Welcome to another Brainjo Bite. So as you know, this Brainjo Bites series centers around how we can practice smarter when learning music, specifically how we can organize practice time so that we fully capitalize on the magical capabilities of the three pound organ that sits inside all of our skulls,
But in order for all of that to matter it in the first place we actually have to show up and practice, right? We actually have to be able to, or we actually have to be playing our instrument in order to progress. And for some that can be challenging. And that’s because there are obstacles in people’s lives that stand in the way of practice time. And the two biggest ones are time and motivation. So number one, many people lead already busy lives with existing hobbies and commitments. So practicing regularly means finding a time to fit that into what already feels like a packed schedule.
And then some people might not always feel the desire or motivation to practice and that which I’ve discussed a good bit stems from frustration, typically really frustration about a perceived lack of progress. That’s what really SAPs motivation and many of the prior brain JobBite episodes have been devoted to ways of minimizing frustration and ensuring consistent progress, which is really what is our fuel our motivational fuel and the brain Jo method of instruction in the courses that utilize it are also designed to help keep you progressing and maintaining your motivation. But in this episode, I’m going to be sharing six tips for dealing with these particular issues or six tips for how to practice more. And three of these are going to be involving how to make more time for being Joe. And three of these are, are about how to maintain motivation.
These are all things that I do myself and have found to be enormously helpful over the years. Had I known them from the beginning, I would have shortcutted my own time process bag. Good bet. These are all things that I do myself and have found to be enormously helpful. And as you’ll see, broadly speaking, these tips mainly center around removing obstacles that stand in the way of you playing more.
So with that in mind, let’s get to the first tip. Remember the first 3 tips are going to center around making more time or how to, how to deal with a perceived lack of time. The first thing to do is make sure your instrument is easily accessible so long ago when I first bought my first banjo, I put it back in its case. After every time I played it, it was, it was a prized possession.
I didn’t want anything to happen to it. So I wanted to take really good care of it, except ultimately I realized that being in its case was an obstacle to playing more to being, you know, tucked away somewhere. I had to get it out and so forth. So we decided to start trying to leave it on a stand instead and notice that that had a significant impact on the amount of time that I played.
The other thing that leaving your instrument does in addition to removing the friction or the time it takes to take it out of its case, is it serves as a visual cue as well. One of the things we all contend with these days more than ever before is the assault on our attention. So most of us carry a device in our pockets everywhere that contains multiple apps that have been explicitly designed by extremely smart people to use every psychological trick in the book to keep our eyeballs glued to it for as long as possible to sell lots and lots of advertising, not to mention. the endless amount of videos and music and other great media that we now have at the click of a button.
So we have to use some of those same psychological tools and tricks to our own advantage so that we actually end up spending our time and attention on the things we care about rather than being forever at the mercy of the algorithms and our whims. And so just seeing the banjo out of the corner of your eye is enough to spark a desire to play it. And as you can see from the studio that I’m in I no longer keep any instruments in their cases because I want easy access to all of them. And I’ve developed my own personal rule, which is that if I wouldn’t feel comfortable leaving an instrument out with the off chance that it would fall and break, then it’s too expensive. Now I will say that after well over a decade of having instruments, always out, knock on wood I’ve yet to have one break.
So that’s the first tip, make it easy to access. The second is to consider the weight of your instrument with banjos in particular, there’s a huge variation in how much they weigh some upwards of 13, 14 pounds when you’re talking about the steel tone ring bluegrass banjo style banjos as you may know years ago, I partnered up with Tim Gardner of Cedar mountain Cedar mountain banjos to create the Brainjo banjo model. The goal there was to create the, what I thought of as kind of the ultimate player’s instrument.
And it ended up only being four pounds in weight. And ironically, we actually hadn’t discussed the weight part when creating the prototype. But this has been huge for me. And it wasn’t until I had a banjo this light that I realized how much a difference the weight made in terms of how likely I was to just grab it and start playing as well as how long I felt like playing it.
So it has been my primary banjo ever since. Partly because I love the sound, but also partly because it’s so light and easy to grab. And because of that experience, I also changed the bluegrass resonator banjo that I play primarily from your kind of typical one with a steel tone ring that was heavy to the Cedar mountain brain Bramble model, which has a wooden tone ring.
And it’s about five or six pounds lighter than the, kind of the typical model which again makes a huge difference. In addition to also giving a wider range of tonal possibilities that I really like. So for that, it’s been a win-win. So if you’ve ever felt like your instrument was on the heavy side then consider test driving a lighter banjo and see how that feels. And I included this particular tip because I was personally surprised at just how much of a difference this, the weight of the banjo made for me.
All right. The third tip is to keep all of your practice materials and resources in one spot and leave them there. In other words, have a dedicated practice area or practice station and make sure that it has all the things you might need when you practice so that you’re not having to hunt around for stuff just to get ready to, to practice or sit down and find you don’t have what you need. So that includes things like your tuner, your strings any instructional resources any timekeeping devices, whether that’s a metronome or a computer with speakers or an iPhone connected to a speaker along with your instruments easily accessible. Again, you want to spend the least amount of time having to gather things up before you get started. And additionally, if you don’t have some sort of timekeeping device accessible when you practice then you’re a lot less likely to use it.
And as I’ve said many times before, you don’t want to make that mistake, you want to make sure you’re always practicing with that. And so at, at a minimum, make sure that that’s easily accessible wherever your typical practice area is. All right?
