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John Quincy Adams and the Magic to Make Difficulties Disappear


Tuesday Quotes are short explorations of music, life, and the daily endeavor of practicing classical guitar. Enjoy!


“Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.”

John Quincy Adams


The challenges we face learning guitar can feel impossibly large. Like standing at the foot of the Hoover Dam, we may feel small and unequipped for the task ahead.

And it’s true: we usually cannot conquer such obstacles. Not directly anyway. Not all in one go.

But we can take the next small step in front of us. We can take the next micro-action that moves us ever-so-slightly forward.

Our job as musicians is to make these small advances, day after day. These small steps bring us ever-nearer to what once seemed like unrealistic goals.

Of course we would prefer to have it all and have it now. This is human nature. But through patience and perseverance, we move first past one obstacle then another.

From the outside, the finger and musical acrobatics we manage can appear as magic. But this is to those who see only the results of our work, and not the process.

Behind the scenes, it’s the simple act of showing up on a regular basis. It’s directing our attention and time toward the incremental improvements. One detail then the next.

And as process is all there is, we can embrace the daily routines. We can care less about “finishing” a piece of music, and more about the process of practicing the piece.

In time, the piece emerges. In time, the “difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish”. And we wake to find ourselves a little further down the path.








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.




Hi Allen, I am a Dutch guy who plays classical guitar (solo and together with a flute player). Unfortunately I have been suffering from focal dystonia since begin 2016. Of course I tried physical therapy which didn't help… But I tried some of your [technique] lessons (I had teachers before but I was never taught your techniques) and to my big surprise the nasty feeling in the back of my right hand which pulls my index finger upward was gone! So now I practice your lessons. Anyway, I am very happy to have found you on the internet. Thanks very much!


-Arnoud Reinders

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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