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!”
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.
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 schooling, 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 often sore. I got frustrated, and couldn’t see the way forward. Then, over the next decade, I studied with two other stellar teachers – one focused on the technical movements, and one on the musical (he was a concert pianist). In time, I came to discover a new set of formulas and movements. These brought new life and vitality to my practice. Now I help guitarists find more comfort and flow in their music, so they play more beautifully.
Click here for a sample formula.
I also want to thank you for including more video lessons on the Bridges Guitar Series. I have learned to play Calatayud's Waltz. The most exciting thing about having done this is that I sight read the entire piece as I was learning it. Six months ago looking at a sheet of music was like looking at Egyptian hieroglyphics. Learning to read notation is empowering and I appreciate the sensible way you are teaching us to learn to read music.
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.
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