Did you really read that right?
The title says "Don't Mess Up", but the "Don't" is crossed out for a reason, besides just to mess it up.
Instead, the title really is: "Mess Up!"
That's a much better title - focus on that title instead for a few seconds.
Do you feel a little cringe inside when you repeat over and over to yourself, " Mess up, mess up." It gnaws out you a bit, doesn't it?
It's completely contrary to what we as piano students are usually taught. The whole point is to not mess up, isn't it?
In terms of playing the correct notes, the correct rhythms and tempos, and capturing the emotions of the piece correctly - yes we do make it our goal to play all of these things correctly. However...
...that destination can be quite a distance from where we first begin. And most of the time, we try to reach that destination wayyy before we really have landed there.
Every journey needs a map of some sort and every map has some sorts of landmarks on it to help us make sure we're going to the right way all of the time and not getting lost.
Our "mess ups" are our landmarks when it comes to traveling through a new piano piece. We know that the goal is to play the piece right, but a lot of times we're afraid to even start learning it because we're afraid to mess up! Or we avoid a certain section because...we'll mess up. Or we don't want to memorize it because we might forget a part when we're performing it and, mess up.
Oh..it really is all a bit messy!
The truth of the matter is that you are going to mess up! Just accept it...right now and forever more...you will mess up.
So avoiding something because you're afraid to mess it up just makes no sense when you know ahead of time, that you will mess up.
Instead of thinking, "I can't play that page because I know I"ll mess it all up," think instead, "I know I'll probably mess this up the first few times but then it'll be easier and I won't make as many mistakes." Do you see that just by embracing the fact...that you and we all will mess up, you can manage it easier, than if you're goal is to have it all perfect before that's a realistic thing to do.
The very fact that you're willing to go ahead and play in spite of your concerns, will make it easier each time you go through it. That's a fact, just as messing up is a fact. When we change our perspective a bit, lots of new possibilities open up.
Our "mess ups" also show us where we need to work more and put more focus into slower work. The result? Less "mess ups".
There are lots of different reasons that we all have for avoiding things that we can't/don't do well and not just in our piano playing. Those reasons though, aren't as important as the fact that we just give ourselves a break by knowing and accepting that "mess ups" are a part of anything that we do, as long as we're human. We don't have to know why...we just need to recognize when we're feeling self doubt, and realize that it's our interaction with our mistakes that really define how they affect us.
I have a pattern in my own playing of repeating a mistake once I make it for several days in a row. It's like it was already somehow embedded in my subconscious and I have to work so hard to not make that silly mistake each time I play that same passage! Through time I have learned to accept that pattern of "messing up" about myself without judgement. It's now more of a "remember to catch your mistakes tonight and mark them so you don't repeat them tomorrow in rehearsal." I accept that I do this type of patterned messing up, and now I'm more prepared for them and they are fixed a lot quicker than they used to be. My inner conversation has changed and I had to let go of some self-judgement about it too. Do you notice any patterns of mistakes that you make in your own playing?
As we do have to keep our destination in sight at all times, which is, remember - to actually play the piece without mistakes - we learn to use our mistakes instead of avoiding them. They aren't avoidable, but they are manageable and teach us quite a lot if we can listen without judging ourselves. We continue each day to push through our mistakes so that one more passage can be played correctly.
It's not that we want to make mistakes, but rather we know that we'll make them especially in the beginning of learning a new piano piece.
We need them to mark our way through the piece; showing us where to work more at a slower tempo, where we need to refresh our knowledge of time signatures or key signatures, or where we need to get our metronomes out to drill a certain passage of sixteenth notes.
As we use our mistakes to help our growth, we will see really incredible results that bring an added bonus of a healthy does of self esteem! So go ahead...mess up...get a little dirty in the mud...it's OK to get a little muddy on the way to playing with perfection; in fact it's the best way to go!
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