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#2031118 - 02/11/13 12:29 PM Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano?
Chad F Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 11/25/12
Posts: 15
Loc: Vancouver, BC
Malcolm Gladwell thinks so according to his book Outliers. Check out this chart and see if those 10,000 hours can be broken down into milestones. I'd be interested to hear any additional milestones that people have experienced along this timeline.

http://webaom.com/piano_practice
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#2031121 - 02/11/13 12:32 PM Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? [Re: Chad F]
Nikolas Offline
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Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5429
Loc: Europe
Oh no... not again...

Hi Chad and welcome. We've discussed this to death SO many times... The general idea is that talent alone is not enough, studying alone is not enough, so you need both (along with many other things). *I think*

Next?
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#2031122 - 02/11/13 12:35 PM Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? [Re: Chad F]
ClsscLib Offline

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Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 1834
Loc: Northern VA, U.S.
The Gladwell thesis has been discussed here a lot, but I like your chart and brief article.
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#2031126 - 02/11/13 12:48 PM Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? [Re: Chad F]
DanS Offline
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Registered: 10/28/12
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I don't think 10k hours is enough to 'master' the instrument IMHO.
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#2031133 - 02/11/13 12:56 PM Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? [Re: Chad F]
Mark_C Online   content
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I've seen that figure, and I've never thought it meant anything.

First off, it depends what we mean by "master." By my concept of it, some geniuses can master it in amazingly few hours, and many or most people couldn't even with billions of hours.

Do I master it now? I don't know.

In fact, I have no idea whatsoever what that whole thing is supposed to mean. The way I ever looked at it was more in terms of, how long it would be -- like how many months or years, not hours at the piano -- before I'd be ready to work on particular pieces. But I've spent probably several times the "10,000 hour" figure at the piano, and there are pieces I'm not ready for yet and never will be.

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#2031154 - 02/11/13 01:27 PM Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? [Re: Nikolas]
Chad F Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 11/25/12
Posts: 15
Loc: Vancouver, BC
Sorry if I re-hashed an old topic. While this isn't a new idea, I'm hoping to use it to develop a bit of a guideline for people to set some musical goals and become clearer on how much to put in to practicing and generally what one can expect to get out of their practice time. I know that everyone's different and there are many variables, but having a loose guideline is better than none at all, in my opinion. Cheers!
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#2031166 - 02/11/13 01:53 PM Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? [Re: Chad F]
Mark_C Online   content
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Originally Posted By: Chad F
....I know that everyone's different and there are many variables, but having a loose guideline is better than none at all, in my opinion....

I don't think so, because I think it's a poor way to view the thing and it can give people a wrong idea of how it'll all work, but it's interesting to discuss it.


BTW, maybe someone wants to enlighten me about what "master the piano" means, i.e. where the line is. Seriously -- I have no idea whatsoever what it's supposed to mean. To me, it's much more of a continuum, which is part of why the thing has no meaning to me.

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#2031171 - 02/11/13 02:04 PM Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? [Re: Chad F]
ClsscLib Offline

Platinum Supporter until Jan 02 2013


Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 1834
Loc: Northern VA, U.S.
Originally Posted By: Chad F
Sorry if I re-hashed an old topic. While this isn't a new idea, I'm hoping to use it to develop a bit of a guideline for people to set some musical goals and become clearer on how much to put in to practicing and generally what one can expect to get out of their practice time. I know that everyone's different and there are many variables, but having a loose guideline is better than none at all, in my opinion. Cheers!


I agree with Mark that students are different and they progress at different rates.

Still, I really like the idea of framing reasonable expectations for a beginning player who may be looking forward to a possible lifetime with the piano.

So you'll have to hedge and qualify some and talk more in terms of time ranges than dates and deadlines -- but that's I how I understood your chart when I first looked at.

In my opinion, it's a worthwhile effort and I'd encourage you to keep working at it.


Edited by ClsscLib (02/11/13 02:07 PM)
Edit Reason: Mitigating crimes against usage and syntax.
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#2031173 - 02/11/13 02:06 PM Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? [Re: Chad F]
Mark... Offline
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I'm just about 4000 hours in, but not even close to 40% accomplished...

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#2031206 - 02/11/13 02:56 PM Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? [Re: Chad F]
Michael_99 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/12
Posts: 935
Loc: Canada Alberta
Well, I think it is fair to say that it takes a lifetime to master the piano - and then you must find a way of earning an income!


