mark twain guitar practice

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Mark Twain’s Secret of Guitar Progress


“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”

Mark Twain


It takes a certain amount of “oomph” to go from zero to one. To go from standing still to moving forward.

Picking up the guitar and playing the first note can be the hardest part of practice.

But once we’ve begun, we start to gain momentum. And before long, instead of pushing ahead, we feel drawn forward.

However, there may be a trap…

Even though we know that “The best time to plant a tree was 30 years ago, and the second best time is now”, we may still hesitate.

It can be just like first getting into a cold pool or approaching someone we’d like to meet. We may feel reluctant or downright averse.

But once begun, we gain momentum and remember what drew us there in the first place.

Robert De Niro gave it straight: “Time goes on. So whatever you’re going to do, do it. Do it now. Don’t wait.”

Learning classical guitar is a daily exercise in getting started. Anything we can do to make those first notes easier (routine, practice space, organization) helps us to move ahead.

This way, day in and day out, we inch forward and enjoy progress in meaningful work.


“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”

Mark Twain




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.


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

Hi Allen, just wanted to provide some feedback. Since I've started doing the exercises [in The Woodshed program] my guitar is sounding a lot better, with fuller sound, less effort. Its as if I bought a new guitar or got a new pair of hands (or both). Amazing my friend. Thank you!


-Nusret Aydemir


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