Fearless Performance by Jeff Nelsen

Hard is Hard

How we choose our words decides immeasurable details about our day.  I often wonder how many people really dislike clouds and rain, or are they maybe just stuck in a habit of saying so because that's what they have always said.  Oh, the small-talk habits of our day.
Rain is amazing! Clouds can give the horizon depth and color our landscape for wider palettes of emotion that influence art, writing, and music...and our conversations...and our cuddling at the fire!  I very happily lit the fireplace yesterday because it was cold and rainy...and then we all got our slippers out!  It was awesome!
The song "Both Sides Now" is a deep look at how clouds maybe get in our way until...well...please give yourself a beautiful 5-minute gift and bask in this music and lyric.
"...well something's lost and somethings gained in living every day."
So I choose my words carefully...definitely not perfectly, but thoughtfully.  Sometimes when I try to discuss word-choice with someone, they push back a bit by saying, "Well, that's just semantics."  To this, I say that you can call them semantics...I call them details. Your future conductors and audition panels are very interested if you are detailed about the difference between a dynamic marking of mezzo-forte and mezzo-piano.
Another example of word-choice is when I hear someone saying, "Oh, that's hard!" or "That's difficult for me. I have a hard time with that."
Why decide it's hard?
I'm sure we all can play something that was hard for us at some point. The simplest melody in the world was hard for us at first, right?  But through study and practice, we got better at it...and playing it got easier.  We spent some time on it, and it got easier.  The more technical or musical the challenge, the more time it took to make it easy.  But we can all play things that used to be hard for us.
Regardless of whether we ever get this passage we have difficulty with to a place of ease, there is a much better name for its current state than "Hard".  Deciding something is hard brings untold potential to tighten up, fear, and force things.
When one student of mine pointed at a bar and said, "That's really hard for me!" I asked him, "Why call it hard?  It's no harder than some other things I've heard you play well.  It's just that you haven't put in the time on this passage yet to make it easy.  Why not call it "New"?"
He pondered for a moment, smiled, and pointed at the bar on the page again with a laugh, saying, "Yeah ok...well, that bar is reeeeeeeally NEW!!!!"
It's become a joke with my students now...a really constructive joke!  It's wonderful to watch them downplay the 'hard-ness' of things, and just call the passage "new" instead.  I believe that rather than trouble-shooting their difficult passage, they go about their work with a much more solution-based approach of making something 'new' into something familiar.
Deciding something is hard is potentially emotional, and not in a constructive direction. Simply calling it new leaves the path ahead to be full of discovery, learning, habit-forming, and ohhhhh, awesome-ness!
Your fearless game for the week: When you catch yourself about to use the word "hard" or "difficult", replace it with "new".
This could be difficult at first, but at some point it'll just be new...depending on how good you are at playing this game!
"It's life's illusions that I recall.  I really don't know life at all."
Hard is just hard, but new is new.  Life really can be a new game.

Jeff Nelsen
Jeff Nelsen


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