Weekend vote: Have you hit your 10,000 hours playing the violin?

August 23, 2019, 6:50 PM · Earlier this week, a new study was used to create headlines casting doubt on the 10,000-hour rule. Honestly it was kind of a weird study, you can read more about that here.


Whatever the current news cycle says, the number 10,000 does show up with some regularity, when it comes to the time required to build expertise in a given area. It was made famous by Malcolm Gladwell's book, Outliers, which described various experts, musical and otherwise, who spent right around 10,000 hours honing their craft to reach a level considered to be "expert."

The number 10,000 is also familiar to those who have studied the pedagogical ways of Shinichi Suzuki, father of the Suzuki Method. He frequently told his students, including his violin-teacher students, to play something 10,000 times to achieve mastery..

I have no doubt that spending this many hours at something helps one to be very adept at it, particularly if those hours are spent in quality practice or playing. As always, "it depends."

But no matter how great the quality of your practice, there is an element of quantity required. How are you doing, when it comes to putting in the hours? Have you reached 10,000 hours? How long did it take you to get there? Are you halfway there? Just at the beginning? Well over the mark?

I did some math, to help everyone along. If you play for one hour a day, it will take you a little more than 27 years to log 10,000 hours. If you play two hours a day, it will take nearly 14 years. If you play three hours a day (this is every day, mind you), you can expect to reach 10,000 hours 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 four decades 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?

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August 24, 2019 at 04:22 AM · I'm sure most of us don't track how many hours we've played in total. I've been playing violin for nearly a decade and piano for just over a decade and have been pretty dedicated the whole time, so I guess I've been playing for around 10,000 hours or more.

August 24, 2019 at 04:35 AM · I was hoping for a "I have no idea" choice, because I really have no idea. I never even knew about the 10,000 hour milestone until last year, and I've never kept track of my practice times. What I do know is that I'll always need to practice and I'll always want to play and I'll always want to improve my playing.

August 24, 2019 at 05:30 AM · I voted a quarter of the way to 10,000 hours which is accurate by time spent.

However actual progress could have been double if I had been able to concentrate better, or i guess half if I concentrated less.

On the other hand ( per a number of teachers) most who start either as children or adults, have given up long before that point.

So I’m hanging in there ...


August 24, 2019 at 09:34 AM · 10,000 hours over 15 years (e.g. ages 5 to 20?) is an average of 2 hours a day.

The Immortals who achieve the same results in only 10 years (5 to 15) will have practiced an average of 3 hours a day.

My own 10,000+ hours has been spread over 55 years of playing and teaching, so I am not sure that counts...

August 24, 2019 at 01:07 PM · Well over 10,000 hours. I started playing in elementary school, and I was a practice geek. My parents didn't have to tell me to practice. In fact, during the early years, as bedtime drew near, they occasionally reminded me it was time to stop for the day. From 14-21 y/o, I could often practice up to 5 hours a day -- although now 3 hours is the most I can fit in.

August 24, 2019 at 02:18 PM · I remember when I restarted playing 13 years ago, I calculated that I had logged somewhere between 3000 and 4000 hours when I was a child/teen. At that point I also calculated that at my then-current rate (including many years of not playing at all) I would hit the 10,000 milestone at age 132.

In the intervening 13 years I have practiced more, and more regularly than as a kid but I also had have breaks enforced by work and other commitments. So I probably have still not hit 10,000 hours, but am somewhere around 2/3 to 3/4 of the way there. There's no option for that answer in the poll. I should be able to make it before age 132 anyway!

August 24, 2019 at 03:16 PM · It's not hard math, so let's break this down. If you practice an hour a day, then it takes 28 years to get to 10000 hours. If you want to reach 10000 hours in 10 years, then you're practicing 2 hours and 45 minutes every day of the year. If you want to give yourself a day off every week then that's 3 hours and 10 minutes all the other days.

I've decided that I'll try to continue to improve until I reach age 60. At that point I will do what I can with whatever skills I have, and that'll have to be good enough.

August 24, 2019 at 03:40 PM · I am not sure.....46 years every day.... plus College time....8 hours day easy....

I feel like a rag doll......L.O.L.

August 24, 2019 at 04:53 PM · I've averaged about 1 hour a day for most of the 19 years I've played, but I've had several short periods when I averaged substantially more (4-5 hours for several months at one point), and I've averaged somewhat less over the past year due to injury. So I'm probably about three-quarters of the way to 10,000 hours, and all but about 400 hours of it has been as an adult.

