Hey all.

Some years ago I set a goal for myself to practise guitar 10,000 hours. I was reading about some studies in an article on virtuoso violin players who played in an orchestra, and decided to set a similar goal for myself. Later I came across the "The 10,000 Hour Rule" book by Malcom Gladwell which I think the article back then referenced in passing. So dutifully I would set schedules and add up all my hours each week. This gave me more motivation, something tangible to aspire to rather than feeling like I was just wandering adrift in pursuit of my music goals, and helped me out through those early years of tears, fears 'n doubts - all that good stuff.

Well I became very interested in the practice amounts my idols used to put in, and we don't get too much of a clear picture overall, but I've had time to think it through, and 10,000 hours won't cut it if you're going in for virtuosity. You're looking more at about 20,000 to 25,000 hours - for the highest virtuoso playing and being well on your way to having your own musical style. For those aspiring more for what I'd call semi-virtuosity (Ritchie Blackmore, SRV or Slash), you're looking at more like 15,000, for the heart of those styles. I don't want to turn this post into a big debate; in fact, I wanted to keep it a smallish, introductory post in preparation for writing about this and other ideas in greater detail in some months to come after I sort out the finer details I want to get across and perfect my own routines. But I did want to gauge the initial interest of many of you in having such a goal, and would be more than glad to see others take up this goal if interested.

Back then my goal was to practise 10 hours a day until I reached it. Two months after I started, I happened to come across a new post on this site where someone stated their intention to reach 10,000 in much the same way as me. He used to post video updates and talk about his progress on his YT channel - www.youtube.com/the10kproject (pretty much barren as you can see, but this was it). It's a sorry shame to see that he stopped posting and removed all his videos as he was doing well for himself, nice guy too. I mostly kept to myself throughout my goal but used a goal-setting site to track my progress, which attracted others to the goal, though they dropped off the radar themselves and the site eventually closed down. But I don't blame them - I had plenty of distractions back then myself, felt like burning my guitars and sailing to an uninhabited island at the worst of times (but you hafta take one at least :-p), and only managed my 10-hour practice days for periods at a time, so I would get done what I could here and there.

But I still kept track and now I'm at a point where I'm more focused than I've ever been and will be able to put in 10-hour practice days for about four years (and performing alongside it on the fourth year), and have practically all the resources I need ahead of it. It was a toil getting there, to finally have the peace and freedom to practice that I always wanted, but I'm sure that I've got it now. Of course everyone has different goals, abilities and skills etc., but these figures ought to serve as a good guideline for the average person. You should also no doubt focus on quality before quantity, as well as work on building endurance before moving up to the higher hours of practice for those that plan to, forming good habits, playing relaxed and doing your damnedest to avoid injury.

So far I'm up to about 5,000 hours, and continue to post on a newer goal-setting site I use: http://www.popclogs.com/user/1046, and this was the sort of level playing I got up to: soundclick.com/player/single_player.cfm?songid=10453259 - sorry for the Neolithic-type recording, and this piece is screaming to be played on a Gypsy jazz guitar as well. This style is a side-interest to my main neo-classical and electric guitar interests, and I also work on classical fingerstyle pieces too.

You may notice that my routines are very heavily repertoire-oriented, but this is something I've given thought to and I am happy with until I reach consistency in playing the kind of pieces I want to play. Then I will switch more to my own stuff and other areas of practice. This is how a number of my idols started out after all. I also have a YT channel I'm going to start posting more to - https://www.youtube.com/user/LightningStrat - and a practice channel I post to more casually but more frequently.

