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You’ve probably heard of the 10,000 Hour Rule before. It tends to be common knowledge among those looking to significantly improve their skill level in a particular area. Technically, the 10,000 Hour Rule can apply to pretty much anything you can think of. Whether it’s art, sports or learning a new language, and definitely when it comes to music.
Obviously 10,000 hours is no small amount of time to devote to developing one particular skill. If you practiced for one hour, every single day, you would reach your 10,000 hour goal in about 27 years. In the wise words of Kimberly “Sweet Brown” Wilkins, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” Two hours a day will get you there in 13 years. Still pretty lengthy but maybe you’re closer to your goal than you think! Read on to find out our take on the 10,000 Hour Rule.
The “10,000 Hour Rule” was coined by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers: The Story of Success. According to Gladwell’s theory, it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert or master in a given field. One study that Gladwell used to try to prove this was performed by Swedish psychologist K. Anders Ericsson. In this study, Ericsson and colleagues recruited violinists from a prestigious Berlin music academy. The musicians were asked to estimate the amount of time per week they had devoted to deliberate practice for each year of their musical careers. The study concluded that the violinists who had accumulated the most hours were the most accomplished. Ericsson used these findings to support the notion that prolonged effort explained differences between experts and novices.
Many well-known public figures are huge advocates of the 10,000 Hour Rule and believe it is proven to work. In an interview with British Vogue editor-in-chief Edward Enninful, Oprah states ““I love the theory of that there’s 10,000 hours behind anybody whoever gets to be successful.”
Another big supporter is singer-songwriter and music producer, Ed Sheeran. In the interview below, Sheeran talks about how applying the rule to his own music journey helped to propel his career forward. The musician uses a metaphor to describe the process of consistent song writing, even when the lyrics don’t turn out that great. He compares it to switching on a dirty tap and letting all the contaminated water flow out. If you keep letting the tap run, eventually clean water is going to come out.
Watch the full video below.
With supporters of the 10,000 hour rule, also come those who have tried to disprove its claim. Even Ericsson, the scientist who performed the study on violinists in Berlin, questioned how Gladwell came up with the 10,000 hour timeframe. The study had shown that the violinist who practiced the most were the most successful, but they were not yet considered to be at the expert level.
There are also other factors to consider. Starting age can play a large role in the ability of a musician to pick up a skill. Not to mention, some individuals just have an easier time absorbing and implementing knowledge than others. Whether you have a teacher or are self-taught matters too! Someone who is self-taught may not have the same insight as a seasoned professional. Conversely, a trained professional could also hinder their pupil’s ability to master a skill by setting limitations and guidelines rather than allowing for uninhibited self-expression.
So what can we take away from this?
It’s definitely hard to argue against the benefits of consistently practising your craft. If you were to fulfil 10,000 hours of purposeful practice, it’d be almost impossible not to show improvement. Whether you will reach an expert level is a different story but is reaching an expert level even necessary? At the end of the day, I think most diy musicians want to show continuous growth in their musical ability and make a decent living. This is not a far-fetched pipe dream. It’s well within your reach. You just need to enjoy what you do, be relatively good at it, and promote yourself!
If you believe incorporating the 10,000 Hour Rule will help keep you on track to seeing the growth you want, then go for it. As we said earlier, you may be closer to the goal than you think.
Practising your music doesn’t always present itself in a structured way. If you’re a singer or songwriter, maybe sometimes you make up small tunes throughout your day. Personally, I have a habit of singing what I’m doing or what I’m observing. I just sang about eating a sweet potato while writing this article.
Maybe you’ve sat with a fellow music producer and offered feedback on one of their projects. Perhaps you’ve picked up on new techniques from observing other artists and devoted time to researching how they’re done.
Have you ever joined in for an impromptu jam session? Maybe in the moment it was just a fun time that you didn’t take too seriously but all these instances were learning experiences. Whether consciously or subconsciously, even these small moments contribute to your arsenal of knowledge.
That’s my take-away from the 10,000 Hour Rule! Hopefully, I offered a new perspective that you can take into consideration on your musical journey.
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Nia is a classically-trained musician with nearly ten years of professional experience. She studied music performance for one year at Georgia Southern University before ultimately pursuing a degree in public relations. Combining her passion for music and knowledge of media relations practices, Nia aims to provide musicians with the know-how to become successful in the music industry. Stay tuned!