The 10,000 hour rule of expertise…

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?

—Joe Scott

Re: The 10,000 hour rule of expertise…

The answer is: it depends.

Re: The 10,000 hour rule of expertise…

You mean tunes?

—DtM

Re: The 10,000 hour rule of expertise..

You forgot someting in your exercice, learning will be easier by the time your "learning" so much music. You’ll increase your memory and reflex in that type of music.

I play irish music for few years and I’m not that decent in sessions, but it’s more easy now to learn the tunes than before.

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Re: The 10,000 hour rule of expertise…

Another point is that the technical expertise required for playing Irish fiddle music is quite a small subset of the technique required for classical or jazz violin playing, and can therefore be acquired in a lesser period of time, thus leaving more time for learning tunes.

For a beginner, learning tunes (although the beginner may not realise it) essentially involves learning the "language" of the music - that vocabulary of little sequences of notes that crop up all the time in tunes. When that "vocabulary" has been acquired then the speed at which tunes can be learned increases markedly. This may explain why an experienced player can sit in with a ceili band playing for set dancers and play at speed tunes he’s never heard before. The player’s brain is subconsciously predicting with a fairly high level of certainty what is coming next. Whether he can necessarily recall individual tunes the next day is another matter.

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You have to allow for natural ability, a natural gift.Some people will be plugging away for 10000hours and be pretty useless at the end of it, they might reach their own maximum platform and progress slows down dramatically after that.Others , the gifted ones, will go on for ever.

Re: The 10,000 hour rule of expertise…

Good thinking, hpt, but I’m afraid in my most honest critique, I don’t like it.

Your arithmetic only accounts for learning/memorizing tunes — which by most accounts is only a small fraction of what is needed to become "an accomplished session player" — *especially* if you resort to tune books.

Yes, I believe that if one practices in a *concentrated* and *focused* way for 500 hours a year, they can become an above-average player in their own living room after 10 years’ time.

I’m speaking from my own personal experience, because almost *all* of my playing time is "concentrated and focused" practice at home, therefore I am absolutely dreadful at playing with others — and will still be dreadful if I continue doing what I’m doing now for 10 more years, no matter how many tunes I learn, or how well I play them in the comfort and privacy of my own home.

Re: The 10,000 hour rule of expertise…

I’m not so sure that you can fairly equate getting to the top in music with getting to the top in professions such as medicine, engineering and law. There are substantial differences.

As far as I am aware, the top musicians (in whatever musical genre) seem to start at around the age of 5 and reach full command of technique by the age of 16-18, by which time they’re perfectly capable of performing major programmes in front of large audiences. After that, it’s a matter of acquiring more repertoire, a deeper knowledge of music, and getting even more performing experience. For the classical musician this is when the big international competitions come into the picture. The purpose of these competitions is not to identify those players with potential (if that’s all you’ve got then you’re not going to get anywhere near the finals) but to find those players who, the day after the finals, can sign lucrative recording, broadcasting, and touring contracts with immediate effect. It’s a tough life.

If you chose a career in medicine, engineering or law, for example, you’ll be studying from the age of 18 and upwards for 5-7 years before you’re qualified, and then, having qualified and been entered on a professional register you realise with misgivings (not to say horror), as I and many others did, that you can now in theory be released on the unsuspecting public as an "expert" - and you still feel you know nothing. The truth is that you usually have the safety net of working in a department under real experts for a few more years acquiring the necessary experience before you’re really ready to become a consultant, or a partner in a practice, or to plough your own furrow.

The best definition I’ve heard of an "expert" is that (s)he’s the one person in a room who knows more about a given subject than anyone else present.

Of course, I’m not talking about the 2-sigma category - rare by definition :-)

Re: The 10,000 hour rule of expertise…

This is a very interesting thought, Joe. I can see that thinking about learning is important to you, which is something I have also spent much time thinking about. How many experts does it take to play a session tune? I mean it’s a group thing, about learning the dialect, then applying it to the tunes. As most of us playing are separated by generations and geography from the place where these tunes arose, we are also mutating them as we go.

Re: The 10,000 hour rule of expertise…

"…Some people will be plugging away for 10000 hours and be pretty useless at the end of it,…"

I don’t think this is possible, and it certainly isn’t provable. Find me someone who has spent 10,000 hours learning something and not acquired an expertise in that area. And you also have to remember that anyone who does any one thing for 10,000 hours must be assumed to have an intense interest in that thing—-certainly music, because who would practice/play an instrument for that long without liking it?

"…they might reach their own maximum platform and progress slows down dramatically after that…"

I don’t think this is a given, either. I’ve never met anyone who has failed to improve with diligent effort, good instruction, and a passion to learn. The thing you do see is people who improve to a certain point and then stop trying so hard. So of course they will fail to progress at the former rate.

"Others , the gifted ones, will go on for ever."

