Monday, 11 August 2014

The Right Notes

This blog is titled 'The Wrong Notes' for several reasons:

Firstly, the chances of me making mistakes of any kind in this blog are pretty high. With a title like that, I feel like I've got them covered.

Secondly, in my rather humble opinion, it's kind of catchy.

Most importantly however, it is a reminder to me to stop being a totally idiotic perfectionist...

I am an aspiring musician, and as such, my sad little life evolves around practicing for hours on end. Most of the time, I balls up the piece the first few times and then slowly, with practice, a melody begins to magically appear. I play the same two notes a thousand times until I finally get them right. After that, I proceed to rehearsing the entire bar, then the phrase and so on.

The feeling of accomplishment when you finally get a piece to sound like music is incredible. But sometimes, that feeling just doesn't seem to want to appear. Sometimes, even after hours of intense practice, those same two notes still won't sound. Other times, I'll make a different sequence of mistakes every time I play, making it impossible to select a focus to improve. The wrong notes just keep rearing their ugly little heads.

Of course, in practice, the wrong notes offend my ears, and my ears alone. So, whilst the neighbours may disagree, my mistakes are not a major issue. But when you perform in front of an audience, those tiny little mistakes that the audience didn't notice and that you'd never made before....well, they really matter.

They don't matter in a 'I'm a terrible musician and my life is now over' kind of way. But they niggle in the back of your mind, helpfully pointing out to you that you so could have done better.

The wrong notes have always bothered me, up until recently when I found a new way to view them. Some people say that they did play the right notes, just not in the right order. But that makes the assumption that there is a 'right' order. Of course, if a piece of music has a sequence of notes, those notes are supposed to be played in that order. But if a little wrong note creeps in, what does it mean?

I think that these notes are meant to be there: as surprises. They're like the little paint flecks that only the artist notices, but that give the painting a sense of uniqueness. If we wanted perfection we would programme computers to provide it. The truth is that mistakes are what make us real. They represent our nerves, our fears, our hopes and our thoughts. They tell people why we are doing what we are doing, and why we need them to know about it.

So, I don't think that there is any such thing as a 'wrong note'. There are 'unexpected' or 'surprise' notes, but every note is a right one.

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