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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 stellar teachers – one focused on the technical, 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, just wanted to provide some feedback. Since I've started doing the exercises [in The Woodshed program] my guitar is sounding a lot better, with fuller sound, less effort. Its as if I bought a new guitar or got a new pair of hands (or both). Amazing my friend. Thank you!


-Nusret Aydemir

I am a 61 year old physician, reconnecting with the classical guitar after a hiatus of nearly 40 years. After a couple of weeks [in the program], I’m now producing a much clearer, yet somehow more mellow and beautiful sound. It was really good to feel it happening in my hand, and that it felt more comfortable and somehow “right”, compared to the way I had played before (“curved picking”). The fog started to lift and I found that I was remembering more, and it felt great (also a bit of a relief!), giving me confidence to keep going. Thank you for making your course available - your love of music and the guitar shines through the teaching. I am very happy I found and registered with CGS.


-Brian Davey



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