Does Making a Mistake = Death?

guitar tapping techniques

If you hit the wrong note, then make (it) right by what you play afterwards.
-Joe Pass

“I just played like 20,000 wrong notes, and nobody even could tell. I’m da bomb.”

This concept is a great follow-up to the Paul Willis post

You know sometimes making a mistake can result in death. Take for instance a soldier accidentally being trigger happy and killing a civilian, or a daredevil tightrope walker losing focus and slipping into Niagara Falls. But in the guitar world, making mistakes luckily doesn’t come with severe consequences. Heck, it may even sound like something amazing, unique, and original.

Do you know that there is one scale that fits every key, arpeggio, mode, and all other scales?

It’s true. It’s called the Chromatic Scale. For those not familiar with the chromatic scale, it includes every note possible.

So if you play a bad not, just try playing the same note again like you really meant to hit it. Embrace it and sound confident. Then just move it around to a note that releases the tension.

A lot of my favorite guitar players probably do this a lot. I use this technique when I am improvising, especially to something on the jazzy, funky side, where tension and release sound sooooo good. I’ll play lots of chromatic stuff, not really even thinking about what I am doing, but just feeling it. The end result usually sounds pretty colorful and unique.

Try not to make mistakes, but if you do, learn from them or use them as opportunities to experiment with your playing and expand upon it. Accidents often hold the key to innovation and inspiration.

Try this little mistake experiment:

1. Get a friend to play a groove, or if you have a loop station, record one yourself.

2. Purposefully start off your improv with a note that you know isn’t “correct” or one that might sound “bad” to you.

3. See what you can do to make it sound “right.” Experiment with different phrases and techniques. Maybe you can whammy bar it down to a diatonic note. Maybe you can bend it up to one. Or maybe you might just embrace it for a while.

4. Repeat with other grooves, keys, and styles of music. Practice making mistakes and recovering from them quickly by making “wrong” notes “right.”

5. Enjoy how your playing reaches a new level.