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.


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

I also want to thank you for including more video lessons on the Bridges Guitar Series. I have learned to play Calatayud's Waltz. The most exciting thing about having done this is that I sight read the entire piece as I was learning it. Six months ago looking at a sheet of music was like looking at Egyptian hieroglyphics. Learning to read notation is empowering and I appreciate the sensible way you are teaching us to learn to read music.


-Steve Simpler


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