Again, I think anyone can continue to progress. Some will progress faster than others, which is the only place where I think natural ability might factor into it.

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I think learning environment and mentors are just as important as amount of time spent. So one problem with your analogy Joe is that a Med student or PhD candidate will be studying under the absolute highest specialists in their field in labs with proper equipment. Whereas, from your post I take it you intend to spend 10,000 hours learning in isolation from tune books. That’s not exactly equivalent to learning by ear at sessions and under the mentorship of the best local players.

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Re: The 10,000 hour rule of expertise…

Joe - Some problems with your proposal.
Paragraph 1, you refer to a "theory" which is by no means a theory, in the reference you cite it is presented as a vague suggestion backed up by some very loose assumptions and looser definitions. You might want to nail that down before depending on it.
Paragraph two, you commit a common fallacy, citing leading coincidences which don’t relate to your proposal. Okay, degree programs are often four years - but what does that have to do with 10,000 hours? Is there any degree candidate anywhere who puts in fifty hour weeks, with two weeks of vacation, on their degree? And is there any reason to suppose that the number of hours of study is more significant than the number of years of study, or the number of courses taken, or the number of hours of argument over the subject, or any number of factors we could read in?
Paragraph four, where you tuck into the question of fiddling contains a very significant assumption, which I find highly questionable: the correlation of degree of expertise to the number of tunes learned. Leaving aside your conveniently loose definition of "learn" (what tune can you ‘learn’ in an hour, and what do you mean by saying you’ve learned it?), this correlation seems to be at odds with the observation that the players who are acknowledged to be experts typically have no idea how many tunes they know. "If you know how many tunes you know, you’re still a beginner" is not just a snide comment, it’s a very astute observation about the way tunes are learned. An "expert" player is not simply a beginner with more tunes and better chops, the relationship to the tune changes dramatically as expertise develops. This expertise might develop over hours, but I’d be reluctant to say that just any hours playing will do the work, not even *focused*, *concentrated* hours of practice.
Expertise in playing session tunes, I’d venture to guess, would come in the form of… playing session tunes. In sessions. With other players throwing ideas at you, and you latching on to what the concertina next to you is doing and trying to give it back on the fiddle, so you lock in with them and you don’t even notice when you follow them into the next tune, and you’re into the second round of the last tune in the set before you realize that you don’t actually know the tune you just played, and you just Wile E. Coyote’d right over that canyon, and thanks be to jaysus you didn’t look down, and then you put your fiddle down and - what, log another tune in your book? No, you have another pint and have some chat until someone strikes up another tune.

And that’s the hour that makes you an expert - eventually.

So, in other words, your proposal fits in not at all with what I know of playing tunes - but don’t let that stop you. Shteam into it! Just don’t forget to let those tunes out to play now and again, they get awful grumpy locked up in your room.

Re: The 10,000 hour rule of expertise…

Ah, and Joe - the things you play on your fiddle? Tunes. Songs are the ones with words, you sing ‘em. You know - Beethoven wrote one.

Re: The 10,000 hour rule of expertise…

Yes, you’re not on the road to being an expert until you
sing songs and play tunes.

Re: The 10,000 hour rule of expertise…

Nice post, Jon.

Re: The 10,000 hour rule of expertise…

Ah yes, TUNES vs. SONGS. Correctly me if I’m wrong, but Beethoven wrote more than one SONG and I’m *sure* that John Denver wrote at least a few TUNES. I do stand corrected that I play tunes on my fiddle, but I do not have to sing songs to learn the songs and the tunes behind the songs. Forgive me for being new to the differentiation between the two. If you cut out all the tunes that have words from your repertoire, then in my opinion, you would lose a significant fraction of traditional music. Humans create music to tell stories. But that is a whole different topic of discussion. Let’s get back to the topic at hand.

First, one has to realize that the 10,000 hour rule is not gospel. The 10,000th hour is not magical in that after 9,999 hours you don’t have it, then one hour later you do. It is a generalization of the amount of human effort needed to become good at something on the average. What one person can achieve in 8,000 hours may take another person 12,000 hours, but on the average they take 10,000 hours. Get it? I did not say that everybody is the same, but that isn’t is strange that institutions that define expertise in particular areas require studies that are about the same length of time? I think music is no different.

Nor did I say that after 4 years of study, a person is THE world’s expert in a particular subject area. All I said is that it takes that long (on the average) to have conferred on them the title that indicates a degree of mastery that allows them to be considered experts in the field. For that matter, you don’t have to get a degree to be an expert, but you do have to spend the dedicated, focused study time to become one of many experts in a field. My question was, for those of you who consider yourselves "experts" at something musical, how long did it take for you to get there and how does that compare to the 10,000 hour rule?

