Musical Boogers

I hate wrong notes.  But how can I get my students to hate wrong notes as much as I do?  Of course, I spend a lot of time teaching them how to read music and to play the right notes.  But sometimes they don’t seem to appreciate the damage wrong notes can do to a performance.  After all, if the notes are the words, wrong notes change the meaning.

So I ask them, “Do you care about how you look?”

“Duh,” they answer (this is middle school).

“Do you ever look in the mirror before leaving for school?”  They usually giggle at this, especially the girls, since they often do a lot more than look.  On the other hand, some of the boys would do well just to glance (middle school…).

“So imagine,” I continue, “that you have spent a bunch of time choosing your outfit, fixing your hair, and brushing your teeth.  Then you go to school expecting everyone to be impressed, but all they can do is avoid making eye-contact with you.  You make a stop in the bathroom, take a look in the mirror, and there, blemishing an otherwise beautiful face, is a little booger hanging from your nose.  Gross, right?  But so what?  It isn’t very big.  But it’s all you can look at.  It has your attention.  You can’t see the beauty because of that little booger.”

“Get it?” I ask.  By now they are starting to.  “Wrong notes are musical boogers, and I’m getting ready to hand out some musical tissues.”

Perfect performances may be impossible (this is middle school), and who knows exactly how many wrong notes are too many.  But the fewer, the better.  Each one blemishes the music just a little; at some point they become the only thing listeners notice – no matter how beautiful the rest of the music is.


9 responses to this post.

  1. Nice analogy. Coming up with analogies like that is so hard for me, especially for that age group. I teach piano to adults beginners and am always looking for unique ways to motivate that final polishing-up phase. Not sure if I’ll use yours exactly, but I’ll keep it in mind 🙂


  2. Posted by Mom on March 9, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    You know I don’t like that word. Mom


  3. Posted by Mark Shaver on March 11, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    Booger, Booger, Booger…..


  4. Posted by Jason Shaver on March 14, 2012 at 2:57 am

    At least you didn’t use musical farts as your analogy.


  5. Posted by Rachael Shaver on March 14, 2012 at 11:36 am

    I like that one! Rachael


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