Also so afraid of making a mistake when you make music? You're not the only one. The problem with mistakes and making music is that you often only have one chance to get it right. But, is perfection even important? Or is it okay to make mistakes in music?
Tonight is the night. You’re giving a concert. You’ve been studying the music for three months and know it almost back to front. Almost, because there is one piece where it keeps going wrong. The first three times it went wrong while practicing, you could still forgive yourself, but the fourth time you started punishing yourself: “It has to go right for once, John (Your fellow singer, ten thousand times better according to you) could do it too last rehearsal, so I should be able to do it. It’s not even hard…”
You practice the few bars. Every time it goes wrong, you come up with a new reason why it should have already gone right. To top it off, the next rehearsal the conductor says, “Guys, you really need to study that piece a little better at home.”
Before you get to the piece at the concert, your tummy starts itching: here it comes! During a few bars of rest, you practiced it because a colleague said that helped. Ten seconds later it’s over and you made the mistake anyway. When people ask you afterwards how it went, you say: yes it went well, but I did it wrong again. The feeling about the concert is dominated by the mistake you made.
The problem with mistakes in music is that you often only have one chance to get it right. If you’re painting a picture and you make a mistake, you can fix the mistake by painting over it. You can even start over if you feel like it. Then you can still exhibit or sell the painting without anyone seeing that you made that mistake.
I have noticed that this is why mistakes are handled very differently in the art world. Viewers like it when their favorite YouTube artist shows all the mistakes that come along in the creation process. They are motivated to start their own. After all, it doesn’t matter if you make mistakes. Of course the occasional “*** What did I do now? I screwed up.” involved, but that turns almost immediately into, “How can I fix it now? What can I make of my mistake?”
Fortunately, there are not many teachers anymore who stop a student at every note to tell him what needs to be improved next. I have never had such a teacher myself. Yet I have often heard comments like:
In this way, we are trained to always want to get it right even while practicing, when sometimes it is also good to just let the happy accidents be, especially if a piece does not have to be performed.
In music education, therefore, there can be more emphasis on “happy accidents. After all, happy accidents while practicing are not bad, but actually good. By trying you learn. It does not even always have to be bad to make a mistake ten times before trying to fix it, as long as you keep believing that you can fix the mistake too.
Fixing mistakes can take a lot of time, and sometimes while practicing or in class it is better to focus on musically building on the larger parts that are already going well.
This does not mean that a teacher should never point out mistakes. If a student does not realize he or she is making a mistake, a teacher can point it out. If the student also knows it himself, he/she often knows very well himself/herself if this is something that needs to be spent time on in music class. Sometimes it then works out immediately and sometimes the teacher has to give additional directions and study opportunities to correct the mistake.
As soon as there is irritation from the student or the teacher that things are not going well, the student is less likely to learn to fix the mistake in class. When this situation arises, it is better to say together, “We’ll stop for now, it’s no big deal that it’s still going wrong, we’ll continue it later.”
If something hasn’t gotten a hair better after playing it ten times in a row, it doesn’t mean you’re not going to be able to do it, it probably means you’re completely fed up and frustrated for the day.
Focusing too much on your mistakes causes you to get into tunnel vision and make the mistake bigger than necessary. It’s like painting a portrait and then finding one of the eyes not quite right. You change more and more about the eye, but in the meantime you make it bigger and bigger. You can’t un-see it now. Everything is just about the eye, even at the concert.
There is a mentality within the music world of “You have to practice something until you can’t get it wrong. If you spend enough time on it, you can’t get it wrong” That’s just not true. You can always do something right and still get it wrong at the concert. Who never has had that happen? You can study something endlessly, finally be able to do it and still get it wrong at a concert. You can go through the most difficult bars correctly in your head shortly beforehand and still get it wrong when the time comes.
The more afraid you become of the mistake, the more likely you are to make it. I suffer immensely from this myself. Once I studied myself to death on a piece I had known for a long time, but which I thought I wasn’t sure about. At the dress rehearsal it went wrong. In the two concerts after that it went wrong again. It seemed like I hadn’t done my best. This made me feel very bad and after each time it went wrong I started practicing it again.
After the second concert, I realized it wasn’t working. I didn’t look at it for a week. The next four concerts, I also didn’t go over it before the concert or in between. It went fine four times.
You can do anything to avoid making mistakes, as long as you don’t lose sight of the big picture and you keep remembering that making music involves making mistakes sometimes anyway. I am convinced that you can then practice, go to class and give concerts feeling much better (and probably with fewer mistakes as a result).
A while ago I falsely promised a man that he could participate in a promotion where he would receive €20. He didn’t qualify for it. (I had one task … to go over the terms of the promotion for him…)
I found this out two weeks after I spoke to him. Fortunately, I was still able to figure out who it was and called him back to correct my mistake. I stammered, “I promised you something two weeks ago and this is not correct. You are not getting €20.” Some people would freak out (The Bank lied, they are all grabbers). But the gentleman said, “Ah, it doesn’t matter, after all, I am a member of the Club of It Doesn’t Matter.”
Years earlier, he had accidentally walked in on a woman and said “Sorry.” She turned out to be a member of the Club of Doesn’t Matter. It is a club with no maximum membership and no fee. Anyone who wants can become a member. Sir allowed me to join as well. Their motto: we worry or get angry about lots of things that go wrong, but actually are unimportant.
In my orchestra, a girl who was studying cello at the conservatory came to see if she wanted to be our section leader. We were all amateur cellists and it was one of the first rehearsals. Wrong notes were flying around your ears. One of us played a “b” instead of a “b-flat. Suddenly someone hissed “b-flat, B-FLAT!” What on earth was this? The new girl may have thought that the b-cellist herself had not heard that it should actually be a b-flat.
With subsequent mistakes by various section members, she kept turning around so that she could look at the person who made the mistake with irritation or just name the note it should have been. After the rehearsal, we were stiff with wrong note stress, which made us laugh very hard. She came up to us and asked, “How do you deal with wrong notes?”
We looked at the ground (because we were laughing really hard) and muttered “Ehh, well, eeh we don’t really have a strategy for that.”
Now I think it might have been good if we WOULD have had a strategy for it, just not hers.
She never came back, much to the relief of both sides.
If you have no experience in making music, chances are you are looking for easy, accessible and fun adult piano lessons. Piano lessons that are out of the ordinary. What if you could share this experience with like-minded people? People who enjoy learning in an open environment without pressure to perform for the teacher.
If you recognize yourself in this, then Studio MusicalMente’s group piano lessons are the new format for you!