James Stephens practice questions
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James Stephens and the Well-Packed Question

What happens when we ask questions in our guitar practice? Anything? What if we don’t know the answer?

What might a question do to our attention? Do we choose where to point our attention, or does the squeakiest wheel automatically get the worm? Are we curious about different things at different times?

And when are the best times to ask questions? Before practice? Or during? Or just after? What about at other times? Could that be helpful in any way?

And are some questions more useful than others? What if we’re pragmatic and don’t want to waste any questions?

For instance, what kinds of questions could help us to play more smoothly? What kinds might inspire us to look a little closer at the small details? Could asking a particular question help us to understand our music better? What about playing faster, or cleaner, or more expressively?

But what if we don’t have much time for guitar practice? Could asking any specific questions keep our music alive in our minds, even if our hands never touch the guitar?

And what if we’re not used to asking questions? Could just the occasional question do any good?

Is it safe to experiment?


We get wise by asking questions, and even if these are not answered, we get wise, for a well-packed question carries its answer on its back as a snail carries its shell.

James Stephens




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.


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

This is the ideal starting position for me. As a relative beginner with no teacher this is helping me enormously in developing good technique and not falling into bad habits. I no longer feel (A) That it's a struggle to learn a new piece and (B) That I am alone in my endeavors. My advice is to try The Woodshed program. It is fantastic and will not only bring up your playing but his explanations of musical concepts as you go along put things into perspective.


-John Andersson


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