Matthew McConaughey on Keeping Common Sense

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

“Common sense is like money and health. Once you’ve got it, you got to work to keep it.”

Matthew McConaughey

In almost every field there is a potential for what some have called “expert error.” This is where an expert gets lazy and begins to skip steps in the process. Then preventable mistakes happen.

By the time we become expert at something, we have mastered many of the basic elements. We have ingrained the movements through repetition and study.

The danger comes when we assume that we no longer need to consider the basics. We abandon the fundamentals and focus only on the more complex elements.

When we do, we degrade the foundation on which our playing is built. We cut corners. We take shortcuts.

To continue to improve, to always get better, we must mind the core ingredients of our craft. The more we revisit and refine the basics, the better we play. Without limit.

Many lifelong musicians realize this. In their older years many professional musicians enjoy practicing slow scales. They choose easier music. And not because they can’t play harder pieces, but because they wish to focus on the fine details of the basics. They can work on nuance without the fuss of excess complexity.

“Common sense” in music is a realization of the basics. It’s knowing the right process or formula for each task or dilemma. It’s knowing what works for us in reality (not just in theory).

And as we progress from beginner to intermediate and above we seek this knowledge. We gain this experience.

But at some point, we need to seek fewer new techniques and processes. We instead do best by practicing and refining the ones we already know work.

Someone said, “simplicity is the soul of elegance.” The basics, played well, will solve most of our problems. They will take us 99% of the way to an excellent performance. The remaining 1% we gain through inspiration, emotion, and perhaps a little magic.

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.

Hi Allen,
First public performance ever! I am up to Level 1E in The Woodshed program. It is certainly mega helpful.

-Peter Graham

I came on board three months ago and I’m loving it more than ever. I have maintained my practice pattern. I’m sticking wholeheartedly with the program as written. That makes it easy to see what I NEED to work on rather than just playing the shiny places I’ve gone beyond…..I’ve learned to focus 100% on what I’m doing that very minute….I’m developing strength in my left hand...I spend time with the videos in the evenings and always find something more to help me. I’m not looking for info anywhere else. Everything I need is right here in The Woodshed. You say “Jump” and I say “How high.” I’m so grateful I found you. You speak in a language I understand.

-Gloria Mader

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