10,000 hour "rule"

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by trumpettrax, Feb 10, 2011.

  1. Scatmanblues

    Scatmanblues Pianissimo User

    Jul 19, 2010
    West Texas
    The rule as described by Gladwell absolutely qualifies as pseudo-intellectual BS. But did you actually go back and review Ericcson's initial analysis? His handling of the factors (and I stress the plural) associated with expert performance is MUCH more nuanced and rigorous than Gladwell's amateurish attempts to explain it.

    In fact, Ericcson is always careful to point out in his presentations and publications that there is no ONE thing that determines excellence. What he presents is data that strongly suggests intelligent practice is one of the strongest predictors of achieving excellence in any skill-based endeavor. It's a statement of probability rather than certainty, and the outcomes are predicted to be along a continuum. The 10,000 is an admittedly "loose" characterization of what it takes to be the best of the best. 3,000 worked out to be about the level of advanced competence. They are not magic numbers, they are best guesses (as are all scientific theories ad hypotheses) based on years of data and factor analysis.

    Just because some journalist describes scientific practice and theory poorly and makes truckloads of money selling a book about it doesn't mean the underlying inquiry is automatically flawed or as concrete and absolute as the media presents it. Just ask ANYONE working in the sciences, police force, or education how often journalists really handle intellectual or professional work carefully and accurately.

  2. JediYoda

    JediYoda Mezzo Piano User

    Sep 25, 2010
    State of Confusion
    I had a chance to talk with Roger Williams the great pianist a few months ago when he gave an impromptu concert at the College where I teach trumpet.

    It was impromtu because of some union rules that he had to follow!

    Anyways we talked about what it takes to play at his level.

    He told me your basic local professional has maybe 10,000 hrs. and still works a 9-5 job.
    Then you get to people who are good enough to play gigs in bands and such and your talking maybe 5,000 hrs.
    You take your average church musician who plays in church reasonably well you are talking maybe several thousand hrs off and on again.

    You take people like Wynton, Sandoval...Severinson, Botti well they live eat and drink and sleep with their horns........way over 10,000 hrs.

    if you practiced for 6 hrs a day for 10 years that would be 21,900 hrs.
  3. turtlejimmy

    turtlejimmy Utimate User

    Jun 6, 2010
    The rule needs to be amended to address how long the player has been a musician, BEFORE taking up the trumpet.

    A 7 year old kid is not going to progress as fast as a seasoned musician who is either switching instruments or adding one. That musician already has thousands of hours in music.

    This "rule" doesn't account for that, and yet, musicianship is part of what a player learns. If he already has this ........:dontknow:

    Last edited: Feb 11, 2011
  4. JimCulp

    JimCulp New Friend

    Dec 13, 2010

    There are so many other factors that contribute to mastering anything. Setting a single factor to a concrete number is absurd.[/quote]

    I don't think anyone has ever said it's just the hours. That WOULD be absurd.
  5. trumpettrax

    trumpettrax Piano User

    Mar 18, 2006
    That is actually kind of my point, not necessarily being a musician before, but how long an individual has played the trumpet. Do the hours start when you first start playing and are just accumulating through the years or do they start when you are an intermediate player and decide hmmm I want to make this a career, or do you have a DMA and then decide I want to be a virtuoso on the trumpet and now my 10,000 hours to perfection start NOW.

    Just askin,
  6. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    We simply have to accept the fact that we are not all born equal. There is no formula for success with the human state.

    I think the goal needs to be more focussed on the results. Some of my 11 year old students with 30 minutes a day, give their audiences (grandparents, aunts, uncles) more pleasure than college students with 3 hours a day.

