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.”
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”.
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 other stellar teachers – one focused on the technical movements, 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.
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For the first time ever, I have achieved great tone on my acoustic guitars. I've been studying fingerstyle guitar and music theory for about one year now. Tonight is the first time, I feel quite satisfied with my ability to produce a nice clear tone when striking the strings with my right hand fingers. By following your training videos in the program, I'm gradually developing my fingerstyle playing ability. KUDOS to you, Allen Mathews.
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