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Josh Waitzkin on Cultivating Quality and Reducing Sloppiness


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


“When you’re not cultivating quality, you’re cultivating sloppiness.”

Josh Waitzkin


In our day-to-day guitar practice, what is “quality”?

To know whether something is quality or not, it helps to know an ideal. Or we can at least have a general sense of what we’re trying to do. The more specific we can be, the higher quality we can bring to each moment.

Quality attention is focused and aware, relaxed and engaged.

Quality movement is intentional and deliberate. It’s in control and uses appropriate tension.

Quality listening means playing slowly enough to hear each note. It’s hearing the actual sounds coming from the instrument, and objectively comparing them to sounds we hear in our “mind’s ear”.

We can also know quality by what it’s not. It’s not sloppiness. It’s not rushing through. It’s not just the “which notes?”, but also how we play them. It’s not mindless and distracted. It’s not flaccid.

As Josh Waitzkin implies with this quote, quality is something we cultivate. We tend it daily. We nurture it.

We gain quality in our music through attention and practice. When we make quality our standard, at any level, we define success by the type of work we do. The end goals of “finishing” specific pieces or speeds are secondary. Our main foci are to stay engaged and hold true each step of the process.

Through quality practice, we make new discoveries. Practice stays fresh and rewarding. And we enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done.


“When you’re not cultivating quality, you’re cultivating sloppiness.”

Josh Waitzkin









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.




I am a 61 year old physician, reconnecting with the classical guitar after a hiatus of nearly 40 years. After a couple of weeks [in the program], I’m now producing a much clearer, yet somehow more mellow and beautiful sound. It was really good to feel it happening in my hand, and that it felt more comfortable and somehow “right”, compared to the way I had played before (“curved picking”). The fog started to lift and I found that I was remembering more, and it felt great (also a bit of a relief!), giving me confidence to keep going. Thank you for making your course available - your love of music and the guitar shines through the teaching. I am very happy I found and registered with CGS.


-Brian Davey

I just want to thank you for your lessons. You are helping us to understand how a piece is composed, the parts to analyze and how to do it. You are teaching a lot about how to read and play, and the most important part: PLAY with the music and ENJOY it.


-R. Martinez



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