Emily Dickinson guitar practice

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

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 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

These warm-up and stretching exercises are helping me a lot! Because I’m a software developer I have to stay 8 hours typing on a computer keyboard, so I use my hands a lot during the day. At night, when I have some time to practice the guitar my hands and arms are usually in pain because they have been working a lot during the day, but I’ve found that doing the warm-up/stretching exercises in The Woodshed releases me from this pain and I’m then able to practice after doing them.  

You are building a very interesting and working guitar course, because for what I’ve seen so far it really works!

-Ulysses Alexandre Alves

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