Ralph Emerson guitar practice
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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

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 work with teachers, 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 sore after playing.  I was frequently frustrated, and couldn’t see the way forward.  Then I studied with two stellar teachers –  one focused on the technical, and one on the musical.  In time, I came to discover a fundamental set of formulas and movements. These unlocked my playing, and brought new life and enjoyment to my practice. Now I help other guitarists find more comfort and flow in their music, so they play more beautifully.


Allen, your website and teaching methods are excellent. You have an easy going yet encouraging way of inspiring people to learn and practice their art. And you are always accessible to your students to personally answer questions. I appreciate ... that personal touch. The course on reading rhythm and playing higher up the neck I found particularly helpful. God bless you and many thanks.


-Joe Bazan

Thanks for your on-going support. I never expected such a personalized approach when I signed up.


-Harlan Friedman


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