Thirdly, I did not even suggest that I wanted to achieve expertise through self-study, then break on the world scene as the world’s greatest at anything. Focused and concentrated study requires diligent practice, both solo and with others. I have known some people who come to monthly jam sessions and, amazingly enough, have not learned anything new since the last time. I have been guilty of that on occasion. It’s been either a lack of effort outside the session, or poorly guided practice. The old adage, "Practice makes perfect" is not correct. The improved adage says, "Perfect practice make perfect". In some discussion on this website, I have read that the best way to improve speed in playing a tune is to slow down in practice so as to get the notes perfect. Speed will come with perfect practice. Using a metronome is really a means to achieve note length perfection and is basically the same idea as playing with a good recorded version of a song…ahem…tune. You can’t become a great baseball player by studying books in your room. You have to both play with others on a team and take individual practice. Oh, and playing with others is not sufficient in itself. If the others you play with are not very good, then I suggest that you will not improve in you abilities. My biggest fear is to go to a session where I am the best player (ha! no chance of that happening!). I recall some beginning jams where everything is read off sheet music and at half speed! Ouch!

As far as learning is concerned, I have noticed that the more I play, the faster I learn. By learning, I mean memorize to the point of not needing music to play the tune. At that point, I can begin to improve the technique and tone of my playing until I can keep up with others. The more tunes I learn, the faster I pick up new tunes. There seems to be intermediate barriers that tend to frustrate my learning them until I master a certain technique, then, when I do master that technique, my rate of learning increases until I get to the next barrier. And the way through the next barrier is instruction from those better than myself and through diligent practice on my part.

If there is one thing this discussion seems to draw in on, it seems to be that there is no easy way to achieve expertise. That’s the whole point of the 10,000 hour rule. There does seem to be a component of how much effort is required within a certain amount of time that determines improvement. Studying an hour each day for 30 years won’t make one a Ph.D. or even a medical doctor. Fiddling an hour each week won’t make one a expert fiddler. So, what is the optimal rate of growth in ability? How many years did you take to get to 10,000 hours of focused practice and play?

That’s the real question.

—Joe

P.S. Thanks for the comments. Don’t worry, I got a long way to go before I even get close to 10,000 hours….

Re: The 10,000 hour rule of expertise…

Learning to play music is too subtle and ephemeral to be reduced to this kind of equation.

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Re: The 10,000 hour rule of expertise…

Joe, I can tell you are interested a logical progression of things.
That may be a rare critter around these parts. Your theory, & it’s basic premise, stems from the following statements. "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."
The question a traditional player would ask you is, "Have you heard the song (tune) played by other fiddlers? Can you lead off with the tune? Can you discern different styles of different fiddlers playing the same song?"
Here’s my question ~ in 4 years will you (or anyone) be able to answer yes, to the 3 questions, for each of the 1,000 tunes?

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*

~ now you got me calling tunes *songs* ;)

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* *

… a trad player would ask, ‘have you *listened* to other fiddlers playing the tune?’
tunes are subtle & ephemeral so you gotta listen.

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Re: The 10,000 hour rule of expertise…

You have to start with the premise that, being a classically-
training violinist from Colorado you have a lot to learn about
playing Irish music. Unless you accept the premise, your
10,000 hours will be a waste of time.

Re: The 10,000 hour rule of expertise…

… ‘trained ‘… I meant

Re: The 10,000 hour rule of expertise…

I see that you teach physics etc. but I don’t think you can approach the learning of music from this angle, even though music itself has an underlying math. You can start that way but you’ll just veer off the tracks sooner or later and the sooner the better!! Learning any music but particularly a folk music seems to be more closely related to learning a language.

So how long would it take to learn Chinese if (a) you went to night classes for the next xyz years or (b) you went and lived in a rural part of China????

Re: The 10,000 hour rule of expertise…

Joe -

1) Your "10,000" rule ignores the prerequisite of having some inherent talent or ability. You’d never make it as a fiddle player if you had no manual dexterity, no sense of rhythm and were tone-deaf.

2) What is an expert, anyway? How do define the meaning of that word? The problem is that "expertise" is not really measurable. No-one can agree on a definition - although the meaning cited by lazyhound is probably as good as any:

If, (for instance) you were the only person capable of leading tunes at your local session, no doubt your fellow session attendees would regard you as being "the expert" - even if your tunes were "the easiest ones in the book".

"In the world of the blind, the one-eyed man is king" (Q. Who said that - I’m no expert on literature!) .

One possible definition of an expert in TM might be someone who had a complete and total knowlege of playing it. Such a person would need to be able to play competently - in any regional style - all known traditional tunes on any instrument that is normally used to play these tunes - and without looking at the dots.

Of course, there is no such person. All of us - even the very best players - have more to learn about it than they know already. There is no such thing as a TM expert. Competancy is another matter. If you can join in well with the majority of the tunes played at a session, and can lead sets of 2 or 3 tunes without faltering, I think that you could claim to be compentent. Is competency is achievable in 10,000 hours? It would still depend very much on the person concerned.

