Marvin Gaye on the Inner Work of Musical Mastery

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

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

Marvin Gaye

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.

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.

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

Hi Allen, I am thoroughly enjoying your website and I find it is just what I need in my renewed passion for classical guitar. I have rediscovered a great love for this instrument and the music I can learn and play and it has changed my life for the better dramatically! Thank you facilitating this process.

-George Rogers

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