Mistakes by Roy Burns

I don’t like to make mistakes. I find them frustrating and I imagine that most people feel the same way. How many times have we said, “Why did I do that?” or “I can’t believe I did that!” We are all human and we all make mistakes at one time or another.

School, especially when we are quite young, teaches us that mistakes are bad. In fact, mistakes are often punished. We are told, “Do it again and keep doing it until you get it right!”

In school, there is always a “right” answer to the problem. But in real life it’s not so simple. And in drumming, there is very often more than one way to play a song and make it sound good. A lot depends on how creative the player is. So when you begin to play a musical instrument or engage in any creative activity, mistakes take on a different meaning. James Joyce, the famous writer, once said, “Mistakes are the portals of discovery.” Woody Allen said, “If you aren’t making mistakes you aren’t trying.” Without mistakes there is no experimentation…no learning…. no growth. Mistakes are a necessary part of the learning process.

Unfortunately, I know of a few drum teachers who yell at their students when they make mistakes. As a result, sometimes a student decides not to try. (If you don’t try, you can’t make a mistake, and therefore no one will yell at you.) This is sad because real teachers should be there to explain, encourage and offer support. They should not berate, put down, or intimidate their students.

Do you ever say things like, “I hate myself” or “I’m really stupid”? These ideas don’t help. They just make you feel bad and you don’t learn anything. Instead, try this approach: The next time you make a mistake, ask yourself, “What caused me to make the mistake? Did I stop concentrating? Did something distract me? Or was I simply not well prepared? Should I have practiced this piece more?”

In other words, instead of criticizing yourself, try to identify the problem. Once you understand why you made the mistake, you can go about correcting it and avoid making the same mistake in the future.

By understanding the mistake, you can learn from it. After all, making a mistake doesn’t make you a bad person. It just proves that you’re human and not a machine. Preparation helps to reduce the number and severity of mistakes. After all, it is much better to make several small mistakes than one gigantic one. Preparation helps you to improve your average. If you make fewer mistakes as you develop and grow, then you are improving. As long as your are improving, you are doing many things right.

When things go well, we tend to take them for granted. Consequently, we don’t learn as much when everything goes smoothly. A wise man once said, “Mistakes are life’s way of getting you to pay attention. The most aware person is one who has just had a close call.” For example, if you’ve nearly been in a car accident but just managed to escape injury you will usually drive more carefully in the future.

Making a mistake playing the drums won’t be a risk to your person but it can be frustrating. Ask yourself, “Do I concentrate on my mistakes as a musician? Do I remember my mistakes better thank I remember the things I do well?” Many times we agonize too much over our mistakes. As a result, they often rob us of self-confidence. The best approach is to develop a balanced view of things. For example, if you play twenty songs very well and only mess up on one. Then I would say you had a good night. If one mistake can ruin your whole night you’re I need of a new viewpoint. Strive for excellence, not for perfection. Your goal should be simply to do your best.

The next time a mistake is really getting to you, make a list of all the things you did well that day. You will probably surprise yourself. We all do more things well in one day than we give ourselves credit for.

So Look at is this way: Be aware of mistakes, learn from them, keep improving and give yourself credit for all the things you do well. You will be happier, more balanced and almost certainly more productive. You will also make fewer mistakes.