Here’s a question I get from a lot of readers:
“Adam, I can’t seem to get through a piece without making mistakes.”
Well, neither can I!
There are a few tips and insights I can give you though – on how I practice and “problem solve.”
If you want to do a “perfect performance” like CD playback, that may NEVER ever happen. It is a false concept that performances are mistake free.
CD’s are edited to perfection.
Here are 8 tips to help you solve the “making mistakes” problem:
1. Get into a Flow & Groove.
I have noticed that many students are not “down in the pocket” enough, and this actually can be the very cause of a mistake.
Once you are deeply in a flow, the top layer of details often sorts itself out because
you are playing in an entirely different “zone”.
You think “no mistakes” makes it perfect, but the audience thinks “groove and melody” make it perfect. 🙂
2. As you practice, Slow it WAY down.
If you are running head first into a wall over and over, using your head as a battering ram, it’s time to check “where is the doorknob?”
Doing something VERY slowly can uncover the solution, like a knot that kinda undoes itself.
3. Someone else’s solution may not be your solution.
If you can’t play the exact fingerings that someone else does (on the sheet music), that’s ok.
My entire repertoire is based on a process of:
- Discovering what is easy for me
- Eliminating what’s impossible for me
I still try to practice things out of my “comfort zone”, but to make a piece
bullet proof for stage – I make it a “custom fit” for me.
4. Check your “form” and basic technique.
I check myself for “good form” all the time. If you are not sure about what makes good form and technique, grab a few lessons with a good player (perhaps classical) in your area so she can spot check your playing.
For example, I mess with different hand positions all the time, different angles,to see what abilities each position “unlocks.”
Maybe a fix to a problem is due to an overall technique adjustment.
5. Can you SING what you are trying to play?
This should probably be #1. Usually if I can sing something I can play it.
Muscles understand the musical intention and obey. If you don’t understand what & why you are playing something, you are WAY more likely to screw it up.
6. Try a new fingering.
I spend most of my time searching for better sounding and easier fingerings.
For example, if there is one note you are not playing right:
- Try different LH fingers – 1,2,3,4 on your left hand
- Try all RH fingers p, i, m, a
- Can you hammer or pull off instead?
- Try the same note on a different string
- Or try it on the same string…
- Play it with a downstroke or upstroke?
- Play it as a harmonic?
- If it’s a chord can you leave notes out or add notes to make it easier?
- Can you change the note or notes which lead UP to mistake, to set yourself up better?
- Do you understand the harmony?
7. Are you playing too quietly?
Playing too quietly means you are not getting enough of “a piece of the string” under your finger. It’s like sports – you have to find just the right amount of force.
When you play too lightly, the physical confidence is greatly diminished.
Often people tell me I play light. In some of my early videos I did, but now I really pull the strings right to the point where they sound good, and it feels more “sure” on stage. I’m still learning.
8. How do you react to your mistakes on stage?
Can you let go of beating yourself up about it?
Can you let go and stay in the flow?
It’s over…let go of it.
A mistake for you is like riding a bike over a bump. It is immediately over. No one even knew it happened.
Just smile, don’t show your frustration.
Mistakes are your warning signs, so you know what to practice & investigate – tomorrow in your practice room.
A student recently told me “Adam, you played ‘Get Back’ flawlessly on the concert!”
Well, no I didn’t!
But here’s how I put the 8 tips to use…
- I stayed in the groove and flow
- I work on where the bottom is in the groove every day
- I work on a good right hand position where bass & melody sound clear
- I am willing at all times to change fingerings to an easier solution
- I listen to the difference in sounds between each finger on the RH
- I know that “mistakes” fly by quickly so I don’t go crazy when I make small mistakes
- I keep practicing the piece – It’s never done.
Hope this helps you in uncovering solutions and being forgiving to yourself. Enjoy the process…we are all on the journey together…
Have an idea or tip to share? Please comment below!