Epictetus guitar basics

Epictetus on remembering the basics


I had to read this one a couple of times to truly get it. In layman’s terms it’s this:

  • Knowing something isn’t enough.
  • You have to practice it.
  • Then, when you’re good at it, you have to train with it (meaning you keep practicing it).
  • Otherwise, you’ll first forget about it, then slip into bad habits – habits of which you know better.

As Derek Sivers once said, “If information were the answer, we’d all be billionaires with 6-pack abs.”

Learning something new is great. But even better is to put that knowledge into action. And best of all is to ingrain it, then continue to refine and hone it.

If we’re not moving forward in our guitar practice, we’re moving backward. We never get to the point where we don’t need the basics. The basics are the basics because we need them all the time, forever.

Is there any area of your guitar practice you could spend a little more time? Are there any basics you could brush up on, or explore for the first time?

“That’s why the philosophers warn us not to be satisfied with more learning, but to add practice and then training. For as time passes we forget what we learned and end up doing the opposite, and hold opinions the opposite of what we should.”


PS: Smart people who pick things up quickly are notorious for skipping or ignoring the basics. If this is you, how could you approach guitar practice with humility? What sort of systems or habits could you form to keep you training the basics? And what checks or reviews could you put in place to make sure you’re not playing with techniques, as Epictetus warned, “the opposite of what you should”?

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.

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