As humans and musicians, we all make mistakes. Everyone from absolute beginners to high-level professionals are subject to the occasional mess-up and each of us reacts to our imperfections differently. Some musicians are able to recover and move on seamlessly from mistakes, while others allow slight errors to affect their confidence.
The way a musician thinks about mistakes has a huge impact on how they develop as a performer. When musicians are overly-critical of themselves, it can prevent them from being creative and venturing outside of their comfort zone. Mistakes are a necessary part of growing as a player, and without developing the ability to recognize and learn from our gaffes, we miss out on opportunities to improve.
Next time you misstep during a performance, think about what you can take away from the experience. Were there any nice moments or ideas you can use or expand upon in your next performance? What exactly caused the error, and how can you prevent it from happening again?
Remember, play the right notes, but play with feeling and with fearlessness. Focusing on soul and emotion is infinitely more important than focusing on perfection, and mistakes are an invaluable learning tool for any musician. Accept your mistakes as learning lessons, and know that you’re in good company. Some of the most famous acts of all time have messed up big time. From studio slips, to forgotten lyrics, to technical glitches, everyone deals with mistakes from time to time. Here are five of our favorites:
Van Halen - “Jump” (Live) - The synth track plays back in the wrong key during this live performance, resulting in 6 minutes of awful noise.
Paul McCartney - “We Can Work It Out” (Live) - Paul messes up the lyrics not once but twice during this acoustic performance, restarting the song both times.
The Police - “Roxanne” - The seemingly random piano chord at 0:04 and laughing at 0:06 were caused by Sting accidentally leaning on a piano during the recording session.
Billy Joel - “We Didn’t Start the Fire” - Billy forgets some of the words of the second verse, and is forced to start the song over.
Led Zeppelin - “Baby I’m Gonna Leave You” - Beginning at 2:20 you can hear a dim voice that is actually Robert Plant singing along with John Bonham’s drum track. There was no way to remove Robert’s voice from the tracks, so it stayed in.