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Hebert Simon on a More Focused Classical Guitar Practice


Tuesday Quotes 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.








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 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.
Click here for a sample formula.




Hi Allen,
First public performance ever! I am up to Level 1E in The Woodshed program. It is certainly mega helpful.


-Peter Graham

These warm-up and stretching exercises are helping me a lot! Because I’m a software developer I have to stay 8 hours typing on a computer keyboard, so I use my hands a lot during the day. At night, when I have some time to practice the guitar my hands and arms are usually in pain because they have been working a lot during the day, but I’ve found that doing the warm-up/stretching exercises in The Woodshed releases me from this pain and I’m then able to practice after doing them.  

You are building a very interesting and working guitar course, because for what I’ve seen so far it really works!


-Ulysses Alexandre Alves



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