How to establish a regular fiddle practice
Do you have trouble practicing on a daily basis? If so, the Two-Minute Rule may help you to establish this healthy habit.
The term was coined by author James Clear in his book Atomic Habits. The basic idea: Make it easier to establish the habit by committing to just two minutes a day. This helps you to overcome the internal resistance you feel when starting a new habit. Once you have started the habit, then you can deepen and expand the practice.
Find an easy first step that can be done in two minutes or less.
- If you want to learn an instrument, commit to simply picking it up each day and playing for two minutes.
- If you want to do yoga every day, commit to rolling out the yoga mat each morning.
- If you want to write every day, then commit to writing a short journal entry for two minutes a day.
You might be thinking, “Are you serious? Do you really expect me to believe that I can learn to play a hard instrument like the fiddle or violin with only two minutes of practice a day?”
It’s clear that if you only practiced for two minutes a day, you would progress at a glacial speed, get frustrated and probably quit. The point of the Two-Minute Rule is to get your body and mind trained to doing the new habit on a daily basis. Once the habit is established, then you can start to think about how to optimize and expand it.
For years I’ve said to students, “You are a musician if you play every day.” What makes a musician a musician? The simplest definition: a musician is someone who plays music. And so every day you pick up your fiddle, you reinforce your identity as a fiddler.
Another reason I’ve always emphasized daily practice is that practicing consistently over time is the biggest challenge most people face. If you can do that, then you are well on your way.
This is the same basic fiddlosophy of the Two-Minute Rule. If you simply get in the habit of playing every day, then you no longer have to think about whether or not you should do it.
Let’s do it!
“Well, if I only have two minutes, what should I do?”
- Simply take out your fiddle and play and open D string with the D drone (shown above).
- See how good you can make that one note sound.
- If it starts to sound better then allow yourself to feel good about that small improvement.
- Close out your two-minute session by playing either a simple scale or the easiest tune you know. Done!
- Do it every day for three weeks, even if you are tired.
Remember: The point of the Two-Minute Rule is not to have a deep and fulfilling practice session, but to establish a consistent habit. The idea is to make practicing like brushing your teeth; something you don’t have to think about because it is an automated action.
The human brain is designed to form habits. A habit is a less expensive use of mental resources. That’s because you don’t have to think and decide whether or not to practice the habit every day. When it’s time to do it, you just do it.
“I set out to play two minutes a day… then I get lost in Fiddlehed time and before I know it two hours have gone by.” – FiddleHed Kay J., Perth, Australia
Chances are, if you pick up the fiddle and play for two minutes, it will almost require more effort to put it down at that point. You’ll probably say to yourself, “Well, now that I got this thing out, I might as well keep going.” The Two-Minute Rule gets you in the door of the store. It helps you overcome that fear and resistance you feel before entering. But once you’re in, you’re going to want to take a look around.
Deepening the practice
Of course, if you pick up the fiddle and robotically hash through the same old things every day, your practice sessions will become stale, not to mention unproductive. Once you establish a daily fiddle routine, then you naturally start to refine how you practice. If you’ve trained yourself to pick up your fiddle every day, then you can now pay attention to the quality of your practice.
First off, optimize the time and place of practice. Say you practice the Two-Minute Rule for three weeks and start to feel like the practice habit is established. Then you start to realize that because of your work schedule you only have the energy for 15 minutes of practice after dinner on weeknights. But, you can practice for at least an hour on Saturday and Sunday.
If you want to play the fiddle (or something fun or helpful practice) then this optimization is the next logical step…
Resistance is futile ?
You can reduce more resistance by making your fiddle accessible. If you only have two minutes, you don’t want to waste a lot of time taking it out of the case, tightening the bow, applying rosin and doing your pre-practice sacred dance ritual (what? You don’t have a pre-practice sacred dance ritual??)
You also might start to notice that you have a better practice session when you turn off your cell phone. In the evolution of your practice, you learn to minimize distractions. In this way, by engaging in the process you learn how to improve the process.
How else can you improve the quality of practice? This is an endless journey! I am still discovering major new ways to improve and enjoy my own practice.
I encourage you to take joy in fiddling not only with the music you make, but in the way you approach practice. Here are some good starter articles and lessons on how to make practice fun and productive:
- Drone practice
- Don’t break the chain
- The goal of a good process
- How to practice consistently
These and other strategies make for more productive practice sessions. And if it’s truly productive, then it will become more fun. There is a mystical conversation between fun and productivity. When your practice is truly fun it becomes more productive. And the more productive your practice, the more enjoyable it becomes. You enter a virtuous cycle…
If you’re struggling to practice consistently, please try out the 2-minute rule. Let me know how it goes in a comment below. We are all learning together.