louis l'amour guitar quote
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Louis L’Amour on facing new challenges

 

L’Amour was the great storyteller who brought “The Wild West” into the minds and hearts of millions. He told the tales of the early pioneers making their way through the American West.

Moving by stagecoach, the hopeful crossed the Rocky Mountains, braving mountain pass after mountain pass.

And when a family of settlers got to their promised plot of land, then the challenges really began.

The work of traveling was over and now the work of living began. Shortly after celebrating their arrival, they’d trade their wagons for farming tools.

With lower stakes (thank heavens), we face the same pattern in music.

It takes a particular type of work to get a piece of music up to 90%. But that type of work won’t take us the last 10%. It’s a different skillset. It’s a different mindset. It’s a different piece of music at that point.

When we first learn guitar (or anything), we rightly focus on the first 90%.

But eventually, we learn the notes. We learn the rhythm. We get it up to speed. And after we check all the boxes, it still doesn’t sound like we want it to.

What then?

This is the beginning L’Amour mentions.

We have to do something different. The tools we’ve been using won’t work. We have to find new ways to solve problems, new ways to hear, new ways to move.

And here’s the tricky part: We don’t like to step out of our comfort zones.

We spend all this time and effort building skills. And we start to identify ourselves at a certain level, such as intermediate or advanced.

We don’t want to start over. We avoid feeling ignorant and not knowing the answer. We want to stay safely in our inflated worlds of rightness (often by bouncing to the next piece and abandoning the current one).

But clutching to what we already know grinds our progress to a halt.

Instead, we have the option of learning something new.

In Zen, some call this “beginner’s mind”. It’s setting the ego aside and opening to new ways and new ideas. It’s holding our beliefs and habits loosely, and being willing to change if and when we find a better way.

Luckily, we retain all the good work we’ve done. Our ability to get up to 90% keeps getting better. We learn music more quickly and easily. And with time, we discover ways to approach the 10%.

When that happens, we become aware of other levels we didn’t see before, and so heralds a new 10%. Then another. Like mountains beyond mountains.


“There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning.”

Louis L’Amour




allen mathews classical guitar

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 work with teachers, 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 sore after playing.  I was frequently frustrated, and couldn’t see the way forward.  Then I studied with two stellar teachers –  one focused on the technical, and one on the musical.  In time, I came to discover a fundamental set of formulas and movements. These unlocked my playing, and brought new life and enjoyment to my practice. Now I help other guitarists find more comfort and flow in their music, so they play more beautifully.


These warm-up and stretching exercises are helping me a lot! Because I’m a software developer I have to stay 8 hours typing on a computer keyboard, so I use my hands a lot during the day. At night, when I have some time to practice the guitar my hands and arms are usually in pain because they have been working a lot during the day, but I’ve found that doing the warm-up/stretching exercises in The Woodshed releases me from this pain and I’m then able to practice after doing them.  

You are building a very interesting and working guitar course, because for what I’ve seen so far it really works!


-Ulysses Alexandre Alves

Hi Allen, I am a Dutch guy who plays classical guitar (solo and together with a flute player). Unfortunately I have been suffering from focal dystonia since begin 2016. Of course I tried physical therapy which didn't help… But I tried some of your [technique] lessons (I had teachers before but I was never taught your techniques) and to my big surprise the nasty feeling in the back of my right hand which pulls my index finger upward was gone! So now I practice your lessons. Anyway, I am very happy to have found you on the internet. Thanks very much!


-Arnoud Reinders


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