October 30, 2009 23:57
Have you hit your 10,000 hours playing the violin?
The magic number is on my mind after writing the blog about Suzuki, who frequently asked his students to play 10,000 repetitions of various exercises and pieces. It's also a number that has come up recently, in Malcolm Gladwell's book, Outliers, which asserts that true expertise in any field comes only after 10,000 hours of practice.
Basically, I'm asking you if you've reached "expert" status.
I did some math, to help everyone along. If you practice one hour a day, it will take you a little more than 27 years to log your 10,000 hours. If you practice two hours a day, it will take nearly 14 years. If you practice three hours a day (this is every day, mind you), you can expect to reach expert status in about nine years. Four hours a day, about seven years. Six hours a day, it will only take four and a half years, provided that you don't injure yourself. There is a point of diminishing returns!
Looking at the numbers, the 10,000 hours idea rings rather true.
After 32 years of playing the violin, I've certainly logged my 10,000 hours playing, and probably teaching as well. How about you? And what do you think of the 10,000-hour concept?
21 replies | Archive link
October 23, 2009 17:05
This fall marks the beginning of a new era for both the Los Angeles Philharmonic, with its new Music director, Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel, 28, and the New York Philharmonic, with new Music Director Alan Gilbert, 42. When I think about both these new conductors, certainly I am thinking about change and new energy. But I'm not focused completely on youth, like, say, this Newsweek article, which proclaims "A Youthquake Hits Both Coasts" and talks about it as if both orchestras are undergoing "youth movements." BTW I love what Ian Salmon says in his Sound Post News about the Newsweek article, "Click to read the Newsweek article containing the words 'buttress' and 'contemporaneity.'"
Gilbert, left, and Dudamel
Because I live in Los Angeles (and did attend Gustavo's big premiere), I know more about that scene than I do about the one in New York. Despite his "youth," I would dare call Dudamel a veteran conductor, having taken the baton at age 15 and being named the conductor of Venezuela's huge youth orchestra, Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra, at age 17. I'm thinking he's put in his 10,000 hours. I can't even reconcile that kind of experience with the conducting students I remember from college, conducting to the far wall of the listening library as they listened to recordings on headphones and watched their scores. So scarce was their actual experience! Inexperience does not equate to exciting conducting.
Nor does newness and novelty. The fact of the matter is that the changes happening in the Los Angeles classical music scene did not spring fully formed from some"youthquake." The LA Phil's new home, the extremely popular and pleasant Disney Hall, was born only after a painful and attenuated 16-year labor, involving many cost overruns, acoustical overhauls, delays, etc. And you need only to read this article to understand that LA's search for a new conductor began from a years-long effort, started well before LA Phil conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen was to step down, to replace him. Leading the effort was Salonen himself, and Deborah Borda, president of the L.A. Philharmonic.
So far, tickets seem to be flying for LA Phil concerts. Would you like to see Gil Shaham, playing the Berg concerto, with Dudamel conducting? Good luck! And yes, that would be the Violin Concerto by Alban Berg, not exactly a pander-to-the-masses piece.
As for Gilbert, here is an article about his premiere, and I do invite our New Yorkers to go into more detail. But here is some information: you could say that Gilbert is a kind of product of the orchestra, the son of two New York Philharmonic musicians, violinist Yoko Takebe, and retired violinist Michael Gilbert. He is the first Asian American to lead the New York Philharmonic and he studied at both Curtis and Harvard. He is an American, and he is a New Yorker; he will likely spend his time in the city. From what I have read (I have not seen him conduct) he is known to speak from the podium, to embrace new music and to have a quiet, easy-to-follow elegance to his conducting.
In both cases, the change is bringing attention to the orchestras, and one can only hope that the excitement will translate to larger audience and the potential to build loyalty.
Please vote and share your thoughts!
10 replies | Archive link
October 16, 2009 14:39
I remember the day well: a little girl visited our fourth-grade public school classroom, along with the school music teacher, and she played for us. Watching my friend play, I knew I needed to play the violin, too. It was like finding an old friend, I almost "recognized" the violin as something that was an undeniable part of my life, even though I'd never seen one before. So I started playing in the public school, and as soon as my parents and teachers noticed my freakish devotion to the instrument, they found me a private teacher.
But without that start in the public school, I'm not sure if I would have found the fiddle!
In what setting did you start your violin studies? Was it a school program, or a private lesson program? Or, did you begin with the help of another family member? Please vote, and tell us your story below.
21 replies | Archive link
October 9, 2009 14:11
With Joshua Bell completely making over his Manhattan home to accommodate at-home performances, I've been thinking:
I'd like to do that myself. Hah!
Despite not having any kind of sound-proofing in my home, despite living in extremely close proximity to my neighbors and in a rather small place, I do make quite a lot of music in my house, including the annual holiday jam session, as well as a few mini-recitals for kids. I've also held a few studio recitals in the homes of students.
I love making music in this setting, be it a planned recital or spontaneous music-making. The warm environment of a home brings me back to what it's all about: sharing music with family and friends.. I also love throwing together various random instruments and just reading, or playing by ear, or a combination. What fun!
Have you ever held a music-making event in your home? If so, tell us all about it!
10 replies | Archive link
October 2, 2009 09:28
We've been talking so much about Sarasate this week; it made me think about all the crazy wicked tricks a person can perform on the fiddle. Adele Anthony said it well in this week's interview, that Sarasate "was also a violinist, so he wrote very well for the violin – everything is possible, if you work at it hard enough."
I can remember the first time I realized this; I was a teenager, learning "Introduction and Tarantella," which was definitely at the outer reaches of my capabilities at the time. I recall the sheer panic I felt, looking at the music. In particular, I saw the barriolage passage, didn't know at all what that was about, and had a minor panic attack. Visually, the message my eyes sent my brain was something like: "Back...away...slowly..." I considered staying home from my lesson. It looked thoroughly impossible.
And then, the revelation, when my teacher showed me: it works, and it works like a charm.
And that is very often the case, particularly with the tricks that the great violinists like Sarasate and Paganini did: Once you know the trick, you realize that it absolutely fits the violin, like a glove. Not that it's always so easy to get that trick, but you can usually at least understand the fit, before it starts sounding great. Then, of course, crossing the chasm between seeing how it works and making it happen can take years off your life.
Which leads me to this week's question: Which of these violin tricks do you think is the most difficult to execute well? Undoubtedly, I've left some out, so please describe below if there's another one you'd like to add to the list. Also, feel free to list specific passages in the violin repertoire where you encounter these tricks, and perhaps some of your thoughts about how to make them happen.
25 replies | Archive link
More entries: September 2009