So much for a small post, but I wanted to get this out there and set in stone for further motivation and hopefully to see some of you around if you are interested or if you want to join alongside me in this or a similar-set goal. I'll be around and post, comment, reply when I can, but I'm sure you can understand that I'll be super busy with this. But I hope this is an idea that will take off amongst some players, as I'm sure it'll help others in the way it's helped me. And the more who participate, the clearer a picture we'll have. Other than that, good luck to all in your own practice. Glad to meet you and hope to see you around. I'm Dom by the way.
Good luck with that--call me from the physical therapists office.
Most of the guys you listed can't play like my boy Itzhak (especially not Malcom Gladwell), so I'd listen to him:
This blog also has some great tips on practicing.
and theres these books:



Personally what I've experienced, and what I've heard from the few world class musicians I've had the chance to meet/study with is that quantity over quality is the name of the game with practice--and at the end of the day you need to be practicing and learning music so that you can actively create each piece of music you perform as you play it, rather then zoning out and letting your hands do their thing (that you've had to hammer in with painstaking repetition). Moreover, if you have any designs on actually working and making a living as a musician you will not have the time to practice 8 hours a day, and you will constantly find yourself in situations where you don't have time to practice something over and over again--so the hours of repetition thing is a habit you should break now. Instead why not focus on being 100 percent present and in control every second the guitar is in your hands, and let your ability to focus (which will increase over time) inform the amount of time you spend practicing--rather then letting your mind drift (which, speaking from experience it will during an 8 hour day of practicing/playing) and relying on muscle memory to bail you out.
all the best.
(insert self-aggrandizing quote here)
That 10000 hour thing is a myth, you know.
There's no such thing; there never was. Where I am going you cannot follow me now.
tehREALcaptain - the persons I listed are the ones I gave examples of semi-virtuosity for those who do not wish to play at the higher level of virtuosity like Yngwie Malmsteen who did in fact practise about 8 to 12 hours a day for 10 years. Steve Vai put in similar practice times, as did Zakk Wylde.

The results of the world's most renowned players speak for themselves. Yngwie Malmsteen, 8-12 hours a day for 10 years. Steve Vai did about 10-15 hours a day for many years. Frank Gambale - 12 hours a day for years. Shawn Lane did about 8 hours for four or five years. Al Di Meola was racking up 10-hour practice days. None of them ended up in the physical therapy office - that's because they practised like Mr Perlman - intelligently, correctly, slowly as necessary. What he says doesn't really negate this idea, but I agree with him that everyone has to decide on their own goals.

theogonia777 - I've seen you around, and usually I agree with your posts, but as stated, it wasn't 10,000 hours as such that I was suggesting. All the players I speak of and more put in more time than the 10,000. If it's virtuosity a person is aspiring for, surely they should practise like all the known examples we have who play at that level.
Last edited by LightningStrat at Apr 30, 2016,
I definitely agree that the 10,000 hours is myth. It has more to do with mindset than time-grinding.

Sure, guys like Vai, Malmsteem, and Lane all practiced 8-10 hours a day in the beginning, but you also have to put it into relation. Every guitarist at the beginning sucks. They have no fine motor control, dexterity, or ear. Within the first 2 years, that's when they begin to get most of their abilities into place, and some learn better than others.

Sure, you can learn to play fast sweeping lines in 2 years, but majority of players will play them sloppy and fast, only to play them half-assed at decent speeds causing them to have improper techniques that will take more years to break.

Most of these players that you mentioned realized that they had little idiosyncrasies in their playing that stopped them in their playing, fixed them (through a teacher, watching others, a mentor, and so on), and had focused practice on improving their techniques.

