving New Challenges

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

“There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning.”

Louis L’Amour

Louis L’Amour was the great storyteller who brought “The Wild West” into the minds and hearts of millions. He told the tales of the early pioneers making their way through the American West.

Moving by stagecoach, the hopeful crossed the Rocky Mountains, braving mountain pass after mountain pass.  And when a family of settlers got to their promised plot of land, then the challenges really began.

The work of traveling was over and now the work of living began. Shortly after celebrating their arrival, they’d trade their wagons for farming tools.

With lower stakes (thank heavens), we face the same pattern in music.

It takes a particular type of work to get a piece of music up to 90%. But that type of work won’t take us the last 10%. It’s a different skill set. It’s a different mindset. It’s a different piece of music at that point.

When we first learn guitar (or anything), we rightly focus on the first 90%.

But eventually, we learn the notes. We learn the rhythm. We get it up to speed. And after we check all the boxes, it still doesn’t sound like we want it to.

What then?

This is the beginning L’Amour mentions.

We have to do something different. The tools we’ve been using won’t work. We have to find new ways to solve problems, new ways to hear, new ways to move.

And here’s the tricky part: We don’t like to step out of our comfort zones.

We spend all this time and effort building skills. And we start to identify ourselves at a certain level, such as intermediate or advanced.

We don’t want to start over. We avoid feeling ignorant and not knowing the answer. We want to stay safely in our inflated worlds of rightness (often by bouncing to the next piece and abandoning the current one).  But clutching to what we already know grinds our progress to a halt.

Instead, we have the option of learning something new.

In Zen, some call this “beginner’s mind”. It’s setting the ego aside and opening to new ways and new ideas. It’s holding our beliefs and habits loosely, and being willing to change if and when we find a better way.

Luckily, we retain all the good work we’ve done. Our ability to get up to 90% keeps getting better. We learn music more quickly and easily. And with time, we discover ways to approach the 10%.

When that happens, we become aware of other levels we didn’t see before, and so heralds a new 10%. Then another. Like mountains beyond mountains.

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 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


Allen I have looked for the right online teacher for classical guitar for 8 months. Spent some money in the process. Never got anywhere. Then I found your site. Excellent! I now believe I will reach my goals in playing some beautiful music in the future.

Thank you,



Become a Member and Play More, Beautifully!

“The basics are the basics, and you can’t beat the basics.”
Charles Poliquin

Join the program that takes you from the beginning fundamentals to advanced mastery, so you…1

  • Move your hands safely and fluidly
  • Enjoy fulfilling practices and meaningful work
  • Play beautifully with expression and flow

Click the button to take a step towards an
organized, effective guitar practice. >>>