“We can be truly successful only at things we are willing to fail at.” -Mark Manson
Perfection isn't possible.
Blindly pursuing perfection often leads to complete failure.
Trying to be perfect is okay, but accepting anything but perfection is crippling.
Perfection in music is especially dangerous.
From the first day of our first music class, we want to play each note perfectly.
This is entirely understandable, because who wouldn't want to be perfect?
However, is perfection in music possible?
Isn't music just an outlet for artistic creativity?
Isn't art subjective? So how can it ever be perfect?
Music does have mathematical elements, and there is a way to play every note perfect.
Playing every note perfect doesn't always lead to a better performance or a better song.
The best way to ensure you put forth your best effort is to drop your perfectionist tendencies.
Stop over thinking and over analyzing, and just play.
Embracing your perfection will allow you to create more music, grow as an artist, and stay inspired.
Maybe you're trying to stop being a perfectionist, or maybe you're not aware you are a perfectionist.
Here are five signs to look out for to be sure you aren't striving for perfection.
1. You never have enough
You're about to watch another youtube tutorial about how to play perfect chords...
...even though you've already watched five tutorials today.
You're browsing Amazon looking for a guitar pedal, but you already have about 20. Some of them still in boxes.
You're researching new industry trends because you're afraid your stuff is already dated.
You wonder if you need to get new mixing software for your computer, even though what you have now works just fine.
But when is the last time you sat down and created?
You already have what you need to create music, but you won't.
You're stuck in analysis paralysis.
When you spend most of your time analyzing instead of creating, you're trying to be too perfect.
You know all you need to make music is a beat-up old acoustic guitar.
The guy down at the subway station is creating more music than you are because he isn't worried about being perfect.
He just plays.
Stop the tutorials, get off of Amazon, use the gear you already have, and stop worrying about the latest trends.
Just get back to work.
2. You continuously work on your set, but you never play live
Don't confuse this with performance anxiety.
Even the superstars get nervous and anxious.
But they actually play.
Telling yourself over and over again that you're not ready is a sign of perfectionism.
If you only play when you feel like you're 100% ready, you might not ever play at all.
It's time to get out of your basement or garage and get in front of people.
Book a show anywhere that will take you.
A local bar, a church, a park, anything.
Book the show right now to force yourself to get ready.
You will never know what your music sounds like
You can't prepare for the acoustics of the building, the PA system, or the sounds of the live crowd until you're there.
Rehearse, yes, but don't want or expect perfection.
Be prepared to embrace mistakes and leave your perfectionism at the door.
Once you play your first live show, the second won't be as difficult.
You just have to start.
3. No one has ever heard your music
This is the most unfortunate problem of them all.
You're so worried about your music being perfect that you haven't shared it with anyone.
You could have an absolute masterpiece sitting on your computer going to waste.
The next Billboard topper might be wasting away on your hard drive because you're worried it isn't perfect.
Fortunately for everyone, perfection isn't what makes a good song good.
As artists we want our music to be good, but there has to be a point to where we're satisfied with it.
Constantly changing and tweaking your music can actually ruin it and make it a lesser version of what it originally was.
Sharing your music before its finished is extremely beneficial because you get an extra pair of ears.
They might hear something you missed, or think of something that can be added.
You have so much more to gain by sharing
4. You worry about the outcome and not the process
The result is what everyone hears, but the process is where the magic happens.
If you overthink and over analyze while you're creating, you won't live up to your full potential.
The process is where the magic happens.
Your process is what makes you who you are as a musician.
Sitting down and creating without worrying about what happens is how masterpieces are made.
Getting into a flow and making mistakes but rolling with them.
Keeping an open mind, so you achieve those "A-Ha!" moments.
That is how music is created.
It's not created by worrying about what's going to be created.
It's just sitting down and creating.
Don't worry about what's going to happen, and you'll likely be amazed at the results.
5. You constantly compare yourself to already successful musicians
This is the most useless thing we can do as musicians.
It's completely pointless to compare ourselves to someone who has already made it.
You didn't see their struggle.
You don't know where they started or where they came from.
What advantages they had or the obstacles they had to overcome.
Comparing yourself to someone else will only hold you back.
Worry about being yourself and embracing your journey.
It's cliche, but the only person you need to compare yourself to is who you were yesterday.
Figure out who you are. What your strengths are and what you struggle with.
What you like and what you don't like.
Work on those things. You should be your own measuring stick, not someone else.
Escape the noise and focus on yourself.
It's okay if you fail the first time. Most people do.
The successful ones keep going, and they don't care about perfection.
Perfection isn't real
Unless you're into bowling, there is no such thing as a perfect game.
Everyone makes mistakes, even the professionals.
Holding yourself to a higher standard than the professionals is sure to cripple any chances you have of becoming successful.
You have to accept failures, and you have to put yourself out there.
Worry about building productive work habits. Those are the things you can control. Things like:
- Practice on a regular basis
- Acknowledge your successes and the areas you need improvement without judgment
- Treat mistakes as learning opportunities, not failures
- Ask for feedback
- Be serious about your work, but never lose your sense of humor
- Be grateful that you even have the opportunity to make music
- Find your perfect mix of technical accuracy with artistic expression.
You won't be perfect, ever.
No matter what you do, there will always be flaws.
Perfection is as real as Bigfoot and unicorns.
Some people claim they've seen them, but they only exist in stories.
The magic happens when you get out of your head and let yourself be creative.
If you enjoyed this article, you should give these a look:
- Create a successful mixtape
- Crush your music school audition
- Get your music heard in 2019
- Nine things I wish I knew as a young musician