Wishing You a Speedy Recovery: Learning From Mistakes
As musicians, learning from mistakes can contain a lifetime of struggle. Our percentage of mistakes may even be less than magical compared to a baseball average. The expectation we put on ourselves, and sometimes even others, can be brutally misleading. With this in mind, I have put together some guidance to help push through our humbling, human moments and transform it, as I always encourage… into art.
First, let me tell you one of the worst-case scenario of audiences. When I was working for my degree, us music majors had to undergo what are called ‘juries’ …ugh. The thought of it, even years later, makes my head spin. All of your professors lined up in the back, listening to you solo and run scales while they critique you for a pass or fail… That’s right. No skidding by with a ‘D’ folks. It was terrifying.
As I developed as an artist, I started to realize the public audience is not listening for mistakes. They are listening for an experience. They enjoy listening and watching an artist push through the odds, take it to the edge, and return their souls back to their warm seats. This is not to say that total meltdown will not be noticed by the audience, but all those tiny, unsure moments will be invisible.
How do we keep those tiny moments from tripping us up into total meltdown?
Often times our biggest downfall is getting caught up in our weak spots. There will always be some hurdle to push through when it comes to musical integrity. With this said, there is a time to practice technique and there is a time to practice mistakes. It may appear to be a crazy thought, but when a show is on the books time is not on your side to get your undies in a bunch everytime you miss a note. You have got to gloss over your weak areas as if they were non-existent. This is actually a pretty easy hump to climb over.
Each time you practice your songs use this method:
- Play song 1 completely, regardless of mistakes – preferably with a metronome
- Make note of each moment there was a struggle (i.e. position changes, unsure of a rhythm or a note, unsure of rhythm against singing, etc)
- For a short duration, say 10 minutes, spend deliberate time going over one rough section- preferably with a metronome at a slower tempo
- Play song 1 again, completely, regardless of mistakes… you guessed it – preferably with a metronome
Repeat this method for all songs you intend on performing. Then, play each song straight through your setlist. Do not stop. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.
After some dedicated bulldozing of songs, time to practice being in the moment. This is actually where an non-seasoned musician will likely fail during a performance. By no means is this an easy expectation to achieve. It requires being in the moment as often as you can, even in your day to day life and performing as often as possible.
Before do a final runthrough of your setlist, take a moment to visualize performing:
- What does the stage look like?
- What is the lighting?
- Envision your presence, with your instrument.
- Imagine playing that first note and why it’s important to you.
- Then perform in that mindset.
There maybe mistakes made, but you lived your music. Practicing the art of being in the moment will help you in every aspect of the challenges faced associated with art.
Knowledge is Confidence
This may be an altered version of a typical cliche phrase, but the more you study music, the better you will know how to develop your artistry, how to approach preparation for presentation, and performing in the moment. The results you will see in your growth as an artist will become exponential the further you delve into the study of music.
Don’t Give In
Sometimes, despite all of your effort, you will fall. I have.. numerous times. It can hurt bad enough to leave invisible scars, but do not let it discourage you from starting again. Remember, even your mentors and the artists you idolize have experienced the struggle to overcome human frailty… which only in hindsight, can be viewed as a beautiful moment.
With all of this, I conclude leaving one of the best pieces of advice I received from my horn instructor in college:
~Do not give yourself premature congratulations
Meaning: Do not congratulate yourself for playing through your trouble areas with ease before you reach the end of your performance. You will very likely, and I find always, end up falling on your face on parts you had no issue with before.
Peace. Love. Rock’n’Roll.
Multi-instrumentalist, composer, audio engineer, producer, and recording artist, Lani a’Kea, is a Nashville native who found her passion for music at a young age. Following her path, she continued earning her degree in music from Cumberland University and is also involved in music production for the local DC scene. Now, Lani writes, produces, and performs her own works, fronting The Watch.
Lani a’Kea…Pure Magic.
Photo Credit – Jeff Thatcher Photography