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Here is a link to the channel of an extremely young and talented guitarist. He has uploaded six different pieces up to now, and writes:

Hi I'm Adrian. I'm 14 years old and live in Philippines. Thanks for checking out my channel. Sorry I don't make tabs. I'm just not good at it. FAQ: Playing since I was 12 I don't take lessons. I practice about 90-120 minutes everyday Born: January 11, 2002

What suprises me is the little amount of practising he spends compared to these achievements in such a short period of time (assuming he started from zero in 2014). His oldest video is from the beginning of 2013, so really just after two years, and his newest one from the end of 2016, so just 3 years in total to learn all these pieces, and play them fluently enough for those youtube presentations.

In 2 years he has thus spent at most 365*2*2 = 1460 hours, and in three years at most 365*3*2=2190 hours to develop all those motor skills, musicality and so on. Surely his first uploads are far from perfection, but nevertheless with just 90-120min a day he has come suprisingly far, and that without taking lessons. Compared with the 10k hour rule of deliberate practise he has achieved much with just 20% of that time.

Is that plausible, do you know similar examples? Do you think this is impressive, or maybe I underestimate what could be achieved with deliberate and very disciplined practice?

  • Well, different people have different thresholds for what they call "impressive," "musical", etc. It's probably unkind to say any more than that. – user19146 Apr 6 '17 at 20:14
  • I didn't look into his channel, but we should always be aware that youtube, like science, usually does not publish negative results. This can give a false idea of the total body of work. If this individual has posted 20 videos, it is possible that that 1500-2000 hours was spent rehearsing 20 songs. Not that I claim to know this, nor is my point meant to impugn this individual. – Yorik Apr 6 '17 at 20:24
  • The "10,000 hour rule" is not at all a rule and not the result of any study. it's just an idea somebody had one time that people think makes sense, but doesn't have any solid basis in fact. A quote from one study on the "rule": 'We conclude that deliberate practice is important, but not as important as has been argued'. See: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outliers_(book) Even if the "rule" were true, the alleged end result of the 10,000 hours is "world class success", which this young person has not achieved anyway. – Todd Wilcox Apr 6 '17 at 22:16
  • Of course, I think we'd be remiss to not point at the other end of the spectrum. While there's the 10,000 hour rule that Todd mentions, there's also the 20 hour rule. While I can't say that Josh Kaufman can quite keep up with the stylistic quality that Adrian brings forth, you have to give credit where credit is due. – Cort Ammon Apr 6 '17 at 23:22
  • @CortAmmon Who is Adrian? And btw his ukulele example is less impressive if he already has musical experience, for example for a guitar player doing what he does with an ukulele would be easy to learn even if the guitarist had not played ukulele before. – StefanH Apr 6 '17 at 23:34
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Is that plausible, do you know similar examples?

Yes it's plausible, and yes I know similar examples. I can think of two students that I have taught who learned to play guitar quite well in about two years each. I doubt either of them had time outside of all of their other activities for more than two hours of practice most days.

Do you think this is impressive, or maybe I underestimate what could be achieved with deliberate and very disciplined practice?

Actually practicing 90 - 120 minutes a day is impressive to me (although that particular sub-question is off-topic), because the number one barrier to learning for the students I have taught has always been their lack of commitment to practice.

I would say you are underestimating the benefit of 90 - 120 minutes of practice every day. I can't think of very much that couldn't be learned quite well in two years of that. Note that we as a society expect students in the 14 - 19 age range to be able to learn differential and integral Calculus with about the same or less daily practice for only about 9 months, which is much less than two years.

  • Thanks for your answer, with that amount of practise something should be achieved definitly... but regarding your comment about math, I cannot resist to point out that most students in school do not perform quite well at math, might be a fault in the system but math was never a fav of the majority, but rather is quite unpopular for the most. – StefanH Apr 6 '17 at 22:32
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    @StefanH but some do -- for whatever combinations of factors some (small?) subset of people can become proficient in calculus in 1-2 (school) years; similarly, some subset of people can become proficient at guitar in 2 years. – Dave Apr 6 '17 at 23:54
  • @StefanH The only thing that keeps students from learning calculus in nine months is lack of interest. It's no harder than any other senior level subject. There are many kinds of classes that young people are expected to take and learn significant amounts of material in a single school year. Calculus is only one example. – Todd Wilcox Apr 7 '17 at 1:10
  • Be interesting if 'practice' could be defined. As a kid, I could sometimes achieve the same result in 10 mins one day that I did in 2 hrs another. There's 'practice' and 'practice'... – Tim Jun 20 '18 at 13:55
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Totalling the hours is misleading because there are diminuishing returns per session/day. You achieve much more by practising 1h five times a week than by practising 5h once a week.

And then there is a lot of difference between going through the motions and being obsessed. If you only manage a day per hour because of other duties and can't wait until you get to your instrument and are loath to quit, more of the practice will stick with you (and settle in your memory) than if you just do what you have to and are glad to let it drop again. Even if the number of hours "on the clock" is the same.

And obsessed and inspired kids have a different learning curve than adults anyway.

At any rate, why bother? Music is not primarily a competition: most of its value is inherent outside of competitive contexts. I would not say "I don't see the point in cycling to the mall: I don't have the ambition to become a professional bicycle racer".

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I've just listened to him playing My Heart Will Go On which is recorded in 2016.

With no lessons and with limited amounts of practice he has done well; good for him, I hope he continues.

However I do not think that he is as exceptional as you have suggested. What I heard was out of tune and out of time and in places he was taking time to find the notes. An achievement, certainly, for someone who is self-taught but, to my mind, nothing out of the ordinary.

  • Yes, that piece is far from perfect, his other ones (like Wonderful tonight) are a little bit better. But what I still find impressive is that in my first year of learning guitar I was still learning all the chords and strumming rhythms an was far away from complicated fingerstyle/picking stuff. – StefanH Apr 6 '17 at 22:26

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