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Matsuo Basho on how to improve at guitar


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


“Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of others, instead, seek what they sought.”

Matsuo Basho


Do we need to be inventors or statesmen to find inspiration in Ben Franklin? Do we need to draw and paint for Leonardo Da Vinci to touch our lives?

Masters and mavericks serve us best by example.

They show us that it’s alright to be curious. It’s alright to experiment and fail (a million times over). It’s alright to be human, and it alright to rise above expectations. It’s alright to go for it.

Matsuo Basho was the most famous Edo-period poet in Japan. And he would tell his disciples to absorb but then disregard everything they learned. He even dismissed his own work. It was the seeking that was more important than the learning.

And it doesn’t have to be so serious. Even Basho allowed himself to be lighthearted, with lines such as, “now then, let’s go out / to enjoy the snow … until / I slip and fall!”

We can look to others for guidance and we can benefit from their experience. But the main ingredient to create what they’ve created is to constantly seek clarity and perspective.

With all the information available to us these days, advice is cheap. Real progress happens when we put our hands and attention on our guitars.

We can seek to hear more accurately and honestly. We can strive to stay more present and aware of each movement of a finger. We can gently steer our focus back to the task at hand when in strays.

So the “what” is less important than the “how”. And the “how” is less important than the “why”. If our purpose in playing guitar is to master our bodies and minds, the guitar can’t help but follow.








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.




Allen, your website and teaching methods are excellent. You have an easy going yet encouraging way of inspiring people to learn and practice their art. And you are always accessible to your students to personally answer questions. I appreciate ... that personal touch. The course on reading rhythm and playing higher up the neck I found particularly helpful. God bless you and many thanks.


-Joe Bazan

Your GCS site and The Woodshed community are really super! I am glad I finally joined in, and smacking myself for waiting so long. Thanks again!


-Carol Morin



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