bruce lee guitar practice

[Quote] Bruce Lee on Hacking Away on the Unessential

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


“It’s not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential.”

Bruce Lee


What is essential in music? Answer: the following two questions:

  1. What is the pitch, duration, volume and tone quality of the next note?
  2. How do I make that happen?

The first question defines our musical understanding and intention. It begins with questions of “What note is this and where do I play it?” And it leads to more advanced concepts of phrasing and interpretation.

The second question speaks to our ability and technique. This is the physical act of playing each note.

Each contains infinite opportunities for study and growth.

To streamline our practice, we can spend time on what matters. We can focus on the core fundamentals of playing our music:

  • How we use our minds (focus, awareness, intention)
  • How we use our body (form, positioning, movement)

New exercises and pieces don’t magically bestow new abilities or techniques. They are simply tools to expand and challenge our current understanding and execution.

When we use them as such, they are helpful. But they stall progress when they in themselves become the point.

If we use our mind to direct our body, any exercise or piece of music will bring us forward. We can use new additions to challenge our core skills.

But our essential goals are to deepen our understanding and hone our execution.


“It’s not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential.”

Bruce Lee




allen mathews classical guitar

About Allen Mathews

Allen Mathews learned guitar as an adult, and has been a full-time guitar teacher for almost two decades to students age 4 to 96.  He has taught classical guitar at Reed College and Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, and has been a guest lecturer and clinician at schools and universities throughout the U.S.  Allen is often praised for his creative teaching abilities, and his dedication to helping adults learn classical guitar.  He has a popular Youtube Channel offering regular classical guitar tutorials, and has gained fans worldwide for his weekly emails and articles at ClassicalGuitarShed.com.


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

I came on board three months ago and I’m loving it more than ever. I have maintained my practice pattern. I’m sticking wholeheartedly with the program as written. That makes it easy to see what I NEED to work on rather than just playing the shiny places I’ve gone beyond…..I’ve learned to focus 100% on what I’m doing that very minute….I’m developing strength in my left hand...I spend time with the videos in the evenings and always find something more to help me. I’m not looking for info anywhere else. Everything I need is right here in The Woodshed. You say “Jump” and I say “How high.” I’m so grateful I found you. You speak in a language I understand.


-Gloria Mader


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