lao tzu 3 great guitar practice
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Lao Tzu Shares His Three Greatest Treasures

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


“I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.”

~ Lao Tzu


Our greatest treasures are simplicity, patience, and compassion? Is this true? or is this a fuzzy zen koan?

How do we apply this to our own guitar practice? How can this help now?

Simplicity: Not a full piece of music. Not a line. Not a measure. Just a note. One note, well played. Then the next.

Not dozens of exercises – just one exercise for now. Maybe another later.

Not all the scale shapes in every key – just one, with full attention on each movement.

Patience: Our current level and ability is fine. We shouldn’t be any better than we are. We shouldn’t have practiced any more last week than we did.

We can practice now. And tomorrow we can deal with tomorrow.

It’s not a race. It’s just guitar.

Compassion: We do our best. And our best differs from one day to the next.

Criticism, guilt, shame – these are all worse than useless. They are unnecessary and harmful.

Instead, we can speak to ourselves as we would small children we love. Understanding. Forgiving. Supportive.

Lao Tzu calls these three things our greatest treasure. And all come from within. All are choices we are free to make. They don’t require money, or time, or extra training. We can enjoy these now, here, today.



allen mathews classical guitar

About Allen Mathews

Allen Mathews learned guitar as an adult, and has been a full-time guitar teacher for almost two decades to students age 4 to 96.  He has taught classical guitar at Reed College and Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, and has been a guest lecturer and clinician at schools and universities throughout the U.S.  Allen is often praised for his creative teaching abilities, and his dedication to helping adults learn classical guitar.  He has a popular Youtube Channel offering regular classical guitar tutorials, and has gained fans worldwide for his weekly emails and articles at ClassicalGuitarShed.com.


Thanks to you (you are my only teacher) in only a few months I've gone from very basic beginner pieces to having just completed learning Bach's Gavottes 1&2 in good form and execution. As a non-classical electric guitarist who has always used a pick and never his fingers, this has been no small feat!


-Gregg Olson

I practised your system for three days, and it solved the I-M alternation problem I had been struggling with since I undertook classical guitar three years ago.  Many thanks!


-Johnny Geudel


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