CD, or when they are practicing their instrument. Everything must be perfect and perfection (or better: degree of perfection) is the main yardstick by which a performance is judged. In classical music this is very common. A jazz performance could never be rated how perfect it was, when is an improvisation ‘perfect’? It is an act of creation, not a mechanical reproduction.
With other art forms, Many people who play an instrument, especially students who major in music, but also many music lovers are obsessed with ‘perfection’ when they listen to a performance, live or on a would you be only interested in ‘perfect’ paintings, books, poems, movies? Or when you go to the theatre, do you expect to see a perfect show? When I think of books (novels) I’ve read or movies that I’ve seen, they were great, bad, interesting, moving, thrilling, funny, tedious, hilarious, you name it, but ‘perfection’ never comes to my mind. However, in music (classical music especially) everything must be ‘perfect’.
Everybody who takes up to learn a skill knows the mantra ‘Practice makes perfect’. The more you practice, the better your results until you reach perfection. It is meant to express that you will have to work in order to achieve a certain level of skill. The more you practice, the higher your level. Many people don’t believe in innate talent, all it takes is just hard work.I wish it would be that simple. Your results will depend on not only the quantity of your practice, but rather on the quality. ‘Perfect practice makes perfect’ is a more accurate statement. However, the question is: What is perfection? When do you consider your playing or practice to be really perfect? When you can play all the correct notes, without hitting a wrong one?
And what about all those other things, such as dynamics, tempo, rhythm, phrasing, articulation, sound balance et cetera, at what point are they perfect? And if you manage to play/perform a piece perfectly, would you be happy then, would you have reached your goal?
Absolute perfection in playing music is an unattainable goal. It just doesn’t exist. There is always something that can be improved. Even when you play all the right notes, you can keep going on forever to make your playing more ‘perfect’. And if you require absolute perfection of yourself, you’ll find out sooner or later that you can never realize it. When your goal is complete perfection you will only be focused on that what is not perfect and you might end up condemning every note you play. That is a rather negative and limiting approach you better avoid. It will cause frustration. Do you think you will able to give inspired performances, to play from your heart if you are only obsessed by your imperfections?
Instead you can ask yourself: How can I achieve a higher quality in my playing, how can I improve the quality of my practicing? This is a far more constructive approach. You just focus on getting the best out of yourself. Keep in mind that ultimate perfection does not exist. You are a human being, not a piano machine. Doing your very best is great, but demanding something unreachable will have a paralyzing effect. In fact, producers of electronic music can create music which sounds very perfect in many ways, because it is played by a computer. But those producers often implement an element of imperfection, such as a very little bit of irregular rhythm or something, to make it sound more ‘human’. Those very perfect performances can sound so mechanical, sterile and ice-cold. Any slight imperfection (not too much of course) will in fact enrich the music with certain human preferences.
You must be aware of what is important to you in a musical performance. If you are mainly interested in perfection you probably won’t find a lot of pleasure and/or fulfillment in it. You will find that in the content and form of the music, the message, the emotional impact, or the structure of the composition or other qualities. Of course it helps if the performance is of a high level, I guess you won’t enjoy listening to sloppy and distorted playing. High quality is important, but cool perfection only (as far that’s possible) is simply not interesting. So in your practicing, focus on achieving high quality and on the intention of the music, on what the piece is about and what is has to offer. Put this statement on your piano: Practice