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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 stellar teachers – one focused on the technical, 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.




Hi Allen,
Greetings from the UK. I would like to thank you for providing such an excellent resource. The effort and skill which has gone into creating this program is very evident. I started classical guitar a year or so ago with a teacher but was unable to commit to same time regular slots each week.

The Woodshed Program was exactly what I was looking for. I have found the site very intuitive and well structured and have taken your advice and started from the very beginning of the program whilst still practising some of the pieces I was already working on. It is clear that I will benefit greatly from these early technical studies. There were clearly weaknesses and gaps in my knowledge even though I am still at an early stage. Once again many thanks for the program and very best wishes.


-Rodger Paylor

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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