Napoleon Hill on Great Guitar Playing Right Now

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

“If you cannot do great things, do small things in a great way.”

Napoleon Hill

Most of us would love to play guitar better than we do. Faster, bigger pieces of music. More ease and expression in each note. Wider stretches with never a buzzed note. It all sounds marvelous.

But when we sit down to play, we have only our current abilities – nothing more or less.

And one of the challenges of practice is to do today what will lead us to higher abilities tomorrow. (Or more realistically, next month and year). This sounds straightforward, but it’s not.

As humans, we bring our moods, energy-levels, and state of mind to our practices. And these can help or hinder. Managing practice is largely managing our own attention.

So how can we guarantee productive practices? How can we know that what we do today will lead us to better playing in the future? And how can we feel satisfied and enjoy our time on the guitar?

One reliable way is to make quality our top priority.

It doesn’t so much matter THAT we play our scales, but HOW we play our scales. Just a couple of minutes of clean, intentional movements, hearing each sound in real time. This is good practice. This will bring us forward more than an hour of mindless drills.

And it’s the same with our music. It doesn’t matter how difficult the piece is. What matters is the quality we bring to it.

Can we stay focused? Can we place each finger in turn? Can we choose and demonstrate the volume of each note?

This is playing “on purpose.” And what is the purpose? Mastery. Beauty. Creation.

Beautiful playing isn’t in the future, though we convince ourselves otherwise. It only happens one note at a time. First one, then the next, and again.

From beginning levels to the most advanced, the method is the same: play each note with full attention and awareness, in the best way we know how.

Over time the challenges increase, and our conceptions of possibility expand. But the method remains, working its magic in each focused moment.

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 lost my entire metallic sound while I am playing now. Even my single note practice sounds more melodious, less tinny. [The Woodshed technique practice] has made a major difference in my tone. Thank you.


~ Harlan Friedman

-Harlan Friedman

Hi Allen, I am a Dutch guy who plays classical guitar (solo and together with a flute player). Unfortunately I have been suffering from focal dystonia since begin 2016. Of course I tried physical therapy which didn't help… But I tried some of your [technique] lessons (I had teachers before but I was never taught your techniques) and to my big surprise the nasty feeling in the back of my right hand which pulls my index finger upward was gone! So now I practice your lessons. Anyway, I am very happy to have found you on the internet. Thanks very much!


~ Arnoud Reinders

-Arnoud Reinders

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