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Mark Twain on Comfort and Self-Approval in Practice


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


“A man cannot be comfortable without his own self-approval.”

Mark Twain


One of the reasons we play music is to have a better life. We want to study and grow. We relish meaningful work.

But even though we’re in it for the right reasons, it can sometimes feel like we’ve “gotten behind”.

One of Eckhart Tolle’s definitions of ‘stress’ is thinking, “I should be doing something else.” Here, stress stems from thinking what we’re currently doing is wrong, or not enough.

If we set expectations to practice two hours a day, and only get in one hour, we’ve failed. When it takes “longer than it should” to learn something, we don’t feel successful.

And when we label our work “failure”, it doesn’t feel good.

Twain observes that we need to approve of ourselves to be truly comfortable.

This short, pithy phrase can be a powerful tool when we feel dishearted or frustrated with our music. We can explore where we “don’t approve” of ourselves. And when we find it, we can check for unrealistic expectations.

We can lower the bar to success, and enjoy more of it. We can define success as simply picking up the instrument and playing one note or chord.

When we do, we build more momentum and enthusiasm. And these lead to better focus, faster learning, and a more rewarding musical life.

We play music for fun. Setting attainable goals helps keep it that way.








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.




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

These warm-up and stretching exercises are helping me a lot! Because I’m a software developer I have to stay 8 hours typing on a computer keyboard, so I use my hands a lot during the day. At night, when I have some time to practice the guitar my hands and arms are usually in pain because they have been working a lot during the day, but I’ve found that doing the warm-up/stretching exercises in The Woodshed releases me from this pain and I’m then able to practice after doing them.  

You are building a very interesting and working guitar course, because for what I’ve seen so far it really works!


-Ulysses Alexandre Alves



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