    10,000 hours is a very big number - that starts with your next FOCUSSED practice session. I often compare discussions like this to travelling. It is possible to drive from Miami to New York by going south. It just takes a lot longer. If New York is your only goal, south is the wrong choice. If the path to New York is the goal, south could have some pleasant surprises. The successful trumpet players that I work with ALL have gone south at one period of their career...................
    Vulgano Brother likes this.
  7. Bob Grier

    Bob Grier Forte User

    May 4, 2007
    Greensboro, NC
    But unless Ericcson is a top performer his findings are not relevent to the act of learning to play. He is looking at a very narrow aspect of learning. he doesn't have the personal experience to really understand what's envolved. How does he explain savants? How does he explain Mozart or Einstein?
  8. SmoothOperator

    SmoothOperator Mezzo Forte User

    Jul 14, 2010
    Nature vs. Nurture?
  9. Scatmanblues

    Scatmanblues Pianissimo User

    Jul 19, 2010
    West Texas

    Ericcson is a top performer. He is a well-established and well-respected scientist in a cutt-throat and highly competitive field who has made a career of this research across over 20 years. He meets almost anyone's definition of an elite performer.

    Also, he is not the one saying that 10,000 hours of focused practice is how you become an expert. He's saying its a necessary but not sufficient condition for doing so a vast majority of the time. To be considered truly gifted requires that AND talent, AND luck, AND being in an environment that provides opportunities, etc...

    His interest is in understanding what is common across ALL elite performers, and identifying variables that predict certain outcomes. What he has found is that the most predictive variable common to the vast majority of expert performers is the amount of diligent practice they have engaged in. His statements are statements of probability.

    Think of it like this: If I am able to predict with 90% accuracy what kind of career success my students will have based on their performance of some skill in my classes, I'm doing a WHOLE LOT better than just about every career planning or college admissions professional in the world. But even at that success level, there will be 10% of students who don't "Follow the rule" and whose outcomes don't match. That doesn't make the "rule" invalid, because the rule was probabilistic from the beginning.

    A scientist rarely talks of rules, because our hypotheses are typically statements of probability rather than fact. The better our hypothesis is at predicting things, the better. If a hypothesis consistently makes accurate and useful predictions, we call it a law (the law of gravity, the second law of thermodynamics, etc.). We don't consider it a definitive FACT that works 100% of the time.

    Now, as for your questions about Mozart, Einstein, and savants:

    Mozart was the son of a gifted musician and was playing instruments under careful guidance from his earliest days. He practiced and was critiqued constantly, and from a young age. Thus, by the time he hit adolescence, he had already reached the "10,000 hour" mark easily. He is actually a perfect case for the hypothesis rather than a refutation of it. He accomplished what he did as an adult BECAUSE of the diligent practice as a child. Did he also have talent? Sure. Did he also have a unique opportunity? Sure. Did both of those also contribute to his accomplishments? Absolutely.

    Same for Einstein. He did not rise to prominence as a scientist until his late thirties. He spent YEARS thinking deeply and studying physics before he "discovered" his radical ideas. His "genius" as we call it was the result of spending days, and even weeks, at a time alone in his office thinking, writing, drawing, and computing mathematical proofs. Was he ALSO smart? Sure. Did he have a high IQ Sure. But guess what? In any given city of 1000 people there are at least one or two with an IQ as high as Einstein's who didn't have the same opportunities or spend the same hours practicing the basics of rigorous mathematical thought.

    Savants appear tougher to deal with, but they really aren't. First, true savants are extremely rare. That they exist doesn't threaten the predictive power of the "rule". They fall into the small percentage of expert performers who did not engage in 10,000 hours of focused practice before attaining true expert-level ability. They are a part of that 10% I talked about in my other example above. Second, in most cases and upon closer investigation, most "savants" turn out to have HAD more practice than appears to have been the case initially, and don't really meet criteria for the use of the word. Just as Mozart was considered a "prodigy" by people who didn't know his already long history of practice and performance, many people will throw the "savant" label on any kid who performs at an amazing level without looking further into their history.

  10. JimCulp

    JimCulp New Friend

    Dec 13, 2010
    That was well said, Scatman. There is also one other thing I guess I'd have to point out, too, and that's the fact that if one has to be a top performer himself to understand what it takes to become one, no one could be taught to be a top performer. Perhaps a small number would get there by accident, but that's all. We discuss fine performers on this forum every day, and they aren't flukes. They get there by skillful teaching and hard work.

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