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Easy, familiar and comfortable…

This last year has been a rollercoaster ride for me. After divorce and relocation, I’ve started a new chapter in my life. Getting there pushed me well out of my comfort zone.

So I decided that now is the time to push myself out of my musical comfort zone too. 

I’ve been playing the piano since I was 6 years old, but I’ve never studied Jazz.

There’s something very special about 1920s – 1950s classics from the Great American Songbook. They’re more musically sophisticated than modern pop, with beautifully crafted lyrics that tell stories of love and heartbreak far more eloquently than many contemporary songwriters.

But as a pianist, to play Jazz requires a new set of skills and musical vocabulary. It poses challenges that no other style offers, with its own unique chords and syncopated rhythms.

I always thought I couldn’t do it. So I knew that I had to prove myself wrong.

I found an excellent teacher nearby, experienced, patient and talented. He’s introduced me to many classics such as “Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered”, “God Save The Child” and “My Favourite Things”.

It’s difficult but I’m loving it. 

To learn each new song, I’m using the iconic “Real Book”. Totally different from conventional classical sheet music, Real Book charts leave much to the interpretation of the player, the melody is notated with minimal rhythmic nuances and there are unusual chord symbols beneath to indicate the harmony.

In short, it’s like nothing I’ve ever played before. It’s pushing at the boundaries of my ability and it’s forcing me to read and play differently. I still have a long way to go but with each day I can see my progress start to emerge.

It’s not only enhanced my musicianship but it’s impacted the rest of my life too. 

It got me thinking…

We all default to autopilot in many aspects of our lives. We opt for what’s easy, familiar and comfortable. 

That’s fine, but it doesn’t stretch us and we don’t grow or acquire new skills. To do this, we have to overcome obstacles, the biggest of which are usually in our own heads.  This can be difficult, but the harder you stretch yourself, the more easily you believe you can keep doing it.

As Eleanor Roosevelt said “You must do the thing you think you cannot do”.

Richard

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