How Much Should You Practice (Part 1)

The “10,000 Hour Rule” states that achieving expertise in anything requires 10,000 hours of practice. I recently pondered whether this number rings true for a musician and whether the status of “expert” connotes a high level of competence or something greater, approaching mastery or artistry.

If you practice your instrument one hour a day, every day of the year, it will take you approximately 27 years to accumulate 10,000 hours.

I’ve been playing the trumpet for 45 years. Differing amounts of time were devoted to the instrument during various periods in my life. Assuming I passed the 10,000-hour mark, when did that occur and what level of expertise had I attained by that time? How many hours have I practiced to date? Determining precisely how many hours I have practiced is impossible, but I’ll venture an educated guess. To allow for some variance, I calculate my yearly figures based on five days a week and 50 weeks a year.

Elementary School (Grades 5/6)

I started playing the trumpet in the 5th grade. My parents would not allow me to watch “Superman” on TV unless I had practiced for 30 minutes. That’s motivation!

0.5 hours X 5 days X 50 weeks X 2 years = 250 hours of practice

Middle School (Grades 7/8/9)

In middle school I took weekly trumpet lessons and practiced an hour a day.

1 hour X 5 days X 50 weeks X 3 years = 750 hours

High School (Grades 10/11/12)

During high school, my daily practice increased to two hours a day, sometimes more.

2 hours X 5 days X 50 weeks X 3 years = 1,500 hours

By the time I finished high school, I had practiced for 2,500 hours, 25% of the requisite total. In my next column, I’ll calculate my practice time as a university student and professional player.

About the Author

Chase Sanborn is a jazz trumpet player based in Toronto. He is on the faculty at the University of Toronto and is the author of “Brass Tactics,” “Jazz Tactics,” “Tuning Tactics” and “Music Business Tactics.” Chase is a Yamaha Artist. Visit his website at www.chasesanborn.com. Questions about all things brassrelated can be sent to info@chasesanborn.com.