Every time I scored perfect on a spelling test my Grade 5 teacher would hang that test on the classroom wall. Being a diligent student, my display of perfect tests grew and grew throughout the year until, in June, they were brushing the classroom floor.
Most people would think that this was something to be proud of. But I was not “most people”. I was terrified. Every morning as I glanced over at the wall I was met with a visual reminder of the impending doom of my first failure.
The spelling tests are one of my earliest memories of what would become an intense fear of failure. Something that, to this day, is a major hang up for me…
But it doesn’t have to be a major hang up for your piano students. In fact, today we’re going to help you teach your piano students that failure can be fun. And we’re going to do it with a great children’s book.
Beautiful Oops… Making Musical Mistakes
Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzburg is an interactive book your students will love. But I absolutely adore the hidden musical message: Mistakes are okay… and mistakes can actually be turned into something beautiful. As the back cover says, “When you think you have made a mistake, think of it as an opportunity to make something beautiful.”
If you’ve ever had a student who is afraid of making mistakes then you know how restrictive this can be to their progress. This book helps undo the negative associations that accompany failure and instead celebrates mistakes… and shows the good that comes from turning “mistakes” into something creative.
How To Use This Book With Your Piano Students
- Read this book with your student. Discuss the kinds of mistakes that are made in book and explore the notion that maybe they aren’t actually mistakes at all.
- Talk about the many different mistakes we can all make on the piano (wrong notes, wrong fingering, missed accidentals, incorrect rhythm etc.) Make a list as you brainstorm.
- Using your student’s current piece, decide which two “mistakes” from your Step 2 brainstorming session your student will intentionally make as she plays her piano piece. Circle two measures where these mistakes are going to happen. Emphasize that the mistake should be exaggerated. Let ‘er fly.
- Have a good laugh about how the mistakes sounded. But then… decide how those mistakes could actually be turned into something beautiful. Can you and your student make that mistake make sense? Can wrong notes be resolved beautifully? Can an incorrect rhythm actually be made to “fit”?…
- Encourage your piano student to perform her “new” piece for a family member or friend while they play the “Can you find the mistakes?” game.
Finding Freedom in Beautiful Mistakes
Once your students realize that mistakes on the piano aren’t something to always be avoided, their willingness to challenge themselves and explore the piano on their own at home will blossom. This is a fabulous book that every piano student should read. Give it a try!