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“SOME ADVICE FOR MUSICIANS ON HOW TO DEAL WITH MISTAKES IN A MUSICAL PERFORMANCE”

Siiigh—We’ve all done it: We’re in the middle of a solo, or a melodic line, and we hit a bad note/or sing a bad note/voice cracks etc UGH. So painful right?

“Oh well” we think, maybe no one heard it.

Sadly, some times this is the only thing you can do when you screw up. This is especially true if you are playing a famous melody that people are familiar with, and you hit a wrong note?

Well—you’re basically stuck with that mistake.

But even then, in the most “rigid” music situations there are ways a wrong note can be fixed, and even made into something great—and there a few easy tricks that you can do to make that bad choice into one that doesn’t sound so bad, and in some cases might even sound better than the one you were trying to hit. Lets look at a few easy ones:

1) “PLAY A CHROMATIC SCALE TIL YOU GET TO THE RIGHT NOTE”

On piano, this really works well. Its an easy fix, even in a famous song when you are playing in a major key—-If you listen to Mozart, you will hear that he made these ” Mistakes” part of his style. In fact , many of his most famous melodies have spots where he seems to have hit a wrong note—-and then Mozart moves it up one half step and you go “Ahhhh—that was nice.”

This method Mozart used is similar to the technique many country western and bluegrass players use—like Mozart,they outline major and minor chords and play the “Off notes” as a way to bounce rhythmically from one chord change to the next.

I am pretty sure Mozart’s use of this technique  came from his experiences playing for people often at a young age.

Another musician who discovered this trick(but in a very different way/different style) was Charlie Parker.

Parker once said once he realized he could play all the “higher intervals” as long as he had the changes in his head and landed every so often on the “Main note.”

That’s basically the same thing as what I am talking about, and what Mozart did—but in Charlies case, the chords are moving faster and there are more 7ths and 9ths etc——-so what Charlie did was to see the chord structure in his head and then “fill in the spaces in between the main notes of the chord” as he improvised.

These are all different ways of using the chromatic scale as a connecting tissue to fix bad notes/make them “Jazzy” etc

2)”SWOOP IT”

Can’t do this on the piano—but If possible/your instrument permits it,you can always “swoop up” or down to the right note.

A clarinet,trumpet or sax can do this easily—if you have a guitar with a tremolo bar, you can fix a lot of mistakes this way as well/make it part of the solo.

Also, as a vocalist you can do it as well.

In fact,Frank Sinatra made it part of his style:

EXAMPLE: “I did it (swoop up) Myyyyyyyyyyyy(swoop down) waaaaaaaaaay”

3)”REPEAT IT”

This is basically the “I meant to do that” method.

Now to be fair, in a song with really simple harmony, this will probably not work that well—in fact, it usually wont work at all——-but when playing improvisatory music(Blues, jazz, funk, or even some rock music) you can make ” wrong note” sound cool , ” experimental” or “adventurous” by repeating it several times/maybe in a different rhythm—–like you meant to play it.

(The most obvious example of this I can think of is Thelonius Monk, who did it all the time. Many Blues guitarists and rock guitarists do this as well, as do many other instrumentalists)

The fact is, repetition makes any note have a life of its own, even if it isn’t the note you wanted to hit——- Especially if you do it rhythmically and don’t lose the flow of the music and eventually “get back on track” later.

Repeating a mistake also gives your brain time to think of how to fit it in with the chords that are coming up later on in the song. It gives you time to think.

Of course, this is not a complete list by any means. There are many, MANY other tricks to working your way out of “a flub.”some that will occur to you right at the moment, once you get good at improvising.

The most important thing to remember is to always consider the music you are playing when choosing how to fix a flub—TASTE is the word.

For example: If you are playing a rehearsed solo, or a famous melody, you are either going to have to improvise on the spot until you get back to the notes you rehearsed and try to find “substitute notes” that fit in with the chord structure/sound similar to what you meant to play——OR just try to get back on track as quickly as you can and hope no one noticed .

Repeating the wrong note will not be an option. LOL

But in an improvisatory situation, you have a lot more options, naturally, and it will be up to your musical taste and intelligence how you do it/which technique you use.

Anyways: These are just a few of the many tricks that will help you work your way out of a mistake/wrong chord and turn it into something cool—or at least, less lame.

One more “note”:

I can tell you from experience to that most people will NOT hear your mistake! So the other important thing to remember if you screw up on stage is to keep a cool head and BREATH.

SO many musicians(I have done this too, so I know) stop breathing when they make a mistake!! They panic—and that’s when a mistake can turn into a disaster.

Also—-SMILE damn it. A smile hides a 1000 sins. I’ve screwed up songs terribly and started laughing I was so appalled at what I played—and you know what?

People see me smiling and they smile and applaud.

Smiling and breathing will keep you calm and help you THINK your way out of a mistake—and believe me, NOTHING feels better when you are performing than saving yourself when you made a mistake and dodging the grief you feel afterwords when you know you screwed up and others saw it.

So in sum: Don’t frown and look nervous when you make a mistake—laugh, breath—– and try some of the techniques I mentioned above.

And don’t forget to rock n roll every night and party every day duuude! Sex drugs and rock n rolllllll!

Ohhhhh—–oops. Sorry. hmmm–That was a flub. I could’ve ended this little essay better!

Lets see: (Bends computer) Hmmm—that didn’t help. Its still there.

I could write it again? NO, that wont help! . AAAHH! None of my musical advice is helping here !!!

Oh well—it works when you play music trust me!!

Ah HAAAAA! 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 That’s the ticket. Make a joke about it! Smiley faces!!!

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One comment on ““SOME ADVICE FOR MUSICIANS ON HOW TO DEAL WITH MISTAKES IN A MUSICAL PERFORMANCE”

  1. I can still remember the night (in eight grade) where the school choir was preforming a concert at a distant school. We were singing a traditional song (a rather easy one) and we just couldn’t hit the right notes to his (our teacher/conductors) satisfaction.
    Do you want to know what he did?
    Well, I’ll tell you anyway…

    He stopped the song, explained to the audience that we were making a fool of him and a mockery of the song and then had us start the song over again.

    While not a mistake with the instrument part of the music, it is one that I remember to this day.

    Oh the shame of it all.

    Like

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