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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 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.




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 came on board three months ago and I’m loving it more than ever. I have maintained my practice pattern. I’m sticking wholeheartedly with the program as written. That makes it easy to see what I NEED to work on rather than just playing the shiny places I’ve gone beyond…..I’ve learned to focus 100% on what I’m doing that very minute….I’m developing strength in my left hand...I spend time with the videos in the evenings and always find something more to help me. I’m not looking for info anywhere else. Everything I need is right here in The Woodshed. You say “Jump” and I say “How high.” I’m so grateful I found you. You speak in a language I understand.


-Gloria Mader



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