Anne Dillard guitar practice

[Quote] Annie Dillard on Successful Practice and Capturing Time

“A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days.”

Annie Dillard

As we sit down to practice, one of the most dangerous questions we can ask is, “What do I feel like doing today?”

Managing our practices, we wear several “hats”. Two of the most important are that of manager and worker.

Managing our practices, we decide what we’re currently working on. We choose our exercises and pieces. We create a schedule.

This schedule could be just a loose outline, or a minute-by-minute plan for each practice. Or it may lay somewhere in the middle.

What matters is that the schedule exists. This is so when we sit down to practice, we can put on the other above-mentioned hat: that of the worker.

In each practice, we progress most by doing the work we previously planned. We get better by focusing on specific things. We train our fingers and bodies. We develop memory and recall. We exercise and expand our skills.

Practice-time is work-time.

When we use our practice-time for constructive work, we improve. We see growth and advancement. We succeed in small goals and can measure progress.

And this keeps us motivated and upbeat.

When we leave our daily practice to “chaos and whim”, it’s harder to get fully engaged. We wonder if we’re doing the right things. We question whether we’re on the right track. Practice is less connected from one day to the next, and our work fails to gain traction.

Some form of schedule or agenda will improve our chances for a fulfilling and rewarding daily practice. This means we’ll be more likely to continue playing and reach our long-term desires.

“A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days.”

Annie Dillard

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

I am a 61 year old physician, reconnecting with the classical guitar after a hiatus of nearly 40 years. After a couple of weeks [in the program], I’m now producing a much clearer, yet somehow more mellow and beautiful sound. It was really good to feel it happening in my hand, and that it felt more comfortable and somehow “right”, compared to the way I had played before (“curved picking”). The fog started to lift and I found that I was remembering more, and it felt great (also a bit of a relief!), giving me confidence to keep going. Thank you for making your course available - your love of music and the guitar shines through the teaching. I am very happy I found and registered with CGS.

-Brian Davey

Hi Allen,
First public performance ever! I am up to Level 1E in The Woodshed program. It is certainly mega helpful.

-Peter Graham

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