Well, I’ve responded to your question (although you may not like my response), so you might like to respond to mine:

Songs are sung by singers - using the human voice.

Tunes are played by musicians - using instruments.

So why is it that you (an many other Americans) persist in referring to "tunes" as "songs"?

Such usage is a great source of amusement (and is often deririded) by those of us on this side of "the pond" (where this website is based).

Re: The 10,000 hour rule of expertise…

Mix, stop with the "Americans" crap. Plenty of us are just as annoyed as you are when we hear the word "song" instead of "tune".

And as for this: "By learning, I mean memorize to the point of not needing music to play the tune."—-this is not an adequate definition; there is so much more to learning a tune than just memorizing the notes. Do you know how it tends to sound on other instruments? Do you know how others play it? Have you spent the time to develop with variations for it? Can you change up the way you play it each time through?

There’s this illusion that learning a tune is learning the notes, and then it’s on to the next tune. It’s easy to miss the music that way.

Re: The 10,000 hours of Tune/Song Concern

The only thing annoying about the tune/song exchange is that people are annoyed. We all know what we mean. Not surprising, tho, that some would find it a source of great amusment on that side of the pond. I have watched European comedies on the tely.

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Tune/song seems a bit trivial. I’m not so sure about jam/session. Do we all know what we mean ? Not sure I do.

Re: The 10,000 hour rule of expertise…

"How does this idea fit with your experience in playing traditional music?"

In no way at all.
1. You wrongly assume that all songs are separate entities, like a number of poems, all with different stories and by different authors, which take something like an equal time per line to memorise. As LazyHound intimates above, Irish music is a style of music with a large number of variations on a fairly restricted number of themes, with a limited repertoire of necessary techniques. This isn’t to say you can’t spend your lifetime learning it, but what you are learning is not a batch of tunes, it is ‘The Music’. You can’t learn the music through ‘self-study’, you can only learn it either with a group of other people or with a ‘master’. Otherwise you are indeed just learning a set of tunes and there is no point in making them just traditional tunes, you might as well learn some classical and tunes from the shows etc while you’re at it.
The assimilation of tunes if you play in sessions (I’m not saying you have to play in sessions, some people might argue convincingly that going to sessions will stilt your approach to playing the music) is not a matter of finding what’s being played and going away and studying/learning it, but actually soaking in the tunes/styles and learning them organically. If you go to a sesh and find yourself walking down the road whistling the first part of Miss Monaghan’s two days later, then you’ve learned the first part of Miss Monaghan’s (just take care not to stick it with the second part of The Belles Of Tipperary) - no study involved whatsoever.
Equally, as I think LazyHound also said above, it is easy to learn a tune at a dance while the caller is teaching the dancers the steps, play it the once, and have no recollection of how it goes the next day (though you will find, that it quickly comes back at the next dance that you’re ‘taught’ it again!).
The more tunes I play, the fewer I am convinced there are.
Happy New Year
Mark

Re: The 10,000 hour rule of expertise…

Kennedy - my apologies if you are an exception. I didn’t say "all Americans" anyway - I said "you and many other Americans".

And I’m very pleased to hear that "not all" Americans use the word "song" when referring to a tune.

But please explain this.

When someone uses the word "song" in this way, I always make a point of clicking on their profile to find out where they live. In every instance where I have done this, the member was based the USA.

So, some Americans - but not all Americans. Could it be a regional thing, do you suppose?

Re: The 10,000 hour rule of expertise…

Huh, sorry hit post. Coming back to 10000 hours. If I remember correctly the studies were on people who were making their living doing whatever it was they had studied/practiced for 1000s of hours and within that group, which probably did not include many so-called ‘no-aptitude’ individuals, the relationship between success and hours put it was so direct as to suggested that any inherent ‘talent’ was of little relevance. It really was about putting in the hours.

Re: The 10,000 hour rule of expertise…

I can’t see what’s so annoying about tune/song. It’s kind of nice that people would think of a tune as a song instead of a shapeless torrent of notes.

The "10,000 hour rule" thing is part of a promotional campaign for a book currently doing the rounds. It doesn’t need any more help from me but it seems like another case of stating the bleeding obvious, at length, and peddling it as insight.

I’ve just figured out that if I was to practise one hour a day (which is pushing it in my case), every day, then according to the 10,000 hr rule, I’d be getting pretty good about the time of my 82nd birthday

To get back to the book PR, the author calculated that the Beatles must have played 10,000 hrs before they made it big. In fact he reckoned, Hamburg and all, they had played 1200 gigs before they went to America, more apparently than most bands do in their career.

The interesting point to me, which may be relevant here, is not how good they were as musicians but how good they were *together*

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Re: The 10,000 hour rule of expertise…

Mix, I’m not an exception, I just happen to be informed. There are plenty of uninformed people on your side of the pond, too, don’t forget, and about more things than just music. Ignorance doesn’t respect geography.

