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Bob Hawke on What is Most Important in Guitar Practice


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


“The things that are most important don’t always scream the loudest.”

Bob Hawke


When we play and practice music, we juggle several tasks. We have notes, fingerings, phrasing, technique, body use, focus, and more.

At any given moment, we only have room in our attention for one or two of these. The others take a back seat. Ideally, we bounce from one to the next often enough that nothing goes too far awry. But that doesn’t always happen.

For instance, when we learn a new piece of music, the “squeaky wheel” is usually the notes. The main question we ask is, “what are the notes and where do I play them?” And this makes complete sense.

If we take a broader view of our learning and progress, this one piece of music is a small part of a larger whole.

In this larger view, there may be more important skills than the ability to figure out notes. Our technique (how we move and use our bodies) is the tool with which we play all the notes. So training technique may be more important than finding the current notes.

Phrasing, (the way that one note connects and relates to the next), is also a skill that transcends any one piece of music.

In our practice, then, one of the most powerful questions we can ask is, “Is the work I’m doing right now positively building my future abilities (or am I just playing more notes)?”








Allen Mathews

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.




Hello Allen,
I feel my guitar proficiency is improving considerably. Every day I’m exceedingly comfortable with my right hand technique and overall fluency. And my sight-reading has improved as well. Thank you for creating the Woodshed. It’s thoughtful construction and scope and sequence of knowledge and skills has advanced my guitar skills significantly. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.


-Michael Immel

Allen Mathews was recommended to me as somebody who could help me expand my guitar vocabulary. Allen started me on a really fun cycle of lessons and practice. He is a very good and very enthusiastic teacher, and I feel that I'm on the road to learning. I couldn't be more pleased with my experience.


-Peter Buck, R.E.M.



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