James Stephens practice questions

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

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.


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.

Since a year ago with my subscription to CGS it has been for me a pleasurable adventure and a discovery of all the facets of the classical guitar.
Your dedication and enthusiasm, as well as your talent, in the tuition is quite contagious (well, lets hope also for your talent) and has made it fun and useful in my progression. Also the weekly tip that you mail us and the Facebook group is excellent.


-Michel Donnet


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