As for why many Americans would favour the word song, I really don’t know, but I would guess it might have to do with the many American traditions of music that have songs. Almost all popular music is song-based. Bluegrass has songs. Old time music has tunes, but also many songs. Cajun music is the same. The only genre I can think of that has a large instrumental base is jazz, and for that, you’ll hear people refer to it as "pieces" or "songs", depending on the piece—-and probably other things too, because jazz has its own language. Also, don’t forget that in the classical world, they have their own language as well—-"piece", "movement", etc.

Re: The 10,000 hour rule of expertise…

Is Apple to blame for the absurdity of calling tunes songs? And if so, why has it apparently taken hold more on the American side of the pond? If I load any track on my iPod it calls it a song, this includes not only purely instrumental jigs, reels etc. but also whole movements from classical symphonies, 20-minute jazz improvisationsand presumably also chapters from books if I loaded an audio book. Why don’t they just call them tracks?

And it’s not a trivial distinction. Best to know the difference. If someone in a pub asks you to give them a song, they’ll b a bit puzzled if you play them a tune. Both useful words with distinct meanings. Don’t mix them up. A song is a piece of music with words that are sung (some exceptions that we can ignore for our purposes, e.g. Mendelssohn’s ‘Songs without Words’). Songs have tunes that can be played instrumentally only - most slow airs are in this category, but it is still perverse to call them songs.

Re: The 10,000 hour rule of expertise…

Whoever above said that learning Irish music is more like learning a language than learning physics was spot on. I think that is a much better analogy than getting a PhD or medical or law degree. The only thing they have in common is that it takes loads of work but the type of learning you do is quite different. In academic research you generally absorb or memorize lots of disparate information that you can regurgitate later. You develop the ability to critically analyze said information, make some generalizations, and hopefully (eeek) come up with some clever original ideas or interpretations based on your data. I don’t think the brain works the same way when learning folk music.

Think about it — could you ever attain proficiency, much less fluency, in a foreign language, if you just memorized verb conjugations, some syntactical structures, and some vocabulary. You, like everyone who took foreign language classes in high school, would find yourself with a very rigid understanding of the language. You could only communicate using the basic grammar and vocab you had learned but could not construct new sentences on the fly or understand someone else’s idiomatic phrases. That’s why cognitive psychologists and linguists love studying language (where is Danny? I think he works in this field). I can construct this paragraph even though I have never ever written it before in my life and you can read it, having never read it before in your life. I could not write this in Spanish because I never got past the memorizing sentences and verb conjugations stage of learning Spanish. If I were to try, it would take hours since I’d have to consciously put every sentence together. Fluent speakers of a language don’t think, "Right… I just said the subject… now… hmmm.. what is the indirect object… now I need a verb… must conjugate verb…" etc etc. They just say it or write it.

Folk music is similar. Lets call it fluency rather than expertise. Once you attain a certain standard of fluency, learning new tunes is easier because you’re not memorizing individual notes, you’re absorbing whole phrases. Things like variation and ornamentation become effortless. You can of course, plan your variations (some people do) but you have the ability to play them on the fly and they will fit in the tune. These things happen once you *know* the music, once you have been immersed in it for a while. That’s the key — immersion. Not necessarily going to Ireland or Scotland for a while (although that helps) but going to lots of competent sessions and listening to anything you can get your hands on.

Re: The 10,000 hour rule of expertise…

My itunes calls Oisin MacDiarmada’s "Ar An Bhidil" album reggae. Go figure.

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That’s Bhfidil.

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I had assumed that this use of song was an internet generation thing seeded by some software designer who did not know the difference.

So has song been used for instrumental pieces (if I can call them that !) in, say, blugrass for a long time ?

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Yes, Silver Spear, that’s another story - the ‘genre’ iTunes assigns to albums. Most of my ITM albums come up as’ Folk’, which is fair enough, but Christy Moore’s King Puck album was ‘Pop’. Good thing you can change these atributions. But you can’t change the fact that every track is called a song.

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Bluegrass has always been built around songs. It’s fundamental to the genre. Informed people will still know to call an instrumental a tune, but you’ll commonly hear others make the mistake of calling it a song. But it’s a song-based music, so the mistake doesn’t grate as much.

We don’t really have "tunes" in modern life, I’ve come to believe. People don’t have patience for instrumental music anymore.

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I have stuff with all sorts of classifications. Most of it is either folk or world, sometimes Celtic or Irish. Then At First Light is country for some reason and Cara Dillon is alternative. I seem to have a lot of reggae, including Finlay MacDonald, John Doyle, Brendan Mulvihill, Old Blind Dogs, John Carty, Noel Hill, Matt Molloy, and my personal favourite, Michael Gorman playing with Willie Clancy. Some Chieftains tracks are blues, apparently, and I have a recording of our very own Reverend Pete playing playing jazz+funk.