August 24, 2019 at 09:37 PM · Doing some math I figure that I am just about at the 10.000 hour mark. 55 years of playing, 1 hour practice per day, minus breaks, vacations, interruptions (for military service) would still add up to more than 10.000 hours. Subtracting the time when I just played and did not really practice gets me to 10.000.

Note that I am not a virtuoso in spite of having "achieved" this milestone...

August 24, 2019 at 10:59 PM · And posted on the same day ...


August 25, 2019 at 02:48 AM · As I suggested in my recent blog, I really don't care about 10,000 hours. I think it's an absurd way to put off doing the best each of us can at the moment. I mean, what am I going to do? Say something like, "Well, I'm only at 6,000 hours, so I'll put off doing anything serious because I'm just not ready." Seriously? Give me a break, ok? Give me the next hour, let me do the best I can, and we'll see how tomorrow goes on its own merits. This nonsense seems to presume that people can't do anything serious until they put in their sacred number. Nonsense. Just go for it. Take the risk. See what happens. Creativity and courage are not based on a Boy Scout merit badge. Frankly, I think it's rather lazy and passive to rely on numbers to judge your accomplishment. If it's within you, then take the plunge. XO.

August 25, 2019 at 03:06 AM · I first heard of the 10,000 hours a long time ago from computer people constructing expert systems - just like a person with 10,000 hours experience. I started making estimates, latest on the 8 febuary was classical guitar 12,534, flamenco guitar 2,431, viola 11,618, violin 10,549. Any one else made 10,000 on three instruments? It does not sound as good as it should because I started late and initially had bad teachers. For what it is worth I agree with my last teacher who said it does not matter how long you practice as well as when you do it you do it properly.

August 25, 2019 at 04:26 AM · I think I’ve spent 10,000 hours reading shoulder rest pro/con and rosin threads here on Vcom...

August 25, 2019 at 04:27 AM · It is not surprising that Suzuki believed in this 10 000 rule. But I think we are mixing two things here. One is that with a lot of hours almost everybody can achieve a competent level (but stil not everybody). The other thing is that this 10 000 has nothing to do with becoming a soloist or indeed a very competent professional, but talent and getting very good teaching are the most to blame for going above competent.

So it may be that believing in the 10 000 rule makes people practise more and believe more in themselves because it implies that anyone can do anything and reach any level, which is in essence a cultural belief.

August 25, 2019 at 04:47 AM · Craig then you should be an authority on the subject!! LOL!

August 25, 2019 at 07:39 AM · I really don't know how many hours and I prefer not to try to count because I would mislead myself.

And i even don't know how many hours a day, as this depends very often of extraviolin topics as: do I have to scrub the floor, prepare a meal paint a window etc...And if all those interesting occupations doesn't take to much time, I can play 3, 4 or even 5 hours a day, but I ignore how much, as I stop, restart, think and read (as violinist.com) about all this.

August 25, 2019 at 04:55 PM · I don't keep track so I had to sit down and estimate. The exercise was humbling. (I voted "1/4 the way there".)

@Paul Deck: I hope that by the time you're 60, you find that you're still improving. I'm 65 and I'm still improving, just from taking advantage of the opportunities to play that I have. I've had a teacher for the past year and fortunately she has no preconceived notions of what I can and can't accomplish. It's all up to me.

August 26, 2019 at 05:17 AM · I haven't done anywhere near 10,000. I don't really put much stock into this theory, either. Plenty of people have reached professional level before doing 10,000 hours, and many others do 10,000+ but never get that good. Talent and practice efficiency seem to be equally necessary.

August 26, 2019 at 05:42 AM · Re ~ 10,000 Hours of Practising

My practising began at age 3 yet gently but escalating up to 2 hours then 3 by aged 7, with my progress being noted by both parent-teachers of exceptional quality. The more improvement I exhibited, the more Etudes, scales & better violin repertoire I was guided into & taught ~

My practising was monitored by my father-teacher so I didn't fudge or exaggerate the hours per day, week & etc. We were given 'Practise Cards' to fill in every day & turn in to my strict Supervisor of School Music Father! Learning was an honest activity & loving music was at the heart of it all ~ By aged 11, I was studying Bach's Unaccompanied Sonata No. 1 in g minor for Violin which was so challenging it required more hours per day than 2!! (Try 4!) Again, improving brought more hours & to learn Vieuxtemps Violin Concerto No. IV, was getting up close & personal with the major violin concerto repertoire ~ Bach's Violin Concerto # 1 in a minor required more attention to style & absorbing the score structure at the piano +intricate work on my violin needing never before counted hours per day with my life at school, plus denial's of a teenager's 'social' life! (That was thankfully cared for in Summer Music Camp at Idyllwild, CA), where many gifted young camp-mates were music crazy for orchestral/chamber music & strings w/other instruments so more hours were added during Summers of Music + days of up to 12 or more hours in rehearsals/solo practise w/invitations to publicly perform which added on 5 hour per day practise to the violin schedule! The demands on one's practise equalled one's goal/s to attain higher & greater technical knowledge of violinistic technique which translated to growing assurance on the violin. The Hours per day for public solo performance grew according to the repertoire being learned/readied to perform ~

And it was very apparent when one gave a performance which was uneven in technique = a bit off musicality & style, which shocked one's realisation that practising with determined focus was a required quality and 'casual' practise could no longer be put down on my Practise Card!

