Ever hear of the ten thousand hour rule? I hadn’t until recently when a version of it was applied to playing the piano. It went like this: To really master the piano, you must spend either ten years or ten thousand hours studying it. If you do the math, that’s the equivalent of three hours every day of those ten years.
This week, I start my fourteenth year of piano lessons; and I assure you I am nowhere near the master’s level. Maybe the intermediate level at best. A struggling intermediate pianist.
I admit I didn’t practice the proscribed three hours daily, although I do play most days.
But there are other considerations. I didn’t take that first lesson until I was in my fifties, so I’m pretty sure the pianists listed above had at least a forty-year head start.
My hands are problematic at this point. They don’t move as quickly or smoothly as they once did. In fact, Muzio Clementi and I may come to a parting of the ways, because of this. His compositions are fast; I’m not.
Piano is a very difficult instrument, something else I didn’t know fourteen years ago. I assumed that since I was a whiz at keyboarding, I would use this dexterity to great advantage. I’m still good at keyboarding, but playing piano is nothing like that. Your keyboard is spread across your arm’s span, and if a computer keyboard were built like this, the Technology Age wouldn’t be as far along.
Learning to play piano is more like learning a language and then speaking it with your hands and not your voice. And, if you want to carry the analogy further, there is an alphabet of eight-eight “letters” as well as various markings that change how they’re used. Think the umlaut and the cedilla here.
Am I discouraged? I’m not sure. I certainly wish I had more progress to show for what I’ve invested in my instrument. At the same time, learning to play piano has enhanced my appreciation of music in general and pianists in particular. Perhaps I just need to put in another ten thousand hours.