Pablo Casals on Practice

Pablo Casals on the Perfect Musical Technique

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

“The most perfect technique is that which is not noticed at all.”

Pablo Casals

Writer Alan Watts once spoke of the perfect pair of shoes. These shoes, he suggested, would disappear. You wouldn’t even know you were wearing them. You wouldn’t think of your feet at all, but instead just live your day.

Like shoes, our technique is a tool with which we do something. More than that, in music technique is a tool with which we do everything.

“Technique” is the sum total of our ability to move and our understanding of the needs of the music.

It is often reduced down to the act of playing scales and exercises. But these, too, are tools.

An actor is more than his voice. An actor communicates through movement, created by muscles. An actor brings psychological insight and understanding of human nature. All these together make us forget the medium (play, movie, etc.) and immerse into the story. The technique becomes invisible and we witness the art it creates.

Likewise, on guitar, we bring our full selves to the party. And over time, we develop our ability to “act naturally.” We learn to connect our notes. We learn to stretch time in realistic ways.

In our guitar practice, we discover the vocabulary of technique. Then we work to become fluent in the language. We strive to ingrain the movements such that they become gestures. We study how music breathes and flows forward.

On an instrument as complex and difficult as guitar, few people completely master technique. Some become very good at playing the correct notes in the correct rhythm. But this, like an actor’s script, is only part of the job.

Luckily, the journey is more reward than any destination. So we can relish the study. We can embrace the pursuit of technique and mastery. We can break through barriers and rise above plateaus. We can bring new meaning and purpose to our scales and exercises.

And as we reach higher rungs of the spiral, we can both marvel at the new and feel at home in the ever-present fundamentals.

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 am truly enjoying the growth and challenge that the Woodshed material provides.  I look forward to working hard and learning much in the years ahead.  Thanks for all the effort and care that you have taken in providing these lessons and resources!


~ Mark Whitsett

-Mark Whitsett

Hello Allen,
I feel my guitar proficiency is improving considerably. Every day I’m exceedingly comfortable with my right hand technique and overall fluency. And my sight-reading has improved as well. Thank you for creating the Woodshed. It’s thoughtful construction and scope and sequence of knowledge and skills has advanced my guitar skills significantly. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.


~ Michael Immel

-Michael Immel

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