What separates Vai/Lane/Malmsteem from the rest of the crowd is that they actually focus on practice when they do a practice routine, and now do it for a lot less time than other players. 2 hours of pure, dedicated practice leads to better results than 5 hours of somewhat focused, verge-of-distraction practice that many players encounter. Hell, some players would spend time strumming between chords even after years of playing and constitute it as practice.
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We are in accord, Mr Luigi! I would agree with anyone who says focused, intelligent, proper practice is very much necessary to becoming a successful player. And those books that the captain mentions are great too.. used to read one at college. But the rule stands, those who play at the most technically demanding levels put in quality as well as quantity, and you simply need to put in the time to develop the fine motor neuron movements needed to play at those levels. Whether you do 6 hours like John Petrucci who never got pain in his hands, but pain in the ass according to him - uh, I'll leave that one for him to explain (or less time still) and wait a bit longer for it, or 8 hours like Paganini and Jenny Bae did on their violins, they all have this in common. Music is complex overall, undoubtedly, with many different aspects to it, but the more we understand and categorise, especially the physical aspect of it, the more this can help our beloved instrument thrive. The early days are upon us, bruthas and sisters.
Last edited by LightningStrat at Apr 30, 2016,
Quote by LightningStrat
Music is complex overall, undoubtedly, with many different aspects to it, but the more we understand and categorise, especially the physical aspect of it, the more this can help our beloved instrument thrive.

I kind of disagree with the bolded part because I think it's an unbalanced way to look at the whole picture of what a guitar is for. There's also the law of diminishing returns, which makes specializing less effective for the time spent.

Malmsteen is one of my favorite guitarists- I practice a few of his licks every single time I pick up the guitar as well- but his style is quite linear compared to many other guitarists. The result of this is his albums don't really vary that much in sound and feel and people lose interest after awhile. He has some newer stuff I really like, as well as newer versions of older stuff I prefer, but he doesn't compare to pre-1990 Yngwie IMO. Maybe his car accident could be blamed there, but I think that if he focused more on musicality after that his career might have worked out better. Especially these days- he's really gone downhill in terms of clarity.

For my money, I'd look at some of the much older composers like Bach and Mozart to see what they did to get where they got; they made hits many people still play in concerts today throughout their entire careers rather than just the first third of it. I'm definitely not a music historian or anything, but I'm pretty sure their focuses were slated heavily toward writing music rather than technical prowess.

That leads in to where I would agree with you. Both of the composers I mentioned played keys- people have had much longer to establish how you're "supposed" to play harpsichords, pianos and organs compared to electric guitars. I think there's still a lot more to be made "mainstream" in terms of guitar techniques, and the internet seems to be doing a lot towards this end. There are plenty of guitarists these days who can do things which were almost unheard of in the '70s, and I'd like to see this sort of "background knowledge" progress more. I've noticed electric guitars showing up more and more in orchestral settings, which tells me it's slowly getting to the point where it is seen as legit an instrument as a violin.

IMO Jason Becker is an excellent example of the sort of progression I mean. I've always kind of seen him as the next branch off from where Yngwie was- he took what Yngwie set down and I think he fleshed out the style a bit more. It still takes a guy like Yngwie to get there in the first place.
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The problem with the 10,000 hour is thing is that if you're not doing something correctly - oh boy are you boned. This is especially true with virtuoustic and speed playing, there are some things that slowing down and working to a metronome simply can't help you get - if anything they increase the flaws in the technique. This is extremely true for the pick slanting technique - immensely so when you start to fly between the two mid-section.

You can't slow it down because your movements become exaggerated and not fluid, and a large part of that technique is a twitch wrist/thumb action.
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[QUOTE. None of them ended up in the physical therapy office - that's because they practised like Mr Perlman - intelligently, correctly, slowly as necessary. What he says doesn't really negate this idea, but I agree with him that everyone has to decide on their own goals.

