Kevin Kelly on Embracing the Re-Do

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

“To make something good, just do it. To make something great, just re-do it, re-do it, re-do it. The secret to making fine things is in remaking them.”

Kevin Kelly (futurist, author)

In our culture, we love stories of people doing the seemingly impossible. Stories of the complete symphony spilling onto the page, already perfect. Stories of the prize-winning novel that required no edits. Tales of human magic performed by the demi-gods of society.

These are the stories that make the front page. We hear about them because they are so rare. But because we hear about them so often, we tend to think them commonplace.

It’s easy to think that other people hit the ball out of the park every time they step up to bat. These folks must know something we don’t. Surely they possess some gene with which we did not arrive.

But there is always a backstory to what looks like instant perfection.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos once observed, “All overnight success takes about ten years.”

For any polished performance we see or hear, there are countless hours of doing and re-doing. We see the product of sweat and toil.

Even if it’s packaged as effortless, it never is. If one project (or piece of music) comes together quickly, it’s because of all the previous ones that didn’t.

In our guitar practice, we may have “modest” goals. We may want to play our current piece through without major blunder. We may wish to sit down for our friends and loved ones and share our music, without frayed nerves and shaky hands!

But even in the simplest pieces, there are countless hazards. To navigate a complete piece of music start to finish with no mistakes – this is a fruit of massive training. It demands complete attention, control, and deep familiarity with the music.

And we only get these through focused repetition.

To play beautiful music, we must embrace the re-do. We have to learn to enjoy programming the machine. We must get comfortable with slow and deliberate movements, made with full awareness.

And when this becomes the norm, and a little time has passed, we may “suddenly” create great magic.

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, your website and teaching methods are excellent. You have an easy going yet encouraging way of inspiring people to learn and practice their art. And you are always accessible to your students to personally answer questions. I appreciate ... that personal touch. The course on reading rhythm and playing higher up the neck I found particularly helpful. God bless you and many thanks.

-Joe Bazan

I have lost my entire metallic sound while I am playing now. Even my single note practice sounds more melodious, less tinny. [The Woodshed technique practice] has made a major difference in my tone. Thank you.

-Harlan Friedman

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