The 10,000 hour rule of expertise…
Here is an interesting thought: There is a theory that if a person spends 10,000 hours of concentrated effort on a particular subject (pick your subject), then that person would achieve a level of achievement that would allow him/her to be called an "expert" in that field. (On Google, search for: "10,000 hour rule, expert")
Consider this: Focused study for 50 hours per week for 50 weeks per year is 2500 hours per year. At that rate, it would take 4 years to achieve 10,000 hours. Medical school takes 4 years. Law school takes 4 years. A Ph.D. program takes, well, more than 4 years for some, but the students that really focus on their work can finish in 4 years or less.
Granted, this rule probably doesn’t apply to the statistical outliers (the 2-sigma-above-the-norm-folks) that have an exceptional ability and talent that those of us with average ability and talent envy…And the doctor fresh out of medical school, while having earned the degree of doctor, is not at his/her peak performance yet and I wouldn’t want to have brain-surgery from someone so green unless he/she were a 2-sigma person…
So here are my thoughts with respect to fiddling: In 1 hour of *focused*, *concentrated* practice, I can memorize a song. In 10 hours, I can achieve a speed and accuracy that would keep me from completely embarrassing myself when I play that song in public settings. In 100 hours, I would have developed a repertoire of 10 such songs. In 1000 hours, I would have 100 such songs in my repertoire. (Of course, I would continue to improve on my original songs even as I learn new ones, and the time in which I learn new songs decreases as my repertoire grows.) In 10,000 hours, I would have a collection of (on the order of) 1000 songs that I could draw upon in a session. (Now, before I joined The Session, I seem to recall reading in this discussion that the number of songs one needs to be an accomplished session player to be around 500 to 1000 songs.)
Now, if I practiced 10 hours per week (remember, *concentrated* and *focused* practice, not just noodling around), that would be 500 hours per year which would add 50 songs to my repertoire. It would take 10 to 20 years to become an accomplished session player. There would be fewer years, if I relax the initial premise that I have to memorize the songs and can use sessions books to play them. For example, if I learn 2 songs per hour, that divides the 10 to 20 years by 2 to give me 5 to 10 years of hard work and practice. And clearly, I would be decent on many songs before that.
How does this idea fit with your experience in playing traditional music?