There’s this rule of ten thousand hours that I’ve seen more and more mentioned in all kinds of books related to self-improvement, talent and similar publications. The point is that in order to get really good at something you need to spend ten thousand (10,000) hours at it. With a normal pace it means 8-10 years of practice before this is achieved.
Well, I do believe it, after all these years. Takes a while to grasp this due to the long distances of time. Whether you aspire to be a singer, producer, DJ, roadie or whatever, you need all that time doing the task until you reach a high level of talent.
Now, some might mention Mozart as an example of a young talent with no need to practice. Well, to start with listen to any of his very early symphonies and other pieces of music. They are OK but nothing extraordinary — it is seldom symphony orchestras play those works. I would not even be surprised if his dad helped him out here and there.
Secondly, you need to read his biography and understand what happened, his father trained him in all kinds of musical styles, coached him every day, moved to different cities to hear different kinds of music and play with other musicians, provided other opportunities and so forth. So he easily clocked the necessary 10,000 hours of music making. This also points out that the more variations is done, the better use of the 10,000 hours.
I will actually add two more rules to this set:
100 hours — this is what it takes for someone to figure out if they are interested in the talent they want to cultivate. This could be done in less than three months if someone is focused.
1000 hours — this is the level needed to get to a point where someone is familiar and confident in the talent. It means you could go up on stage and do what you want to do without stage fright, or otherwise being worried about the outcome. This takes 1-2 years of focused activity.
10,000 hours — this is where you maximize your talent. You really know what you are doing, you could experiment, have fun, stretch out, try whatever you fancy and you feel you could do it. This takes 8-10 years of focused work.
Now, it’s important to realize that we are not taking about becoming a super-virtuoso such as playing guitar as fast as Yngwie Malmsten or singing like Elvis. There’s a personal limit and extension that will be filled — and that’s fine. We need more interesting voices and expressions, no more copycats or pure mechanical playing showing how fast or accurate someone is. Even if it’s good to develop those skills, too. I would add that as part of the 10,000 hours, developing your own style is essential.
Going back to studio work, the same rule apply. Put in the hours and good stuff will happen. Same with song writing. Or going to the gym :-).