Edited by Michael_99 (02/11/13 03:08 PM)

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#2031211 - 02/11/13 02:59 PM Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? [Re: Chad F]
Entheo Offline
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Registered: 01/12/04
Posts: 1120
Loc: chicago, il
hours seems the wrong unit of measurement to me. consider wine for example: it may take N hours to plant/pick/press/bottle the wine but N years for it to truly become a masterful wine. pianos too; it's not just the active assembly hours but the inactive hours as well (e.g. seasoning the wood, etc.). doing + being.

which reminds me of something i once read -- could have been in ouspensky's "in search of the miraculous" -- something to the effect that a university degree takes 4 years, a PhD 8 years, to become a doctor 12 years and to master a musical instrument 16 years. that rings more true to me, but of course YMMV based on the many variables.

i also believe the book indicated that mastery of oneself took considerably longer than even that of a musical instrument.


Edited by Entheo (02/11/13 03:09 PM)
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#2031215 - 02/11/13 03:04 PM Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? [Re: Entheo]
Michael_99 Offline
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Registered: 07/28/12
Posts: 935
Loc: Canada Alberta
And the number of hours doesn't matter because you must love sitting on the piano bench for most of your life playing and practicing the piano. You must love it, every minute of it.

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#2031218 - 02/11/13 03:06 PM Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? [Re: Mark...]
Keith D Kerman Offline
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Registered: 03/12/03
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Loc: Gaithersburg, MD (Washington D...
Originally Posted By: Mark...
I'm just about 4000 hours in, but not even close to 40% accomplished...


The mastery begins to kick in around 20 minutes before hour 10,000.
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#2031220 - 02/11/13 03:07 PM Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? [Re: Chad F]
Michael_99 Offline
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#2031222 - 02/11/13 03:08 PM Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? [Re: Chad F]
BruceD Offline
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I think it makes more sense to have short-term goals rather than such extended ones and that those goals should not be determined by an element of time.

Moreover, hours at the piano cannot easily be counted towards proficiency, as reaching that goal - however it may be defined - depends upon how efficiently and how intelligently one practices.

I would suggest that one have goals that are more easily defined and more easily attainable than those rather vague ones already suggested. Rather than think : "I'm going to learn this Sonata movement in X hours (total)" one should think : "I'm going to learn this Sonata movement by working on it regularly and methodically until I can play it to a performance level, (or examination level, or to my teacher's and/or my own satisfaction).


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#2031227 - 02/11/13 03:12 PM Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? [Re: Keith D Kerman]
Mark_C Online   content
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Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19871
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: Keith D Kerman
Originally Posted By: Mark...
I'm just about 4000 hours in, but not even close to 40% accomplished...

The mastery begins to kick in around 20 minutes before hour 10,000.

....but only if you count the hours!! Otherwise how do you know....

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#2031230 - 02/11/13 03:16 PM Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? [Re: Chad F]
theJourney Offline
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Registered: 02/22/07
Posts: 3946
Loc: Banned
When I think of what " mastering the piano " means, then I think of the kind of pianists that have been invited year in and year out to perform at the Concertgebouw's Meesterpianistenserie.

Murray Perahia comes to mind...for example.

10.000 hours squared wouldn't get me there.

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#2031270 - 02/11/13 04:13 PM Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? [Re: Chad F]
Entheo Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/12/04
Posts: 1120
Loc: chicago, il
had to run some theoretical numbers, just for giggles.

practicing...

4 hours a day 5 days a week:
260 days x 4 = 1040 hours per year. 10,000 / 1040 = 9.6 years.

2 hours a day 5 days a week:
260 days x 2 = 520 hours per year. 10,000 / 520 = 19.2 years.

i guess my takeaway is the more i practice the quicker i'll get better.


Edited by Entheo (02/11/13 04:14 PM)
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#2031357 - 02/11/13 05:05 PM Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? [Re: Chad F]
Dave Horne Offline
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Registered: 07/07/04
Posts: 5282
Loc: Vught, The Netherlands
I'm good friends with a lawyer who can get this knocked down to 8,000 hours or so.

Call me.
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#2031374 - 02/11/13 05:17 PM Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? [Re: Mark_C]
Mark... Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/27/06
Posts: 4381
Loc: Jersey Shore
Originally Posted By: Mark_C
Originally Posted By: Keith D Kerman
Originally Posted By: Mark...
I'm just about 4000 hours in, but not even close to 40% accomplished...

The mastery begins to kick in around 20 minutes before hour 10,000.

....but only if you count the hours!! Otherwise how do you know....


Thanks, I was worried...

