Why Do We Make Mistakes?

Posted In: Teaching the Harp

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    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #88219

    I am often thinking about why we make mistakes. When we first play a piece of music, we are already beginning to know it by heart. Memorization comes very quickly, as soon as you can play it correctly and with full understanding, but why doesn’t it stick?
    I think about answers to that question. One answer is that we are testing to see what will happen if we do it differently, and then how would we recover from that, so we are actually making sure it is performably error-proofed. My student suggested it is our creativity rebelling against following orders, the printed music. It could be our childish self being uncooperative with our studious, adult self. It could be avoiding the extra effort needed to play correctly and by heart and ear. I do find playing that way exhausting. But it is possible to know music by listening, reading through it, and then improving one’s recall of it, the experience of it. But it’s not how we are used to working. I had another idea and forgot it. Perhaps one of you found it.

    diane-michaels on #88220

    I attribute a lot of my mistakes (and those of my students, as well) at the earliest stage to what has come before.

    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #88221

    In other words, you are experiencing a conflict between expectation and new patterns. That is a good point, and cleared up by improved reading, and not taking anything for granted. Perhaps that is a danger in the use of too much pattern exercises. I find pieces that seem to set up a pattern and then change it, like the Roussel Impromptu

    Elizabeth Volpé Bligh on #88222

    Often we are in a hurry to learn a piece because a deadline is looming. So we don’t take the time to play every note perfectly and slowly in order to burn the correct patterns into our brains. If we practice mistakes, lo and behold, we learn mistakes. The biggest mistake is to practice tensely! However, with all the most careful preparation in the world, brain cramps can still occur, but they are less frequent. The trick is to know how to recover, without broadcasting to the audience that you are mortified and forever disgraced. As long as our correct notes vastly outnumber our errors, a mistake is not the end of the world.

    unknown-user on #88223

    i don’t agree that studying a work in a short period of time may create more space for errors due to pressure.

    unknown-user on #88224

    I have never found study away from the harp very profitable. I can’t see developing an interpretation in a week. Playing by necessity is one thing. Why didn’t your professor know about the audition sooner? I guess being a quick study is useful for circumstances, but I only like to perform music I have lived with for a very long time. And those are the performances I like to hear. So many harpists I have listened to were not interesting and didn’t know their music in depth. They could play it with no mistakes, but no artistry. Curiously, in more recent years, I’ve seen quite a few who wring and massage their hands between pieces, and have red, swollen-looking knuckles. To me, that says too much tension, not good technique. (This is not about you, Esmeralda.) Out of all those people I heard, Emily Mitchell played very musically, with interpretation.

    unknown-user on #88225

    Dear Saul, you just have to remember that different people act in different manners.

    diane-michaels on #88226

    Re: (i’m talking of composition figures now)

    unknown-user on #88227

    true… but one also has to remember that

    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #88228

    Yes, I see what you mean, and having all your time free for study makes a big difference. You are right in that we are all different, and it is as much my personality as any study that affects how I perceive music. I process it subconsciously all the time. To analyze something, I do have to look at the score by itself sometimes. The thing is, for me, and how I am trained, the craft of music-making on the harp requires so much adjusting of fingering, of tone quality on different notes to bring out this or that element of the music, where to accent, how to manipulate the tempo, and fingering more than anything else is what takes so much time, and I work it all out slowly, according to my nature. It depends on the piece, too. A classical concerto would be far different to learn in a week than Villa-Lobos.

    I was able to learn Scintillation in eight weeks, but only because I was in Maine, with few distractions, if any. And it was still several months more to make it secure. I started harp late, but also intensive study of any kind, but that is my life pattern. I was very bright, and if I had had the right teacher, I might have become a wonderful violinist, but it didn’t happen that way. It is important that we find ways to make harp study available to the young with the best quality of instruction, but it is not easy in this country. No person of great wealth has ever stepped up to improve our conditions.

    It has also taken me many years for all my many interests to recede into the background and let the harp dominate completely. The fact that I compose probably has always affected my ability to concentrate because it is a different force within with its own desires, needs and direction. Now, I am only planning a festival, practicing, composing, copying music, teaching, drawing in my spare time, and trying to keep the rest of my life together. I used to take dance classes every day, sometimes voice lessons, I wanted to try acting classes so much, it is all enriching. There’s just so little time or money. We are all forced to be multi-tasking, it seems, unless in an orchestra.

    unknown-user on #88229

    yeh true.. contrapuntal is very well shown in second movement in particular.. but on the otherhand i still can’t comprehend why he closes the first movement on a clean E minor almost.. there are so many very rich atonal possibilities to create there, which i have to admit i was attempted to change them a good number of times during performance… hehe and don’t remind me of the percussion people… : ) always fighting regarding the timpani rolls being overdone : )

    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #88230

    I was really thinking of those tomtoms. I think that’s what they pound on in the third movement.

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