Keep Calm and Carry On*: Playing through the storm

One of the things orchestra is teaching me is not to stop every time I make a mistake.

In practice, if I miss a note or hit the wrong note, or catch some funky tone on a note my instinct is to stop, correct it, and then back up a measure or two and play it through correctly at least a couple of times. I thought this strategy worked pretty well.

Turns out, for orchestra, not so much. I miss a note and nobody stops. In fact, if i spend too long trying to figure out what went wrong and fix it I will be so far behind I’ll never catch up. Which often happens in Rondeau, leaving me playing air cello until I find my place or the song ends, whichever comes first. Insert panic here.

In surfing blogs I came on this post by a piano teacher about dealing with the dreaded “wrong note” here’s an tidbit:

The typical approach to wrong notes is simply to “correct” them each time one is played, that is, to stop, play the intended note, and then move on…When we perform in public, it is universally understood that it is verboten to stop to correct, yet somehow people cling to the belief that they can stop and correct in their daily practice, but when they get on stage they will be able to continue without stopping should a mishap occur. Obviously this isn’t the case.

She then poses a few methods to help handle the appearance of a wrong note in run through. I don’t hold the fact that she’s talking piano (not cello) against her 😉 I think a very similar thing applies to strings. Certainly there is a place for correction – usually early on with a new piece as part of my breaking it down (aka how slow can you go) practice. But after a certain point, missing a note is no excuse to stop the whole show. So my new motto is more like “play through the pain” or as the Brits said:

Now, if only I can manage to not make a horrible stinky diaper face when I miss a note: a dead giveaway that I have done something wrong to anyone watching.

Eh. Work in Progress.

*This was the alternate title for this post. My first choice:

Wasn’t nearly so inspirational.


About Eddie

Watch what happens when you give a writer a cello.
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4 Responses to Keep Calm and Carry On*: Playing through the storm

  1. Eveningprose says:

    ahaha, so true! and love the images! I have a “Keep Calm and Carry On” on the fridge door, but now I think that the “Now Panic and Freak Out” might actually be more effective for general hilarity and confrontation of absurdity as remedy…

    • Eddie says:

      Yeah, I had no idea so many alternate versions existed until I was looking for an image for the post. I love the idea that the “panic” version is a good reminder of how pointless that strategy is 🙂 Hilarious!

  2. I particularly enjoyed “freak out and break stuff” which I automatically thought meant chuck the metronome across the room (again) which I swear is always an accident, yet it happens frequently. 😀

    In my lessons my teacher has been working with me on her purposefully playing things wrong (note, rhythm) so that I can get used to carrying on while everything around me falls apart. Yet another useful skill which is more fun because at least in this case I’m actually playing the right notes!

    I like to practice both ways — stopping when I mess up and carrying on — because I find there is much to be learned from each approach.

    • Eddie says:

      Elisa, that was my first thought too 🙂 Mine always “accidentally” gets knocked off the music stand.

      I’m finding that orchestra is helping a lot with that kind of exercise. Our group is pretty varied in experience, so there are wrong notes flying right and left. I’m really learning to listen to myself and trust my music reading skills. Droning exercises to build tone familiarity is also helping a lot.

      We’re kinda like herding cats during rehearsal. Thankfully we have an amazing conductor (she’s used to working with youth orchestras, so that’s a plus) who catches us, puts us in line and makes things sound -well, like we know what we;re doing 🙂

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