quote socrates
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Socrates on practicing the wrong things

 

In the midst of our guitar practice, it’s easy to lose track of the big picture.

We may get preoccupied with playing fast. Or learning the new tune. Or with any other shiny new bauble that catches our eye.

But if you ask any master of anything, they will tell you this: It’s all about the basics.

In any field, in any endeavor, the masters of the game are the ones who focus the most on ingraining and honing the most rudimentary elements of their craft.

With the basics firmly in hand, any new technique or effect becomes easier. Any new pattern or complexity becomes a simple combination of already-mastered moves.

Speed comes easier and safer when the basic movements are efficient and safe.

We learn new music more quickly when we recognize the basic elements (chords, scales, right hand patterns, etc.) that form the piece.

Socrates said “It is more important to know where you are going than to get there quickly.

So as guitarists, where are we going?

Here’s one answer: I want to play beautifully, with speed, precision and grace.

And what is the path to that destination? A perpetual focus on the basics.

Any practice that does not reinforce, challenge, and strengthen the basic movements in our technique is time wasted. Or worse, it’s time spent creating problems that we’ll have to go back and fix later.

Classical guitar practice is our time to look closely at the fine details of how we play. Over time, we add complexity. We form useful muscle habits that allow us to play more quickly. We learn to recognize musical and physical patterns. Before we know it, we’re playing beautifully.

Practice that doesn’t bring us to our long-term desire is what Socrates referred to as “activity”. He could have also called it “messing around”, or “doodling”.

How closely can you examine your basic movements in your practice? How do you hold the guitar? How do you use your body? How do you touch the strings? Is it different when slow than fast? How is it different? Should it be?

This type of practice can seem slow. But it’s been proven for millennia to be the surest and quickest route to excellence.


“It is more important to know where you are going than to get there quickly. Do not mistake activity for achievement. ”

Socrates




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.


Hi Allen,
Greetings from the UK. I would like to thank you for providing such an excellent resource. The effort and skill which has gone into creating this program is very evident. I started classical guitar a year or so ago with a teacher but was unable to commit to same time regular slots each week.

The Woodshed Program was exactly what I was looking for. I have found the site very intuitive and well structured and have taken your advice and started from the very beginning of the program whilst still practising some of the pieces I was already working on. It is clear that I will benefit greatly from these early technical studies. There were clearly weaknesses and gaps in my knowledge even though I am still at an early stage. Once again many thanks for the program and very best wishes.


-Rodger Paylor

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


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Charles Poliquin  

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