Perfectionism with Musicians

Perfectionism= Striving to meet standards which are impossible for humans to reach.

Is this a common flaw among musicians? Undoubtedly!

This week I was painting my house- outside and inside, which was no mean feat and I now have a new found respect for professional painters and decorators! I climbed up a ladder to the top of the house to paint under the guttering below the roof. Once I was on the last rung of the ladder, I decided that if there was a slight drip of paint here or there or a tiny smudged part or missed centimetre square of bare wood, I was going to let myself off with it! I usually would not be so leniant with myself if making mistakes but life at 15 feet high painting with my non-writing hand, balancing carefully despite a wasp buzzing around me made me accept flaws as ‘life.’

Perfectionism brings me to the topic of practising and playing a musical instrument. I was strictly trained in some instruments more than others and I observe my own ‘self-talk’ with regards to practising musical instruments. Having reflected on the attitudes of my own music tutors I hope to take on board their positive teaching methods while using my own style of teaching. One thing I have come to appreciate (not only in painting) but in playing drums, piano and bass is that there is no fun gained in seeking perfection. Only strife and disappointment. There has to be a balance between sounding excellent and playing with enjoyment, conviction and passion. A few slip notes in a piano sonata are not really going to make the listener think you are a failure! All is not lost. The overall beauty shines through and as humans, we are far from perfect. I love what Ludwig Van Beethoven said;

To play a wrong note is insignificant; to play without passion is inexcusable.

Ludwig Van Beethoven

I may have started painting pain stakingly perfectly in some areas of the house but when I leaned above my head to paint in the much harder to reach areas I felt my humanity pounding. I am not perfect. Far from it! I cannot be perfect, though I may try my best at times. When I play piano/drums/bass … I play as passionately as I am able to but of course there is always a learning curve and today I have better accepted that I will never be Mozart! But I am Suzanne and I hope I will never lose the determination and joy of playing with enthusiasm.

I recently heard a lady introducing herself to me as a ‘recovering perfectionist.’ She is a classical pianist. I could completely empathise with her and if I was honest, that introduction could have been mine as well. I hope to hold onto acceptance of my human nature while enjoying learning to play music without an inner negative monologue working against me that expects perfection. I think high standards serve me well, but the impossible standard, well, that has to be let go of!

One reply to “Perfectionism with Musicians

  1. Your point here is so important. It’s easy to drain a love for music out of a student by going overboard with perfection. Arthur Rubinstein was a great pianist because of the passion he brought to his playing, at times exchanging more passion for a few minor mistakes.

    Liked by 1 person

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