As I’ve said in this space many times before, part of my job as a guitar teacher is to be a cheerleader. In my early years I had a couple teachers (guitar and other subjects) who seemed to take great pleasure in being very derisive of my efforts. I guess the idea was to inspire me to a higher standard and better performance but many years later I realized this attitude was as much based in the ego of the instructor as in his or her attempt to make me better at my endeavors. I vowed to never, ever be that way.
But this gets to the question of just what is “good enough” in your playing. Are mistakes all that important?
Right now I have an older student who is positively stifled by even the smallest mistake he makes. He exclaims loudly his displeasure with his playing – to the point that I wonder what my neighbors think I’m doing to the poor guy! As gently as I can I encourage him to keep going, no matter what, if at all possible. I am a big believer in keeping a steady beat, that being locked into the rhythm of a song will ultimately cure many mistakes in a shorter amount of time overall, than constantly stopping and starting.
Anyway, what should you accept in your playing? Of course we all want to play as close to perfectly as possible but you know what? I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone play “perfectly” whatever the heck that means. OK, maybe Wynton Marsalis, but my guess is even Wynton would be critical of his own playing.
I had a bit of trouble with one small point in the article Tony sent, the idea that mistakes add a certain personality or human element to one’s playing and they should be embraced as such. I think that’s a bit of a cop-out. Yes, we are going to make mistakes but if we accept them as being inevitable it’s just too easy to make the same ones, over and over.
Taking things to the next level – performance – I do agree with a point the writer made: most people listening to someone play either don’t hear or readily overlook mistakes. This gets back to that rhythm thing. Unless your playing has reached train wreck status, KEEP GOING. The only real bond that the listener and the player have is the beat. I would venture that 99% of the audience doesn’t know or care about the difference between straight-ahead G Major chord and a G Major 7th. So if that Maj7 is giving you trouble, vow to practice it later and forge ahead! But if you stop all you’re doing is breaking the bond and calling attention to the mistake.
Put in honest, frequent and consistent practice time. Be sure to ALWAYS back up a couple measures when practicing a difficult change, not just stop, get it right, and continue. If you stop and then continue I guarantee you will make the same mistake the next time that passage or change occurs. Slow down if must but keep the beat rock steady, even at excruciatingly slow speeds. This will cure the problem in a shorter amount of time, overall, than stopping/fixing/moving on. Trust me on this!!
And accept your mistakes only as being moments of enlightenment. Or as one very fine guitar teacher I had years ago once told me: “You’re gonna make the mistakes. You might as well make ‘em and get ‘em out of the way!”
Peace & good music,