Sunday, July 07, 2013

Why does the first wrong note you learn stay with you forever?

Sometimes (yes, I admit it), I make a mistake when I’m teaching a new song. It maybe a wrong note, wrong timing or wrong phrasing.


Yet even though I correct it quickly, this first mistake stays in people’s heads. Why is that?

Most people realise that it takes a long time to really learn a song. We drill it week after week, correct small errors, take time to get to know the melody, improve our breathing points, start to remember the words. Many months later we begin to feel that the song has really bedded in.

How come, then, if a small mistake is made at the very outset of this process, it seems to get locked in permanently?

I’ve written before about how it’s hard to learn new version of songs we already know. But that is about songs that we know really well, that are really fixed in our memories and we are being asked to make changes to.

But I’m talking about the first few moments of learning something brand new. Somehow the mistakes get locked in really early, and yet the song itself has yet to be remembered accurately. It’s as if we remember the wrong bits easier than the right bits!

And this can go on for some time. Many weeks later when we’ve pretty much nailed the new song, there are still people who slip up and make that same mistake that was taught in the first few minutes.

I must admit I don’t know why this is. It’s just an observation and I’m open to suggestions for why this happens and how we can overcome it.

Answers on a postcard to ... or much easier: just leave a comment with your thoughts. I’d love to figure this out! Many thanks in advance.

Chris Rowbury’s website:

Chris Rowbury


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