I’m going to make a big confession: I make mistakes when I play the guitar. Not only do I make mistakes, I make them nearly every single time I pick up the instrument. However, I learned quickly while playing in my first band that most of my mistakes are significant to just me. In fact, stopping a song half way through because you biffed an E chord or overshot a string bend is probably a great way to get yourself OUT of a band!

As we go through life, we’re told we need to get things right and to avoid making mistakes. When we do make mistakes, we must go back and fix them right now, this moment, before moving forward to the next task. Perfectionism can be a virtue because it makes us strive to always do better. But in learning the guitar or any musical instrument, some forms of perfectionism can lead to trouble.

Getting Out of the Perfectionism Loop

While perfectionism is a learned habit, the good news is that you can train yourself to break out of it…or to use it in a different way. One technique I use is the “play without stopping” exercise. This involves playing a piece from beginning to end without stopping…for any reason. In fact, you should instruct to yourself that stopping is the mistake. This will give your left brain a task it can focus on.

For some, this exercise will be torturous at first. You’ll want to go back and correct all those mistakes or missed notes. But after forcing your way through it a few times, you’ll begin to see a new perspective on performing a piece and even a new flow to your playing.