Archimedes and the Art of Leverage on Guitar
Here in the Great Northwest, logging is a major industry.
In the old days (and still, in some places) loggers used the rivers to move hundreds and thousands of limbless trees downstream to the ports.
But sometimes, the logs piled up and jammed. And while the beavers may have marveled in admiration, the loggers had to get things back flowing.
Usually, there was just one log, known as the “King Pin”, that, when released, would free all the other logs.
Working on the log-jams further back was pointless. Wasted work.
But a small amount of time and energy directed at the King Pin would set things right in no time.
This is a prime example of leverage: applying pressure at the most strategic point to get the biggest results with the least effort.
In classical guitar….
…we also have King Pins. And we can leverage these to get the biggest long-term results in the least time.
It can be tempting to “work the logs further back”, because the problems are often sexier. These problems feel more advanced, and are good for the ego. But they’re often unnecessary. In fact, many wouldn’t even be problems if we focused on the “King Pin”.
So what are the “King Pins” in classical guitar? Here are a few:
- Our technique – how we move our hands
- Our attention – how aware we stay of what we’re doing (hint #1: slow down; hint #2: we play with more than just our fingers)
- Our consistency – focusing on something long enough to make it stick, then keeping it in our awareness (and improving)
Usually, one of these will go far in solving any problem we encounter. Logs moving miles down a river may jam multiple times. But each time, the King Pin is the first place to focus. It’s the same in guitar. If something’s not happening, go back to basics.
Give me a lever long enough and I’ll move the world.
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.
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.
Allen Mathews was recommended to me as somebody who could help me expand my guitar vocabulary. Allen started me on a really fun cycle of lessons and practice. He is a very good,and very enthusiastic teacher, and I feel that I'm on the road to learning. I couldn't be more pleased with my experience.
-Peter Buck (r.e.m.)
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