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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.








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.




Great Work!!!  I thank you sincerely for all the effort you have put in and the terrific work you do for the classical guitar community.


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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



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