Will Rogers on Good Musical Judgement and Experience

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

“Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.”

Will Rogers

Flash forward a few years or decades, and we can imagine ourselves as mature musicians. What does “mature” mean here? It means we’re able to use good judgement. We make good musical decisions. And we learn pieces effectively.

As mature musicians, we’ve gained many methods, formulas and tricks. We know how to solve the problems in our music. We can practice so that we improve. We have rich webs of context for near anything we encounter in pieces.

And as mature musicians, we play so that music sounds good.

We know, or can figure out, the perfect rate at which to slow down or speed up. We can swell and fade in ways that sound inevitable, but still surprise. We play the notes so that listeners understand the emotional content of the music.

So how to we get from here to there?

We need experience. And not just any experience. (Many people play guitar for decades, but still wouldn’t describe themselves as “good”.)

We need experiences we can learn from. And we need them often. We need for our daily practices to challenge us. We need to strive and grow.

So how do we practice for such improvement?

We make decisions. We exaggerate. We experiment (which comes from the same root word as experience). We commit. We risk.

Practice should not feel easy. It can be fun, rewarding, and engaging – these are wonderful. But ideally we ride the razor’s edge of hard, but not too hard.

At first, it may feel strange to wildly exaggerate volume changes. We may feel funny or a little exposed clapping and counting rhythms aloud[. We may feel sheepish and unsure enlivening them with character and attitude.

But when we step out of our comfort zones and try new things, we learn. And this pulls us forward. We witness our own progress and growth.

We gain confidence, both in our abilities and in experimentation.

This compounds over time, and we connect the dots. As time passes (which it tends to), we find we’re exploring ever new frontiers of music. We discover new angles and nuances. And our worlds become ever richer.

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

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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