Something Good #18

I got a keyboard

Hi, I'm Nina Iordanova and this is the 18th edition of Something Good, a newsletter filtered through my 🧠, 🖐, and ❤️. Coming your way every two weeks, I hope you find something good here.


I got a piano keyboard today!

I put it off for weeks because I was worried buying one would jinx my commitment to my singing lessons.

You know when you buy the nicest leggings you can find so that you have to justify them by actually exercising? Then they sit in your closet and you don’t wear them as outside leggings because that would mean they can no longer be exercise leggings, but you also never exercise in them so they just sit there in legging purgatory, uncomfortably reminding you of a time you once wanted to exercise?

I thought the piano might turn into that.

Like as long as I was powering through singing lessons using GarageBand, that meant I was serious about my lessons.

That I was putting in the Hard Work that proved I was dedicated.

I thought getting a piano would make me soft and the work too easy and I would be simultaneously too committed (because who buys a keyboard in a 500 sq ft condo) and not committed enough (oh, so you couldn’t make do with GarageBand?).

My compromise was to get a shitty keyboard. An upgrade, but not a luxury item I had to live up to. No weighted keys, a 61 key version instead of the full 88, and most of the reviews were by parents who’d bought it for their young children. Fine.

The keyboard also came with stickers that tell you which note the key is and where it is on the staff. So if you wanted, you could have a guide as you learn the piano.

I immediately threw the stickers into the recycling.

Stickers? Ew, what? No thank you. I’d gotten this far on my own and I could sure as hell figure out the rest without stickers. I’d learn to play the notes by ear and by repetition or I would fail. Because the only way your success matters is if it’s hard. I knew where the C key was and that would be my reference and I’d figure the rest out.

The most rewarding and meaningful and ultimately right way to learn has to be hard.

It took me a couple of days of practicing the same 8 bars from a song, making the same mistakes, getting stuck on the same notes over and over and over to even start to consider that…

Maybe…

It didn’t

have to be hard…?

Maybe I’d enjoy practicing more if…

I helped myself learn?

(that’s how awkwardly and jarringly those thoughts came together - whaaaaaat? not hard?)

Weirdly, I kept thinking about everything I’d learned about training puppies.

Keep the lessons short, keep the puppy engaged and interested and having fun. Set the puppy up for success, and make it easy for them to do what you want them to do.

So what was I trying to do with myself?

“Hey, here’s a piano. You’ve never played before, as far as anyone knows you have no ear for music, but the only way your success will count is if you do it without any help and in the hardest way possible.”

And that didn’t make any sense. So I dug out the stickers and stuck them on all 61 keys and lo and behold, it made playing easier.

When I got stuck on the sheet music, I could just glance down and re-orient myself in a second with the help of the guides. Oh, whoops, that was an A and not a G I was hitting.

Ah, yes, there we go. That sounds right.

I got past the first 8 bars all the way to the second page, and could even start to play some of the first parts by ear.

And even though it’s felt good to make learning easier, I keep bumping into that idea.

It’s gotta be hard to be worth it.

It’s gotta be hard to be worth it.

It’s gotta be hard to be worth it.

But… does it?

One day I’d like to let go of that.

Warmly yours, 

Nina