Something I read in another post inspired me to share this thought.
I have recently developed a new personal motto when it comes to playing music:
Music does not need to be perfect to be enjoyed.
Sometimes I forget that!
What do you think?
Posted In: Performing
It’s the ear of the listener…and they hear it differently from what we hear.
I am primarily a wedding, dinner, etc. harpist, (so maybe it’s not the same for recitalists) and I’ve gotten some of my best compliments when I felt I had messed up.
ex: Once I messed up part of Ceilito Lindo, and this lady came up with tears in her eyes and told me it was the most beautiful Ceilito Lindo she’d ever heard. She was serious! I kept a straight face and thanked her.
Sylvia, a similar thing happened to me recently. I began an all-memorized Christmas concert with H. Renie’s Conte de Noel (Tale of Christmas) which I have played countless times and performed many times without making a mistake. Suddenly, about eight measures from the end of the piece, I had a memory slip–I could not find the chord in the right hand! I was able to improvise, thankfully, and I created what must have been a believable ending to this beautiful piece. Of course, I was mortified and tried not to show it, smiled at the audience, and performed the rest of the concert. Afterward, a nice lady came up to me and said that the Renie was her FAVORITE part of the entire program! This definitely proved to me that “Music does not have to be perfect to be enjoyed!”
I keep having to remind myself of this as well. When we play, we’re listening not only to the instrument itself, but to the idealized version of it we WANT to get, playing silently for us alone in our heads. What we think of as a “mistake” is sometimes just a deviation from that mental image of what we think of as perfect.
The thing is, the audience can’t hear that idealized mental image of the sound, so they aren’t comparing what they hear to anything. They’re taking what comes into their ears and judging it on its own merits. Once again, comparison is the birthplace of dissatisfaction.
What we consider mistakes and what the audience does are two very different things. Not keeping time is more disturbing than missing a note. Not maintaining your mood and energy is more noticeable than dropping a bar. It is possible to control mistakes if you can anticipate when they are about to happen. I once observed a famous singer simply changing the notes or leaving out words while singing, but maintaining everything else so it was unnoticeable except to someone who perfectly knew the song. And even then, if you are totally convincing, they’ll think you have it right and they had it wrong. Play with conviction no matter what, and smile, don’t look stressed out.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences. This is what I was hoping for. I wanted to wait to share my own experience so as not to ‘gum up’ my original post.
It started about a year ago when I was asked to play piano to accompany singing in church. I was far from perfect–and still am–but someone said, “well, you do a lot better than I could!” Sometimes I am basically sight reading it as they sing because I didn’t get the selections beforehand, other times I get them in time to practice. (I’ve had a few ‘train wrecks’ ). It has improved my sight reading for sure. 🙂 I realize I may not be a concert pianist or harpist, but what I can do is still worth something.
Second, my christmas performance…I asked a friend of mine who plays the violin to duet with me on a couple christmas songs for a church party. She hadn’t played much in a long time, and this was just a little out of her comfort zone. She didn’t feel very good about her performance; she had missed a note or two and her bow bounced a little once. But she did comment to me that as she spoke with people about it later she began to feel better about it. People loved it despite what she perceived as unforgivable moments. 🙂
Those who are perfectionists (like me) will understand….sometimes I am too hard on myself, not appreciating my own efforts as being my best, especially if I made a mistake. It can be hard to dismiss the thought that it could/should have been better, especially if i played it well during practice.
It’s like Saul said…the confidence of the performer goes a long way to glossing over anything that wasn’t done as written/practiced. But even if the audience does notice a mistake, they usually are very forgiving.
Andelin, thanks for sharing this! I just watched a video of one of my Christmas concerts this year, and it did indeed make me feel better about my performance. All of my “imagined” mistakes seemed not so bad as I actually saw and listened to myself. My sweet wife had assured me that it was very good, and she said “now do you believe me?” I have enjoyed reading this blog. My best to you, Balfour