Neil Armstrong on the Mysteries and Wonder of Music

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

“Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of our desire to understand.”

Neil Armstrong

There are at least two “flavors” of mystery.

The first flavor is of the general unknown. This is when we know something is there, but we don’t know what it is. For example, we know there is something called “music theory.” But we may not have the knowledge required to understand it yet.

Another flavor of mystery lies in solving problems. In these mysteries, we bring our current know-how to an issue. We try different solutions to find the key to the puzzle.

Here, we get to combine and adapt our previous learning. We look for patterns and similarities to previous problems we’ve solved.

This second brand of mystery is the one we explore over time on guitar. As we learn new pieces, we unlock their riddles and explore their hidden chambers.

What happens when we challenge our understanding with real-world problems? We learn on a deeper level. Simple knowledge becomes real understanding, embodied and versatile.

It’s curiosity and experimentation that drive the most effective practice. We make little hypotheses and test them in real-time. We use our ears, eyes, and bodily sensations to gather the feedback we need. We assess and reassess. We play.

Do we ever get to the end of this journey? Not likely. And that’s one of the great advantages of musical study. As astronomer Carl Sagan wrote,

Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.

Guitar practice is always rewarding and engaging, so long as we ask questions then seek the answers. This is the dance of daily practice, the courting of mystery.

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

I am a 61 year old physician, reconnecting with the classical guitar after a hiatus of nearly 40 years. After a couple of weeks [in the program], I’m now producing a much clearer, yet somehow more mellow and beautiful sound. It was really good to feel it happening in my hand, and that it felt more comfortable and somehow “right”, compared to the way I had played before (“curved picking”). The fog started to lift and I found that I was remembering more, and it felt great (also a bit of a relief!), giving me confidence to keep going. Thank you for making your course available - your love of music and the guitar shines through the teaching. I am very happy I found and registered with CGS.

-Brian Davey

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