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Coach Dean Smith on How to Deal with Mistakes


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


“What do you do with a mistake? Recognize it, admit it, learn from it, forget it.”

Dean Smith

Many players, when first learning to read music, find it very challenging. This is normal.

Learning to play from musical notation takes time and work. With each practice, we fail over and over again.

This is true for many elements of learning guitar. But sight-reading music notation seems to bring out the emotions in many people.

For others, it’s the small mistakes that show up in pieces we “should be able to play by now”.

The trick, as legendary coach Dean Smith says, is to suck the marrow from the mistake, then move on.

Recognize it: Pay enough attention to recognize mistakes when they happen.

Admit it: Mistakes are part of the game. No need to deny mistakes or get offended. We’re not bad people – we simply messed up. And after all, a mistake is useful when we…

Learn from it: Seek insight into what went wrong. Was it too fast? Is there confusion about something? Were we distracted? Questions lead to answers.

Forget it: Tomorrow we’ll have new mistakes to deal with. There’s no need to carry the current one with us. We can release it, re-fluff our feathers, and move on.

Learning guitar is a long-term relationship. Each day for (hopefully) decades we’ll sit down to work and practice. How we handle mistakes will be a determining factor in how much we learn and enjoy our time on guitar.








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 stellar teachers – one focused on the technical, 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.




As I said before, I think your site is outstanding. I have spent my life teaching adults difficult stuff that they really wanted to learn but didn't have the time to learn at the speed we teach university students. Thus I understand only too well how many hundreds of hours you must have spent perfecting your lessons to make my learning as quick and easy as possible.


-Mike Barron

Those videos on practicing the piece were just awesome, Allen! I've always thought that learning songs might be something completely different than practicing exercises, but the way you teach it makes it much easier than I thought. I'm positive that joining the Woodshed has been the best investment I've ever done for learning the classical guitar. Thank you so much for these lessons.


-Ulysses Alexandre Alves



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