“Practice makes perfect,” right?


Oh, so wrong.

Musicians love to pull this old adage apart. I’ve heard allll sorts of variations on “practice makes perfect.”

There’s “practice makes permanent.” (That is, if you practice mistakes, you’ll make those mistakes in performance too.)

There’s “Perfect practice makes perfect.” (Same gist, it’ll only be perfect if you practice it perfectly.)

But here’s the real truth:

Perfect doesn’t exist.

Keep practicing, of course. Keep striving, definitely.

But it’ll never be perfect.

Because there’s no such thing.

Sounds bleak, I know. But hear me out! It’s actually not a bad thing.

Perfect doesn’t exist because there is always a new level of excellence to strive for. It’s actually kind of inspiring.

The legendary cellist Pablo Casals was interviewed for a magazine when he was in his 90s. He was already recognized as the greatest cellist in the world (although the young Yo-Yo Ma was starting to make a name for himself at the time) and his legacy was secure. The interviewer asked Casals why, at his age and professional stature, he still practiced so much.

His answer?

“Because I think I’m making progress.”

Leave the pursuit of perfect to the engineers and the accountants. With numbers, there’s an answer out there, and once you’ve found it, it’s done. The pursuit of art is more complex than that.

And really, isn’t that a beautiful thing?