When I was a young piano student, I often heard "Practice makes perfect". I have no doubt that one of the reasons I had a history of choking in performance was because of the pressure to be perfect. Notes, rhythm, dynamics, shaping - everything had to be flawless. Well, in a live performance situation, "flawless" is next to impossible to achieve. A drafty room, a sticky key, a new piece, an audience member unwrapping a cough lozenge wrapper just a little too loudly, a child in the back row asking his mom "Is it over yet?", a guest wandering over and startling the performer - such factors lead to the "unexpected" happening in a performance.
Now, as a teacher and a professional musician who plays at wedding and parties, I have unlearned the mindset for perfection. Oh, I still try to get everything to the best of my ability but now I strive for painting a musical picture as vividly as possible. I heard a motivational speaker say "strive for excellence, not perfection." What I've learned from playing at numerous gigs is that most people don't know you've made a mistake unless you draw attention to it. Keep going, smile and don't miss a beat whatever you do.
I bring this up because I am practicing for a couple of gigs taking place next week. With a full studio, it's hard to find time to practice. I try to squeeze in a couple of gig songs a night after teaching. Gigging has taught me to embellish and fake it. How liberating to not have to play anything exactly as written. How necessary it is to embellish and fake so that I can play through 40 - 50 songs for one of the gigs.
The only problem is, if I play some classical music after the gig material, I find it hard to play anything "straight."
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