Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano?

Posted by: Chad F

Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? - 02/11/13 12:29 PM

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
Posted by: Nikolas

Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? - 02/11/13 12:32 PM

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?
Posted by: ClsscLib

Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? - 02/11/13 12:35 PM

The Gladwell thesis has been discussed here a lot, but I like your chart and brief article.
Posted by: DanS

Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? - 02/11/13 12:48 PM

I don't think 10k hours is enough to 'master' the instrument IMHO.
Posted by: Mark_C

Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? - 02/11/13 12:56 PM

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.
Posted by: Chad F

Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? - 02/11/13 01:27 PM

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!
Posted by: Mark_C

Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? - 02/11/13 01:53 PM

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.
Posted by: ClsscLib

Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? - 02/11/13 02:04 PM

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.
Posted by: Mark...

Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? - 02/11/13 02:06 PM

I'm just about 4000 hours in, but not even close to 40% accomplished...
Posted by: Michael_99

Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? - 02/11/13 02:56 PM

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!
Posted by: Entheo

Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? - 02/11/13 02:59 PM

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.
Posted by: Michael_99

Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? - 02/11/13 03:04 PM

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.
Posted by: Keith D Kerman

Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? - 02/11/13 03:06 PM

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.
Posted by: Michael_99

Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? - 02/11/13 03:07 PM

It is not about money but about love.
Posted by: BruceD

Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? - 02/11/13 03:08 PM

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).


Regards,
Posted by: Mark_C

Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? - 02/11/13 03:12 PM

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....
Posted by: theJourney

Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? - 02/11/13 03:16 PM

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.
Posted by: Entheo

Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? - 02/11/13 04:13 PM

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.
Posted by: Dave Horne

Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? - 02/11/13 05:05 PM

I'm good friends with a lawyer who can get this knocked down to 8,000 hours or so.

Call me.
Posted by: Mark...

Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? - 02/11/13 05:17 PM

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...
Posted by: DonaldLee

Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? - 02/11/13 06:47 PM

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.
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? - 02/11/13 07:32 PM

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.
Posted by: Mark_C

Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? - 02/11/13 08:32 PM

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.
Posted by: trigalg693

Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? - 02/11/13 09:34 PM

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.
Posted by: -Frycek

Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? - 02/12/13 05:45 AM

Yes, if you're lucky.
Posted by: Morodiene

Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? - 02/12/13 07:53 AM

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.
Posted by: rada

Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? - 02/12/13 11:01 AM

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
Posted by: John Pels

Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? - 02/12/13 12:34 PM

I hope I never master it. I might move on to mastering something else.
Posted by: Mark_C

Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? - 02/12/13 12:42 PM

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.
Posted by: BruceD

Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? - 02/12/13 01:25 PM

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,
Posted by: Marco M

Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? - 02/12/13 01:35 PM

When my clock, with which I am counting my practise hours, reaches 12, then it always starts at 0 again.
Each time that I start to think for a moment that I improve, I finally only better understand how bad my playing still is and that the journey will last even longer than I before estimated it to for sure still last very(!) long.
Posted by: Mark_C

Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? - 02/12/13 01:59 PM

Originally Posted By: BruceD
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?

Most of my performing in recent years has been at the amateur competitions. There was only one time that I was really happy with how I played in any round, and my feeling seemed to be confirmed because I made the finals. Recently I went back and listened to the recording. It stunk. grin
Posted by: wr

Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? - 02/13/13 05:24 AM

Originally Posted By: rada
Gladwell got the idea from Bill Joy who I believe picked a random number out of the air.



I think the idea comes from research by K. Anders Ericsson, which has been discussed here before. Eventually, we'll all master the concept, because of spending 10K hours on it here.
Posted by: jdw

Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? - 02/13/13 06:41 AM

Originally Posted By: wr


I think the idea comes from research by K. Anders Ericsson, which has been discussed here before. Eventually, we'll all master the concept, because of spending 10K hours on it here.





ha
Posted by: Devane

Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? - 02/13/13 03:42 PM

“Outliers” was truly awful. Just another self-help/motivational book pretending to be science based.

To quote Professor Steven Pinker "The reasoning in 'Outliers,' which consists of cherry-picked anecdotes, post-hoc sophistry and false dichotomies, had me gnawing on my Kindle.” grin

Even Ericsson himself has his barge-pole out. He is distancing himself well clear of the BS from these Talent books/articles. From his faculty site....

