Saturday, February 5, 2011

10,000 Hours...Seriously??!!!

I recently read an article that stated that ten thousand hours of practice seems to be the magic number for mastering something.  Wow...ten THOUSAND hours...o.O a LOT!  I couldn't even begin to tell you how many hours I've practiced over the years.  I never thought to actually count!  And as most musicians will tell you, there isn't really such thing as "mastering" your art.  That's part of what makes it an art.  You are always learning and even the most accomplished and famous musicians STILL practice and take lessons etc.  Their styles and technique are always evolving and changing.  So, in light of that I will take the ten thousand hours mark as a point of "beginning" the ever changing journey of being a Master rather than the ultimate pinnacle.

So, lets start with a VERY rough estimate of around 1000 hours in Middle and High School.  A rough average of 2000 hours in college based on an average of 4 hours a day between my own personal practice and lessons and classes plus a few extra on weekends when I had performances and my senior recital.  I took a few years off of not doing much at all other than singing in my car and the shower.  That doesn't really count does it? And let's say another 500 over the last three or four years with the choirs I've been in and my recent re-dedication to singing.  That leaves me with a total of only 3500 hours so far.  NOT EVEN HALF...(thud)  If I average three hours a day during the week, and the occasional extra on weekends for performances and such, I can estimate (total rough guess) that I might achieve 1000 hours a year IF I seriously dedicate myself to that time every day.  Though to be honest, three hours a day is a lot for me at the moment and hard to schedule all the time.  And really...IS three hours too much or not enough for a singer?  I've been singing all my life yet I feel like I have absolutely NO IDEA how to effectively practice on my own.

I keep telling myself that it isn't too late to really start striving for a scheduled long practice time every day but it makes me wish I wouldn't have taken so much time off after college.  Cause I have a LOT of catching up to do!  I'm honestly not going to really count my hours and count down the days until I become a Master.  That's just silly. And in the long run it's not the end numbers but the actual journey and tangible results along the way that count.  But I am, however, quite behind considering where other's my age are in their careers.  There are things that I'm working on in lessons that I "should" have conquered during college or shortly after.  And like I said before, I feel like even though I've been doing it for years, I really feel like I have no idea what I'm doing when it comes to effectively practicing.  How long every day should I strive for?  I know that warm ups are integral, but then what?  Should I break up my practice time into sections?  Warm ups, vocal exercises, sight singing practice etc.?  How long should I spend at each thing to make it worth my time?  My practice sessions have always been very random after I warm up.  No real structure.  I really feel like I can be doing more and being way more productive.

I'm thinking I need to schedule each section separately.  Write it out on my calendar.  And then as I go along, as I figure out what needs more work etc. I will shift around scheduling.  And I'm going to start on the low end of time and then as I condition my voice more, I can add more time.  So...we'll see how it goes?


  1. I've always felt that if I practiced too much, I would start to get frustrated and actually feel like I was getting worse. I think each person is different. Some people drill and drill and drill, some people just need to do a little each day to keep their technique fresh, and some need to take breaks and not sing for a day. You do what you need to do :)

  2. I am also (still!!) trying to figure out the best method for practicing. Vocal chords are so dependent upon what is going on with our bodies and we can't drill them incessantly (like any other instrument) without wearing them out. And yet we have to keep them in shape like any other is such a dichotomy of balance that practicing in and of itself is an absolute art form.