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Part 4: Mistakes

How is one to treat the inevitable mistakes and muscular and cognitive errors which visit upon a learning discipline? Often, when I see my students make mistakes, I see them make value judgments on their own abilities to perform, or to learn material. As a result, I asked myself, what happens within myself when I make mistakes, especially in performance, in public, and what might be different in my own approach at these moments from the approach of my students? The greatest difference seems to be this: whereas the students generally blame themselves or their learning abilities, I blame the guitar for not doing as I wish, or I blame my hands, for the trouble that they cause me in trying to translate my musical wishes into the real world. I found that I did something else as well which is different than the approach of most players when they make mistakes. There is an old adage that when you make a mistake, you should play the mistake three times, and it will no longer be perceived as a mistake. I will sometimes do this, but very rarely. I usually don’t want to hear a mistake played again. I found instead, that after I play a wrong note or hit a gaffe, I tend to scold the guitar and my hands by playing a somewhat angry musical flourish. This serves to announce to myself and to the audience that I know what is going on, that the mistake is caused by something other than myself (in this case the guitar), and that I am not going to put up with it. Thus I found something rather remarkable which takes place whenever I make a musical mistake which actually increases the perception by the audience of my command over my instrument.

2001 Richard Lloyd and

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