Debatable (honestly they probably just got lucky--and when it comes to over practicing you also have guys like Charlie Parker, who was about 50 times the musician of any shredder and whose over practicing led to him being in constant pain, which exacerbated his drug problem and led him to an early death). And to belabor this point is gonna get in to my opinion of those guys (which is low). Honestly, I just don't see why your fixating on the x000 hour thing rather then setting goals in the practice room, reaching them and then going and having a life. The biggest issue I see with this approach is that you can get all you need to get done in about 4 or 5 hours, and that if you are spending 8 hours locked up with a guitar you are going to be sacrificing playing your best on gigs (which, in my experience is tough to do after practicing for three hours, especially if you have more then one in a day), having a job (or guitar students--which are much harder to get if other musicians don't know you and aren't actively performing) or having a life and getting 8 hours of sleep each night (easily the best way to improve your playing if you still practice for 2-4 hours a day). Or, if you are like 20 and absolutely NEED to spend every waking hour on music you could be going to shows and jam sessions and meeting and playing with other musicians (easily the best way to improve your playing and force you out of your comfort zone), making original music and working as a side man on shitty gigs (which everyone has to do eventually to get good ones--and builds character) or if you live in a major city/near a few music schools checking out master classes with great musicians. At the end of the day, what I've learned from trying it both ways is that the skills you gain shedding 6-8 hours a day will pale in comparison to the guys who practice 3 or 4 hours and play music with others, get enough sleep, read books that aren't about music and have a life outside of their instrument. And of course, when you get to the dirty realities of working as a musician (if thats something your interested in), the guy who plays really really well who dresses well shows up early and buys drinks goes much farther then the guy who can put everyone to shame but wears a black t shirt and cargo pants, has to fiddle with amp settings 30 seconds before the downbeat and skips going to the bar to go home and practice.
all the best.
(insert self-aggrandizing quote here)
I noted you keep track of how many hours you practice..that seems to be the goal..so for close to 10 years to reach the 20,000 hour thing..and what can you play at that point..something original I hope..

alan holdsworth once said something like..it takes about two years to learn a scale..

any idea what he meant by that..??

does "practice" away from the guitar count ? I usually write a four of eight note line and "play it in my head in many different positions on the fretboard as possible..then invert it and then play it descending..then try to connect it to a line I know very well..then move it around to different keys..when I pick up the guitar..THAT would be a practice session..speed is inherent in the repetition of such practice and not a goal
play well

Guys, I was kinda hoping you wouldn't hijack my thread. LOL. Just kidding. We kind of strayed a bit, but that's okay. Given the apparent interest (lurkers, we know who you are), I probably shouldn't leave my post as I first intended, because the side points you were all making are important as well. The '10,000-hour rule' notion is too generalised to just apply everywhere at will, but it is one of the things that helped spark my early interest in the idea. For guitar virtuosity specifically, as well as having developed musically on top of it, you will certainly need more than that. But I appreciate not everyone wants to play virtuoso-style music and would need a lot less practice as a result. But it can probably help give most people some general idea of what they can take from these examples and how much or little they might need to put in in comparison. I see it more as an organising and planning tool, and as something to help give reassurance and add to your motivation. You may be surprised just how much motivation you can find from having set goals like this, and breaking it down into definable goals and practice routines.

Apologies if I sort of skim over parts of your last posts, because I have to get back to practice myself! The point for me is that those thousands of hours do contain my goals, and that I break them down and practise purposefully to achieve them. People need to consider their own circumstances and long-term goals, yes - and also their own interests outside of music, or other elements such as singing and lyric writing if that interests them. It's all about prioritising and thinking about the bigger picture. Right now I'm very satisfied with where I'm at when it comes to how I approach my goals, and I can't think of any other ways I would decide to spend my time even though I have plenty of other goals and interests as well. I try to include bits of what I can and keep my whole routines varied, but at the same time I know there's things I will be better off postponing, and instead keeping practice my main focus for the moment.

What I get from it is also similar as to what I've heard Steve Vai say, that when he came up with those schedules, broke it down and had it on paper, he knew that he would stick to it if he had such a roadmap to focus on. You may not be a fan of those players, but there is no understating their talent and their impact on hundreds of thousands of players worldwide. Most of them I'm not exactly crazy about but still like to listen to and enjoy certain elements of. We could use Django Reinhardt as an example if you prefer - who comes from the same sort of strand as, say, a Charlie Parker. Django was one of the first true virtuosos we had on guitar, but was also incredibly musical, took time to slow down in his playing when the music suited it, and IMO was one of the most advanced improvisers we've ever seen.

