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Captain Jack Sparrow on Guitar Practice Attitude

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


“The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem.”

Captain Jack Sparrow


Classical guitar is a long game. Sure, we can accomplish much through spurts of high action. But the real joy and progress come with showing up day after day, year after year. It’s the incremental improvements that reward us.

To keep showing up, it helps to feel good about the whole affair. We need to feel pulled toward our practice. We can only push for so long before we lose the willpower.

Frustration is demotivating. Unmet expectations zap our energy. Doubt and fear take the fun out of it.

Most often, these manifest themselves as small events in practice. We feel we should have mastered that small section by now. We assume other people have it easier (they don’t) and judge ourselves harshly.

These nagging frustrations erode our musical experience. They chip away at our confidence and creativity. They undermine our intentions and make practice more difficult.

Instead of forming habits of negative self-talk and insecurity, we can stay upbeat.

When we encounter tricky spots and hard lessons, we can take it in stride. These are normal – all part of the game. These obstacles help us grow. They offer the opportunity to try new solutions and experiment with different perspectives.

When we face challenges (and we will, daily) we have a choice: up or down. Will we use this challenge as sport, or will we take it as a personal affront?

In practice, it’s just the music, the instrument and us. No one else is involved. We can find joy and meaning in the work, or we can crumble. The choice is ours, each day and each moment.


“The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem.”

Captain Jack Sparrow




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 came on board three months ago and I’m loving it more than ever. I have maintained my practice pattern. I’m sticking wholeheartedly with the program as written. That makes it easy to see what I NEED to work on rather than just playing the shiny places I’ve gone beyond…..I’ve learned to focus 100% on what I’m doing that very minute….I’m developing strength in my left hand...I spend time with the videos in the evenings and always find something more to help me. I’m not looking for info anywhere else. Everything I need is right here in The Woodshed. You say “Jump” and I say “How high.” I’m so grateful I found you. You speak in a language I understand.


-Gloria Mader

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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