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#2031426 - 02/11/13 06:47 PM Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? [Re: Chad F]
DonaldLee Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/14/11
Posts: 168
Musically, no. Technically, I think so. I estimate that I've practiced about 7,000 hours, and I feel technically able to play almost anything, but I don't feel up to some things musically yet. For example I know I can most likely play all the notes of Hammerklavier up to speed, but I know for a fact that I wouldn't be able to make much musical sense of the fugue right now. I think musicality comes from a LIFETIME of work, and that's about 80% of piano playing right there.
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#2031441 - 02/11/13 07:32 PM Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? [Re: Chad F]
pianoloverus Online   content
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I think it's at least reasonable(although I strongly disagree)to claim that the right kind and number of hours of work is the critical aspect doing something at a certain high level. But trying to assign some number of hours, especially to something so incredibly vague as "mastering the piano", I find to be unreasonable and nonsense.

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#2031468 - 02/11/13 08:32 PM Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? [Re: Chad F]
Mark_C Online   content
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Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19871
Loc: New York
So, looks like everybody's on the same page, except Gladwell. ha

Where does stuff like that come from, anyway? There are things that are measured in hours, like, how much community service you get sentenced to grin or, more relevantly, how many hours you need to put in before qualifying for this-or-that -- like, needing so-and-so-many hours of field experience (or whatever) to be qualified for a license in whatever. IMO it's a bit of an irrelevant cop-out for that kind of thing too, because more to the point would be how competent the person has become, and like with piano playing, that wouldn't necessarily correlate with the number of hours. But I suppose that for many endeavors, it's not a bad way to get a handle on the thing, and hopefully they have additional processes to make sure the person actually knows what he's doing.

Maybe it's from that kind of stuff that people start thinking of how many hours it takes to "master the piano." But I think it's completely inapplicable. And I wonder if Gladwell himself had any idea of what "master the piano" means. If he did, he's ahead of me on it.

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#2031489 - 02/11/13 09:34 PM Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? [Re: Chad F]
trigalg693 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/08
Posts: 686
I wouldn't agree with those descriptions entirely but those milestones are surprisingly accurate when I think about it. Someone mentioned the 10000 hour thing to me a few months ago, and when I crunched the numbers I figured I was at about the 7500 mark or something. I definitely feel like 10000 is when I will feel extremely comfortable with the piano technically. Right now I can play anything, but harder things don't always feel solid and controlled, and I feel my fingers hitting the edges of keys a bit too often.

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#2031647 - 02/12/13 05:45 AM Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? [Re: Chad F]
-Frycek Offline
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Yes, if you're lucky.
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#2031698 - 02/12/13 07:53 AM Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? [Re: Chad F]
Morodiene Offline
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I'm with you, Mark_C - I have no idea what "master the piano" even means. To me that sounds like there is an end game, a place you come to when you have "Arrived", and I just don't think that is possible in a musical instrument. At least not for me. Perhaps some people just want to learn to play a certain Chopin Etude, or some other benchmark they've created to define that they have mastered the piano. But what happens once you do that? Do you stop, or create another benchmark for yourself to achieve? For me, it's all about short-term goals: what piece do I want to work on, what areas do I need to improve, etc. And I have a huge laundry list of them so when I complete one thing there's a few to go in it's place after that. So this whole idea of "mastering" just doesn't exist for me.
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#2031768 - 02/12/13 11:01 AM Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? [Re: Chad F]
rada Offline
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Registered: 09/07/06
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Try mastering.... the 'raising of a child'...not to mention teaching a child. Gladwell got the idea from Bill Joy who I believe picked a random number out of the air.

Anyhow, an opinion on the chart idea. Perhaps a student would like to devise their own.

My goal is 10,000 songs.

rada

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#2031812 - 02/12/13 12:34 PM Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? [Re: Chad F]
John Pels Offline
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Registered: 05/31/07
Posts: 1264
Loc: Tomball, Texas
I hope I never master it. I might move on to mastering something else.

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#2031820 - 02/12/13 12:42 PM Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? [Re: John Pels]
Mark_C Online   content
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Registered: 11/11/09
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Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: John Pels
I hope I never master it. I might move on to mastering something else.

Well said. I've thought that's exactly a big part of what I love about it. There's always more to reach for, and....maybe this is masochistic ha but we're hardly ever totally happy with what we've done.

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#2031853 - 02/12/13 01:25 PM Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? [Re: Mark_C]
BruceD Offline
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Loc: Victoria, BC
Originally Posted By: Mark_C
[...] but we're hardly ever totally happy with what we've done.


That is both the sad and happy truth of being a musician, isn't it?

Regards,
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