A desiderata of the guitar

December 10th, 2011

I wrote the Desiderata of the Guitar a number of years ago and had completely forgotten about it. That is, until recently, when I rediscovered it while doing some spring cleaning on the site.

I found the sentiments expressed in the piece as relevant as ever and fit well with the philosophy espoused in the AOV and decided to give it a new lease on life.

Here’s the desiderata, in slightly updated form.

Desiderata of the Guitar

(with apologies to Max Ehrmann)


Go placidly into the practice room,
and remember what peace there may be in playing the guitar.

As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with your guitar.

Keep your back straight, your fingers loose;
and your touch light as the wind.

Especially know that your body has its own secrets.
If you fight it, you kill its natural impulses.
If you impose your will on it, you subdue its talents.
Rather, let it lead you where it wants to go.

Let your music speak for you.
Do not try to impress your peers.
Jealous persons intent on finding faults will find them.

Avoid loud vexatious persons.
who will tell you their secrets of life.
The world is full of ‘wise’ men,
who hide behind a wall of self-delusion.
Ignore their words, listen to their playing.
Words are cheap, advice is easy,
but diligent practice is hard and great playing is rare.

Trust your judgment, do not follow the pack.
Crowd hysteria exists in all quarters.
Find your own space and believe in it.
Follow your instincts, for they will lead you to unexpected and delightful places.

Listen to everyone and listen to no one.
The great players and the not so great – they all have their stories.
Listen to them and take with you what you need.

As you gain in wisdom, do not be afraid to share it.
But realize that many have not traveled the same paths,
or drank from the same cup.
Do not try to impose your wisdom on them,
let them come to you instead.

Infuse your playing with magic and wonder,
and let it speak of the joys and tribulations of life.
One note played with love and imagination,
is worth a thousand executed with soulless precision.

Therefore be at peace with your guitar,
whatever you conceive it to be.
Practice hard. Strive to be happy.


7 Responses to “A desiderata of the guitar”

  1. Miguel de Maria Says:

    Thanks, Philip!

  2. Philip Hii Says:

    Hey Miguel, thanks for dropping by and the comment.

  3. Bobber Says:

    This is really inspiring Philip, thanks for sharing.

  4. Philip Hii Says:

    Bob, good to see you again. All the best!

  5. Bobber Says:

    Phil, I haven\’t been able to play my guitar much the past year because I”ve gotten so involved in helping my kids learn violin. They are in a Suzuki program and I supervise their practices as well as take notes during lesson time. If you have never read Suzuki’s book, “Nurtuted by Love”, I highly recommend it. It\’s very inspiring on many levels.

    Here’s a video of my son playing a Christmas song this past December. I was most impressed by how well he and the pianist recovered from me accidentally turning to the wrong page!

    Keep up your blogging Phil, it is a great resource for me. I wish I could play more but I have to be content with helping to nurture my kids with what experience I have gained in the past.

  6. Philip Hii Says:

    I’m not familiar with the Suzuki method but in general, I shy away from all kinds of organized anything. I find that the minute you subscribe to something, that it begins to constrict you with its narrow parameters. But yes, kids are wonderful, and it’s always a joy to see them grow and learn. Thanks for the link to the video, I’ll check it out.

  7. Bobber Says:


    I understand your concern. Suzuki certainly isn’t the way to end all ways but there are things about his approach that are/were revolutionary. The whole idea that very young children can learn how to play great music by Bach and others was unheard of at the time Suzuki attempted it. His approach in general was to use language learning of the mother tongue as a model for learning music. This is a fascinating idea which resulted in going against convention. Learning by ear for example as opposed to learning to read music right away and providing an immersive environment is another. I encourage you to look into it, I think you will find some interesting and useful ideas. But this is just my opinion of course. 😉

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