John Lennon on Wasting Time

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

“Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.”

John Lennon

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.

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 other stellar teachers – one focused on the technical movements, 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.

Great advise here. I find I am taking more time with the pieces than I would have in the past as I am focusing on the technique you have taught me. It is slower going at first but has fewer frustrations, is easier and sounds better in the end.

-Karen Richardson

I am truly enjoying the growth and challenge that the Woodshed material provides.  I look forward to working hard and learning much in the years ahead.  Thanks for all the effort and care that you have taken in providing these lessons and resources!

-Mark Whitsett

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