Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Whatever You Do, Don't Stop!

My husband, Earl, told me I should post this. It has to do with playing through your mistakes. So many times, beginners stop every time they make a mistake. Many times they will then start the entire song over again because they can't pick up from where they left off, or because they think it has to be perfect all the way to the end. If you start over from the beginning because you are lost, keep practicing until you don't have to do that. If you are starting over just because the song wasn't perfect, don't! Especially banjo players! Think about how many notes you are playing in a song. It is impossible that you will play a song perfectly every time, especially as the new songs you learn get longer and harder. I explain it to my students like this:

You are driving down the highway during peak traffic at 55+ mph and miss your exit. Now, you're not going to put on the brakes, back up in the middle of the highway and take your exit, are you? You will have to find another way to get where you are going, even if you have to turn around. You don't need to go back home and start the trip over again, you just need to find the best way to keep going from where you are.

Last Friday night at Perk's, I was playing the minor version of Turkey in the Straw. If I don't play this regularly, I tend to make mistakes in it. It's just one of those songs that I have to keep "on top of" to play good. Several of my students that can play this particular version were there to listen. Well, I had not played this in a while and I made a number of mistakes in it. Mistakes which I thought were pretty obvious. Now, in talking to one of those particular students, I found out that he (Rick) heard the mistakes, but that he thought I was just playing another version. I improvise all the time when I play, so you never know what I might play. Rick has been playing banjo for a while, and he has a good ear, so to hear him say that he wasn't sure there were mistakes was a good lesson for all my other students to hear. If I had winced or made faces at my wrong notes, or if I had stopped, there would have been no doubt that I really messed up. In the end, I made it through the song and no one really knew I played some notes I didn't want to.

So remember, keep playing no matter what! Don't go back for missed notes. If you're lucky, what you play will still "work" and sound okay even if it's not what you meant to play. Keep everyone guessing!

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