#4 Being A Musician: Does Practice Make Perfect?

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I have heard this phrase so many times and to be honest I think it’s more of a cliché than a helpful phrase. First up practice makes perfect because the two letters ’P’ make a very simple rhyme, which make it easy to remember, and there is value in the idea if you keep on practicing and eventually through continued effort you will get it right, what I disagree with is the notion of getting it perfect. I would also, never say to you that perfection is impossible but I believe that what makes music so enduring is the sincere lack of perfection, just this week I listened to a busker playing “Under The Bridges of Paris” on the accordion there were some wrong chords and the odd wrong note but that didn’t stop passers by from putting money in his hat maybe they thought he needed it, but it was probably because they were enjoying the performance despite the imperfections, is what he’s playing really that much different from the biggest stars on the planet, if they make a mistake which makes them a little less perfect, would you really get very annoyed because it’s not perfect.

Let me give you a little insight into my practice, now I love music and I love my practice, but I remember working towards my diploma for classical guitar and would take one hour of practice of  a five hour session to memorise my scales, but I continually made mistakes no matter how many times I played them and I was starting to feel like a failure, I taught myself to play the guitar and I was beginning to think that this was finally a bridge to far. One day while playing these scales up and down the fret board I got so annoyed at myself that I lifted my head up, closed my eyes and gave a very loud shout while I was still playing the scales and I was playing the notes perfectly! But it didn’t last long because I started to watch my left hand playing the scales and I started to make the mistakes again. So I stopped analysed what had happened and played a scale again but I stopped looking at my left hand on the fret board, it was like a miracle I managed to play all the scales not perfectly but a lot better indeed, what I learned was this, the most important sense when you are playing music is your ears and not your eyes. I now demonstrate this to my students and ask them to play the scale again and close their eyes they are very reluctant at first but you have to believe me it works every time.

The point here is a simple one, I learned that lesson by making mistakes, once I had learned how to do it I never, never forgot it.

What makes us human is our individuality, the capacity to learn new things, to accept the imperfection in others and our music, which brings so much joy to our life’s  who cares if sometimes it’s a little less than perfect, have fun and enjoy the music.

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