Why “whoopsadaisy” may be the most important word for piano students to learn

I don’t know why, but when the majority of piano students play a wrong note during their piano lessons, they immediately stop playing and say “sorry.” I’ve even seen them do this while playing informally for their friends.

“Sorry” for what? For trying hard? For being human? Why apologize?

I used to do this too, and gradually realized how ridiculous it is. Does a baseball player say “sorry” every time his bat misses the ball? Or a soccer player when she misses a shot? No, because they know that statistically they will miss most of the time. They need to miss in order to succeed the next time. Musicians, like athletes, thrive when they accept the fact that they are not robots. Human beings play both right notes and wrong notes, and the more we accept this, the healthier our attitudes will be. The spirit of the music will survive an occasional technical imperfection.

I have a little fun with this when I give piano lessons. If a student keeps saying “sorry” every four measures, I tell them: “From now on, you can’t say ‘sorry’ anymore. You have to say ‘oops’ or ‘whoopsadaisy’.” And then I insist upon it. At the first sign of a “sorry,” I’ll smile and say “Don’t you mean ‘whoopsadaisy’?” They usually giggle a little and start the music again. After they say “whoopsadaisy” a few times, they begin to have fun with it and eventually just smile and keep playing when they make a mistake. And believe me, it’s a lot nicer to listen to them play when they’re not apologizing every few seconds.

Try it for yourself. The next time you play a wrong note, smile and say “whoopsadaisy.” Verbally. Out loud. After a while, your playing will improve and you’ll have more fun. Guaranteed 🙂

If you’d like to share your love of piano improv with a friend, have them play along with this easy video.

Get my free ebook: Left Hand Techniques for Jazz Piano
You’ll also get my weekly jazz newsletter with practice tips and inspiration

Leave a Comment

Sign up for Blog Updates