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I’ve never noticed that before.

Matt Molloy is reggae on mine too, as is De Dannan. Tripswitch is Country (must be a John McSherry thing) as is Tom Walsh. The rest are World or Folk.

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Re: The 10,000 hour rule of expertise…

Another good iPod bit of nonsense was the album cover imported for my ‘The Raineys’ CD. It came up with American blues singer Ma Rainey’s ‘Blackbottom’! Such a pity that I don’t have that wonderful photograph of the Rainey brothers that appears on their album (see http://www.irishmusicreview.com/raineys.htm).

Re: The 10,000 hour rule of expertise…

Maybe ITunes does it that way to give the familiar feeling of a real shop with trad CDs hidden in odd places. In some software the genre defaults to Blues which is first in the alphabetic list, or whatever was used last. Lazy people like me never get round to changing it.

Re: The 10,000 hour rule of expertise…

Speaking a language, amen. Nice job Silver Spear.

https://thesession.org/discussions/20234#comment423017

You can call them whatever you’d like, but if you go into a session and ask the folks there if you can sit in with them for few songs, they may tell you that they play tunes for the most part, with one or two odd songs thrown in. If you ask them if you can start a song, they’ll expect you to sing. That’s how it works, it’s part of the language we seek fluency in.

Mr. Teacher, I come from a similar background. I had intense classical training from ages 7-13. I played solos, with orchestras, etc. Gave it all up as a teen and picked the fiddle back up at age 28, eight (…uh…nine? Soon…) years ago. I have no idea how many hours I have put in, and I don’t care. All I care about is this:

Do other fluent speakers of this musical language know what I am saying when I play? Am I able to communicate with them properly, using the correct, accepted, musical language? Do they enjoy musically speaking with me?

This is truly all that needs to be worried about.

Re: The 10,000 hour rule of expertise…

SWFL Fiddler - Ref para 1 of your last comment. LOL :-) Must put that one "to the test" at the next session that I go to ;-)

Kennedy - I’ve never heard anyone in England, Scotland, Ireland or Wales calling a "tune" a "song".

The only exception would be for tunes that have words, which might be either peformed as a song or played as a tune.

However, this site is primarily for tunes, so that is the default word to use here, in any case.

.. and I reckon that after 10,000 hours of playing, you would probably know the difference between a tune and a song …

.. and if you didn’t, (and just found out) you would probably remark: "Darn it! What I really should have done was to take 10,000 hours of singing lessons!" (or something unprintable) ;-)

*

you guys still on about this?

Posted by .

Re: The 10,000 hour rule of expertise…

Hey Random, you just pipe down and sing us a tune on yer instrument there, will ya? :-P

Re: The 10,000 hour rule of expertise…

Have at it Mix! Enjoy. ;-)

Re: The 10,000 hour rule of expertise…

He always enjoys this.
Cheers!
;)

Posted by .

Re: The 10,000 hour rule of expertise…

You know, I really didn’t mean to touch off the debate about TUNES vs. SONGS. I honestly think that I have used the two words interchangeably with a preference to the word song simply because that is a word that is used more often. (Funny. we in America call the little winged things that whistle tunes songbirds, and the tunes themselves are bird songs… It there any doubt that we over here should be confused.) Maybe our culture is so mixed up and we have soooo many different words that mean the same thing that we have become insensitive to the difference. I have now learned that the things we play are TUNES, okay? But that’s not the point of this discussion.

It’s not about ME and whether or not I am ever going to become fabulously good a playing anything. What I am interested in is YOU! (In American, Y’ALL). If you consider yourself a good, competent player of traditional Irish tunes, estimate how much total time you have spent getting there, including any time you may have spent as a classically trained player. It will be, at best, an extremely rough approximation. Make your estimate to the nearest thousands of hours. This discussion is all about YOU, not me. If you do not consider yourself good at playing tunes, your input is still useful. When calculate the time spent learning, give me a trail of thought (i.e. 2 hrs/day for 3 days/wk for 52 wks/year for 8 years for a total of 2500 hrs.) Or whatever your case may be. Also, give a self assessment of how good you are. (i.e. I am the world’s greatest. Or maybe, I’m only good enough to play Friday nights at the local bar and only after everyone has had at least 3 drinks… Or maybe, I play professionally each week at bars around town… etc. ) That’s all I wanted…

—Joe

P.S. I do think that if I spent 10,000 hours of focused study on the Chinese language, including time spent immersed in the society and in daily conversation that I could become fluent in that language. I may still have an American accent, but I would be fluent.

