The 10,000 hour rule is a rule of thumb used to show that about 10,000 hours of practice helps you master a skill. While this is true for a lot of things, and it is true for the piano most of the time, it’s not a hard and fast rule that should be used universally.
Unfortunately, practising for 10,000 hours sounds like a daunting and almost impossible task on the piano.
In case you were wondering, the idea behind the 10,000 hour rule is that ANYONE can master a skill, and that all you have to do is work at it. This is a lovely thing to hear, but that does not make the idea any less terrifying. Someone who studies music on any level knows that if they practise for two hours a day, they need 5000 days to reach this mythical goal of 10,000 hours.
Read further so that you can see that while this rule applies, it does not necessarily apply to you personally.
And of course, if you would like to aid your learning with expert piano instruction in London, please contact the London Piano Centre at your earliest convenience.
Never Start Out Thinking You Need 10,000 Hours
Anyone who starts practising the piano should not feel like they need to just practise for 10,000 hours so that they can become a virtuoso. It just doesn’t work like that. Some people learn quickly, and some people learn slowly. Everyone has different goals, and simple math tells you that 5000 days is about 13.7 years. Most people don’t know what they’ll be doing 13 hours from now, so judging what they will do in 13 years is kind of hard to figure.
You should focus on getting better at playing instead of ticking off all the hours you have practised. You can log quite a lot of practice time over the years, but reaching, or getting close to, 10,000 hours doesn’t automatically make you a success—and not reaching this number doesn’t make you a failure.
You know what a big success looks like? When a child learns to play Mary Had a Little Lamb with both hands. That’s a big deal. Their first recital is a big deal. Their first piece of “real” music is a big deal, and nowhere in there is the 10,000 hour rule. Remember – the rule is not bad. The rule simply is not an end-all-be-all.
And also remember – someone who wastes 10,000 hours at the piano on inefficient practice won’t be nearly as advanced as someone who practises intelligently for 5,000 hours. That’s where a teacher comes in – we want to help you learn to practise well.
Consistent Practice is Better Than a Lot of Practice
Consistent practice is always going to be better than a lot of practice. Musicians reach a point of diminishing returns when they practise too much. For one thing, your brain needs a break. For another, you can hurt yourself. Plus, you can only take in so much information at once. You can only play the same passage so many times before you start making mistakes that you would not have made previously. (Yes, this happens. You can’t practise until your fingers bleed and expect the end of that practice session to be worth anything.)
So yes, you got closer to 10,000 hours, but some of that practice wasn’t very good. Practise for fewer minutes with more consistently, and you will get better faster. The good news is that even if you have very little time to practise the piano, you can still make excellent progress with 15-20 minutes of consistent practice daily.
You Can’t Count the Hours
Counting the hours will drive you crazy. Sure, if you play the piano for 10,000 hours, you’ll get pretty good, but that does not mean you should count the hours. Counting the hours is terrifying because when you practice for 1000 hours (which would likely qualify you as a competent pianist) you still have 9000 hours to go. There is nothing more defeating than feeling like you made no progress. You would have to max out for five years to get halfway there. In five years, you can get really good, but don’t count the hours while you’re doing it.
Progress is Tracked Through Your Music
Progress is most often tracked through your music. You can see how much better you are getting while you are playing harder music. It’s a natural progression. You also notice that easier music keeps getting easier and easier. You feel very confident, and you can even teach beginners how to play that music. Allow your music to guide you, and you will get closer to 10,000 hours without driving yourself crazy.
Not Everyone Has the Same Goals
Ultimately, the 10,000 hour rule only works if you want to be a performing professional. This means you are a professional musician who continues to practise. That is the idea. You master a skill because you can turn it into a career, but not all pianists want to be professionals. Some people like to play for fun, and others want to do nothing more than accompany the choir at church. There are others who want to play for their chorus at school, but they have no desire to play concertos.
Allow the 10,000 hour rule to motivate you because it takes a lot of practice to master a skill, but you should not allow this rule to deter you. At the same time, you can let the music and consistent practice guide you instead of what seems like an unattainable number.