I made a pretty horrible mistake during one of my shows this weekend. I started a song in the wrong key. So when the rest of the band entered, it sounded like a train wreck. Luckily, the other players were good enough that they were able to adjust to the key that I was in. But that moment when it all collided felt particularly embarrassing. Doing something like that in front of a crowd makes you want to crawl into a hole and hide.
But all musicians do it. Richard Lee Jackson wrote an article about it, and I like the main point he made: you have to play through it.I agree. Audiences usually don’t notice mistakes unless you bring attention to it yourself. Or if they do notice it, they get over it if you can correct it and move on. That was certainly the case this weekend with my mistake. It was the first song in our set, but the rest of our set went very well. I heard lots of positive feedback when it was over.
I think I heard an anecdote one time that Coldplay or some other successful band made such a bad mistake on stage that their singer stopped the song and told the audience something like, “You guys paid a lot to be here, so you deserve better than that. We’re going to try it again.” Sometimes mistakes are so bad you can’t recover. In that instance, I like the sentiment of what their singer Chris Martin said. It points out that musicians make mistakes, but that the audience deserves our very best.
What mistakes have you made in performance or other high-pressure situations? How did you recover?