Emily Dickinson guitar practice
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Emily Dickinson on How to Live a Life of Music

are short explorations of music, life, and the daily endeavor of practicing classical guitar. Enjoy!]


“Forever is composed of nows.”

Emily Dickinson


When we first begin playing guitar, we dream of a life of music and challenge and fun.

Loaded with enthusiasm, we gear up. We get an instrument. We dive into Youtube or buy some books.

But after a while, the glow wears thin. The honeymoon ends. What once was play becomes work. We think we should be better than we are. We set unrealistic expectations and fail to meet them. We fuss at ourselves.

Life gets busy. Practice becomes inconvenient. We feel unsure and insecure. We “forget” to show up and sit down to play. We lose momentum.

To play guitar takes time. To play well takes more time. And that means dedication.

And the reward of dedication is not an arrival at some climactic event.

A dog doesn’t chew a bone to finish it. A dog chews a bone to chew a bone. It’s the doing that matters, not the end result.

And so it is in music. The point of guitar is to play guitar. It’s to pull our focus to a single point.

When we put our entire attention on a hard-but-not-too-hard challenge, time disappears. We connect with something beyond the chores and dramas of life. We call this “flow”. Flow makes life feel meaningful, regardless of the product or outcome.

But flow doesn’t always feel flow-y. Sometimes it feels anything but. And this is the test.

George Leonard said that to step onto the path of mastery is easy. To stay on the path of mastery takes work.

And part of that work is forgiveness. Sure, we may skip a day, week, month or year. No matter. We can start again. We have today.

Whatever we can do today is enough for today. Small steps forward add up over time. Before we know it, years pass. Decades pass. And even then, we’ll still face the option of picking up the guitar or not. We’ll still have distractions. We’ll still feel the push and pull.

A life of music means doing what we can now, today. “Forever is composed of nows.”


“Forever is composed of nows.”

Emily Dickinson




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: 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

I have to say after over 12 months of one-on-one training with a teacher before joining The Woodshed, this is the first time that I feel I’m making technical progress.


-Nusret Aydemir


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