Will and Ariel Durant on Freedom and Chaos

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

“Freedom unlimited is chaos complete.”

Will and Ariel Durant

“Creative constraints” are rules and boundaries. These limit freedom, but in the name of greater creativity.

Modern dance choreographer Twyla Tharp wrote about one of her commissions. She was given unlimited time and resources to create a show. And she bombed. She struggled and iterated and in the end, it was far from her best work.

Looking back afterward, she realized that she thrived in a tighter environment. A deadline, a smaller budget, a limited number of dancers. These are creative constraints, and they helped her to focus.

In guitar practice, we also do best with some sort of structure. When we can practice anything we want, for any length of time, we often get very little done.

Instead, most of us thrive with a set amount of time and some sort of agenda. Most of us reach deeper focus and attention when we don’t have to decide what to do next.

When we first sit down and pick up the instrument it helps to have already chosen a route. This way, we can immediately put our attention on something specific. And this in turn leads to high chances of deep learning and progress.

Sound too rigid? We can still allow ourselves as much freedom we need each day. Having a list of practice areas can act as guide, without stifling. We can always decide to do something else if the mood calls for it.

Part of learning guitar is learning to practice. And this means we learn to impose creative constraints and limits on how we spend our time. When we do, we enjoy music more and get more done.

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.

I also want to thank you for including more video lessons on the Bridges Guitar Series. I have learned to play Calatayud's Waltz. The most exciting thing about having done this is that I sight read the entire piece as I was learning it. Six months ago looking at a sheet of music was like looking at Egyptian hieroglyphics. Learning to read notation is empowering and I appreciate the sensible way you are teaching us to learn to read music.

-Steve Simpler

Those videos on practicing the piece were just awesome, Allen! I've always thought that learning songs might be something completely different than practicing exercises, but the way you teach it makes it much easier than I thought. I'm positive that joining the Woodshed has been the best investment I've ever done for learning the classical guitar. Thank you so much for these lessons.

-Ulysses Alexandre Alves

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