What if there were no way to do it wrong?

All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself. — J.S. Bach

We all know that you’re supposed to play classical music right. There are just so many things to get wrong, aren’t there? Wrong notes, wrong rhythms, wrong dynamics, wrong phrasing, wrong articulation, wrong attitude.

What if there were no way to do it wrong? Are there benefits to getting rid of the concept of “wrong”? Even just for a bit?

Yes, you would be lying to yourself (everyone knows there’s a right and wrong, right?). Yes, you would be disrespecting your teacher, the composer, and the great art of music. Yes, you would disappoint your audience and embarrass yourself. Yes, you might never make any progress whatsoever, and you might even go backwards. If you’re in school, you might fail. If you’re working, you might get fired. You might get a nasty look from the conductor.

That wasn’t a wrong note I heard, was it?

Let’s not argue with any of that.

I don’t mean to take this lightly (well, part of me does). But my question is only: are there any benefits to doing it wrong?

Would it be more fun? Would it be freer? Would it be more personal? Would it hurt less? Would it let you give up the stress of trying to get it right? And if that stress is gone, would it make you more relaxed, more observant, more willing to take risks?

Even just for a moment?

It’s only a question.

(Sorry, Bach, I don’t mean to pick on you. You just had that stern look I was going for…)

Stress is easy

Here’s a challenge for you: can you just let go of your difficulties?

Maybe you say it’s not hard enough. You say it’s too easy to let go; what you really need is to hold on, to challenge yourself, to get it right, to learn.

You’re playing the piano, and you feel stress creeping up. Your shoulders tense, your jaw clenches, and you start freaking out about what’s coming next. Can you just let it go?

This sounds like a question you’ve probably heard a million times in the past. Of course, the common advice is to simply relax, take it easy, focus, breathe, etc. You’ve heard it all before.

It will be easier, you will have less stress, it will feel better, it will be more fun. Right? Then why don’t you do it?

You try it, but it doesn’t work. You stay relaxed in the places where the music is simple, the spots you know well…and then something comes up and the tension is suddenly back again (doesn’t seem so easy, does it?).

Or maybe you manage to do it for a moment, but your playing is worse as a result. Your articulation is sloppy, you miss notes, etc. You’re not going to let that happen again, are you?

So the tension and stress continue forever.

You always try to play well…that comes so easily to you…it’s second nature, isn’t it? How can that be the hard way?

Maybe the hard way is letting go.