Henry Miller guitar practice

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 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.


Allen Mathews was recommended to me as somebody who could help me expand my guitar vocabulary.  Allen started me on a really fun cycle of lessons and practice.  He is a very good,and very enthusiastic teacher, and I feel that I'm on the road to learning.  I couldn't be more pleased with my experience.


-Peter Buck (r.e.m.)

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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