The Woodshed

The Quiet Loneliness of the Practicing Musician.


When all is said and done, I really do know how to practice. And my goals actually remain quite clear to me. Even the way to get there is pretty much mapped out in my mind.

Inspiration comes and goes. I'm often inspired and re-inspired, sometimes several times a day depending on what I've been listening to or thinking about as I go about the daily business of living. And I've lived long enough to understand the ups, downs, and sideways movement of this thing called music. And the lifelong demand, rewards and toll that my particular "muse" continues to exact. If I'm not up to it on a given day then, so be it. In spite of my sometimes fall of the wagon, the wagon rolls on. I just have to run to catch up once in a while.

I guess the point that I've really been trying to come to, lo these past few days and these many fine postings, is that like many (most) here, I understand that the practice of one's instrument really can be a daunting and lonely task at times. Which I guess is only natural given the essentially solitary requirement of the experience. Duh! Yet, "alone-ness" is not always a bad thing. Especially if it leads one closer to the universal human experience of bonding. Bonding with oneself, one's art, and of course, the world at large. For in the end, isn't that really why we are in this game? Why we continually push ourselves, and our instruments. To connect at ever deeper levels?

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and suggestions. And thanks too for simply letting me say it. "It" being a simple outpouring in a moment of a sometimes need to speak. To identify. Always good to be reminded that there are others out there that understand the struggle. Many continued and rewarding hours of "practice" to all...


I found inspiration and good advice on practicing from a new book called The Practice of Practice. I found out about the book on a Django web forum. I haven't had time to check out the website, but here's the link:

– trumpetman

I'm reading this at the moment, and finding it very interesting - thanks for the recommendation.


2 things:

What keeps me from being focused is simply lack of time. Depending on the time of year, I could be very busy for months, or work could be dead for weeks at a time. I find it difficult to get into a routine, and I like routines. Routines keep me motivated and moving forward.

The other thing that keeps me motivated, is LEARNING something. Not just dabbling about the guitar, but actually using my lesson books/DVDs, etc. If I'm learning something, I'm hyper-focused. Problem is, lack of time may cause me to not get back to it for a week, and then I'm starting all over....

I am going to try something as a solution to this: I am in the process of hyper-organizing (lol) all my lessons stuff, by genre/style. And keeping this stuff neat and organized... instead of in a pile. I'm going to set it up like college classes.... for example, I'll have my "Paul Pigat Jazz" class, my "Ray Benson Western Swing Class", my "David Grissom Rock" class, my "Jim Campilongo....jazz?...not sure what he is lol... Class", and my "Tommy Emmanuel Fingerstyle Class".

Depending on what "musical mood" I am in (which is usually pretty consistent for weeks... I'll be "into western swing" for 2-3 weeks, then maybe go over to Bonamassa/Grissom stuff for a few weeks, etc.), I will "take that class" for those 2-3 weeks.... marking where I left off, so that when I get back into that same musical mood, I can review what I have learned, then move on.

Hopefully this does the trick to move me forward faster than I have been, thru more efficient use of time. Sometimes, just noodling for 45 minutes is a dream, the stars align, pure joy. Most times, I feel like I just wasted 45 minutes, and walk away feeling unfulfilled. But TIME (or lack of it) is my enemy.


Get Jamie's new book, "The Deeper I Go, The Deeper It Gets". Jamie not only teaches the mechanics of playing, but also teaches how to train your mind to play.


– Hermitt

Thanks for this!!!! I am always on the lookout for this kind of stuff.... the last book I read like this (I can't remember the name), was a real SNORE. This one looks specifically wired to musicians, and GUITAR PLAYERS, ordering now!!!


Sorry, reading the entire thread this AM....

On the subject of the "loneliness"..... I LOVE the loneliness. Part of stuff I do, whether it's playing guitar, reading, running, hiking, is being ALONE. I like myself. I enjoy my company. LOL Seriously, if I didn't have alone time, I'd go stark-raving mad. I love my wife, but I could never live with her and work with her. If we were both home all the time (having just won the lottery), I'd STILL have to find ways to get away and be alone.

The alone links to the whole zen/self-awareness thing.... not to get too deep here.... but there's something intrinsic about music for me, I could be sitting in a chair, having a glass of wine, and just listening to music- not on facebook, not checking my phone, not conversing with the wife- just sitting there, listening, and have the BEST time. And when I practice, I am alone, because if my wife is home, she's either sleeping (I can't play because the dog will sing along), on the damn phone for work (can't play), or even if I do play while she's home, she comes and interrupts me with a chore or something else seemingly trivial. LOL

So, for me, I CHERISH the loneliness of practice. My dog is welcome to sing all he wants. He needs to express himself too!

Thanks again for that book recc- I can't wait to dig into that one!


Ruger 9

It's funny in a way, I've read what you've said over the years and a lot of it I just don't agree with. I mean I could argue points up and down till both of us are blue in the face. At the end of the day, while others were really quite upset over our discourse, we could probably find we like doing that with each other.

But this bit about solitude... being alone, we are totally in sync. There is a grace if you will in the lone entity. Being unseen and not in any way disturbing the surroundings you are in, is in it's way a very deep and philosophical time.

I think that you are or were a hunter and understand the woods. I quite like being among that silence and moving so that I don't in anyway disturb what is there, just under the most blunt of senses.

I at times like to be so still, the loudest thing is my heart beat and the breath of what is near. I've been with in feet of a few creatures, deer, bear, moose, so invisible they don't even know I am there.

