Christopher Reeves Superman Guitar
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Superman on Facing the Impossible Guitar Tunes

Capricho Arabe, Asturias-Leyenda, La Catedral, Bach’s Chaconne….

These massive pieces of music can seem a million miles away. Given our current level, they may even appear impossible.

But there was time when even J. S. Bach was a lousy player. He had to start at the beginning like the rest of us.

The only difference between the best players in the world and a day-one beginner is time.

The research is in, and study after study has shown that time is the greatest indicator of skill-level.

But not all time counts equal. Time spent polishing what’s already shiny doesn’t count for much. Time spent challenging limits and honing abilities brings us steadily forward.

This second sort of time – focused, deliberate practice – takes willpower.

When we sit down to play, we can choose the easy path or the hard one. We can strum along to the tune we’ve played a thousand times before, or we can slowly work toward learning a new tune.

We can noodle around distractedly or we can do exercises with our best attention.

We can choose comfort and zero risk of failure, or we can choose to live on the constant edge of failure. We can challenge ourselves, fail, learn from the feedback, then go back for more.

Practicing well is to practice with intention, purpose, and awareness. When we (as Superman said) “summon the will” to spend our guitar-time in this way, we get better.

Along the way, we may have our doubts. We may not always feel like we’re making headway.

But eventually, we find ourselves picking up the tunes that used to seem impossible. With time and attention, it’s inevitable.


“So many of our dreams at first seem impossible. Then they seem improbable. And then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable.”

Christopher Reeve




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.


I have lost my entire metallic sound while I am playing now. Even my single note practice sounds more melodious, less tinny. [The Woodshed technique practice] has made a major difference in my tone. Thank you.


-Harlan Friedman

Allen: Just wanted you to know I have thoroughly enjoyed The Woodshed program. I'm in Level 1C and love how every part works together. It has improved my "general" playing already.


-Lydia Chance


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