From an adult’s point of view, we sometimes give up easily and view talented people as gifted freaks who are naturals and don’t require any effort.
This is far from the truth. Every person starts at the same place. Any talented or famous pianist had to sit at the piano and learn the white and blacks notes, learn where middle C was, learn their first scale or tune and so on. They would struggle through and move on improving their skill.
I’ve often heard adults say they have no patience to learn an instrument, but anyone can have patience with application and the reality that it takes time and effort to learn the piano or any new skill. You get out what you put in. If you are keen to learn and enjoy the piano, you are more likely to stick with it.
You can look any talented person in any walk of life and realise that they started at the same place. When Rory McElroy first hit a golf ball, did is sail down the fairway? Has he created some divots, sliced the ball or had an air shot? I would guess yes. But he continued persevering with his skill and improved. Learning as a child is an advantage in this respect.
The hardest thing most people have to do is to learn how to walk. Luckily we do this when we are very young and failure is not an option. We fall down, pick ourselves up and try again. We persevere until we can do it. We don’t give up and are mostly encouraged by our parents and family to continue. If we learnt to walk as adults, most people would fail.
A solid approach to take is to push through when learning something new. There will be times when it’s tough, there will be pieces of music or techniques that will frustrate you and there will be times when you have no motivation to sit there and repeat a phrase of music you have been playing for the last week that so no signs of improvement. Every learner will go through this and not just at the beginning. This is a constant challenge. Some will give up, but other people may actually thrive on it.
I first came across the 10 hour principle in Gladwell’s Outliers book. The theory is that is takes 10,000 hours to become a master at your chosen skill – this is a study done in the early 1990’s by the Psychologist Anders Ericsson. An examination of child violinists and pianists showed those that by the time they reached their 20’s, the professionals (those who had excelled) had increased their practice from 3 hours a week at age 5 to 6 hours a week by age 9, 8 hours by age 12, 16 hours by age 14, and so on. By age 20 they has accumulated over 10,000 hours of practice.
It’s also quoted as 10 years. Approximately 3 hours a day, 7 days a week would take you 10 years to reach the 10,000 hour mark.
Although I agree with the 10,000 theory and I understand the essential essence of directed, effective practice, I don’t let it put me off. I doubt I will get through the 10,000 hour mark in 10 years – if I ever get to the 10,000 hour mark! Will I give up knowing that I won’t be a master? No. Will I continue to progress, enjoy playing and reach a good standard? Definitely yes.
I’m currently reading Ericsson’s book “Peak – how all of us can achieve extraordinary things” and I will be back with a report. So far it’s been mentioned that effective practice is key – something I need to work on and develop.
My point to all this is don’t give up, realise that a skill takes time and effort and don’t accept your own excuses to miss that practice session.