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HOW TO PRACTICE | The 3 Minute Rule

THE 3 MINUTE RULE | The Power Of Consistency And Habit


‘Don’t break the chain. Your only job is to not to break the chain!’ These are not the words of a drummer, but of comedian Jerry Seinfeld. Asked, how he works on his craft, he responded he writes at least one joke a day, every day. Even if he doesn’t feel like it, even if he feels extremely unfunny. Every day means without missing a day, like building links to a chain. The job is not to come up with brilliance every day, or to carve out a huge amount of practice time, or to be perfect; the job is just to be consistent, to not break the chain.

There is great power in consistency and habit. This is the big secret to greatness and genius, NOT talent. Work on your craft every freaking day! The name ‘3 Minute Rule’ comes from what I tell myself when I don’t feel like practicing: ‘I will at least play for 3 minutes, I can do that…’. The goal is to not miss a day connecting with your instrument, to let the feeling sweep over you of what brought you to drumming in the first place and surrendering to it, letting it guide you.

Perhaps you’ve been to the Grand Canyon. The awesome shaping and sculpting of the massive rocks and canyons was done by a substance seemingly as weak as water. But done consistently, one drop at a time over millions of years … the result takes your breath away! And the same will happen with you. Your individual expression you must take shape one day at a time. Not ‘every now and then’, and not ‘when I can get to it.’

What if you were able to make one straight year of playing every day, at the very least, 3 minutes? Here in lies the power and force of momentum, which comes from creating habit. Willpower doesn’t work, habits and rituals do! This way, practice becomes an addiction, not an affliction. Fire up those neurons in your mind every day, and the connection between body, mind, and instrument becomes stronger each and every time. The most common excuse of not practicing is, you guessing it … ‘I don’t have enough.. TIME!’ The 3 Minute Rule is a trick you play on your own mind, the voice that tells you to relax and to ‘do it tomorrow’. EVERYONE can find 3 minutes! Now of course, you will need to practice generally more that 3 minutes, (that’s not even a full song!) but if that’s all you got in on your worst day, then at least you’ve mastered yourself and had time with your instrument you otherwise wouldn’t have; this adds up.

What would you rather have, a penny that doubles in value every day for 30 days, or $3 million right now in cash? Most people would choose the quick cash, and until about day 20 you would still be pretty happy with that decision, as the penny stock has only made it to just over $5000. But if you can wait out the 30 days, you will now have over $10 million dollars! Doing a small act every day without fail creates massive momentum that can shatter your ceiling of achievement, of what you previously thought possible within yourself. I want to see and hear more of YOU on your instrument … I am invested in your own personal SOUND, the one everyone already has within them. You can only sound like YOU, and no one else.

You’ve heard ‘the hardest part of working out is getting to the gym’. The 3 Minute Rule is tricking yourself of getting your butt onto that drum throne. Once you are there, sticks in hand in front of our amazing instrument … well, you will most likely find that you CAN’T stop after 3 minutes, you will want to keep going! You will probably go at least 15 minutes, or 45 minutes, or an hour or two. But even if it WAS only 3 minutes, you’ve kept the coals of consistency burning, and you’ve pushed that next domino forward to keep and build your momentum. And as Seinfeld says: ‘your only job is don’t break the chain.’ You’ve now created a habit that ‘gets you to the gym’, no matter what. You’ve now created a habit that silences the master excuse writer inside your mind. You’re now riding the wave of momentum, so remember: DON’T BREAK THE CHAIN!

How to really listen:

Han Bennink sits at his open windowsill overlooking Amsterdam’s bustling streets with only brushes and snare drum. Focusing on small points of the city’s sonic palette, he zeroes in on the sound of a car engine and imitates it on the drum. He then takes in the sound of rustling newspapers and imitates this on the drum, creating yet another groove. This is an exercise in listening. We truly are sound crafters!Remember, you have 2 ears; one of them is for you, the other for the rest of the band. If we are going to speak in the language of music, we have to let music speak to us.
In this 4 part series of ‘The 4 Musical Keys’, (also known as ‘The 4 Offenses Of Drummers’!) we will start with the most important element, LISTENING.
Listening these days is a challenge with so much competing for your ears attention. With noise and distractions bombarding us morning to night, many of us suffer from Broken Focus Syndrome. And drummers are energetic, passionate people to begin with! To really FOCUS is such a big part of listening. We all have so much to say, and we all want to be heard. In order to be listened to, you need to become a good listener.
It has been said that ‘ego is the enemy of music’. We all know that voice in our head that says ‘I’m crushing this gig, they love me!!’ or the opposite ‘why did I just play that, I should have been a plumber.’ Neither is true! Music and drumming is about SERVICE to the best in yourself, and to the bigger picture. You can change lives by helping and inspiring others, and music is the international language to achieve this. Ironically, the more you focus on contributing to the whole, that is when you will sound your personal best, and the rhythms you play will really impact people.
One of my best habits is reflection. In life this is keeping a journal, and in music this is recording my performances. I’ll never forget one of my first times listening back to my gig tapes. Thinking it was a really great night, I proudly popped in the show tape ready to bask in the awesomeness of my grooves. I did have my moments, but what I hadn’t heard was the expressive ideas of the guitarist which had nothing to do with what I was playing. If music is a language, this conversation didn’t make any sense! Sometimes our biggest game changing moments are also some of our most painful ones, and I gradually realized I wasn’t really listening to the band, but thinking only of myself. I needed to truly listen. I was lucky to play the next night again with the same band, but my ears were now transformed. I ‘heard’ everything that was played in a new way, and I found it gave me 10X the ideas I had before! I got the ‘smile-nod’ from the guitarist, and we had a great night. I learned the hard way that there is a big difference between hearing and listening. Listening, both in music and in life, creates ‘synergy’ meaning ‘to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of the separate parts’. This is when 1 + 1 = 3, and everyone goes to a magical place together that they couldn’t get to on their own.
The more you really listen, the real you has a chance to come out. This is what every musician strives for, our unique personal sound that no one else can duplicate, our own fingerprint. REALLY LISTENING puts you inside the present moment, not being worried about what you’re going to say or play, or what you did say or play. When you listen you are fully present, and all possibilities lie within that moment. The world opens up, and it is not about you anymore. Listening is a selfless act. Allow your whole body to be a resonator to what is going on around you. Music WANTS to be listened to. Ask ‘What does the music want me to play?’
Listening is also about ‘Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants’, experiencing the greats that have come before us. Spending uninterrupted time everyday listening to the past musical masters will add depth to your playing, and exercise your ear. “Empty your cup,” Bruce Lee said, “for if your cup is always full, you cannot fill it with anything else.”
-Choose any song, and see if you can pick out and sing all the individual parts.
-Regularly tape record yourself!
-Practice the 60/40 rule: listen 60% of the time, and speak 40%.
-Practice leaving space in everything you do.
-Watch Evelyn Glennie’s TED talk on ‘How To Really Listen.’

modus factor LIVE / June 07 ’14


“Music should be the sound of surprise”
Charles Mingus.

modus factor, fresh from recording their debut CD ‘The Picasso Zone’ will be performing this Saturday at May in Toronto. This special show is not to be missed, as the performance is being filmed for a documentary on the band, this will be a big night for the group!

Each performance is unique as the ideas are improvised in real time. This band has a high sense of groove, fusing styles, and challenging ears with the unexpected!

Come and be part of this live music event, as all the audience will have a chance to be on and contribute to this documentary. Looking forward to seeing you there!