One of the things that plagues musicians when they practice is stopping playing, making a quick correction, and restarting.  I call this the SAD Syndrome (SAD stands for Stop And Do-it-again), and I’ve seen it happen in my own practicing as well as with my students and musicians who play at my master classes.

There are many reasons that musicians hesitate or briefly stop playing.  The main reason is that they “missed” a note.  Missing a note to almost every musician I’ve ever talked to means not playing the correct pitch.

For some reason, pitch has become the most important element in defining a “successful” run-through for most musicians.  Pitch is deemed more important than rhythm, dynamics, tempo, or tone.

Very few musicians will stop playing if they stretch time to make sure they hit all their notes.  The same goes for missing a rhythm.

In the same way, it’s a good idea for musicians to stop reacting so strongly when they play an incorrect pitch.  There’s no inherent reason to stop your playing for a wrong pitch any more than there is for a wrong rhythm or dynamic.

One way to avoid the SAD Syndrome is to actually re-define success when you’re playing.  This new definition of success is simple: Do Not Stop.

If your new definition is to keep playing, suddenly rhythm becomes as important as pitch.  You’ll focus on your count and on placing your notes in their correct locations.  Playing an incorrect pitch simply won’t matter.  When you keep playing, you will get to the end of your song and be finished.

This process is the true skill musicians need to be successful performers, and you need to work on this in the practice room.

To be successful playing continuously, you may need to play a little slower than you would like.  This is absolutely fine.  You are trying to eliminate the SAD Syndrome from your practicing, and you will need to take special measures to get this scourge out of your life.

Re-define your musical success by making rhythm as important as pitch.  And, whatever you do, work your hardest to eliminate the SAD Syndrome!

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