Why you can’t play the right notes

Here’s an idea worth considering: while you are practicing, there are certain things you can do…and certain things maybe you can’t do.

Maybe you can just play the right notes. Try and see if it works. Maybe it will.

Or…maybe it won’t. In that case, is it really something you can do?

OK, how about these:

  • Can you play beautifully and expressively?
  • Can you play the right notes in tempo?
  • Can you play the wrong notes in tempo?
  • Can you lift and drop your arms in tempo?
  • Can you lift and drop out of tempo?
  • Can you sit and listen to the metronome?
  • Can you sit and watch your breathing?
  • Can you just sit and do nothing?
  • Can you just sit?
  • Can you sit at the piano once a week?
  • Can you be OK not playing the piano at all?
  • Can you coexist with whatever your mind is telling you about any of this?

How can you possibly play the right notes when you are so afraid of playing them wrong? You aren’t even focusing on the notes. You are focusing on whether or not you are making mistakes.

How can you practice for 10 minutes when you aren’t OK sitting there for 10 minutes without practicing? Something’s obviously on your mind, pulling you away from where you are. Is your practicing just a distraction from whatever you are really preoccupied by? That doesn’t sound like very effective practicing to me.

If you aren’t 100% certain you can do any of these reliably, how can you work on anything that is more difficult? Maybe it would be worth developing one of these skills. Where would that lead you?

And now an exercise: Pick one of them, which you believe you have a chance of being able to do. Set a timer for 5 minutes and try it. Focus only on that one thing. Notice what distracts you from it. Don’t try to block out the distractions. Can you keep your focus consistent even while the distractions are playing in the background?


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