aaron shearer guitar practice

Aaron Shearer on How to Reach Your Musical Potential

Tuesday Quotes are short explorations of music, life, and the daily endeavor of practicing classical guitar. Enjoy!]


“The reason so many guitarists fail to reach their potential is error filled repetition, aka not knowing exactly how to do each movement!”

Aaron Shearer


Repetition is a big part of learning any instrument or skill. The goal is to ingrain a series of actions into our memory (mental, aural and “muscle” memories). To do this, we need to perform those actions many times.

There are two common pitfalls on this path. The first is not knowing what needs to happen. This is what the legendary classical guitar teacher Aaron Shearer is referring to when he says, “not knowing how to do each movement”.

This is more than just “what note is this”. Knowing how to do each movement requires us to slow down and look at how each finger moves.

It’s how one note connects to the next. It’s how the fingers work together. It’s form, positioning and movement. And it’s tying these in with the demands of the music (tone, volume, speed, etc.). Together, these are called “technique”.

The second pitfall is mindless repetition. When we fail to understand the movements needed, we may attempt to use brute force to smooth out the rough spots. We assume that if we play something enough times, everything will work out.

But this rarely, if ever, works. We use our hard work to embed problems in our memory. So we get very practiced at making the same mistakes.

Fine woodworking is defined by the details and quality of every joint and finish. Our playing also needs this attention to detail and quality. With it, we’re far more likely to reach our potential.


“The reason so many guitarists fail to reach their potential is error filled repetition, aka not knowing exactly how to do each movement!”

Aaron Shearer




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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