Peter Drucker on sacrificing perfection for beauty

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

“Performance is not hitting the bull’s-eye with every shot – that is a circus act.”

Peter Drucker

Our goals as guitarists should not be limited to playing the right notes at the right time.

Any computer can do that.

Our goals can extend to our

  • focus and attention
  • muscular poise
  • volume of each note
  • connection of one note to the next
  • feeling each string beneath our fingers
  • rhythmic “aliveness” and momentum
  • tone quality
  • and anything else we dream up.

Of course we want to play cleanly and accurately. That goes without saying. We’re always working on that. We consistently study the basics and continue to hone our technique.

But when cleanliness becomes the only goal, it’s a hollow victory. Youtube is full of note-perfect (but perfectly boring) performances.

It’s Citizen Kane all over again. When we get to the top of the note-perfect mountain, we find there’s still something lacking. Note-perfect playing won’t make us happy.

It’s a myth that we can get the notes perfect then add the “beauty” or “expression” later. It rarely, if ever, happens.

Instead, we can add swells and fades to whatever we’re playing right now. We can listen to each note and how it connects to the next right now. We can notice our muscles and our internal chatter right now.

We don’t have to save that for later. It’s the good stuff – why not lead with it?

And if that means we miss a note here or there, well then it’s worth it. It’s better to sacrifice perfection in the name of beauty than to sacrifice beauty in the name of perfection.

The joy of playing classical guitar extends beyond the prize (the perfect performance). It’s the daily journey and how we travel it. That’s where we find the gold. That’s where we discover the humanity, in both the music and in ourselves.

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

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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