So those are the first three tips to kind of deal with the limited time aspect of as an obstacle to practicing more. And the fourth tip. Now we’re getting into the motivational territory which is most applicable. If you feel your motivation running low is to commit to the smallest amount of time that you think you can do consistently. So you might be walking around thinking that in order to have a meaningful practice, you’ve got to commit maybe at least 45 minutes or so. And if for whatever reason, that feels like a lot, then you’ll probably avoid it.
On the other hand, if you commit to practicing say five minutes a day whatever you feel like doesn’t seem like a lot. That’s going to feel way easier and you’re going to be much more likely to do it. And as I’ve talked about before, the bulk of our improvements from the standpoint of the brain are achieved in that initial part of practice, meaning those first five minutes are giving you the most bang for your buck of any time compared to anything else and practicing consistently and regularly is so much more important than how long you practice the duration of your practices. Also there’s a good chance that if you commit to doing five minutes, that you’ll actually end up doing much more, oftentimes the inertia of getting started is the biggest challenge to overcome. And then once you get in the flow of things, you may end up doing much more than you thought you would.
By the way, this is also a great tactic. If you are trying to exercise more, whether it’s walking or running or working out with weights, just commit to the smallest amount you think you can do consistently and start there. The fifth tip is to make sure that you have learning material that is accessible to you. So in a recent episode, I talked about one of the criteria of deciding what song to learn next being something that you think you could learn in a week or less. And that’s because choosing material that is too far beyond your current skill level is almost guaranteed to result in frustration. You want your learning material to be in that zone of desirable difficulty giving you just enough challenge that it stimulates growth and improvement. But isn’t so far beyond your current stilt skillset to be out of reach or nearly impossible to play or impossible to play.
Meaning cleanly and with good timing and tone and allowing you to focus on all of those important nuances of good banjo playing. So that is my tip number five. The final number six is to make it a habit. So the ideal deal scenario here is one where you have a dedicated time for playing and practicing that’s baked into your daily routine that you do automatically without even thinking about it.
So I talk a lot about this principle of habits and automaticity with respect to the technical aspects of playing and developing automaticity for all of the movements of our hands that are needed to play our instrument. But this principle extends all the way up to our most complex behaviors. We can make anything, any behavior, habitual and automatic if we perform it consistently. And the reason that habits are so powerful is because once you form them, you’ll find it harder not to do that thing.
Then you will find it to do it again exactly like once you’ve learned a song the wrong way, or learned a mistake, and it’s become a habit it’s far easier to play that mistake than it is to play without it. So when practicing regularly, isn’t a habit, it will take some degree of effort to do it each day. But when it is a habit, it will take some degree of effort to not do it each day. Now, anything that you do consistently and regularly day in and day out will turn into a habit. And the amount of time it takes based on the research vary somewhat depending on the activity. But generally speaking, the average time, it takes for something to truly become a habit is about two months, again, performed consistently and regularly. So if this is feasible, then set a dedicated time each day when you’re going to practice.
And the more specific you can be about it, the better. So write out each day at this time for this number of minutes, I’m going to practice again, commit to the smallest amount that you think is doable. And one way that you can make this process of habit formation a little bit easier is to link your habit to one that already exists or stack it on top of another one. So the best example of a habit stack that you probably already have is your morning routine. So chances are, there’s a set list of things that you do each and every morning in the same way, in the same order, you’ve likely been doing it for many years, and you can think of each of those behaviors as links on a chain. And so one thing you can do is link a new habit. You’re trying to form to an existing chain of habits.
So if you want it to link, practicing to your morning routine, then you take the last thing that you do as part of that routine and to become the cue for doing that new behavior that you want to become a new habit. So for example, if putting your clothes on is the last part of your morning routine, then that becomes your cue to then go practice for five minutes, 10 minutes, 10 minutes, whatever you’ve set aside. Every habit has some sort of cue that initiates that or starts the process in motion. Something that happens that triggers the brain to start that particular program. So the advantage of linking a new habit to an existing one is, you know, that cue is going to be there each and every day. And so that’s going to serve as a consistent reminder for you to practice or to perform whatever new habit it is until it has become established and automatic.
Okay. So a quick recap of the six things that we can do to play more banjo or play more music, or really do more of anything we want to do more of, but might otherwise be derailed by our whims or the ever rising sea of distractions vying for our attention.
So the first is make your instrument easy to access.
Second, consider a lighter instrument, especially f weight has ever been an issue or an impediment.
Third, have a practice station with all of your practice materials and resources in one spot.
Number four, commit the smallest amount of time that you think you can do consistently.
Number five, make sure you have accessible material to work on, meaning that it’s appropriate for your skill level that provides just enough challenge, but not too much.
And tip number six is turn practicing into a habit so that it becomes automatic.
As I said earlier, this is really about structuring our environment in a way that helps ensure we spend more of our time doing the things that we want to be doing, spending our attention on the things that we choose rather than the things that others choose for us. And again, that is more of an issue today than it has been in any time in human history and it is not going anywhere. So hopefully these tips will help you to find more time for banjo or whatever other passions you have that you’d like to be spending more of your time on.
That’s all for this Brainjo Bite. If you enjoy this Brainjo Bites series you will likely enjoy the book, the laws of Brainjo which was published last year. It’s all about how to apply the science of neuroplasticity to learn smarter and more effectively the easiest way to find it is just search Laws of Brainjo, or just Brainjo on Amazon.
Thanks so much for listening to this episode of Brainjo Bites, to make sure you catch future episodes. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast on your podcast player and consider leaving a rating interview in iTunes, which helps other folks to find it as well, to learn more about music courses based on the Brainjo method of instruction, head over to brainjo.academy.