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Jon McGregor on when our efforts pay off


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


“He wonders how so much water can resist the pull of so much gravity for the time it takes such pregnant clouds to form, he wonders about the moment the rain begins, the turn from forming to falling, that slight silent pause in the physics of the sky as the critical mass is reached, the hesitation before the first swollen drop hurtles fatly and effortlessly to the ground.”

Jon McGregor (in “If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things” )


There’s a popular science-class experiment demonstrating critical mass, whereby the teacher adds water to a full glass one drop at a time. As everyone huddles watching, the water refuses to leave the glass. Drop by drop, it mounds above the lip, defying gravity and common sense.

Until finally, one single drop breaks the spell and water spills down the sides.

Jon McGregor wonders at the celestial version: How do those clouds, which weigh more than whales, stay up there? He wonders at that magic moment when vapor becomes liquid, or as he puts it, “the turn from forming to falling”.

In our guitar practice, we wonder when our efforts will produce fruit. How many scales will it take? How many times must we play this tune before it flows like water?

We can never know, because that’s not in our control. All we can do is accumulate drops. One day, one practice, one focused moment, one clean repetition at a time, our part is to show up.

Over time, we gain mass. We grow. We build volume. And then in an instant, we make music, “fatly and effortlessly”.








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.




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.

I came on board three months ago and I’m loving it more than ever. I have maintained my practice pattern. I’m sticking wholeheartedly with the program as written. That makes it easy to see what I NEED to work on rather than just playing the shiny places I’ve gone beyond…..I’ve learned to focus 100% on what I’m doing that very minute….I’m developing strength in my left hand...I spend time with the videos in the evenings and always find something more to help me. I’m not looking for info anywhere else. Everything I need is right here in The Woodshed. You say “Jump” and I say “How high.” I’m so grateful I found you. You speak in a language I understand.


-Gloria Mader



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