Einstein on Staying with Problems Longer

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

  “It’s not that I’m so smart; it’s just that I stay with problems longer”.

                    Albert Einstein

In our journey with each piece of music, we come to certain predictable landmarks.

And each of these landmarks marks a completion of some aspect of our learning.

For instance, when we finally get all the notes in hand, we (rightly) pause and pat ourselves on the back.

But if we stop here and move to the next new piece, we never rise above “just playing notes”.

Getting the notes, while no small feat, is only the first step in playing a piece of music.

Once we have the notes in hand, we can work on the balance of melody versus bass and accompaniment. We can mold the sinews that tie one phrase to the next. We can craft little details that give listeners psychological insights into the character of the music.

In our explorations of a piece, we may discover a musical opportunity that is beyond our current technical ability (such as playing the bass notes short and separated while the melody is flowing and connected). So here we find something new to practice.

Einstein would ponder problems for years. He taught himself to be comfortable with open-ended questions. He accepted that some things just take time to come together.

We can bring this patience and dedication to our music. We can go beyond hacking out notes. We may not always know exactly what to do next. But if we stay with it, we’ll grow as musicians. We’ll enjoy deeper relationships with our music. We’ll discover more meaning and fulfillment than simple notes can offer.

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.

I just want to thank you for your lessons. You are helping us to understand how a piece is composed, the parts to analyze and how to do it. You are teaching a lot about how to read and play, and the most important part: PLAY with the music and ENJOY it.

-R. Martinez

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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