Herbert Simon priority guitar schedule

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Hebert Simon on a More Focused Classical Guitar Practice

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

“A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”

Herbert Simon

With the advent of the internet, information abounds. Learning guitar, we can go to Youtube and find millions of videos. We can get tips and next steps to send us in a thousand directions.

The problem is this: we don’t need a million tips. We need to decide what to work on now. Then we need to work on it.

In our exuberance, we can tackle too much at once. We can, with all the best intentions, hop from one great thing to the next. And in doing so get the benefit of none of them.

Time passes, and though we’ve worked hard, we have nothing to show for it. This is because we’ve studied wide, instead of deep.

We see more learning, ability, flexibility, etc. when we choose a few fundamentals, and focus on them. We don’t need 120 right hand studies. We see quicker progress when we work just a few to mastery.

The mastery we gain on a small group of actions generalizes to most others. We then pick up other new skills and techniques more quickly.

In our practice each day, we face a challenge: Get the most benefit and enjoyment from the time we spend. When we decide beforehand and stick to that decision, we meet the challenge. We grow and advance. We see progress and feel good about our work.

It’s not always easy. The allure of the new, shiny piece or exercise is powerful. It takes more effort to stick with the plan than it does to jump to the next great method.

We have to trust. It doesn’t even matter if we haven’t chosen the absolute optimal tasks for our practice. Deep focus will still be more advantageous than switching too soon. (This ties in with another Herbert Simon philosophy: that of “satisficing”.)

Nassim Nicholas Taleb also wrote, “To bankrupt a fool, give him information.”

Practice time is not the time to decide what to do. Practice time is for doing what we’ve already decided. Now is the time for quality focus, correct repetition, and a positive agenda.

“A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”

Herbert Simon


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.

I have lost my entire metallic sound while I am playing now. Even my single note practice sounds more melodious, less tinny. [The Woodshed technique practice] has made a major difference in my tone. Thank you.

-Harlan Friedman

I appreciate the organized, well thought out progression of each level, as well as a measurable means to determine when to proceed to the next level.  I had burned myself out by pushing too hard and playing beyond where I was comfortable.  This course is just what I needed, and I am happy to be back on the road to playing again.


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