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Julian Bream on banana fingers and showing up anyway


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


“My fingers are like a bunch of bananas, so tonight’s concert in Aalst may well be an earplug job.”

Julian Bream


Julian Bream is one of classical guitar’s most colorful characters. He used to book all his own world tours and travel arrangements – by mail! Then he’d travel by train and boat to perform, learning the next season’s music as he went.

His upbeat attitude and love of music won fans everywhere he went.

This funny quote is typical Bream: honest, realistic, and willing to keep going.

In our own practices, it’s easy to get discouraged.

We may be having a crisis of faith, or just on a plateau (where all the good stuff really happens, though it doesn’t feel like it).

We may get busy and miss a few days, and feel like we’re backsliding.

We may look ahead and wonder if we’re up for the journey.

Bream fell a few years ago while out walking his dog and can no longer play. But he still studies music. He says he’s a much better musician now than he was 10 years ago (though he can’t prove it).

He told The Guardian, “The whole idea is that I believe it’s very good for one’s brain and muscular system to work in harmony. If you keep up your playing it just keeps things ticking over.”

The point is not to gain some goal or reach some pinnacle of accomplishment. Instead, the joy lies in showing up and spending the time. The point isn’t to play perfectly. We strive, but perfection is not the point. The point is just to sit down and play (even if our fingers are bananas and it’s an earplug job!)








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 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

Those videos on practicing the piece were just awesome, Allen! I've always thought that learning songs might be something completely different than practicing exercises, but the way you teach it makes it much easier than I thought. I'm positive that joining the Woodshed has been the best investment I've ever done for learning the classical guitar. Thank you so much for these lessons.


-Ulysses Alexandre Alves



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