Don't apologize - you're learning!
I've had so many students apologize for making mistakes, especially when trying something new and failing to do it perfectly on the first try. When I read that on fiddler Andy Reiner's Instagram page, I had to smile in recognition.
There is no need to apologize, stop it!
"Oh - I'm sorry for saying I'm sorry!"
Reiner - a fantastic fiddler and teacher (also known as the Skiing Fiddler) - has a general philosophy that he has summed up in a succinct way that we can all understand:
"You have to suck at something before you can be good at it."
To put in terms my grandmother might have liked better: you have to be bad at something before you can be good at it. If you are truly challenging yourself and trying something new, it's going to be too hard at first, and you'll make mistakes. That's okay.
Reiner has an entire podcast called River of Suck, which is devoted to the topic - interviewing various musicians about their own experience navigating this river. He has created 28 episodes, and the quote about apologizing comes from Episode 3, with violinist Natalie Padilla, a Colorado fiddler and teacher.
"You're learning, don't apologize!" she says (around 15:30). "What you're feeling right now - it's never going to go away, and that's a good thing," she continues. "You have to learn to use it to your advantage."
But how is this feeling - feeling so bad about your playing that you also feel the need to apologize for it - actually a "good thing"? And how do you use it to your advantage?
Here's how: When you take on a new and challenging goal, accept and embrace the fact that you will make mistakes. Then when you do make mistakes, try, try again. Yes, you have to recognize your mistakes, but not because you have to apologize for them. You need those mistakes and the information that they provide. The mistakes help you calibrate your next move. It's that constant re-calibration and persistence toward each small goal that will lead you to overall success.
Let's say you've just started a new piece with some technical challenges: you may only be able to play a small portion of it in the most rudimentary way, even after a week or more of practicing. This does not mean you have failed, and it does not mean you need to apologize. Keep solving each small problem, and keep enlarging the scope of what you can do.
Let's say you are learning a new technique like spiccato or sautille: You may not get that bow to bounce at certain speeds for a mighty long time. It might take months of metronome work, etudes, scales, etc. You have not failed, you don't need to apologize. Keep building on the small successes.
Let's say you are changing a bad habit, like locking your bow thumb, or bowing crooked, or playing a certain note out of tune. Maybe your teacher points it out, or maybe you are playing along and you realize, you are back to the bad habit, you've done it again. You have not failed, you don't need to apologize. Celebrate the fact that you caught yourself, make some adjustments, and move on.
Andy actually has a further suggestion: instead of apologizing when you make a mistake, "Say 'pterodactyl' instead!"
Shake it off, and then swoop in and keep trying!
You might also like:
* * *
Enjoying Violinist.com? Click here to sign up for our free, bi-weekly email newsletter. And if you've already signed up, please invite your friends! Thank you.
This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.
Violinist.com is made possible by...
Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.