P.P.S. I need to quit writing long responses and go practice my fiddle…

Re: The 10,000 hour rule of expertise…

I always thought songs were the tunes with words which someone sang with their voice instead of using a man-made instrument to perform it and tunes were what people played on a man-made instrument instead of singing.
I don’t know how many hours I have spent playing music by now and it probably wouldn’t do me any good to try to calculate it.
So far as I am concerned, I consider myself to be a good, competent accompanist no matter what type or style of music I am playing.
I play professionally but I do have a day job as well as sitting in and playing at various music sessions around town.

Re: The 10,000 hour rule of expertise…

Joe,

"It is true you can improve by sheer weight of practice, but that only occurs because you semi-randomly come across little tidbits that help you become a better musician. In the process, you may also develop a lot of bad habits, become convinced there are easy ways to improve and never set meaningful goals because you have little idea where you are going." (Quoting myself.) Unless you are focused and have a good plan, you will never achieve the goal of "expert" (we have to define this for the discussion to be meaningful) and you will never develop the kind of solid technique that allows you to go on and gain a style.

It also helps if you start early enough in life to take advantage of the plasticity that young brains have. If you start from scratch at age 40 and try to learn to play the fiddle (assuming no prior musical instrument experience and you are not a savant) you will never reach a level of performance that would be satisfactorily called "expert" even if you are obsessive enough to practice on your own for 10,000 hours.

Mike Keyes
http://www.shotgunsportsmagazine.com/mental_training/mental_training.html

Re: The 10,000 hour rule of expertise…

Mike, I think your essay is about achieving improvement through a personal best or competition with other shooters.
That may be part of playing in session. But what about the social aspect of trad? You play with others. It’s all too easy to think of the quality of my music in terms of technique. Without the craic I might as well practice off somewhere that no one can hear me.
Joe ~ I can practice the hours & call myself an expert. Many a trad player (myself included) will constantly be woodshedding. But something grabs you & none of that matters. Then it’s making the most of the time sessioning with my mates ~ until I have to go home.
do you a session there?

Posted by .

Re: The 10,000 hour rule of expertise…

I’ve hit my current level of incompetence on the fiddle through,
lets say, about 3,000 hours of playing. I’m a lot less incompetent
than I was last year, so I’m happy.

Re: The 10,000 hour rule of expertise…

"If you start from scratch at age 40 and try to learn to play the fiddle (assuming no prior musical instrument experience and you are not a savant) you will never reach a level of performance that would be satisfactorily called "expert" even if you are obsessive enough to practice on your own for 10,000 hours."

Now Mike, how can you prove that? Have you met someone like that who has actually studied and played 2 hours a day for 20 years?

Joe, I think part of the problem with your original question was that you quantified the problem by calculating how many tunes a person can learn in a certain period of time. Playing this kind of music isn’t about that, although the repertoire aspect is important. I know someone who has spent the better part of the last 10 years learning many hundreds of tunes, to the exclusion of technique, and you wouldn’t call this person an "expert". On the other hand, I know someone who plays Old Time fiddle who started 15 years ago at age 35, and he’s amazing—-plays at a professional level.

As for myself, I’d say I have about 1250 hours in so far, which includes good instruction and full exposure to many good players. I expect it will be another 2000 or so before I’m any good, meaning good enough to play this music anywhere in public and with some level of artistry. All of the better players I know have been playing 5 years or more.

Re: The 10,000 hour rule of expertise…

In the article I read about this is was hours spent *practising* not studying. Doing it. Be it golf or an instrument. And the main message I got from it is that it is going to take thousands and thousands of hours to get anywhere I am interested in going.

But less than 1000 hours in I am already sure that I am learning the tunes mainly when i’m listening to recordings. And that is more time on top of the practice.

So how could I find more time, what could I cut out…. ?

Re: The 10,000 hour rule of expertise…

@ Joe Scott et all;
I’m reading Malcom Galdwell’s book "Outliers" - great book so far. It goes in to the 10,000 hour rule and uses examples like the Beatles, Bill Gates and Bill Joy and ho wthey put their 10k hours in.
I’d have to say there is something to this 10k hours.

Re: The 10,000 hour rule of expertise…

Random,

The essay is part of a series on performance improvement, not competing. Besides, in the shooting sports you are not competing one on one but against your match pressure at your skill level. It would be way too dangerous and shortlived the other way :grin:

Kennedy,
Yes, I have met a number of performers who have put in the time that you refer to. In addition ,there are numerous studies concerning performance, development, and stress management (which after all is a component of any performance) which have hard scientific data from MR and other brain imaging techniques showing how brains develop as performance develop. One of the consistent findings is that performers constantly improve until their brains start to have problems due to dementia, strokes, etc. The younger you start, the more likely you will develop into a master level but you have to have consistent training that allows basic technique to become automatic. These brain packets then interface with one another to form various combinations or neural networks. We know this happens, we know that a part of the brain controls the various networks and we know that that part of the brain (called the mirror neurons) light up when the performanceact is either done or observed.

