“Note-perfect” isn’t always “perfect!”

I was teaching a piano student on Skype this morning, and he played a written-out piece he’d been practicing this past week. He’s been playing piano for about 2 years, and in one of the measures his finger hit a wrong note and he was able to recover instantly, in real time, without interrupting the flow or spirit of the music.

After he finished the piece, I commented “perfect!”

He looked slightly confused and pointed out that it wasn’t “perfect,” since he had mistakenly played a wrong note. (This is understandable, right?)

I then explained that to my mind, most note-perfect performances are far from “perfect.” Many note-perfect performances, some of my own included, are stiff, overly-careful, and non-musical. All in the name of “perfection.” But it’s a false perfection. Sometimes it’s not even music.

Instead, how about a well-prepared, passionate musical performance wherein the pianist can instantly and seamlessly deal with occasional mistakes while bringing a musical piece to life? I’ll choose this every time, and it’s exactly how my student played his piece during our lesson together.

In other words: “perfect!”

Enjoy the journey, and “let the music flow!”


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