Ayn Rand Guitar Practice

[Quote] Ayn Rand on Getting Scared in the Learning Process

To learn a musical instrument is to know failure. Each and every practice, if it’s a good one, we try and fail over and over again. This is just part of the game. That’s why it’s called “practice”.

And as we explore new music and new challenges, as we discover new possibilities of movement and expression, we constantly face the unknown.

Many times, we don’t even know what we don’t know. We’re not yet aware of what “could be”, so it’s not an issue. As we progress in our music, we find more and more that we don’t know. Every time we get to the top of one mountain, we see more and bigger ones before us.

There is a period of time between discovering what we don’t know, and the point where we know it (or at least how we’ll go about looking for the answer). It’s in this interval – this no-man’s land of confusion and conscious ignorance, where we know we don’t know – that we face fear and uncertainty.

Here, we don’t know what the best next move is. We don’t know what to try. We may not even know what to research or who to ask to get started. We’re just “at a loss”.

This is where we must be courageous. We only need courage in scary places. That’s what makes it hard.

In our music, in our daily practice, growth happens as a result of challenge. We learn most when we ride the razor’s edge between hard and too hard.

When something is too hard, the answer is simplify. When we’re in the dark, we can feel around for one little bit that we can work on. And from there, we may find another little bit. Eventually, things become clearer and we understand what’s needed.

But to work through this process, we must embrace the unknown. We must become comfortable being uncomfortable. We must form habit of courage and a willingness to experiment until something seems promising.

In this way, inch by inch, we conquer first one unknown, then another. Until eventually, discovering new unknowns moves from bringing fear to inviting exhilaration.


“If you don’t know, the thing to do is not to get scared, but to learn.”

Ayn Rand




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 to say after over 12 months of one-on-one training with a teacher before joining The Woodshed, this is the first time that I feel I’m making technical progress.


-Nusret Aydemir

Hi Allen, I am a Dutch guy who plays classical guitar (solo and together with a flute player). Unfortunately I have been suffering from focal dystonia since begin 2016. Of course I tried physical therapy which didn't help… But I tried some of your [technique] lessons (I had teachers before but I was never taught your techniques) and to my big surprise the nasty feeling in the back of my right hand which pulls my index finger upward was gone! So now I practice your lessons. Anyway, I am very happy to have found you on the internet. Thanks very much!


-Arnoud Reinders


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