It's okay to have off-days. No matter how terrible or wonderful you think you are, you're human. Our society loves putting labels on things, and we certainly have favoritism at the forefront of our culture. When I was younger, I was a huge fan of Tiger Woods (pre-adulterous days....or pre-i/we-knew-about-the-adulterous-days-...-days). Even after the adultery, I'm still a fan of his in regard to his work ethic and skill set. He won more major championships at a young age than anyone in history, and is still only second to Jack Nicklaus. Even after all of those wins, who was I rooting for every tournament? Tiger. Lots of people root for the underdog, but I wanted the guy on top to keep winning. Why? Well, I'd read his book, "How I Play Golf". It's an amazing book, no matter how good or bad you are at golf. He was my golf guide. I had studied his swing, so to see it in action every tournament I watched just ingrained my admiration for his skills deeper and deeper. But, look at Tiger now. What a loser right? I mean, when's the last time he won a tournament? He's rebuilding his swing again? Wait, another injury? Give me a break. These kinds of thoughts go through so many people's minds. Why? I think it's our superhero-obsessed society being totally disappointed in a previous superstar. But, there's something so wrong with that. Does the fact that Tiger is losing now make his previous accomplishments any less great?
I firmly believe we must continue to push ourselves, even at a feverish pace, day after day, always improving, always striving, always determined to be better. That's how we measure up, that's what we can feel good about, that's what we live for. So, when we have an off day, even if it's at the most inconvenient time, forgive yourself. I recently performed Totentanz by Franz Liszt in Montana with the Great Falls Symphony. It went pretty well, but I had 5 or 6 completely idiotic slips that had never happened before, and they were on easy parts (well, easy for Totentanz). I felt like I played the hardest parts as well as I ever had, which only added to my frustration. The run through 40 minutes before had gone perfectly. The rehearsals the previous two days were absent of such stupidity. Why did it have to happen at that moment? My nerves were under control. I was prepared. I had worked like crazy to make sure this was as good as it could be. So why did it crumble in a few places?
I've thought a lot about it. It wasn't lack of preparation. And to be honest, it probably was nerves, maybe suppressed nerves because I was totally calm on stage, but it sure didn't feel like nerves. I'm just going to call it what it was - an off-day, or an off-performance. And that's it. I move on. I don't obsess (well, besides this post, and my next YouTube video, and THEN I'll be done obsessing) because obsessing over mistakes is pointless. If you make a mistake, move on. As much as I hate to admit it, I'm going to screw up on stage many more times throughout my life. But, I'm also going to have a lot of incredible opportunities to perform, and I'm positive that the vast majority of those will go well. My mom has always had a good way of looking at performance anxiety and mistakes. "About how many notes are in that piece?" "No idea, maybe 10,000? Totally rough estimate" "Okay, and out of 10,000 how many did you miss?" "Well, I was so stupid, and I messed up in like 5 or 6 places like a total moron. How could I have done that? I mean... [insert whining here]" "And how many notes were in those 5 or 6 places?" "I don't know, maybe 10 or 20". Even the most brilliant minds around would admit that a 1/1000th, or a .001 margin of error is pretty good, in any field of study. Off-days happen.
Okay, moving on now.... :)
Josh, you're great. I feel privileged to be able to see your Facebook posts and watch your YouTube uploads.
11/12/2016 05:11:53 pm
Yes, it was nerves. I noticed the slips the first time I listened to the Youtube recording, and the slips didNOT bother me, took nothing from the experience of a great musical expression, never did I fear that the performance would fail. Why? Because the phrasing, the expressivenes was truly confident, sure, should I say convincing?
11/12/2016 05:15:54 pm
OBS: Brendel DOES the slides. Sorry for my mistake. There is a recording on YTube with Brendel, 9gr1I8JPBp8
2/18/2017 04:36:48 am
Thanks for posting this! Most of us don't even know when you have made a mistake, Josh! I appreciate you letting us know it happens to you as well. It is always perplexing for me when new mistakes appear in passages that I previously performed well. Sometimes I think it is from trying too hard. There are days when I sit at the piano without much thought and play surprisingly well. My only audience is friends and family members, and I have some performance anxiety when i play for them too. I think back to playing the piano in the third grade talent show. I wasn't nervous. I just walked to the piano, played my piece -no errors and walked off! Fear must have set in after that! LOL
10/19/2020 03:14:01 am
This is my favorite reference to reading piano sheets.. Easy and comprehensive and it has an image with all the piano keys and its corresponding notes on the piano sheet saves me a lot of time… Thank you so much
Leave a Reply.
About the Blog
The musings of a (crazy) concert pianist
Remember to download Josh's free piano technique training here, showing his #1 tip to fix tricky spots in your pieces!