quote yo yo ma

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Yo-Yo Ma on practicing clarity

 

There’s an old saying that if you don’t care where you go, any road will get you there.

But as soon as we ask powerful questions, our movements become more intentional.

  • What do I want?
  • What do I want to feel, physically and emotionally?
  • What’s going here, specifically?
  • What’s stopping this from happening?
  • What would it be like if this were easy?

Questions like these rarely have a simple answer, but they help us build clarity.

Clarity isn’t something we “get”, like a loaf of bread on the way home. Clarity comes from exploration and experimentation. It comes from listening critically, and examining our assumptions.

Clarity is a process, not an event.

When we practice a piece of music, what do we want? We want to play the notes at the right time with the right fingers. We want the notes to connect smoothly. We want good tone and volume.

Then, as we deepen even further, we want this passage to sound dark and brooding. We want the next to be bright and cheerful. We want these notes to get louder and those to get quieter. These to stand out and these others to fade into the background.

As we progress on guitar, we gain more and more clarity. We discover new possibilities we weren’t aware of before. We encounter new problems and overcome them.

Even from day one in our guitar journey, we can seek clarity. At first, we’ll focus on the broad strokes. That’s as it should be. We need the basics.

With time, we travel deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole of musical expression. And that, too, is as it should be.

But it only happens if we ask questions. We only grow as musicians when seek greater clarity. Otherwise, as Yo Yo Ma said, it’s just sound.


“If you don’t have clarity of ideas, you’re just communicating sheer sound.”

Yo Yo Ma




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.


After more than a year as a member, I remain impressed with the Woodshed, song courses, Tuesday quotes, weekly lessons, and the CGS community. Without my membership, I think my enthusiasm for learning classical guitar would have faded long ago. Instead, I am enjoying the process as I make steady progress in my playing.


-Steve Dosh

I practised your system for three days, and it solved the I-M alternation problem I had been struggling with since I undertook classical guitar three years ago.  Many thanks!


-Johnny Geudel


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