Pele on practicing

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

“Everything is practice.”


Okay…. everything is practice…sure. But how exactly is “everything” practice? And practice for what?

My suspicion is that soccer/futbol legend Pelé was always observing how things moved. I bet he was always playing with balance and motion. These were the raw ingredients with which he created his magic, so it makes sense he wouldn’t limit them to the field.

But what about us? As normal people living our lives, going through our days, playing some guitar now and then, what does the “Everything is Practice” idea have to do with us?

Or maybe the a better question would be, “How can everything become practice?” or, “How can my guitar playing benefit from other activities throughout the day?”

Much of getting better at guitar has to do with learning to use the appropriate amount of tension at each moment. We usually use too much tension in some places and not enough in others.

So one way we can turn “everything” into practice is to notice how much tension we use to perform our everyday tasks, like…

  • Eating
  • Grooming
  • Driving
  • Surfing the web
  • Just sitting around

In each moment, we can observe how much tension we’re using in our hands, shoulders, face, wherever. And if it seems like more than necessary, we can release some of it.

Over time, this will allow us to do the same while we play guitar. Before we know it, we have a different way of moving and being on the guitar.

Guitar is complex, with many different things to think about. Tension usually goes unnoticed until it hurts. If we choose, mundane activities can become the training ground for effortless, fluid music-making. If we decide, everything is practice.

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.

I have lost my entire metallic sound while I am playing now. Even my single note practice sounds more melodious, less tinny. [The Woodshed technique practice] has made a major difference in my tone. Thank you.

-Harlan Friedman

Allen Mathews was recommended to me as somebody who could help me expand my guitar vocabulary. Allen started me on a really fun cycle of lessons and practice. He is a very good and very enthusiastic teacher, and I feel that I'm on the road to learning. I couldn't be more pleased with my experience.

-Peter Buck, R.E.M.

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