Ralph Emerson guitar practice

Emerson on How to Understand Our Lessons

Derek Sivers once said that, “If information were the answer, we’d all be billionaires with perfect abs.”

In today’s world, information is cheap and easy. There are millions of books, articles, and videos online to learn classical guitar. All it takes is a quick search, and we have more information than we could ever consume.

But we don’t play guitar with our intellect alone. We use fingers. We use movement. We use eyes and ears and mind.

It’s one thing to learn a scale. It’s another to practice that scale every day – to synchronize our hands, play in steady rhythm, and make consistent tone quality.

On guitar, thinking and knowing form only a fraction of our playing. The lion’s share of what we do (and can do) comes from experience.

And sure, some processes and methods can speed up our learning in drastic ways.

But simply knowing “how to start a car” won’t get the car started. We must actually DO the actions (i.e. “insert and turn the key”). We must put our knowledge into action, or it doesn’t amount to anything.

As Emerson said, “Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.” Guitar is no different. We must put one foot in front of the next. We must live (and be lively!) in our practice.


“Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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.

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