The pursuit of musical excellence is a journey that many musicians embark upon with a fervent desire to achieve perfection. They strive for flawless performances, impeccable technique, and unwavering precision. As an advanced amateur pianist, these are goals to which I, too, aspire.
But the constant pursuit of perfection and an ongoing desire for perfectionism in one’s music-making can be a double-edged sword for musicians. The relentless pursuit of flawlessness can lead to a never-ending, often negative cycle of self-criticism and anxiety. Musicians who set impossibly high standards for themselves may find it difficult to ever feel satisfied with their performances, leading to a constant state of stress and self-doubt. Some may ask themselves, “will I ever be good enough?”
The pursuit of musical mastery is admirable, and indeed, the striving for mastery is a major driver of motivation and commitment. However, it is also essential to recognise the significance of knowing when and accepting that you are “good enough” as a musician. Perfection can be an unattainable goal; acknowledging you are “good enough” is not only perfectly acceptable but can also be liberating and personally fulfilling. It can help musicians to break free from the paralysing grip of perfectionism, allowing them to enjoy the process of making music and to develop as artists and individuals.
Domenico Scarlatti: Keyboard Sonata in C-Sharp Minor, K.247/L.256/P.297 (Alim Beisembayev, piano)
Every musician possesses a unique set of skills, experiences, and perspectives. Embracing the idea that you are “good enough” means recognising and celebrating your individuality as an artist. It allows you to focus on your strengths, develop your style, and create a distinctive musical identity. While aspiring to reach new heights and improve is essential, acknowledging your current level of skill and artistry is a valuable step toward authentic self-expression.
Success in music should not solely be measured by technical perfection or the approval of critics, peers, teachers, or audiences. By accepting that you are “good enough,” you redefine what success means to you personally. It can encompass the joy of playing, collaboration with colleagues, the connection with your audience, and the sense of accomplishment from personal growth. This shift in perspective encourages a more holistic and fulfilling musical journey.
Igor Stravinsky: Les cinq doigts – Andantino (Peter Hill, piano)
Reducing Performance Anxiety
The fear of making mistakes and the pressure to be flawless on stage are very common triggers for performance anxiety in musicians. Accepting that you are “good enough” can significantly alleviate this anxiety. When you recognize that making mistakes is a natural part of the learning process and that it does not diminish your worth as a musician, you can perform with greater confidence, freedom and enjoyment.
Constantly striving for perfection can lead to burnout. On the other hand, acknowledging that you are “good enough” can provide you with a sustainable source of motivation. The satisfaction derived from setting achievable goals, making incremental but noticeable progress, and celebrating small victories can keep you inspired and committed to your musical journey over the long term.
In conclusion, accepting that you are “good enough” is not a sign of complacency nor mediocrity. It is a testament to self-compassion, personal growth, and a healthier perspective on the art of making music. Embracing your current level of skill and artistry while still aspiring to improve can lead to a more fulfilling, enjoyable, and sustainable musical journey.
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