Before you think this is some sort of hype – hear me out. There is good science behind this…
The Tiny Habits® method developed by Stanford Persuasion Lab’s BJ Fogg is a powerful method for developing habits.
- BJ Fogg, PhD, teaches us that if something is hard to do, the motivation needs to be high to do it. High motivation takes effort, is often problematic to sustain and, well, hard.
- If something is easier to do (or at least to start), it does not take as much motivation to do it.
- If we celebrate small successes we create positive feedback loops that make it easier and easier to do what you want to and form the habit. One important conclusion from this is that habits are not formed by repetition but by positive emotions.
BJ has developed a fascinating, easy to do and powerful method based on the above principles. This method can help us develop practice habits, habits of thinking as well as improve our bass playing, theory knowledge, and overall attitude when playing. As I have noted before, a self-supportive attitude is key to help us succeed!
May I have 2 Minutes of Your Time, Please?
Not even in one go, but spread out over the course of the day!
Please Suspend Judgment for a Moment and Try This:
- Every time you close the restroom door you pause for a second and recite the note names of the A string ascending using sharps where needed. Then flats descending.
- After you get up from dinner you plug in your bass and play one permutation or permutation variation up the A string.
- Every time you are alone in your car and pause at a red light or in traffic*, imagine playing through the roots of the cycle of falling fifths keeping the notes on the E and A strings only.
The above sentences are written in the form of Tiny Habit® “recipes” – it is important that they work for your specific behaviors and there is a bit more to it than meets the eye. The trick is to get the “anchor moment” right – after I come out of the restroom, after I put my morning coffee cup in the sink, … similar everyday occurrences like these that have a precisely defined end to them… For more in-depth information Tiny Habits® offers fantastic free coaching. If you’d like to join over 40.000 people who have done this and transformed their lives, check it out! I recommend my friend and excellent coach Shirl Rivera, sign up with her here!
As for the bass specific part of the recipe
…make it tiny as well as just hard enough. Not too easy, not too tough. Not too long, not too short. Just right. 2 minutes is a good starting point.
So, maybe the cycle is total news to you and you need a print out in your pocket to get through it the first five, ten times. Fine! No problem, use the “cheat sheet”. If you know the cycle cold on those two strings, come up with additional challenges, such as: stay in a designated four fret span to do this; or limit yourself to one string; or two other strings.
Pick something that is a bit hard, but you can figure it out. If not the cycle, pick a scale. Know C major ascending, no problem? Try Gb major descending. Maybe harmonic minor. Or the modes of melodic minor. Come up with your own ways to challenge yourself, the possibilities are endless and just thinking about these exercises in itself is a great exercise! You can also learn songs that way. If you need help, reach out and book a lesson with me.
Don’t you think after a week of doing this hard but valuable thing every single day, several times during the day, you will start to cruise through this? Won’t it be worth it?
Here are a few more tips that will help you succeed
- Have the bass out of its case, ready to go. Plug and play! (Remember: making it easier to start means you need less motivational effort)
- Celebrate each time you did the little activity you set out to do. Even if the scale wasn’t perfect, even if the cycle was slow, go: “Yay, I did it. High Five!” And mean it! This creates a positive feedback loop that makes it much easier to do next time! And – this is my personal experience and experience with my students – this also directs your practicing efforts into a positive, self-supporting direction, the value of which cannot be overstated.
Here is an interview Professor Fogg did with me a while back and there you can also read more about the Tiny Habits Method in addition to many free resources!
*Safety always comes first, so make sure to only do this as you are standing still! If you live in LA or the Bay Area like I do, anything linked to waiting in traffic will really make you a great player!