van gogh guitar practice
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Vincent Van Gogh on Inner Doubt and Criticism

Perhaps it’s our clannish ancestry that makes us fear failure, as if we’ll be shunned and made to live in a far-off cave all by ourselves.

Or maybe we forget that everyone wakes up groggy and slow, with mussed hair and gummy eyes.

Oddly, we often think we’re different.

But for whatever reason, self-doubt is common. And not just among amateurs and novices.

The great pianist Vladimir Horowitz had to be pushed out onto stage even very late in life, when he was already a legend.

And the game of golf is, at the tournament level, as much a game of inner fortitude as one of skill. The nagging self-doubter is the ultimate adversary.

And so it is in guitar practice. We see how far we have to go and wonder if we’ve got it in us. We do our best and yet know it could be much better. We play because we love the sound, but don’t always love the sound when we play.

Is it hopeless? Is it all just an exercise in futility?

Van Gogh prescribes the hair of the dog. He recommends meeting doubt and self-judgement head-on. And by doing so, the voice will be silenced.

And Maya Angelo hit home the same sentiment with, “Ain’t nothing to it but to do it.”

But there’s a catch. That same voice may be back tomorrow. Or the day after that. It may simmer down for a while, then jump out when we least expect it. And this is all part of the grand game.

With anything that pushes our limits, we question. It’s a universal human experience. And the only way out is through the fire.


“If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”

Vincent Van Gogh




allen mathews classical guitar

About Allen Mathews

Allen Mathews learned guitar as an adult, and has been a full-time guitar teacher for almost two decades to students age 4 to 96.  He has taught classical guitar at Reed College and Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, and has been a guest lecturer and clinician at schools and universities throughout the U.S.  Allen is often praised for his creative teaching abilities, and his dedication to helping adults learn classical guitar.  He has a popular Youtube Channel offering regular classical guitar tutorials, and has gained fans worldwide for his weekly emails and articles at ClassicalGuitarShed.com.


Hi allen, it amazes me how good and precise your teachings are. The best thing I ever did was to download a piece of music from you and to listen to your videos. The enjoyment I now have from playing is ten fold. Thanks!

Regards,


-Tony Christopher

Allen Mathews was recommended to me as somebody who could help me expand my guitar vocabulary. Allen started me on a really fun cycle of lessons and practice. He is a very good and very enthusiastic teacher, and I feel that I'm on the road to learning. I couldn't be more pleased with my experience.


-Peter Buck, R.E.M.


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