We also know that there is a lot more to learn.

As for the 35 year old man who became a professional 15 years later, there is not enough data to even discuss what happened. Besides, anecdotal evidence is not very helpful here because of all the variables that might account for his success (and the definition of "professional, Roy Acuff was a professional fiddle player, but not very good. He was a great entertainer, however.)

In the real world, most of us do not have good practice regimens, we are usually not brought up in the performance are from childhood, we may not have the talent levels needed to be Liz Carrol (who apparently does have all the experiential issues mentioned above plus freaky talent), and we are not driven to achieve the levels seen at what I call a master level. Most of us can become competent on our instruments and we develop consistent efficient styles, but we will never be world class.
And we can play professionally (I’ll define that as being paid to play, more than once) because our music is competent but will have a hard time making a living mostly due to outside factors.

Take a look at all of the artists you admire. I will bet that none of them started from scratch with no music experience at age 35. On the other hand the chance that they started as children with good training in technique and immersion in the music is very high.

Mike Keyes
http://www.mikekeyes.com

Re: The 10,000 hour rule of expertise…

My goodness, I never said my friend plays as well as Liz Carrol. He is an excellent player, though, with beautiful rhythm, expressive intonation, and a distinct style. I would be very happy to play anywhere near that well, and I think it’s achievable as long as I manage to stay focused and diligent over the next 5 years.

Music isn’t a choice between playing like Tommy Peoples or complete mediocrity, you know. I know many players who will probably never be the very best in the field, but who still manage to play wonderful music that I love to hear.

Re: The 10,000 hour rule of expertise…

I can NOT belive how much valuable practice time I have just spent reading this!!! I can NOT believe I actually read a post longer than 50 words! What AM I doing? I hope you are all back to practicing or you or you’ll NEVER get to be an expert! ;-)

P

Re: The 10,000 hour rule of expertise…

kennedy,

I am not intending to cast aspersions on your friend :grin: just to point out that a lot of work is required to reach a competent level in any performance art and that by starting out late in life (i.e. not in childhood or early adulthood) the science shows that a person is not as likely to be at a master level. Given the right amount of talent, which is like moving the starting point up the higher the talent level, an individual can achieve some great things. It is also a matter of drive which your friend obviously has. More power to him.

I am not sure that it is that important to reach "expert" levels as long as you are enjoying the music and the attendant social aspects of playing. In the first place, the percentage of people who can play at all is small and it is a special feeling to be able to make music with others. Being able to be productive is the goal and most musicians achieve this fairly early on.

But there is a well known and well studied science to performance, that is what I am referencing.

Mike Keyes
http://www.mikekeyes.com

Re: The 10,000 hour rule of expertise…

There have been a lot of excellent comments in this thread. Thank you for your thoughts. I have an idea that may be backed up by some brain studies that learning new things, even when you are older, could delay the onset of dementia, senility, and/or Alzheimer’s. Developing skill and memory through learning and playing tunes may be significant, but hard to study because of anecdotal evidence. Just a thought.

Also, the total number of hours spent must also include performance playing time as well as time spent in interacting with others in sessions (playing well with others) as correctly pointed out above.

—Joe

P.S. I do agree with the comments of wanting to play for the fun of it. I am not interested in competing. As for me, I’m probably at the 1000 hour level—still just a beginner, but improving…Give me a few more years…

P.P.S. Excuse me for writing long rambling posts. Yes, I have to go practice now.

Re: The 10,000 hour rule of expertise…

I quite like physics. I like the measuring. I like the theories. And I like the controlled experiment, the measuring to support the theories. I like the setting of margins of error. I enjoy the explanations. I disagree with Keats in that I enjoy Newton.

And I enjoy music for none of the reasons above. And have invariably found those who employ such tactics in the pursuit of music to be poor musicians.

I agree with Keats in that philosophy will indeed clip an angel’s wings

Music cannot be measured. And anyone who purports to be an expert, no matter how many bloody hours, is a t w a t.

Posted .

The measure of a fiddler…

To turn an old phrase, "no rhyme nor reason" you can say; about tunes, "rhythm not reason"
I would have said, "rhyme not reason" but our tune/song kettle is healthily bubbling along.
twit gets censored?

Posted by .

Re: The 10,000 hour rule of expertise…

After probably more than 10K hours playing music, I am still not very good, but fortunately, I am good enough to have fun doing it, which is all that is important…….

Re: The 10,000 hour rule of expertise…

Yes Al, but with the proviso that you don’t spoil anyone else’s fun

Posted .

Re: The 10,000 hour rule of expertise…

Good point Michael! I hadn’t thought of that as I was typing, since I always try to follow the Golden Rule and do no harm. But the world is full of eejits that don’t consider the feelings (and ears) of others. So let me rephrase it—I am good enough to play music with my friends that we all enjoy, which is all that is important!