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Mary Oliver on Habits and Patterns of Daily Practice


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


“The patterns of our lives reveal us. Our habits measure us.”

Mary Oliver

What is the ideal realization of our musical efforts? What are the perfect fruits and harvests of our time?

It’s fun to envision wild success scenarios. It feels good to throw ourselves into a favorable future. It gives us something to look forward to. It helps guide us toward what we want.

Thinking ahead to winning the proverbial golden prizes, how does that person live?

How does our future musical master spend his or her practice time? What do they pay attention to? What do they value?

What are their standards? What will they tolerate, and what will they not?

Will sloppy, mindless repetition make the cut? Will problem-spots in pieces of music go unsolved? Will practice be a free-for-all, or will there be some type of structure?

And looking back at today from this ideal future, at our time on guitar, what do we notice?

Will our current patterns and habits lead us to where we want to go? Sure, we’ll learn more along the way. But will our basic habits hold up, or will they need to change?

The way we practice today sets the course for the future. This is our attention, our intention, and our willingness to slow down and get things right. And a few degrees left or right of center now can lead to vastly different arrival-points later.

A single guitar practice doesn’t account for much on its own. The 30 minutes or an hour we have today is like a drop in the ocean. But the molecular makeup of our practices – the way we go about it – will predict the future.

A little more intention now can greatly increase our rewards (both current and future). A closer attention today can usher in more breakthroughs. And we may discover new possibilities of learning we’re not currently aware of.

American football legend Jimmy Johnson quipped, “The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra.”

And as we create our tomorrows, a little extra today can make all the difference.








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

Great advise here. I find I am taking more time with the pieces than I would have in the past as I am focusing on the technique you have taught me. It is slower going at first but has fewer frustrations, is easier and sounds better in the end.


-Karen Richardson



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