As for repetitive strain injuries or the like - ramping up the hours does bring increased risk with it. I had issues myself at first until I assessed my form and technique overall. The 10-hour practice days are not new for me, just I never did them for years at a time. Steve Vai says specifically in his "10-hour guitar workout" that a few aches and tiredness was about all he ever experienced. But it's not something to be taken lightly. Those who are going for quite a few hours (well, and anyone) should always pay close attention to their own body and not just push through any pain, but rather; relax, rest and try to find the source of it if you even feel something creeping up on you that causes discomfort that is not just a result of general fatigue.

There are certain hotspots to keep in mind as well for example, like not playing riffs down near the first frets for prolonged periods of time which can put stress on the wrist. People who curl their fingers in to the palm of their hands, in the way that, say, the great country guitarist Albert Lee does, are likely at increased risk at these hours. That was once an issue for me before I opened my fingers up a bit more in the way that Yngwie Malmsteen does. And just certain songs or pieces can seem to bring about more trouble than the rest, and players should not spend too much time on any one particular thing if they feel it's an issue. Breaking up your practice in terms of more demanding followed by more simple pieces to give your hands a rest, and alternating like that can be a great help. As well as, of course, not playing too fast too soon, but taking the time to build speed methodically, and playing as relaxed as you can. And I have to agree, looking after your health is important too. Sleeping enough and looking after your general well-being. I'd also mention, sitting for hours on end in one go isn't that salubrious either. It's important to switch between sitting and standing, and even walking around a little with your guitar can help there.

Some other points worth considering:

Focusing on more of a virtuoso style later on in your development if you are planning on making a career out of music sooner. Or if you have certain obligations with a band or in studying formally. Like was mentioned above.

Maintaining older pieces you've learnt or things in your playing you haven't worked on in a while, and playing them regularly enough to not arrive at that point where you end up forgetting the notes you once knew and end up wasting time going over it all again.

Enjoying the whole thing is essential. You can't just 'switch off' and practice hardcore rote stuff all day long like a machine if you're not enjoying it - you will likely become frustrated or tired and lose interest, and at that point you shouldn't just 'force' discipline just because you think it will get you to where you need to be. Sure, practice is practice and is often hard work, but the heavier work should be balanced and mixed with lighter, easier pieces or things that you find more rewarding because they become musical sooner. That will help you keep going at it better and for longer. Also anything that can improve or add colour and contrast to your day outside music will have an effect in the quality of practice, and finding balance is always key.

At the same time, trying not to spread yourself too thin, covering too many different areas or styles of playing, or overloading on tons of easier level stuff when your focus is on more complicated styles. Again, more of an issue the higher you aspire to get on the ladder of virtuosity.

Kristen (we're on first-name terms names now, lassy :-p) made good points about tab learning in a recent thread. While learning by ear is important and shouldn't be neglected, you can save yourself valuable time by using what other people have already worked out. I like to pay attention to videos I can find before learning a piece of a particular artist to see what I can glean from it - numerous times I was kicking myself after later seeing that they played it in an easier and more intuitive way, or just a way I thought looked cooler. In many cases, they will have already taken the time to think through carefully the way they play something - and if it's already out there in the open having been picked apart, why not use it? Even giants once stood on the shoulders of giants.
Jim - You're right that we need to look at the whole picture. And technique shouldn't dictate music - first you have to love the sound or style of playing and then let technique follow on from there. But I did want to say that it seemed more important to bring up in the sense that at those levels of playing, the technique-learning side of things is bound to take longer.

Certainly great to meet another Yngwie fan. I prefer his older stuff too. I'm sure you've seen his Hot Licks video - that's my favourite tone of his out of all the Yngwie phases; don't you just love those killer bends and vibrato? Bach was a big influence on Yngwie, and it's plain to see why. The Brandenburg Concertos are amazing - but yet there's so much more, isn't there? Something like 150 albums-worth anyway.
I think in those times, the art and craft of playing and composing was taken more seriously, and many great composers who created large bodies of works were also virtuosos themselves. But I agree - there has to come a point, where you need to decide whether you want to focus on a more compositional and 'musical' side over more technical playing - it all depends on what each means to you and to what degree.

