Perfect as an exit door

I just talked about chaos and it pitfalls, let’s now talk about its counterpart, perfection, and what damage it can do to a budding musician.

I know a lot of people who want to study an instrument. It could be drum or piano, which are the instruments I happen to teach, but many are attracted to the guitar or singing. They imagine themselves playing a little bossa nova with a small formation as the bar is closing. Or commanding the reaction of a few thousand adoring fan as they strut the stage. It’s in you imagination, right? No limit!

They come to my studio and tell me that this is a new adventure for them. Great! I show them a few notes to play. They try. They don’t necessarily get it right the first time, and… they get discouraged. They didn’t get it perfectly, you see, so what’s the use trying. The guy they saw on the video that motivated them to go take lesson, well, that guy was playing everything perfectly. How come they’re not able to do that? I can see they’re about to take the exit door of perfection. Since they can do it perfect, they won’t do it at all.

That is too bad. Music is not in the pleasure of doing something perfect. Music is about enjoying the notes you produced. Trust me, even the best musicians think they don’t play well at all. Do you know where, in this good city of Chicago, people are the least satisfied with their job? In the Chicago Symphony Orchestra! That’s right! Those world class musicians think they could do better, much better. They loath some of the performance they did. They strive for an impossible perfection that they’re not sure even exists. And yet, nobody in this beautiful orchestra quits. They keep plowing right on! No stopping them in their quest.

Now, I am not telling you to be frustrated like the musicians in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. No! What I am telling you is that you need to accept the learning process and enjoy it, because, at least at the beginning, that’s all you’re going to do. Later on, you’ll play with bands and perform in front of an audience. But here, in my studio, it’s just silly little old me listening to you, don’t be afraid of showing me the problems and imperfections of your playing: I’ve seen them all, you know. And besides, don’t worry, if you think you’re not doing good, your secret is safe with me.