Sydney J. Harris on How to Be a Musical Realist
Tuesday Quotes are short explorations of music, life, and the daily endeavor of practicing classical guitar. Find more here. Enjoy!
“An idealist believes that the short run doesn’t count. A cynic believes the long run doesn’t matter. A realist believes that what is done or left undone in the short run determines the long run.”Sydney J. Harris
Each time we sit down and pick up our instruments, we have the opportunity to craft our life of music. We either practice or we play.
If we work on specific exercises or techniques, we improve over time. And not only that, we also get the daily satisfaction of meaningful work. We overcome obstacles, solve problems, and meet challenges.
“Practice” is the act of working on specific things with the goal of improving them.
We also need “play”.
The goal of “play” is to enjoy the moment and the act of playing. We practice so that we can play. We play to give meaning and context to practice.
One purpose of practice is the daily satisfaction and focus. Another is to facilitate play.
We have limited practice minutes each day. How we use them will determine how satisfying that daily time feels. And it will make play more rewarding over time.
The best way to ensure a joyful life of music, is to practice – to work on specific things, with complete attention. And sometimes just play.
What specific things should we work on? This changes over time. It almost doesn’t matter – so long as we work to improve something specific. And that what we work on is appropriate for our current skill-level.
In any given day, the content is less important than the level of attention and the clarity of the task.
What we do today, and how we do it, will pave the path for tomorrow and beyond.
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 also want to thank you for including more video lessons on the Bridges Guitar Series. I have learned to play Calatayud's Waltz. The most exciting thing about having done this is that I sight-read the entire piece as I was learning it. Six months ago looking at a sheet of music was like looking at Egyptian hieroglyphics. Learning to read notation is empowering and I appreciate the sensible way you are teaching us to learn to read music.
~ Steve Simpler
Great advise here. I find I am taking more time with the pieces than I would have in the past as I am focusing on the technique you have taught me. It is slower going at first but has fewer frustrations, is easier and sounds better in the end.
~ Karen Richardson
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