For all musicians, whether you play the piano, the violin, the flute, the guitar, or any other instrument for that matter, there are two things that are often the subject of nightmares. The first is practice; the second, mistakes. While there is a correlation between the two, we must not take that correlation at face value.
Music, unlike other forms of art, are spontaneous bouts of beauty. Unlike art pieces that are static and displayed for admiration, music lingers only in the memory. And because music -- in some respects -- is a muscle memory, too much practice may cause that "in the moment" feeling to disappear from the hands of many musicians. Every time you produce a sound, it has to be organic. That in itself is not an easy feat to accomplish, because of stigmas that are present today. While we do not advocate against practicing, we similarly do not advocate too strenuous a practice. You are human, not a robot.
Many teachers say practice makes perfect. Others go a step further and say, "Perfect practice makes perfect." This is an unrealistic expectation: mistakes happen and we have to accept it. That isn't to say that we must shrug off all mistakes, the important issue is to define what is a careless mistake is and what is an organic one.
When a mistake is made, the first reaction is often one of shame. That culture is so ingrained in our thoughts that it becomes an unhealthily inseparable part of practice.
We advocate getting rid of shame, and replace it with curiosity. Ask yourself, why did I make the mistake? Did I not pay attention? Did I accidentally misread a note? What is the cause of my mistake? If you did everything right and still made a mistake, then it could be an honest mistake. Honest mistakes are different, they are a way of signalling to your body, "Hey, can you give me some attention on this part?" And you must devote a bit extra on it, feel the mistake in you, then learn to overcome it. This is healthy practicing.
Make practicing an anticipate event, rather than a chore. Instead of thinking, "I need to learn this page by today", try thinking "Let's explore this page and the music within." A simple change of mindset is all that you may need. So, to all musicians out there, try it out.
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Till next time.
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