What Makes a Great Musical Performance?

Piano Lessons / general / What Makes a Great Musical Performance?

This is a very important subject; not just for music but for life itself.

When Thomas Edison was trying to create the light bulb he went through many attempts before he actually got it right. In fact, legend has it that one of his experiments actually ended up in the complete destruction of his lab – it literally blew up!

The story goes that Edison’s assistant asked him if he felt defeated; Edison responded by saying something to the effect of: “now I know yet another way NOT to make the light bulb.”

By being persistent and not letting failure get into the way, Edison was able to achieve more than anyone could have imagined. He used failure simply as a stepping stone to success; he used those negative experiences as positive learning experiences.

Edison is not the only historical figure to face failure. In fact, many of the world’s most successful people have faced enormous challenges and failure until they finally hit their mark.

The same theory rings very true for musical performances. For example, when I go to student recitals and I hear someone play through a piece without any problems I can’t help but be impressed. But what impresses me, even more, is how they handle mistakes.

Inevitably something will go terribly wrong during a performance. Whether it’s a wrong note, a memory slip, no matter the cause, mistakes do (and will) happen. Watching these students recover from something like this and not let it affect them is very impressive. One small mistake will not ruin a performance and it’s very important to remember that.

If you miss a note in a performance and you keep going, chances are nobody will ever know. However, if you make a mistake and then go back and try to correct it; everyone will know you messed up (no matter how schooled they are in music).

Every great performer won’t worry about every little mistake. Sure they might miss a note, start to rush, or play something completely wrong; none of it matters. What matters most is the performance itself and the energy and passion that comes from the performer. It’s never about perfection; it’s about emotion.

Remember that your audience is there to enjoy themselves. Learn from your mistakes but don’t let them defeat you.

4 thoughts on “What Makes a Great Musical Performance?”


  1. Hey Robert; Thanks for your continuing blogs and videos. I enjoy seeing the world of music through your eyes. I am no longer searching for a grand piano…just purchased a brand new Mason Hamlin 5’8″ brushed ebony from Pacey’s Pianos in Vancouver, BC. Sean Pacey is a third generation piano dealer and a lovely person to deal with. I’m looking forward to spending the rest of my life enjoying the MH. It literally brought tears to my eyes as I played it in the show room. Thanks again and keep up the good work. Bryce LeBaron

  2. what a great article! i tell this to my students all the time! i would love to forward this to my students as well so they can hear it again in a great eloquent way. i always look forward to your fabulous newsletters and blogs. thanks for sharing !

  3. Hi Bob –

    Another great blog! Could you comment a bit on the differences between great recorded performances and great live performances? I remember your Dad used to talk about this – found it to be fascinating!

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