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Henry Miller on the real payoff of quality musical practice


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


“One’s destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things.”

Henry Miller


Someone (Einstein or Drucker?) said, “Not everything that can be measured matters, and not everything that matters can be measured.”

We choose benchmarks or events to measure our progress – learning a new and harder piece of music. Getting our scales up to a given speed. Playing a performance or special event. These mean to mark the path forward.

But why do we want these? What’s the real payoff?

Our real goal is not to play the hard piece. It’s to play beautifully and enjoy our daily progress. It’s to feel a sense of accomplishment and personal mastery. Fun and joy are nice as well.

Since what really matters in our music cannot be measured, we substitute something that can: benchmark achievements.

Benchmarks are tools to mark progress. But they can also become idols – they represent “the thing”, but are not themselves “the thing”.

The problem arises when we forget what we want. When we focus only on an “idol”, we miss the mark.

We strive more to learn the hard piece than to develop the skills we need to make the music we want to make (focus, awareness, clarity, consistency, etc.).

We try to game the system to get to the prize. But the prize here (the benchmark) is not the real prize. And when we reach it, we don’t feel as fulfilled as we thought we would.

So how do we keep our eyes on the right prizes?

We slow down. We continually search for the meaning of “quality” and raise our standards to meet it. We celebrate small improvements. We focus more on “how” than “what”.


“One’s destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things.”

Henry Miller









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.




Hi Allen,
Greetings from the UK. I would like to thank you for providing such an excellent resource. The effort and skill which has gone into creating this program is very evident. I started classical guitar a year or so ago with a teacher but was unable to commit to same time regular slots each week.

The Woodshed Program was exactly what I was looking for. I have found the site very intuitive and well structured and have taken your advice and started from the very beginning of the program whilst still practising some of the pieces I was already working on. It is clear that I will benefit greatly from these early technical studies. There were clearly weaknesses and gaps in my knowledge even though I am still at an early stage. Once again many thanks for the program and very best wishes.


-Rodger Paylor

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



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