I’m a lucky person on a lot of fronts, especially since I’ve experienced the gift of music my whole life. Throughout many years as a guitarist and even during my tenure at ShoreTel, I’ve been fortunate enough to play on lots of different stages, with lots of phenomenal musicians.
In free-form or improvisational music, you learn not to play context damaging or “offensive” sounds and rhythms when performing with others. This can be a great thing because it enables you to play with lots of different types of people and musical styles on a whim(and look cool) but it can be a knockout punch to your creative sensibility. It can also really impact your ability to learn anything new.
I noticed this damaging effect right away when trying to learn piano in this year’s School of Rock Program. When I sat down to learn, I noticed that often I wouldn’t be able to continue through passages of music fluidly as my hands would freeze – literally paralyzed since my trained musical ear knew that the places my fingers were about to be would cause wrong tones. Even though it was only practice! I found that my progress was sluggish, and the act of playing was unexciting.
My instructor encouraged me to fight through the decision paralysis and make the bad notes sound out, that this was just practice and that eventually my musical ear would guide my fingers correctly to the intervals on the keyboard I was intending, and that all would be well. She was right. Just a few weeks later I’m still making some bad sounds, but fewer and fewer each week. I know eventually they’ll be gone, and I’m happy to report that I’ve got 5 songs under my belt that I’m working on.
You’ve got to allow yourself the correct time during practice to feel mistakes so that the correct behaviors become fluid and natural. At least that’s the way it was for me during this musical learning journey. In my case it wasn’t “perfect practice makes perfect” as they say – that just slowed my progress down.