What Does “No Rules, No Fear Jazz” Really Mean?
“Part 1. Powerful Words”
By Tom Kamp
All rights reserved
When you think about teaching jazz improvisation to your students, your mind may be filled with lots of Very Important Rules like these:
And you may have these kinds of fears running through your mind as well:
TheaudiencewillgetboredwithlotsofsolosI’lllosetoomuchrehearsaltimeifIteacheveryonetoimproviseItwon’tsoundauthenticwiththisinstrumentationThekidswon’tsoundgoodorfeelgoodaboutimprovisingIdon’tknowhowtoteachtherhythmsectionMyAdministratorswon’tgetwhatI’mdoingIdon’tknowhowtoplayjazzmyself,thereforeI’mnotqualifiedtoteachitIwon’tgetthestylescorrectIcan’texplainto thekidshowIdoit soIcan’tteachit
Whew! Take a deep breath! Now, You may have noticed a lot of words like “No,” “Don’t” Can’t” and Won’t” in there. When I teach my 4th grade band students, I tell them, “There are words you’re not supposed to say in school, but here are my ‘Dirty Words’ for our classroom: “You can’t say can’t, don’t say don’t, never say never, and the only thing hard about a musical instrument is if you get hit in the head with one.”
I then explain that psychologists and neurologists have discovered that when you use “not” words as commands to yourself, such as “do not” or “can not,” your brain and central nervous system controlling your body take longer to process the instruction. So if we say to ourselves “Do not miss the high note,” we get the part that says, “Do miss the high note” louder and faster than the “not” part. It sets up a conflict within your brain/body balance, and it makes you more likely to “Miss the high note.” I also firmly believe that the things we think to ourselves, say out loud, and act on in the real world create our reality. They bring us results aligned with that thought or wish, (“Miss the high note”) even if we claim we “don’t want it.” See how complicated this gets?
As I say to my students, “When you use all those “not” words, your brain gets tied up in (k)nots and you can’t think straight.”
Better to use positive language, make positive, proactive statements, and avoid negatives. Rather than saying “Don’t miss the high note,” tell yourself instead “Nail the high note!” I try whenever I can to use this kind of positive, direct language, but sometimes it gets a little complicated. If I encounter a student who is stuck with all the “not” words, I’ve learned another powerful word that flips the switch back to positive.
If you have to say “I can’t do that,” add the magic word “YET!” Saying “not yet” keeps the door open for it to happen someday, with practice, with experience, with time. It takes away the value judgement that often accompanies the “not” word, and tells the universe what you want to attract to you, even if you lack it at the moment. I searched for an acronym that “Yet” could represent, but failing to find one, I created this one: “Yes, to Everything in Time.” That “Yes” doubles down on the positive energy bringing you what you want. “Yes” is huge, as we’ll see in a future post.
I get the irony that I preach the gospel of positive language, while the identity of this website and my philosophy is “No Rules, No Fear.” All I can say is that sometimes a double negative gets the point across faster. And as one of my mentors in this project said, our culture is almost blind to the negative “No’s’’ in that statement, seeing only the positive, proactive power of “Fearless Freedom.”