John Lennon guitar practice

John Lennon on Wasting Time


We naturally look forward to where we want to be with our music. We think of the pieces we want to play, the speed, the fluidity.

And we recognize that we aren’t there yet. And no matter where we are now, the goal always seems far away.

“So much work to do! No time to waste! We must move forward!”

Paradoxically, many of the practice techniques that seem to get us nowhere are the ones that move us forward fastest.

Slow practice, for instance, lets us work around all sorts of problems. But in the moment, when we’re practicing and we only have so much time for guitar today, it can take real willpower to actually do it.

It feels like a waste of time.

Playing the melody alone, or the bass part alone, seems like a waste of time, too. After all, that’s not what we’ll play – we’ll play all the notes.

And technique practice? Scales and patterns and exercises? No time for that – we have music to play.

So how do we make these practice methods that feel like wastes of time (even if we know intellectually they’re not), feel productive and worthwhile?

We learn to enjoy them.

When we relish slow scales, counting aloud, or looping a short section, they become treats. They may even become more satisfying than blazing through a piece ignoring all the fumbles and slips.

Okay, fine and good. But how do we build that bridge? How do we go from “should” to “want to”?

With any area that repels us, chances are we haven’t discovered what to be curious about yet. Once we pull out the magnifying glass and look for small details, the attraction grows and we become magnetized to it.

When we ask, “What’s going on here?”, we see all the interesting little challenges. We see the intricate inner workings. We see far more than we do just flying by.

Even in something as drab as a Soviet-era apartment complex, we can zoom in and find abundant beauty and fascination. A flower, a spot of moss, light refracted off a droplet of dew, not to mention human drama. Beauty can always be found in the micro.

As we pick up the guitar to practice, the time will fly and we’ll finish most fulfilled when we slow down and explore fine details. When we “waste time” with the trivial and nit-picky, we bloom as musicians.

“Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.”

John Lennon


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

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