The Danger of Delegating Education to Journalists ha
Originally Posted By: K. Anders Ericsson

“With these two sentences Jaffe reinforces misconceptions in some popularized books and internet blogs that incorrectly infer a close connection between deliberate practice and the “10,000 hour rule”.

In fact, the 10,000 hour rule was invented by Malcolm Gladwell (2008, p. 40) who stated that “researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours.” Gladwell cited our research on expert musicians as a stimulus for his provocative generalization to a magical number.



No magic numbers folks!
Posted by: theJourney

Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? - 02/13/13 03:54 PM

Originally Posted By: Devane
To quote Professor Steven Pinker "The reasoning in 'Outliers,' which consists of cherry-picked anecdotes, post-hoc sophistry and false dichotomies, had me gnawing on my Kindle.” grin


ROFL.

Of course whether or not one believes the kind of evolutionary psychological precepts as Mr. Pinker speculates upon amounts practically in effect to be some kind of religion...

Personally I cannot trust anyone who without iron-clad proof
Quote:

compares music to "auditory cheesecake", and states that "As far as biological cause and effect is concerned, music is useless".
Posted by: Thrill Science

Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? - 02/14/13 11:13 AM

I think there's a "meta point" here. It takes a LONG TIME to be able to play the piano well. Plan on practicing every day for 10 years, just to get started, and a lifetime of daily pracctice.

Many people get frustrated after a year of lessons. The "10,000" number is a useful reminder of the type of commitment it takes.
Posted by: ClsscLib

Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? - 02/14/13 12:09 PM

Originally Posted By: Thrill Science
I think there's a "meta point" here. It takes a LONG TIME to be able to play the piano well. Plan on practicing every day for 10 years, just to get started, and a lifetime of daily pracctice.

Many people get frustrated after a year of lessons. The "10,000" number is a useful reminder of the type of commitment it takes.


I agree. I also think that the kind of rough "predicted progress chart" attempted by the OP is a useful thought exercise.

We can't say anything definitive or categorical about how much (and when) progress can be expected and predicted for a reasonably intelligent and diligent student.

That doesn't mean, though, that we can't say anything.
Posted by: mermilylumpkin

Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? - 02/14/13 12:35 PM

I wonder if it's not safe to say that after you've devoted 10,000 studious hours of practicing, you'll be a pretty solidly talented and capable pianist? I'm not sure that there's any official virtuoso certificate or rubber seal of phenomenal talent. Is it necessary to have one?

If you want to be good at playing piano, then by all means, be on your way to your ten thousandth hour :-) I imagine you won't regret the time you've put in after the 10,000 mark. Not sure if there's a lot more to the conversation than that (imo).
Posted by: Mark_C

Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? - 02/14/13 01:13 PM

Originally Posted By: mermilylumpkin
I wonder if it's not safe to say that after you've devoted 10,000 studious hours of practicing, you'll be a pretty solidly talented and capable pianist?....

I don't think it is, because it depends on some basic ability to begin with. Not everyone could become good with that amount of work or even with any amount. BTW I would quibble a bit with your saying "talented," because I don't think of talent as something that comes about from any amount of work but something that 'just is.' In fact, I think that's a word we could use for what someone needs to have in the first place.

But I think the rest of how you put it -- "pretty solidly capable" -- is a real good handle on this whole thing, a whole lot better than "master the piano" and more meaningful to try to discuss. I'd agree that for someone who has enough of the basic "talent," or whatever it is that you need in the first place, 10,000 hours would do what you said, and in fact I think we could say the same of a much lower number.
Posted by: Mark_C

Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? - 02/14/13 02:04 PM

BTW I know that "talent" can mean different things. I think the best meaning is: grin

Posted by: riley80

Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? - 02/14/13 02:09 PM

I know some people who will never remember FACE after 10 million hours. ( Do we live that long?) I've seen kids learning to play at intermediate level after just a few months, and all variations in between.

It's an absurd notion to think that all learn at the same pace.
Posted by: ClsscLib

Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? - 02/14/13 02:40 PM

Originally Posted By: riley80
It's an absurd notion to think that all learn at the same pace.


Indeed. Did someone suggest that we all learn at the same pace?
Posted by: RonaldSteinway

Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? - 02/14/13 03:35 PM

Originally Posted By: riley80
I know some people who will never remember FACE after 10 million hours.


