Superman on Facing the Impossible Guitar Tunes
Tuesday Quotes are short explorations of music, life, and the daily endeavor of practicing classical guitar. Find more here. Enjoy!
“So many of our dreams at first seem impossible. Then they seem improbable. And then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable.”
Capricho Arabe, Asturias-Leyenda, La Catedral, Bach’s Chaconne….
These massive pieces of music can seem a million miles away. Given our current level, they may even appear impossible.
But there was time when even J. S. Bach was a lousy player. He had to start at the beginning like the rest of us.
The only difference between the best players in the world and a day-one beginner is time.
The research is in, and study after study has shown that time is the greatest indicator of skill-level.
But not all time counts equal. Time spent polishing what’s already shiny doesn’t count for much. Time spent challenging limits and honing abilities brings us steadily forward.
This second sort of time – focused, deliberate practice – takes willpower.
When we sit down to play, we can choose the easy path or the hard one. We can strum along to the tune we’ve played a thousand times before, or we can slowly work toward learning a new tune.
We can noodle around distractedly or we can do exercises with our best attention.
We can choose comfort and zero risk of failure, or we can choose to live on the constant edge of failure. We can challenge ourselves, fail, learn from the feedback, then go back for more.
Practicing well is to practice with intention, purpose, and awareness. When we (as Superman said) “summon the will” to spend our guitar-time in this way, we get better.
Along the way, we may have our doubts. We may not always feel like we’re making headway.
But eventually, we find ourselves picking up the tunes that used to seem impossible. With time and attention, it’s inevitable.
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.
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Great advise here. I find I am taking more time with the pieces than I would have in the past as I am focusing on the technique you have taught me. It is slower going at first but has fewer frustrations, is easier and sounds better in the end.
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!
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