Lately I’ve been thinking of a tendency I sometimes have when I’m playing music, to stop whenever I make a mistake and start over from the beginning, in the attempt to have a “perfect” run-through of the song. It’s a terrible habit, really. I mean, the process of carefully going through a section of music over and over until I learn it better is a good and necessary part of playing well, but giving in to the idea that a performance is no good because of one mistake—or multiple mistakes—is something else entirely.
There’s a big difference between trying to play well and trying not to mess up. The former involves passion and dedication; the latter involves fear and the pressure of living up to an external standard. The truth is that I’m human, and I will inevitably make mistakes, even when I try my hardest not to. But I don’t want my music to become cold and clinical because I am too afraid to play boldly and risk wrong notes. My best performances usually come when I’m filled with emotion, not at all concerned with messing up but more focused on being expressive. Wrong notes come, but when they are integrated within the melodies of a song played with passion, they add character and grit.
My goal is not to learn to play instruments as well as a computer can. I want to play music with the full weight and depth of the human experience, and in particular of my own human experience, my unique perspective. If I want my music—and my life—to be rich and genuine, then I will make mistakes, but I don’t have to fixate on them. As long as the melody is rooted within my heart, most of the notes will land right on cue. And when I learn to enjoy the process—even the mistakes—somehow it makes the whole thing worth it.