Sometimes with people, arriving and departing with out their sensing it until long after it happens. Such is part of the wonderful thing that is being alone. Learning silence. While playing guitar can be something that is so loud and so "peacock" so too is the time when no one hears all the things that have gone into the making of it. I love that juxtaposition. Extrovert/introvert, a duality many of us share. That alone time matters more than some will ever know.

Anyway, just thought I would say.



I was never a hunter, but am an avid outdoorsman and hiker/backpacker. I do indeed love the solitude of the woods- especially a backpacking trip where little, if any, "civilization" is seen or heard.

I don't have to sit quietly tho- I almost never do that, there is always either an activity (hiking, playing guitar) or sensory input (reading, listening to music) involved. Not TV. I hate the damn TV. Not the computer either, altho it's better than the TV.

Whether I'm hiking in the woods, or playing guitar alone, or stretching (I'm a runner) while listening to native american flute music (my own form of "yoga", lol), I can reach that same place of solitude.

I very rarely just sit quietly. The whole "meditation" thing? Lost on me- I simply fall asleep. I have to be DOING something to get to that transcendent place (I hesitate to use the word "transcendence", lest I be called a hippy-dippy new ager LOL)

I guess you could say these activities ARE my form of meditation.


There is a grace if you will in the lone entity. - Jetrow<

Beautifully spoken Jetrow. I've been following the conversation between yourself and ruger9 with much interest and appreciation in your thoughts and words. I'd say you boys both have a deep insight and understanding of the value of 'solitariness'. This is what I was actually referring to in my OP though I didn't represent as poetically or as effectively as you gentlemen. It is true that we must perforce, spend most of our lives in search and clarification of the inner self, and this search requires a great deal of reflection, whether that reflection is gained through passive thought or active focus. It all leads to the same place. The key is the attention we give to the inner meaning of our efforts. Practice can usually lead me there. Still there are times when the best path is one of more physical activity, or at times deeper social interaction. In fact, it is the balance of all these elements that I feel is the clearest path. That is why I sometimes feel a bit 'lonely' if the balance is a bit off. Thank you both for your insight and involvement in this thread. Salute...


I share the exact feeling on the essence of "being alone" as both Jetrow and Ruger. It's crazy because I love, and am good with, people. Simply put, I love experiencing things and I do it best when I am alone. There are no distractions.

My hobbies are all solo. Golf, guitar, reading, cooking. I don't think that there is just one reason for this but I know that people are a distraction. If I'm focusing on something it is usually with the intent to not only enjoy but also learn. I cannot do this as efficiently with others around. It's like I don't want to dilute the input of the experience.

Sometimes, I'll take a day off and take a day trip into New York City. The world is my oyster there. I walk and walk noticing everything as it passes. I especially love lower Manhattan.....Starting from the Village on south to the Staten Island Ferry. I think I'll go in tomorrow. I'll stop by Matt Umanov's and then maybe grab a bite to eat at Home oon Cornelia Street. No plan though.....just wander and explore.

If I want to share something, I'll stop in place, grab a pint and within 5 minutes I'm engaged in a good discussion.

My practice time always offers me that same reward though. I find I am just as purposeful with the needing a routine to make the time valuable too. In a minute, I am going to practice to work specifically on my pick attack. I had not heard myself recorded in a while and asked my wife to record me on her Canon 60D. My attack got to aggressive and my prasing in some solo work is too choppy/staccato. I don't know how it happened but something weird crept in there so off to practice I go. By myself.


OK njdevil... we need to plan a "guitar day" in the city. I'll meet you there, and you can give me the tour....


I love the solitude of practice as well.... my peak times to practice , or any crative work, is between 11 at night and 4 a.m., lol.

my problem re practice is getting to that space in the first place. Once I pick up the guitar, im always good. Bringing myself to pick it up, tho, is another matter.

music and the soul are so interlinked and its so intense. .. in the height of the the weirdness this year, i picked up the oud one night and had a very very bad flood of emotions. Went suicidal. Tried to chew my arm off, literally. Suffice to say, I practiced very little this past year.

Now that its all said and done, the quickest way to integrate and to heal and reclaim my core which got destroyed and eroded during the marriage, is to practice more. Each time I do it, I'm stronger, better, happier.

And its time to get the game on -- we have to be in perfect shape for the India tour, as well.


I picked up the oud one night and had a very very bad flood of emotions. Went suicidal. Tried to chew my arm off, literally. - Mustafa<

Now THAT's an intense session! Never tried the chewing of the arm off technique before. Perhaps I should give it a go sometime. Might take a bite out of some of those unwanted notes I'm always coming across while practicing.

Just kidding of course. Delighted to see you posting again Mustafa. I've missed your passion and spirit on the GDP. BTW, what's with this India tour? Sounds intriguing indeed...


I picked up the oud one night and had a very very bad flood of emotions. Went suicidal. Tried to chew my arm off, literally. - Mustafa<

Now THAT's an intense session! Never tried the chewing of the arm off technique before. Perhaps I should give it a go sometime. Might take a bite out of some of those unwanted notes I'm always coming across while practicing.

Just kidding of course. Delighted to see you posting again Mustafa. I've missed your passion and spirit on the GDP. BTW, what's with this India tour? Sounds intriguing indeed...

– General_Lee

indai tour is in process, but we're taking the band over in Decemberit will be an adventure. everything still very ephemeral, no cotnracts signed, not all dates will be waht it will be!

im practicing more and more these days, and i have a zest for it, a zest i havent had in years. Feeling awesome right now. :)


Feeling awesome right now.- Mustafa<

"Now" is the only time we have my friend. Now is the only moment we have...

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