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Judge Learned Hand on Musical Liberation and Freedom


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

“The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right”

Judge Learned Hand

The best way to go blind to an issue is to believe that you’ve already solved it, and for good.

When we “have the answer”, we stop questioning. And when we stop questioning, we stop learning. We stop looking, and therefore stop seeing.

A well-earned confidence comes from experience and familiarity with the challenge. As we progress in our studies, we naturally become more confident.

But we can remain confident and still accept the possibility that we have it all wrong. We can have what some call “Strong opinions, loosely held.” We can act with decisiveness and confidence, with one eye peeled for other possibilities.

In our music, we can fully commit to a fingering, technique, or phrasing. And as we do, we can also know that there may be a better way. Still, we have to do something, and until a better option presents itself, we can commit to the current decisions.

The well-named Judge Learned Hand calls this openness “liberty”.

And when we assume there are factors we don’t know, and possibilities we haven’t thought of, we are indeed liberated. Our egos and identities are no longer threatened by new information. We’re less likely to succumb to the “sunk-cost fallacy”.

This non-attachment to our beliefs can lead to curiosity, exploration, and new discoveries. And this can lead us to become more comfortable with the unknown. In this playground of openness and possibility, our daily practice becomes the adventure of a lifetime.

“The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right”

Judge Learned Hand







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.




Hi, Allen! I am so excited to have gotten started on your program! I just upgraded to a yearly membership. Thank you very much! You do such great work!


-Linda Hansen

This is the ideal starting position for me. As a relative beginner with no teacher this is helping me enormously in developing good technique and not falling into bad habits. I no longer feel (A) That it's a struggle to learn a new piece and (B) That I am alone in my endeavors. My advice is to try The Woodshed program. It is fantastic and will not only bring up your playing but his explanations of musical concepts as you go along put things into perspective.


-John Andersson



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