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Fear Not: Don't Avoid Mistakes

Post by: Chris Taylor

Many musicians recognize that playing their instruments outside of private practice time or music lessons (i.e. recording situations or in live performances) creates distinct moments when we face the decision to either play it safe or reach for more spontaneous and creative musical ideas. In most cases, we stick to what we know and play our instrument on the safer side out of fear that we’ll embarrass ourselves with a wrong note or two. 

To the beginner musician, this kind of fear can even creep into the practice setting. Fear of sounding bad or playing ‘wrong’ can keep us from fully exploring our instruments.  But this choice isn’t made just once or twice. As musicians we will come to this crossroads over and over again each time we play. Even the most masterful musicians and music teachers in the world are forced to decide whether they’ll play from an inventory of practiced and well-rehearsed notes, or risk the uncertainty of reaching for a new musical idea in the moment.

Lately I’ve been exploring a lot of literature broadly regarding musical practice and development, and almost every author I’ve read touches on this theme. That when we play to avoid mistakes we allow fear to keep us on the safe side and limit our musical potential. When we give ourselves permission to make mistakes and take chances, we open ourselves to fully exploring our instruments. And this isn’t just for music: every golfer ends up in the trees sometimes, every basketball player gets called for a few fouls, and so on. The point is to recognize mistakes as crucial to our growth and development.

The literature I previously mentioned includes “Effortless Mastery” by Kenny Werner and “The Music Lesson” by Victor Wooten. These are tremendously helpful books that tackle some of the most complicated aspects of our efforts to grow as musicians. Don’t avoid making mistakes!
 


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