A few weeks ago my band and I were practicing for a gig. While we were practicing a particular tune-set, I kept messing up the notes and stopping in the middle of the tune. Instead of stopping with me, the band played on. Which was the right thing to do.
When first learning a tune, there is almost always a part of the tune that is more challenging than the rest. It’s good to stop and pick apart the tune and practice it phrase by phrase. You want to make sure you’re learning it correctly and teaching your fingers exactly where to go.
Once you’ve learned the tune though, and you’re getting ready to perform it, whether it be at a session or a performance, getting in the habit of ignoring your own mistakes can be the difference between a good performance and a train wreck.
You can’t just stop in the middle of a tune when you’re playing in public because you messed up. You have to just play on. I had a teacher once that said “if you make a mistake, just make it twice.” There is always going to be hard parts and you’re always going to make mistakes at a performance or a gig, even the best of professionals make mistakes. But how you deal with them is key.
I remember once watching the late great Jerry Holland perform one of his own tunes. Every time he’d make a mistake he’d call out #1, #2, and so on…He’d giggle while he kept playing. The man literally wrote the book on Cape Breton music. No one is perfect. He’d make a mistake and just play on and most of the time we were none the wiser.
Lately I have been practicing this a lot. This week’s tune was one of those tunes that just messed me up at some of the turn-arounds. I found myself stopping the tune when I would get to the hard part. But once I learned all the notes, I practiced just playing through the mistakes as if I was performing and then going back and fixing them after I finished playing. I want to get in the habit of doing this so it becomes second nature.
So whether you’re performing at a gig or playing at a session, and you hear, or you make, a mistake, just keep playing, because the band will likely just play on…
Here is this week’s jig called Scully Casey’s. I hope you enjoy.
Scully Casey’s: Tune 45 of 52
Join me next week for tune #46 from A Tune A Week. What tunes are you learning?
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