Wrong note drag

I hate doing things wrong. No, I really hate it.  Really,. really hate it.  When it comes to things I do, I am an irritating perfectionist, with impossibly high standards.  Others can get away with many things, perhaps even most things that don’t involve apostrophes or murder, but I hate to get something wrong myself.

As a person who dabbles in theatre, I arguably have more opportunities to get things wrong publicly than most people tend to have.  Forgetting a line in a rehearsal is mortifying, and getting your legs in a twist reddens your face no end, but there is a truly terrible crime.  The wrong note.  Singing the wrong note feels like a terrible act of desecration, like the scratching of fingernails on the blackboard of the world.  If I do such a thing, then I’m letting myself down, I’m letting everyone in earshot down, I’m letting the composer down, and I’m letting music down.  Music is, as I have said before, a powerful thing.  It’s almost alive, and it can probably feel pain as I inflict a screeched note in the wrong key on it.  Mis-placing a held note in a ballad is like kicking a kitten, it’s just wrong in so many ways.

Thankfully, I’ve never done it in performance (unless you count the time I was so nervous that an entire song came out an octave too high), but I have done it in private and in rehearsal, and it’s a truly terrible feeling.  There’s the wash of sinfulness and guilt, often combined with the terrible tang of public embarrassment.  Perhaps I over-state the case, but it’s a horrible thing to experience, whether as singer or singee.  I apologise to all the notes I’ve missed, and all the notes I will miss in future – I hope you survive the maiming my vocal cords gave/give you and go on to have a happy life in the throats and ears of many other people.  Top A, this apology is for you most of all. I know it must feel like a campaign of terror, but I have never intended to hurt you.

    • Claire
    • July 12th, 2006

    David, you need to stop being so hard on yourself. It really is not that big a crime. It can be embarrassing, yes, especially if in public, but I don’t think it is a question of letting anyone down. (Unless you just haven’t bothered to practice/pay attention/at least attempt to learn the notes, which I seriously doubt in your case). I don’t think other people would ever blame you for getting a note wrong. Everyone makes mistakes. Maybe the music likes being sung a different way for a change?! You never know.

  1. Ah knock it off already! 😉

    I think you are giving your audience much more credit than they might deserve – that they would even notice an occasional missed note. Or perhaps you are giving them less credit – that having noticed they would then feel somehow ‘let down’.

    They are there to enjoy a performance and although they might dis Pavarotti for hitting a bad note I doubt they’d be so exacting about performances they didn’t have to pay 100 pounds to see.

    It’s the overall performance that counts, in my humble opinion. The odd glitch here or there doesn’t take away from that. So please – give yourself a break and don’t be so hard on yourself!

  2. Well, maybe it’s not *every* wrong note that causes the finger-scraping sensation, but believe me, there are some wrong notes that are so very, very wrong. They always seem to come out when you’re singing loudly, and preferable on a note that should be held for a while. These are the times when the ‘wrong note’ appears to be a completely new invention, never heard before and hopefully never heard again. When that happens, it really is a deeply unpleasant sensation.

  3. So when you did Mister Cellophane did you also do the gorgeous slinky side-step soft-shoe shuffle stuff?

    Sometimes after a few too many glasses of wine I get to singing . . . my gawd I love singing, but have no depth of voice at all (though I can mostly hit the notes). I am so envious that you have a VOICE and that you can get so much pleasure from sharing it with others.

  4. No, it wasn’t really an appropriate venue for slinky side-stepping or soft-shoe shuffling (the ground was a tad uneven). My singing skills are definitely far in advance of my dancing skills anyway! If Mister Cellophane gets wheeled out for an indoor concert, I’ll do a bit more movement.

    The jealousy thing… Everyone has various talents or abilities, even if they don’t/won’t recognise them. I am in awe of people with artistic, creative talents in drawing, sculpture, fashion and so on.

  1. June 22nd, 2012

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