michelangelo guitar practice
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Michelangelo on mastery, perception, and daily practice

In our culture, we love to idolize “The Greats”. We put them on a pedestal and think of them as somehow non-human.

But no one was born knowing how to tie their shoes, much less how to paint or play guitar. Any master of anything got that way through hard work and hours logged.

Study after study now shows that the main determinant of mastery is not “talent” or any special cosmic endowment – it’s time.

The best in any field have simply put in more hours of deliberate practice than anyone else. This is true for Michelangelo and it’s true for Michael Jackson and Michael Jordan.

“Talent” may be a word invented by people looking to discount hard work.

But there is something that sets some apart from others. And this is interest. Interest, fascination, curiosity – these are the motivating factors that help us show up and practice.

Of course, Michael Jordan had height, and Michelangelo had eyes and hands. We’re limited by our physical bodies.

But mastery is a time-game. In anything we do regularly with focus and attention, we will improve to the extent we’re physically able.

No magic, no genetic inheritance, just hours.

All we can do is sit down and pick up our instrument. Then do it again tomorrow. This is our side of the deal: challenge ourselves, listen like crazy, return to things often enough to make a difference. Time does the rest.

Even with the worse technique and no teacher, we get better. We go further faster with great technique and great teachers. And we go even further still with one-pointed attention while engaged. But hours alone are a big part of it.

This can be of some comfort on the inevitable days when our flow doesn’t feel so “flowy”.


“If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.”

Michelangelo




allen mathews classical guitar

About Allen Mathews

Allen Mathews learned guitar as an adult, and has been a full-time guitar teacher for almost two decades to students age 4 to 96.  He has taught classical guitar at Reed College and Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, and has been a guest lecturer and clinician at schools and universities throughout the U.S.  Allen is often praised for his creative teaching abilities, and his dedication to helping adults learn classical guitar.  He has a popular Youtube Channel offering regular classical guitar tutorials, and has gained fans worldwide for his weekly emails and articles at ClassicalGuitarShed.com.


This is the ideal starting position for me. As a relative beginner with no teacher this is helping me enormously in developing good technique and not falling into bad habits. I no longer feel (A) That it's a struggle to learn a new piece and (B) That I am alone in my endeavors. My advice is to try The Woodshed program. It is fantastic and will not only bring up your playing but his explanations of musical concepts as you go along put things into perspective.


-John Andersson

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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