When entering few violinist competitions, one put in minimum's of 6 hours per day, every day for as long as possible prior to a competition date! And, after an official LA debut as a young college teenage violinist in an exotic violin concerto w/a more than phenomenal orchestra composed of at least 50% Music Camp Friends/Musicians, one stopped counting Hours whilst immersing one's mind & imagination with a magnificent pianist, following at least 5 hours solo practise then another 2 + hours violin & piano rehearsal with my Arnold Schoenberg's Pianist - Mother, who monitored every phrase, note & expressive idea element plus more! This all led to The Audition of my Life: for Jascha Heifetz!! The 'normal' 6 hours per day zoomed up the closer one came to the actual audition date! I learned that no matter how much metronome practise used for given complex passages, there was always more work to be done! There is nothing like Fear to motivate deep focused practising minus counting hrs., other than a growling stomach reminding one's self it's time to take a Lunch or Dinner Break! Healthy food & short breaks are imperative if practising to win a Gold in the Violin Olympics = playing for Jascha Heifetz, i.e., playing for God!!!!

'God' accepted me hours after auditioning 'without reservation'! And 'God' ordered me to practise all scales & configurations in 3rds, 5ths, sixths, octaves, fingered octaves & tenths in 8 to 10 different key signatures just 10 days prior to our first Jascha Heifetz Int'l Violin Master Class of only Seven!! Then one had to have 'Heifetz-ready' Unaccompanied Bach, Paganini, some Kreutzer Etudes & a Violin Concerto to go! Try counting the number of hours practised for The First 6 Hour Violin Master Class with Heifetz, folks! (Terrifying! So one 'fiddles' more to calm frazzled nerves!!)

Suffice to say, I know without any doubt, I've logged way past 10,000 hours & 100,000 hours w/more hours once in London, to lift one's solo concert playing up whilst adding major violin concerti repertoire; Bach Unaccompanied Sonatas & Partitas; Violin/Piano Sonata literature & Violin w/Orchestra Concert Pieces & Required Repertoire grows once under Concert Artist Management, plus readying for recording - with worst pressure being Live Recital & Violin Concerto performance recordings ~ It demands a Life of living Violin, sacrifice of social invitations (even from the brother-in-law of The Empress of Iran, to have dinner w/HRH Farah Diva, Mr. Milstein & kind brother-in-law, both in Europe to visit & observe Mr. Milstein's Summer Violin Master Course 'artist pupil' from London, yours truly) ~ Egads! (I had to forego such an opportunity to go back to my hostel to Practise at least 3 hours to next day perform the Chaconne of Bach & the Brahms Violin/Piano Sonata #3 in d minor w/Paris born pianist, Georges Pludemacher - utterly great & NM's Tour Pianist, before musical friends/ colleagues of Nathan Milstein!)

Telling a story of many, some of which will be revealed in my Book, please forgive too much verbiage attempting to assess the hours logged in during my first 20 years once I was given my first violin on my Third Birthday, and by request!!

Happy practising to all here for solid/focused practising, if only 1 hour which will produce feelings of fulfillment in seeing fidel work revealing progress in a before-that focused hour passage avoided, truly bettered & in process of being worked out which grants inner smile's on one's outer face & sparkling eyes then reflecting an Hour of one's own ability to have faced down a problem previously thought, inwardly, too tough to dare try . . .

Quoting my Great Violinist Colleague and Good Friend ~

'Where there is Courage there is Joy!' ( Henryk Szeryng )

Sunday Past Midnight Submitted by ~

Elisabeth Matesky / Chicago

August 26, 2019 at 02:32 PM · I'm not sure how to respond.

I'd say pre-"hiatus", I had logged at least a quarter of the way there (probably more like 1/3 of the way, but I'm being conservative with my numbers since I had poor practice skills and a few obstacles that set me back).

Since my hiatus has ended...

I do keep track of how much I practice in a session.

