Gaye guitar practice

Marvin Gaye on the Inner Work of Musical Mastery

As musicians, most of us dream of playing flowing, effortless, beautiful music.

Then, when we pick up the guitar to play, we find all sorts of tension, distraction and difficulty.

So how do we bridge these two? How to we go from where we are to where we want to be?

The transition can only happen within us. There is no magic scale or exercise that will bring us there. To play flowing and beautiful music, we need to know how it feels to “flow”. We need to understand “effortless”.

And not just intellectually, but viscerally. We need to know with our bodies, not just words.

But to get there, we can use words and exercises.

We can ask ourselves, “How would my hands feel right now if I were playing that way?” and “How much tension is in my shoulders if I play at the highest levels?”

Sitting on the couch, we can experiment with how we hold or release our muscles. We can practice touching things gracefully, with flowing movements.

Even brushing our teeth can become guitar practice. We can seek the perfect tension throughout our bodies and adjust moment to moment.

We can learn focus and calm, alert awareness. We can practice this anytime. The more mundane the task, the bigger the opportunity. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it puts us on the path.

Like Marvin said, if we want peace (or any other feeling), we have to learn to generate it ourselves, inside.


                       “If you cannot find peace within yourself, you will never find it anywhere else.”

                                                     Marvin Gaye




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.


Life is good, still enjoying [The Woodshed Program], the progress is life altering, I love it. The physical challenges of my situation have rained havoc for over half my life. In spite of those little pests this 40$ Yamaha classical who needed a new home and your course has given me the "part the clouds for the sun to shine through" outlook. You see, even when I am unable to play I know she patiently waits for my return as I do. A giant void in my journey was filled with light.


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