Making Mistakes and Knowing How to Recover

 Written by Dave Colquitt, Metro Music Makers Instructor

Mistakes happen. As much as we prepare and practice, they’re inevitable. We can say “practice makes perfect,” but there will always be that one moment when our brain goes somewhere else and causes us to fumble around with what we’re playing or singing and just blow it. How do we recover?

Well, there are a lot of different options. First, we can keep going like nothing ever happened. We can keep playing or singing and forget what we just did, continuing the show without interruption. We also have the option to improvise – instantly thinking of what mode of the scale we’re in and playing around a little to get back on track and cover it up. Or, we can break down, make the nastiest face possible, and be mad and grumpy about what we just did (not the recommended response, but it happens).

And then there’s how we respond after the gig: realizing what we did wrong, why it went wrong, and how it can be avoided the next time. If we don’t recognize it, we can’t correct it. If we can’t correct it, it’ll happen over and over and over again. If we want to progress, we must face what happened and take steps so it doesn’t happen again.

As we progress in music, we see why theory and technique are important as performers. We can get around just about anything and make it seem like we were making it our own way, with our own flare. With that mindset, mistakes make for a cool improv piece, and give the song a new dynamic. It has a new sound. It has new life. It becomes something it never was before.

The same can be said about our lives, too. We all make mistakes. We don’t like making them, but they happen. How do we get around life mistakes? Life and music aren’t the same, of course. However, the steps for handling mistakes in both areas are more similar than we probably imagined. We make a mistake (hit a wrong note, say or do the wrong thing), it hurts, and then we do one of several things to try to make up for it. In both aspects, we need to realize what we did. What did we say? What did we do? How do we go about correcting it? With mistakes comes experience, and with that experience, we learn.

Mistakes are going to happen. But don’t be too afraid or closed off to learn from them, because better things always come out of learning, both from our life and musical experiences. Don’t be afraid to turn a mistake into a learning opportunity. Your music – and your life – can be better for it.

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