I keep a practice diary as it is helpful for me to see what I have worked on for X amount of focused practice time, and the sequence of my practice session for optimization. This is not to say that I still don't have inefficient use of my practice time though. Because I am an amateur/avocational player, I am playing for the love of it and make time to do so daily - whether it be reviewing old material or whatever. Yes, Ms. Matesky, an hour does produce feelings of fulfilment, yet it never seems enough!

I've always had a full life, so I think I'll hit the 10,000 hour mark in my 60's, unless I'm able to get rid of this pesky thing that prevents me from practicing 3+ hours a day: my job...

August 26, 2019 at 03:49 PM · 10 000 is a suitably large number used as a shorthand to denote a lot of hard work over several years in order to get to a professional level of excellence in an activity, craft or profession. It also includes the acquisition of much experience over those years, something which of its nature is not easily quantifiable.

It is worth noting that some hand crafts (violin making is one) have a centuries-old tradition of a 7-year apprenticeship to a master craftsman. At the end of the apprenticeship the apprentice makes a "master work" to show that he has mastered the craft to a level where he can now earn a living as an independent craftsman. Other non-craft professions, such as medicine, have a lengthy built-in period of training and study, including a searching examination system, to fulfil the same objective. Further, some professions (mine was one) ensure a required level of maturity and experience by having an age limit, 25 in my case, which has to be reached before the practitioner can be registered and let loose on the public; this of course is after degree qualifications have been attained and stringent qualifying exams passed.

August 26, 2019 at 07:15 PM · I don't think the 10K hour rule has much meaning. I've been playing guitar for over 30 years. I'm well past 10K hours and I am quite proficient, but I can't say I'm a master of the instrument. Practicing an hour a day with little structure for 30 years isn't the most effective path to mastery. When I was younger and studying music, I spent a fair number of years playing classical guitar. I had regular lessons and very structured practice times. 4-6 hrs, 5 days a week. Progress was fast and practice was extremely effective. 5,000 hours of structured practice over 4 years was definitely much more effective than 10,000+ hours of un-structured practice over 30 years. Now that I've started on violin, I only have time to practice an hour or so a day, but I make sure my practice time is as efficient as possible to maximize progress.

August 26, 2019 at 07:31 PM · @Trevor Jennings ~

Dear Trevor in the UK ...

Having looked up your Member Bio, I was truly saddened to read your adorable 4 legged 'baby' audience, had passed on and wish to offer you & your photographer wife my sincere & saddened Condolences upon your losing beloved Jack . . .

My Dog, Shady Lady, always hung around my back bedroom

window while I was growing up in suburban Los Angeles, and she listened to every note I played whilst practising & if any note was even the tiniest bit out of tune, Shady Lady would Howl at The Moon until I would retrace my steps on the violin fingerboard to then re-practise it or them to a perfected Doggie palatable intonation! Shady Lady had to have possessed 'dog' 'perfect pitch' & even my brilliant, fastidiously intonation eared conscious father-teacher used to say, 'Shady Lady is Right"!!!!!

Having been a guest 'Londoner' for almost 8 years, I certainly know how much classical music means to so many wonderful British people, and applaud you for all your violinist activities in & around Bristol. btw, if you've need of superb violin guidance, email my dear British Violin Pro Colleague, truly loving teacher up in Peterborough, Roger Stimson, using my name as offered

Reference, to go 'round for a 'Play & Consult' if you wish some very fine musical guidance!! If interested, go to my Bio here & email me at one of several Email addresses there ~ Roger Stimson is divine as a player, a kind person & a rare teacher ~ We're in close regular email touch!

My warm greetings to you from America ~

Elisabeth Matesky (Aug 26, 2019)

August 26, 2019 at 08:06 PM · @Pamela M ~

Having those special feelings of fulfillment following a truly healthy & focused practise Hour, is happily revealing to me, reading your comment, dear Pamela M.! Time will open up!

Oddly, I just received a warm & happy telephone call from a woman named Pam, with good news!!! I thanked her for all her help and stick-to-it-tiveness, and an inner smile brought a

happier smile to my face ...

Thank you for writing me your very positive news!!

Elisabeth Matesky / Chicago (Aug 26, 2019 )

August 28, 2019 at 03:18 PM · I don't think the 10,000 hour rule is accurate. I began 15 years ago as a beginning adult violinist and a Suzuki mom. I've racked up about 5000 hours of my own playing, and 5000 hours Suzuki mom-ing my kids. I have two children. One has played about 5000 hours and the other about 1000 hours, and both are argueably better violinists than me. The difference might be explained by youth vs adult learning, or maybe natural talent, or maybe because I didn't have practice help whereas my kids did.

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