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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.




Hi Allen,
Greetings from the UK. I would like to thank you for providing such an excellent resource. The effort and skill which has gone into creating this program is very evident. I started classical guitar a year or so ago with a teacher but was unable to commit to same time regular slots each week.

The Woodshed Program was exactly what I was looking for. I have found the site very intuitive and well structured and have taken your advice and started from the very beginning of the program whilst still practising some of the pieces I was already working on. It is clear that I will benefit greatly from these early technical studies. There were clearly weaknesses and gaps in my knowledge even though I am still at an early stage. Once again many thanks for the program and very best wishes.


-Rodger Paylor

After more than a year as a member, I remain impressed with the Woodshed, song courses, Tuesday quotes, weekly lessons, and the CGS community. Without my membership, I think my enthusiasm for learning classical guitar would have faded long ago. Instead, I am enjoying the process as I make steady progress in my playing.


-Steve Dosh



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