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Knowing Right From Wrong (Notes)

So I have been teaching about 45 years, with a few gaps here and there. I have had a WIDE variety of students from super eager to "My Mom is making me learn to play." I have seen a lot of different approaches students take in their practicing, or not practicing. The one issue I have seen in a variety of students of different skills and ages is the ignoring of wrong notes.

The first problem in dealing with wrong notes is hearing and recognizing that something is wrong. For fun, if a student is blissfully hitting a wrong note on their second or third try at a phrase I will grab my ears and say "OW! OW! OW! you are hurting my ears!"

The student usually looks at me like I am crazy, at which point I ask "Does that sound right to you?" If the student says "yes," this is my response:

Some teachers and parents might think I am being harsh or overly dramatic, but this is done in a spirit of fun, and it does make the student stop, listen, think, and be more careful about their playing.

And what happens if the student continues to play the notes incorrectly? The wrong notes start to sound correct to them. And not only in that piece of music, but in the next piece they play because melody, scales, harmony are all learned over time. If our ears/brains are not training to hear right from wrong, we will not be able to apply it to any music we hear or play.

Being a bit of a philosopher, I have been thinking about how this applies to other aspects of our lives and our thinking. Wrong notes, incorrect information, can sound like the truth if we keep saying/playing it enough. Being accurate is a discipline important in music and in life! Correct those wrong notes so you know how the music is supposed to sound!


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