Winston Churchill on How to Unlock Guitar Potential
Tuesday Quotes are short explorations of music, life, and the daily endeavor of practicing classical guitar. Find more here. Enjoy!
“Continuous effort, not strength or intelligence, is the key to unlocking our potential.”
Here’s a lesser-known fact: In addition to statesman and Nobel Prize-winning writer, Winston Churchill was also an accomplished impressionist painter. Hundreds of his paintings are displayed around the world in museums and private collections.
How could one man have mastered so many different fields?
According to this quote, the key is to simply keep going.
Discounting strength and intelligence, he believed that a continuous effort was more important.
And this is equally true of our musical practices.
We can inch forward at even the slowest pace. And so long as we continue forward, we’ll see results, like water eroding granite.
And note that Churchill cites “effort”. This means we need to stay challenged. Our practices can’t be too easy. We can’t spend all our time polishing what’s already shiny.
Instead, we need enough challenge to keep us engaged, but not so much we become disheartened.
Part of our job as practicing musicians is to find this perfect point of balance. Like competitive log-rollers, each day we try to stay upright and avoid spinning off in one direction or the other.
It’s empowering to know that strength and intelligence aren’t essential. Sure, they’re nice if we have them, but not required.
If we, as Rumi suggested, “sell our cleverness for bewilderment”, then each moment with our music becomes a sacred puzzle. Each day is an end unto itself. We plumb the depths of each movement and phrase with curiosity and wonder.
And over time, we unlock our potential: potential skill, potential appreciation, potential joy.
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.
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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.
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