Practice You Can’t Do On Purpose: Recovering From Mistakes

Mistakes happen. It’s one of those truisms like death and taxes. Mistakes happen all the time, especially when playing music. It’s essential that you learn how to recover from them.

Practicing recovery from mistakes is essential, but it’s weird: you can’t do it on purpose, because a mistake is unplanned. You have to wait until a mistake happens in order to practice recovering from one, and there’s the challenge.

Nearly every student I have works on mistake recovery because it’s natural to make a mistake, then back up and hit the passage again as you move on, but that’s exactly what you don’t want to do.

If the mistake is consistent, you do want to stop everything and take enough time to drill away that mistake. If your goal is playing through the tune, you’ve got to keep moving. It’s like stumbling when you’re walking somewhere. You don’t go back and try that step again, right? You just keep moving and if you’re lucky and nimble, you won’t fall on your face.

If at all possible, keep the rhythm/groove going and continue ahead without stopping. A wrong not is less jarring than losing the groove/rhythm. Remember the mistake, so you can go back and smooth it out if necessary, but don’t stop.

You can make mistakes more likely to happen by:

  • going a little faster than normal
  • changing the setting in which you play: posture, room, people, instrument, etc.
  • changing anything, really, will increase errors. Use your imagination.

Good luck!

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