Teller on How to Make Musical Magic

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

“Sometimes magic is just someone spending more time on something than anyone else might reasonably expect.” 

Raymond Joseph Teller

As guitarists, we tend to feel we’re progressing too slowly. We become concerned that we’re getting “behind.”

It should all come together much quicker. “Surely other people find this much easier than I do.”

We compare our progress to what we imagine other people’s rate of progress to be. The problem is that we are wrong in our assumptions.

  1. Playing pieces without mistakes 
  2. Speed 
  3. Memorizing pieces of music 
  4. Progressing through a program

We suppose all these should take less time than they usually do.

When we see someone online play a piece note-perfect, we are seeing the fruit of more time than we would ever suspect.

Professional players have often spent hundreds of practice hours on a 3-minute piece of music. And even more time working on basic skills and abilities.

When we see and hear them, it appears simple. It looks easy. So we again assume incorrectly. We chalk it up to talent or luck.

But the reality is that high-level playing is possible for anyone (physical limitations aside). It’s all matter of minutes and hours.

Luckily, time will pass whether we practice or not. In three years, we will either have three more years of practice behind us, or we won’t.

We don’t need more time in the day. There’s no race or competition. No one cares how well we play. Guitar is a personal challenge and pursuit. Others may support and encourage, but they don’t care whether we practice each day or not.

The trick to putting in more time on something is to enjoy the practice. And this is born of creating small, achievable challenges, and meeting them. Over and over. We find something slightly difficult then we work on it.

We get feelings of satisfaction from winning the challenge. And our skills expand bit by bit, day after day.

We can (and should) still care about short-term results. We need the motivation that comes from success.

But we can also keep the long-term in mind. We can accept that pieces may take months or years to play well. Our speed and agility may take months and years to improve to where we want them.

Like life itself, our music is made of small moments, lived well. And the more we focus on process and quality, the smoother and more quickly we enjoy the fruits.

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.

Thanks to you (you are my only teacher) in only a few months I've gone from very basic beginner pieces to having just completed learning Bach's Gavottes 1&2 in good form and execution. As a non-classical electric guitarist who has always used a pick and never his fingers, this has been no small feat!


~ Gregg Olson

-Gregg Olson

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

-John Andersson

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