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  • Writer's pictureDiane Hidy

The Speed of No Mistakes

I was frazzled.

No matter how many times I begged Angie to play slower, it was never slow enough, each repetition still peppered with errors.

Finally, it dawned on me that Angie didn't know what the goal was.

Angie thought that it was about the speed she was playing. That wasn't it at all. I didn't want her to play at any particular speed, I wanted her to play the passage slowly enough to allow for the thinking and calculating and analyzing and just plain working hard her brain and body needed to do to get everything right. Every single thing. Just for a measure, or maybe two. But it had to be THAT SLOW. However slow THAT SLOW was.

"Play at the Speed of No Mistakes," I told her. "It doesn't matter how slow that is, if you get it exactly right then you can speed it up. If it still has mistakes, it's still too fast."

She tried it slower. Errors.

Even slower. Errors.

Slower still.

Finally slow enough. She'd found — The Speed of No Mistakes.

I'd always found it difficult to communicate exactly how slowly a student should practice something. I'd written in metronome markings to get my students to slow down. (True confession, more than half the time they'd come back playing the passage exactly twice as fast as I'd assigned it — sure that I couldn't have possibly meant to go that slowly!)

The reason "The Speed of No Mistakes" works is because it puts the control in the hands of the student. It invites them to listen to themselves and assess their own playing. It puts them in charge.

Are they playing the right notes? The right rhythms?


It's too fast.

Because the correct speed is always "The Speed of No Mistakes."

It's not foolproof, but it can be a great entree into the world of self-directed practice.

Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

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