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Harriet Braiker on Excellence vs. Perfectionism


Tuesday Quotes are short explorations of music, life, and the daily endeavor of practicing classical guitar. Find more here. Enjoy!


“Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing.”

Harriet Braiker


Perfectionism is born of fear — fear of judgement or rejection, fear of being seen, fear of admitting that our best may not be as “perfect” as someone else’s.

But when we set our sights on excellence, we set fear aside. We heal from what Braiker called the “disease to please”.

Instead of trying to shortcut and hurry, we ask more creative questions. We explore more deeply just for the sake of it. We take our personal worth and identity out of it and make our work in service to something larger.

When we strive for excellence, we experience more meaning and connection in our work. While perfection is a short-term goal, excellence takes longer. It’s a path, not a destination. And as Joseph Campbell said, “When we’re on the path, we’re at the goal.”

In daily practice, this all translates to “relish”.

  • Relish the small details of each movement.
  • Pay closer attention to the sound quality.
  • Note the timing.
  • Explore the notion of grace, in both movement and attention.

The goal moves from “play these notes” to “be completely here”. We shift from “note players” to “musicians”. One small step today, then another tomorrow.








Allen Mathews

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 stellar teachers – one focused on the technical, 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. Click here for a sample formula.




Great advise here. I find I am taking more time with the pieces than I would have in the past as I am focusing on the technique you have taught me. It is slower going at first but has fewer frustrations, is easier and sounds better in the end.


-Karen Richardson

I came on board three months ago and I’m loving it more than ever. I have maintained my practice pattern. I’m sticking wholeheartedly with the program as written. That makes it easy to see what I NEED to work on rather than just playing the shiny places I’ve gone beyond…..I’ve learned to focus 100% on what I’m doing that very minute….I’m developing strength in my left hand...I spend time with the videos in the evenings and always find something more to help me. I’m not looking for info anywhere else. Everything I need is right here in The Woodshed. You say “Jump” and I say “How high.” I’m so grateful I found you. You speak in a language I understand.


-Gloria Mader



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