I’ve often wondered if there is an optimum number of hours of practice a day. By “optimum” I mean in the sense of the amount of practice which gives one the best chance possible of becoming the best guitarist one can become. I’m also interested in finding out how many years of that type of practice it usually takes for a guitarist to reach, or at least come close to reaching, the peak of his playing ability.
If we take a look at how many hours a day some of the more iconic and virtuosic guitarists of the late 70s and 80s practiced until they reached the peak of their abilities (or reasonably close to it), are there any who only played 2 or 3 hours a day for 4 or 5 years and reached that point? For perspective, I mean players whose peers would rank them as being among the best players in the business - the caliber of guys like:
Eddie Van Halen
Is it safe to say all these guys, when in their formative years of learning to play guitar, played on average, a minimum of 4 hours a day, and that most of them practiced considerably more?
I think Yngwie played 8 or 10 hours a day for 7 or 8 years before he came to America and recorded his album with Steeler. Is this an exaggeration? Am I possibly underestimating how many hours he practiced and how many years he practiced like that until he became capable of playing, say, the unaccompanied solo on the Steeler album?
I think that’s a fairly reasonable estimate, but if someone here knows otherwise, let me know.
I’m not as familiar with how much Eddie Van Halen practiced or how many years it was from the time he started playing guitar until he recorded his debut album. Does someone here know?
According to Wikipedia, Paul Gilbert started playing music at age 5. I don’t know if he started with guitar then or if he started learning guitar later. He recorded his debut album with Racer X - Street Lethal, when he was 19 years old. So he may have taken as many as 14 years of practicing guitar to get to the level where he was then. Does anybody here know on average, about how many hours a day Paul Gilbert practiced?
Zakk Wylde, according to Wikipedia “…started playing the guitar at the age of 8, but didn’t become serious about it until his first year in high school. At the age of 14 he worked at Silverton Music in the Silverton section of Toms River, New Jersey. Wielandt grew up in Jackson, New Jersey, and went to Jackson Memorial High School, where he graduated in 1985. He has stated that he would practice playing the guitar as much as 12 hours per day and would often play the guitar almost non-stop between coming home from school and leaving for school the next morning, then sleeping through the school day.”
Zakk’s debut album was “No Rest For The Wicked”, was released in 1988. If he became serious about guitar and practiced as much as 12 hours a day from the age of 14 until recording his debut album, that’s 6 or 7 years of practicing up to 12 hours a day to reach the level where he was when he won the audition (which we can reasonably assume was filled with some excellent players) to become Ozzy Osbourne’s new guitarist. Let’s suppose that although he played as much as 12 hours a day, that he averaged roughly half that many hours a day. That’s 42 hours a week, a little over 2100 hours a year for at least 6 years. That’s at least 12,600 hours of practice not counting whatever practice he did from age 8 to age 14.
In summary, Zakk Wylde probably put in over 12,000 hours of practice in about 6 years and then was good enough to get the gig playing guitar for Ozzy Osbourne, who’d had guitarists like Tony Iommi and Randy Rhoads in the past. I think it’s safe to say that qualifies as reaching the top of one’s profession.
For Yngwie, I think a reasonable, although somewhat rough, estimate of his practice time was an average of 8 hours a day for at least 7 years before coming to America and becoming guitar hero, ultimately becoming one of the most influential guitarists in the history of rock music. That’s 56 hours a week times 50 since I’m allowing 2 weeks for vacation That’s a total of 2800 hours of practice a year for 7 years for a total of 19,600 hours of practice which he put in to reach a point where he was at least fairly close to as good as he ultimately became.
I’d be interested to see what information we can compile together for the rest of the players on the list, as well as any corrections on what I’ve written so far, if it turns out that my estimates are off by a considerable amount. Of course feel free to add other guitarists whose practice hours you’re knowledgable about if they’re guys who have also reached the top of the music industry and if their virtuosity on the guitar was a substantial factor in reaching the top of their profession. That excludes guitarists who played in very successful bands, but whose success was based primarily on other factors than how well they played the guitar.