chesterton guitar practice

G.K.Chesterton on Staying Fresh in our Music

“The things we see every day are the things we never see at all.”

G.K. Chesterton

“Scales are boring…” “I already know that…” “I think I’m playing it pretty well…”

Classical guitar music is finicky. We’re asked to move our fingers with ridiculous levels of precision and consistency. And a core set of movements makes up almost everything we do. Repetition is part of the game.

But with repetition can also come blindness. Like the scenes we pass every day on the way home, we often come to ignore some of the most crucial elements of our music.

Part of quality practice is looking and listening as if for the first time (even if it’s the hundredth).

When we suspend our notion of “got it”, we find constant room for improvement. When we assume nothing, slow down and pay close attention, the way forward presents itself.

Playing music, we build myriad skills. Some are finger-skills. Some are problem-solving skills. We learn time- and project-management skills. And we also need focus and attention skills.

It takes practice and intention to notice the commonplace day after day. It’s work to stay attuned to the fine details in something we do over and over.

The key to “seeing” is to look for something specific. When we explore the up-close details, the common becomes novel. Our curiosity engages. We become aware of the “flowers at our feet”.

For scales, it’s rhythm, legato, volume and tone control. With a piece of music it’s the same. For every note and phrase, we can set an intention for each of these. Then we compare what we see and hear to that intention.

Forward progress means matching what comes out of the instrument to what we hear in our heads. The “big picture” is made up of many smaller pictures. And the small pictures are where we hold the power.

“The things we see every day are the things we never see at all.”

G.K. Chesterton

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 practised your system for three days, and it solved the I-M alternation problem I had been struggling with since I undertook classical guitar three years ago.  Many thanks!

-Johnny Geudel

Thanks to you (you are my only teacher) in only a few months I've gone from very basic beginner pieces to having just completed learning Bach's Gavottes 1&2 in good form and execution. As a non-classical electric guitarist who has always used a pick and never his fingers, this has been no small feat!

-Gregg Olson

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