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Thich Nhat Hanh on a Useful Guitar Practice Tool – Smiling


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


“Because of your smile, you make life more beautiful.”

Thich Nhat Hanh


You and I may hear all the time about how important it is to smile.

But is this just positive thinking? Is it new-agey Pollyanna mumbo-jumbo?

Not necessarily. There are also pragmatic reasons to smile – health, mood, appearance.

One reason that matters in guitar practice is muscle tone. When we smile, we relax.

When we concentrate, we often create excess tension in our faces. This tension spreads throughout our bodies, and into our hands. The result is that everything we do is harder than it has to be.

When we smile, even a little, we release some of that tension. We allow practice to be less serious, and more easeful.

When we struggle through tricky spots, the struggle adds to the trickiness. When we take a deep breath and smile through the tricky spots, we add ease to them. We dispel fear and train ourselves to relax.

A smile can be a strategic tool. It can become a practice method to solve problems, develop useful muscle-memory, and reduce the chance of pain or injury. All these are a part of playing beautifully.

And it feels good!








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.




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

I just want to thank you for your lessons. You are helping us to understand how a piece is composed, the parts to analyze and how to do it. You are teaching a lot about how to read and play, and the most important part: PLAY with the music and ENJOY it.


-R. Martinez



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