Ralph Waldo Emerson on Failing and Rising Again in Guitar Practice
Tuesday Quotes are short explorations of music, life, and the daily endeavor of practicing classical guitar. Enjoy!
“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
As practicing musicians, one of our jobs is to fail. We challenge ourselves. We push our limits. We experiment and tinker and play “what if…”.
The upside is that we learn what works and what doesn’t. We get stronger, faster, better.
But the downside is that we face failure. And not just once, but over and over again.
If our attitude remains one of learning and enjoyment of the process, we stay upbeat and optimistic. It’s all a grand game.
But if we take the failures personally, or generalize them (thinking, “I’m just not cut out for this…”), then we’re in trouble.
Many players begin to learn guitar, then quit. It just seems too hard – too hard to learn, too hard to find the time, too hard to focus.
But what they may not realize is this: most of us feel the same way. Most of us have a hard time with consistency, retention and focus. And most of us think progress and results should come much faster than they do. It’s normal.
What separates those who stay with it from those who don’t is that they accept it. They keep going anyway.
Will Rogers said, “Don’t let yesterday use up too much of today.”
Even if we had a difficult practice, or we skipped practice for several days (or decades!), we can still start fresh today. We can, as Emerson said, “rise up” and go back at it. This willingness to show up is our greatest personal glory.
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.
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For the first time ever, I have achieved great tone on my acoustic guitars. I've been studying fingerstyle guitar and music theory for about one year now. Tonight is the first time, I feel quite satisfied with my ability to produce a nice clear tone when striking the strings with my right hand fingers. By following your training videos in the program, I'm gradually developing my fingerstyle playing ability. KUDOS to you, Allen Mathews.
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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