Mistakes? We all do them (Of course!!!)
In the last couple of weeks I had the same question from several students so I decided to write an article about this topic.
I was working with these students on three different solos, all of them from a live recording. I don’t know if you ever noticed that now on YouTube you have a new option that let you modify the speed of the song you are listening to. You can make it 0.75, 0.5, or 0.25 of the original speed or, why not, you can make it double the speed. When you listen to a solo at half of the original speed you can get all the little details related to the picking, accent, bendings and that’s amazing!…but at the same time it is like you are looking through a microscope. You can get little imperfections, mistakes. I wasn’t surprised at all to hear those little imperfections but my students really were shocked about those. They asked me many times if maybe the recording was ruined or the YouTube quality wasn’t good enough to hear the solo in “all its perfection”. Guys, nobody is perfect. Nobody. Not Pat Metheny, not Eric Clapton, not Steve Vai. They are great and that is the perfection, the highest level of perfection you can get. From my point of view, the goal of a musician, no matter the genre you are playing, is pushing yourself to the limit every time you play. When you push yourself to the limit you will do a mistake, hopefully more than one. Playing without pushing yourself means you don’t want to risk, and without a little bit of risk there is no growth. Do you want to be a better musician? So risk, do mistakes, grow!
We are so used to listening to music recorded in a studio that we think it is always possible to play the same thing, in the same perfect crystallized way. In a studio they play the same phrase 50 times, they cut, they paste, they erase mistakes. Did you know that? What you are listening to is fake or, at least, not 100% real.
All the musicians and artists we admire so much are not perfect. They are great, original, and real. It’s not because they play with no mistakes that we admire them, right? We admire them because there is passion in what they do. They risk everything to be better.
I would like to finish with a last thought that is more like a memory actually. I still remember a concert at the Blue Note in Milan. Scofield trio, with Bill Stewart and Steve Swallow. Scofield starts playing a solo, he has an idea and he tries so hard to follow it till the point he does a mistake…he screams “Nooo…”, he smiles and he keeps going. I still remember the phrase he was playing, the attitude and the joy behind that mistake he made.