Maya Angelou Success Guitar

Maya Angelou on Setting Ourselves Up for Success

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

“I learned a long time ago the wisest thing I can do is be on my own side.”

Maya Angelou

Guitar is a solo sport. Even if we play with others, the bulk of our time is often spent alone. In classical guitar especially, we work largely in isolation.

We may have support, such as a teacher or program. But in most practices, it’s just us, our guitars, and the challenge at hand.

But it may not feel so alone, because of the extra voices in our head. We may hear chatter from all corners, some supportive and some not.

French philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.

Our inner voices often act against us. Psychologically, we could talk about the well-meaning subconscious. Eckart Tolle speaks of the “pain body.” Zen Buddhism refers to the “monkey mind.”

Whatever we choose to call it, it is real. And it has thrown the wet towel of dismay over many a guitar practice.

I’m over X years old, and this means….” or “I’m too busy for practice…” or “I like rock music, so classical guitar is not for me….”

And these may arrive anytime, not just in the practice itself. If we have learned to focus, the practice may be blissfully free from the chattering mind. But it may still cast a pall on our study at other times. It may affect motivation, time management, or mood.

Maya Angelou said, “I learned a long time ago the wisest thing I can do is be on my own side.” For us in our musical study, this is also useful.

We can prepare for our practice beforehand. We can have everything we need at hand. We can tidy our space to reduce distraction. We can brew a cup of tea and make practice a sacred time.

And we can also be aware of any stories that may not serve us. We can question our perceived limitations. Many of us undermine our musical enjoyment through false beliefs.

Any statement that argues against our musical enjoyment is bound to be false. We may have real physical limitations, such as several missing fingers. (In which case another instrument may be a better choice.) But for most of us, these statements are often ways of protecting against failure.

Instead, we can notice these thoughts and turn them around. We can recognize them and decide to believe something else.

We can pat ourselves on the back for doing something positive and generative. We can feel good about using our mind and body in service of something beautiful. We can relish reaching for the mental and physical challenges just beyond grasp.

And this, too, is a practice. Harder at first and easier in time.

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 practiced your system for three days, and it solved the I-M alternation problem I had been struggling with since I undertook classical guitar three years ago.  Many thanks!


~ Johnny Geudel

-Johnny Geudel

Allen Mathews was recommended to me as somebody who could help me expand my guitar vocabulary.  Allen started me on a really fun cycle of lessons and practice.  He is a very good,and very enthusiastic teacher, and I feel that I'm on the road to learning.  I couldn't be more pleased with my experience.


~ Peter Buck (r.e.m.)

-Peter Buck (r.e.m.)

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