James Patterson guitar practice
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James Patterson on Emotion and Character in Music


“Am I tough? Am I strong? Am I hard-core? Absolutely. Did I whimper with pathetic delight when I sank my teeth into my hot fried-chicken sandwich? You betcha.”

James Patterson


Throughout our days, we don many hats. We are the worker, the lover, the hero, the apprentice. We are the current, the ex, the hopeful, the seasoned.

We manage our inner and outer reputations with the greatest care – even as we craft the facade of not caring.

We form our identities and cling to them like life-rafts. There are places we go, and others off-limits. We build armories around the areas we sense may be powder-kegs. We don’t talk about them. We change the subject.

But as musicians, our job is to accept and cherish the full range of human experience. Music allows us to experience the emotions and feelings that may be missing in our daily routines. Music can confirm and clarify nagging notions. It can be a salve, or a lance.

Brené Brown once suggested that happiness is the most vulnerable emotion. It takes courage to savor a moment, knowing it will end. Self-preservation steps in to protect us from the loss, and in doing so dampens the joy.

It takes bravery to relish a high, then remain open to the following low. It takes strength to go places that don’t feel safe. It’s far easier to play it cool and pretend those places aren’t real. Or not real for us.

Maya Angelou said, “We are all human; therefore, nothing human can be alien to us.”

As we explore our music, our experience and enjoyment expands to the extent we embrace empathy.

When we seek to understand and communicate without reserve, we give listeners (and ourselves) the greatest gift – a reminder of what it is to be human.


“Am I tough? Am I strong? Am I hard-core? Absolutely. Did I whimper with pathetic delight when I sank my teeth into my hot fried-chicken sandwich? You betcha.”

James Patterson




allen mathews classical guitar

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 work with teachers, 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 sore after playing.  I was frequently frustrated, and couldn’t see the way forward.  Then I studied with two stellar teachers –  one focused on the technical, and one on the musical.  In time, I came to discover a fundamental set of formulas and movements. These unlocked my playing, and brought new life and enjoyment to my practice. Now I help other guitarists find more comfort and flow in their music, so they play more beautifully.


Hello Allen,
I feel my guitar proficiency is improving considerably. Every day I’m exceedingly comfortable with my right hand technique and overall fluency. And my sight-reading has improved as well. Thank you for creating the Woodshed. It’s thoughtful construction and scope and sequence of knowledge and skills has advanced my guitar skills significantly. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.


-Michael Immel

Life is good, still enjoying [The Woodshed Program], the progress is life altering, I love it. The physical challenges of my situation have rained havoc for over half my life. In spite of those little pests this 40$ Yamaha classical who needed a new home and your course has given me the "part the clouds for the sun to shine through" outlook. You see, even when I am unable to play I know she patiently waits for my return as I do. A giant void in my journey was filled with light.


-Ken Montz


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