For me, I always saw a lot of freedom in Yngwie's playing, and that's the main style I wanted to learn. Though there are times when he seems to tear it up and shred just for the sake of it, he has certainly done many intricate and tasteful solos that he puts everything into, and he always works hard on his albums and compositions and remains my favourite so far. Jason Becker, well who knows what he would be doing now? He would have had a huge impact in the neo-classical genre after sadly his career being cut so short after he was just barely out of his teens and diagnosed with ALS, which left him paralysed for life (for those unfamiliar with the story). What a talent. I love his well-known pieces like "Altitudes", but also "Blue", and his vocal composition "Higher" is heaven. It's all a bit subjective of course, but I still prefer Yngwie personally - Jason is more otherworldly sounding to me, which is great in its own way, but Yngwie captures that era of classical music well and authentically for this style - I love that he modelled his tone after the violin, as that's the sound I have in mind myself.

The guitar still feels like it's in its infancy compared to where it could be taken, and it would be great to see more fully-fledged virtuosos take to the world stage, as well as the continued development of the styles we know and love, and for more players to keep adding to the musical repertoire, along with thorough tuition for those learning and easy access to as much good info that can be put out there or added to the debate.

wolflen - I don't like to include theory or anything away from guitar as practice, but practically anything that improves you technically or musically on it including learning songs, scales and chords and writing your own music on it, or even just experimenting on the instrument.

Gotta run, all - haha. But it was nice getting to talk about all these topics with you. I can't do longer posts for a while but I'll try stick around a bit, and later update in another thread or something about how it's all been going, and hopefully some people will find motivation or encouragement from some of these ideas we discussed. Good luck everyone.
You may notice that my routines are very heavily repertoire-oriented

I think this is the most important (and encouraging) statement in your first post.

The "10,000 hours rule" is much misunderstood. Nobody is (or should be) saying that the reason geniuses are what they are is solely down to the hours they put in. At the same time, to call it a "myth" suggests that one believes such people practised for much less than that (or maybe much more?).

The point about the idea is to dismiss the alternative myth, that some people are born "talented" enough that they got where they did with little work at all. I.e., to look at people who make it look easy, and assume they always did it as easily as that from the start.

10,000 will certainly produce technical proficiency, but that alone doesn't make you a great musician, nor does it guarantee any kind of success or even personal satisfaction. (And 20,000 won't do it either. )

That's why it's so important that you're playing pieces of music and not just hammering away at scales or technical exercises. My only advice would be to continue to expand your listening, and broaden the styles and genres you try to play in.
Last edited by jongtr at May 2, 2016,
It not about how much time you have but how you spend it.
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tbh as much as I love practicing, practicing for a fixed number of hours seems kind of pointless to me, I prefer working on songwriting and practicing enough so my skill doesn't limit my creativity and performance

20,000 hours is a crazy amount of practice, there are many boring shredders as it is, super clean and fast tecnique but not so good melodies, or good melodies but played too fast to trasmit anything

how does one live a normal life practicing hard 10-12 hours a day? how does one evolve? I used to do a crazy legato workout exercise to warm up that was reaaaally long, like 2 hours, and after doing it every day for a month or two, my hands were so tired, they got slower and didn't recover until I took a break for a week from the exercise

anyways if you're going to go for it, good luck dude!
Last edited by VStratto Music at May 2, 2016,
Quote by Fallenoath
It not about how much time you have but how you spend it.

It's actually about both - there isn't a single great musician out there that didn't put in serious hours.

Being a great musician without practicing several hours per day for years and years - that is the myth the internet keeps trying to sell everyone!