It is a genetic ability to be able to recognize faces.

http://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/news-articles/1002/10022302

Posted by: JoelW

Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? - 02/14/13 03:46 PM

Originally Posted By: RonaldSteinway
Originally Posted By: riley80
I know some people who will never remember FACE after 10 million hours.


It is a genetic ability to be able to recognize faces.

http://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/news-articles/1002/10022302



I think he meant on the staff...
Posted by: rada

Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? - 02/14/13 03:57 PM

Try telling that to FACEBOOK.

rada
Posted by: mermilylumpkin

Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? - 02/14/13 04:01 PM

I know some people who will never remember FACE after 10 million hours.

Do you really think so? I would imagine most of the crowd destined not to learn FACE would have dropped out before hour ten million, don't you think? At any rate, I myself would tip my hat to anyone who practiced the piano for ten thousand hours, especially if they worked through moments of discouragement and adversity. I admire work very much, and perhaps give more credence to it than "giftedness." But it's of course just one person's opinion :-)

I don't think I could bring myself to pooh-pooh the innate gifts of a person who had worked that hard. But it's all quite hypothetical anyway isn't it?
Posted by: Okiikahuna

Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? - 02/14/13 04:56 PM

After doing the math, I am quite certain I have spent in excess of 10,000 hours playing piano.

I have not mastered it. Not even close. In fact, many on this board would undoubtedly find me to be totally incompetent if they heard me.

I think this should put this thread to rest.

K.
Posted by: ChopinAddict

Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? - 02/14/13 06:23 PM

Originally Posted By: JoelW
Originally Posted By: RonaldSteinway
Originally Posted By: riley80
I know some people who will never remember FACE after 10 million hours.


It is a genetic ability to be able to recognize faces.

http://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/news-articles/1002/10022302



I think he meant on the staff...


I think it was a pun... But I generally don't have a sense of humour, so I don't know...
Posted by: wr

Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? - 02/15/13 07:02 AM

Originally Posted By: ChopinAddict
Originally Posted By: JoelW
Originally Posted By: RonaldSteinway
Originally Posted By: riley80
I know some people who will never remember FACE after 10 million hours.


It is a genetic ability to be able to recognize faces.

http://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/news-articles/1002/10022302



I think he meant on the staff...


I think it was a pun... But I generally don't have a sense of humour, so I don't know...


I had to google for it, since I don't remember it. I don't even remember if it was ever taught to me that way. It's hard to remember stuff if you never learned it in the first place. smile

Anyway, for anyone else like me who didn't know what it is, it's the note names for the spaces between the lines of the treble clef (duh...feeling really stupid).

As a matter of fact, I rarely think of music in terms of note names - maybe it's because I didn't learn FACE at a tender age.
Posted by: wr

Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? - 02/15/13 07:10 AM

Originally Posted By: Morodiene
I have no idea what "master the piano" even means.


I don't know what it would mean for myself, either. But, OTOH, I think there are some pianists who are masters. So, it's what they have done.

Anyway, the funny thing is - once you've put in the 10K hours mastering the piano, it seems like you would have to put in another 10K to master each and every piece of any substance you want to play.
Posted by: Morodiene

Re: Does it take 10,000 hours to master the piano? - 02/15/13 08:15 AM

Originally Posted By: mermilylumpkin
I wonder if it's not safe to say that after you've devoted 10,000 studious hours of practicing, you'll be a pretty solidly talented and capable pianist? I'm not sure that there's any official virtuoso certificate or rubber seal of phenomenal talent. Is it necessary to have one?

If you want to be good at playing piano, then by all means, be on your way to your ten thousandth hour :-) I imagine you won't regret the time you've put in after the 10,000 mark. Not sure if there's a lot more to the conversation than that (imo).


Because it's not about time sitting at the piano, it's about how that time is used. So assumptions are being made here that could be deceptive to the novice pianist. Is it 10,000 hours of efficient practicing? And what about the necessary sleep that has to be done in between learning a new skill or passage and reminding oneself of it? There is a point at which there will be diminishing returns. If one practiced for 10 hours a day for 2.74 years is that the same as someone who practices for 2 hours a day for 13.69 years? This is what this "statistic" implies, and those of us who do play can see already the pitfalls of this train of thought.