Ralph Emerson guitar practice

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.


“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson




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.


Hi Allen, I am thoroughly enjoying your website and I find it is just what I need in my renewed passion for classical guitar. I have rediscovered a great love for this instrument and the music I can learn and play and it has changed my life for the better dramatically! Thank you facilitating this process.


-George Rogers

I am truly enjoying the growth and challenge that the Woodshed material provides.  I look forward to working hard and learning much in the years ahead.  Thanks for all the effort and care that you have taken in providing these lessons and resources!


-Mark Whitsett


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