Is it possible to play perfectly?

Do you want to play perfectly? Would there be an advantage to being perfect? (practice makes perfect)

An 8-year-old student of mine was experiencing some anxiety about playing. Quite a lot, actually. He would not even put his hands on the piano to start playing.

“Are you afraid of making a mistake?” I asked.

He indicated that he was.

“What if there are no mistakes? What if anything you do is perfect?”

“I can’t be perfect,” he replied. “No one can. But it’s important that you try your best.”

“What does perfect mean?”

“It means you play all the right notes.”

“That seems like a high expectation, doesn’t it? What if you change the meaning of ‘perfect’ to be something that is within your reach?”

This seemed to make him uncomfortable.

“No, you can’t do that,” he concluded.

“What if we try, just as an experiment? What if I said the definition of ‘perfect’ was that you simply manage to play the piece from beginning to end? Would you like to try that?”

He played the piece.

“Well, how was that?” I asked.

“I had trouble with… “

“Was it perfect?”

“No… “ He caught himself, and smiled nervously. “Well, according to your ‘perfect’, it is, but not really.”

“Why can’t we make up our own definition of perfect?”

“You just can’t do that.”

Can’t you?

Who makes the rules here, anyway?


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