chet atkins guitar practice
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Chet Atkins on Balancing Music and Life

Tuesday Quotes are short explorations of music, life, and the daily endeavor of practicing classical guitar. Find more here.


“When I was a little boy, I told my dad, ‘When I grow up, I want to be a musician.’ My dad said: ‘You can’t do both, Son’.”

Chet Atkins

We live in a physical, material world. We love our things. As a people, we often value the tangible over the intangible. And we often define ourselves by what we own.

But there’s more to life than accumulating shiny gizmos and yard ornaments.

As Einstein said, not everything that matters can be measured.

Music is ephemeral. It’s an experience – both to play and to listen. It happens in real time.

So, understandably, music is often back-burnered in favor of other, more touchable goals.

It’s trite because it’s so common: the story of the one who puts material gain ahead of health, relationships and sanity, and loses them all.

But still, culture is strong. We quietly feel it naive to think we can do the needful and still have time and energy for the nourishing.

“We have to be ‘grown ups’. We have responsibilities. We must prioritize.”

And that may be true, though incomplete. Life is short. We’re not guaranteed a long run. And if we get one, we still decide how to spend it.

At any age, it’s the child-like qualities that help us feel most fulfilled and alive. Curiosity, wonder, surprise – these make us feel human. They slice through the shell and urge us to engage with life.

Studying guitar invites us to meld our adult and child qualities. We can bring critical thinking, time-management, and discipline. And we can use these to create a safe container in which to play and explore.

It’s not always easy to block out the “real world” and put all our attention on our “play”. Distractions abound.

But the pursuit is worth the work. The gains can’t be counted, but they count.



allen mathews classical guitar

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 stellar teachers –  one focused on the technical, 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 beautifullyClick here for a sample formula.


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

Allen: Just wanted you to know I have thoroughly enjoyed The Woodshed program. I'm in Level 1C and love how every part works together. It has improved my "general" playing already.


-Lydia Chance


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