Silly Mistakes

Silly mistake  (noun) – a mistake that is immediately identified as a mistake, which the student self-corrects.

I’m not sure where I first came up with the term ‘silly mistake.’ It’s possible that this is something I picked up from my mother, a third grade teacher but active with music and performance at her school.

We are taught to learn from our mistakes, but mistakes are a little bit different in music.  You make a mistake because of a miscommunication between your fingers, brain and ears.  Most times, a mistake is a clue that you need to slooooow down. Especially a silly mistake.

Silly mistakes happen at that point where you almost know a piece, and your confidence level may be just exceeding your knowledge and comfort level. When you become overconfident, you relax, mentally, and speed up, physically,  and every so often, there is a disjoint between what you think you are doing and what you are actually doing.  And that’s where it happens – a silly mistake.

As SOON as you make a silly mistake, you come to the immediate realization of, “Hey!  That’s not right!”  And you self-correct.  The silly part comes when you realize it’s a mistake.  If you knew it was a mistake, why was it made in the first place?

How do you fix a silly mistake?  That immediate self-correction is NOT a fixed silly mistake.  It is the end of the silly mistake.  To fix such a mistake, you need to go over first the small section of the passage where the mistake was made, raelly zero in on it.  Once you can confidently and securely get through the silly mistake, then you zoom out a little and work on the section from a few measures before to a few measures after the silly mistake, because you have to practice getting in and out of the section.

Once you can do this smoothly, then you can go back to running through the whole piece.  The whole process of fixing a silly mistake is a short one, if the student is focused.  It may take anywhere from 5 minutes to maybe even a whole hour or, well, who really knows, depending on the mistake and on the student.  BUTTTTTTTTT.  The alternative, simply continuing on and playing the entire piece from start to finish until all mistakes are fixed, is quite a longer process, and could take days, if it is successful at all.