How much practice does it take to be a good musician? Or a world class one at that? Well if you listen to the 10,000 hours of practice rule… you’ve got your answer. 10,000 hours till you should be a talented expert music maker.
But what does this mean for you as a musician? And does this theory really hold the answers for how you become good musician and at a level where you can compete with some of the best musicians worldwide? This is what we look at today. Please comment with your views and share if you want more guides like this.
What Is The 10,000 Hours Of Practice Rule
So, what exactly is the 10,000 hours of practice rule? Well you can either watch this video by Ed Sheeran who kindly gives his take on it (warning, contains explicit words):
Or you can read what it’s all about below.
Basically, what the 10,000 hours of practice rule is, is a theory on how much time you need to dedicate to something to become an expert at it. In this case, we’re applying it to becoming a good musician. An expert in fact. You can become good with a lot less practice than that, but to become a world class musical talent (which I’m guessing is your aim), you’re going to need to put the work in.
Yes I know 10,000 hours is a long time, but there are ways to make sure practice remains fun. And besides, if you want to become the best at something, it’s worth investing time into.
Now let’s break this down. The rule says that when you start practicing, you’re naturally not going to be great. But the more and more you practice, the better you’ll become. As long as you’re learning from your mistakes of course.
As humans, we naturally become better at things the more we practice. We might spend a long time getting it wrong and being frustrated with our results, but if we do enough serious practice and follow the right instructions, the parts will start to click into place.
Ed Sheeran has a great example for this in the above video, one which I’ll relate to music straight after. He says you should view your practice hours and your improvement like a dirty tap. Turn it on and dirty water will start coming out. This will come out for a while, but you should keep going. Eventually, if you leave it on long enough, clean water will start pouring out. A bit of dirty water may still come out here and there again in future, but most of the time it’ll be clean.
Now, relating this to your music career, when you first start writing songs / producing music / practicing singing, chances are it won’t be great. This is the dirty water. But keep practicing, keep producing, keep writing lyrics. Eventually you’ll start to improve, and after enough time you’ll be an expert. In this theory, at 10,000 hours.
Note: As a bit of background, according to the BBC, the 10,00 hours of practice rule was first mentioned in a paper called ‘The Role Of Deliberate Practice In The Acquisition Of Expert Performance’. This paper was written by Anders Ericsson in 1993. Just a quick note for any of you who are interested and want to look into the theory further.
Now, let’s look at how long this is in terms of months and years, as well as if you can be a good musician on less than 10,000 hours of practice.
Do You Have To Have 10,000 Hours Exactly To Become Good?
No, you don’t. In reality, there is no set amount of time you need till you can be seen as a world-class musician. For some people, it may take a lot less than this. Fast learners and naturally talented musicians will fall into this category. For others it could take more. This is especially true if you don’t adapt to what you’re learning along the way, so always be open to trying new things and learning from your mistakes.
How Long Is 10,000 Hours Exactly?
So if you’re like me, you may not have an idea of how long 10,000 hours is in terms of weeks and years at first glace. So how long is it really? Let me break it down for you:
- If you’ve 10 hours to practice a week, that’s going to take you 1000 weeks to become an expert. Or in other words, 19+ years.
The math: 10,000 hours / 10 hours a week = 1000 weeks. Divided by 52 weeks in a year is 19.23 years.
- If you can do music full time though, say 35 hours a week, it’ll take 5 ½ years to become an expert. The math: 10,000 hours / 35 hours a week = 285 weeks. Divided by 52 weeks in a year is 5.49 years.
Again, this rule isn’t hard and fast; you may become an expert in less time than that. That said, it does show you that you shouldn’t expert to start making song and then get big within a year. Ask most musicians who have made it how long it took them to get where they are. Chances are they’ll tell you they’ve been doing it for years.
Should You Be Releasing Material Before You’re An Expert Musician?
Yes, you definitely should. You shouldn’t be releasing songs when you’re not good at all, but once you hit a level where you’ve got something to offer you should definitely do that. While you won’t be at your top level yet, you performing and collaborating with other musicians will give you practice and help get you to the level you want to be.
Becoming a talented musician isn’t an overnight thing. It usually takes years to become an expert at this, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be good before that.
So how long have you been making music? And do you feel you’re at expert level yet? Let us know in the comments.