William James on Attitude and Successful Outcomes

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

“It is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult task which, more than anything else, will affect its successful outcome.”

William James

Classical guitar is hard. Learning, memorizing, playing classical guitar pieces – these are all challenging.

Sometimes, as we work on scales or changing between chords, our fingers don’t do what we tell them. They move too slowly. Or they lack accuracy and precision.

We encounter big stretches and awkward shifts. And the speed marked on the page may be faster than we can play.

At these times, it’s tempting to point the finger, blaming something. We blame our fingers, our age, our schedule, other people, the world.

By blaming, we take on the role of victim. We think of ourselves as victim to our fingers, age, or something else.

In this state, we think this is happening “to me”. We are at the effect of outside forces.

But as an alternative, we can think of these difficulties as happening “for me”.

The tricky spot in our music that eludes polish? We can be grateful for such an engaging project.

The metronome marking that is beyond our current abilities? A clear and relevant goal.

Our fingers lifting too high off the fretboard? A wonderful marker on which to gauge progress.

The simple switch from “to me” to “for me” completely changes our attitude. It changes the nature of the problem.

We go from frustration to curiosity and awareness. We lean in, instead of pulling away.

And this small change of attitude makes guitar more rewarding. Our practice, where it once subtly tore us down, now builds us up.

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.

Hello Allen,
I feel my guitar proficiency is improving considerably. Every day I’m exceedingly comfortable with my right hand technique and overall fluency. And my sight-reading has improved as well. Thank you for creating the Woodshed. It’s thoughtful construction and scope and sequence of knowledge and skills has advanced my guitar skills significantly. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

-Michael Immel

Hi Allen, I am thoroughly enjoying your website and I find it is just what I need in my renewed passion for classical guitar. I have rediscovered a great love for this instrument and the music I can learn and play and it has changed my life for the better dramatically! Thank you facilitating this process.

-George Rogers

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