Is There An Optimum Number Of Practice Hours A Day?


#21

Guys, you are confusing being a pro with being a legendary guitarist with a solo career.


#22

it probably cant be exactly quantified. some of it could be luck due to physical genetics. One guy can smoke cigs all his life and not get cancer. Another dude never smokes or drinks and dies of cancer before age 40

one guy can play 15 hrs per day thru his teens with no ill effects. Another guy would do that for a year and be shot

The Chinese weightlifting program is an interesting example. With a billion people to choose from, they can throw a thousand kids into extreme programs. yeah, half the kids cant make it and maybe they end up half crippled…but in the process they identify the 1 out of 10000 freaks who can train a zillion hours with no ill effects


#23

I agree. The thread is about the optimum number of hours of practice a day in the sense of the amount of practice which gives one the best chance possible of becoming the best guitarist one can become. The guys I listed did a lot more than just become professionals. These men reached the top of their field. Did any of them get there by only playing 2 or 3 hours a day on average?


#24

that was my earlier point. We arent talking about “being a pro musician”. We are talking about attaining very high levels of mastery AFAIK


#25

I don’t know, and even if we asked those guys their answers might not be truthful due to faulty memory or exaggeration. I’m comfortable with 1-4 hours of actual practice, not including breaks, being a reasonable target depending on how efficient the player is.


#26

Probably way more than that. I think more important factor is what and why they practiced. If you wonder how Yngwie get so good - probably when he discovered dwps he just abused it to the limit and that’s how he became great. Playing that way was just effective and fun, he concentrated on his strenghts and usually doing that gives the best results. You just don’t get tired of practicing and hours go higher and higher.
Steve Vai may not have the greatest technique for todays standards but he always says that he concentrated on his strenghts and imo he is absolutely phenomenal at composing and arranging. That’s why Passion and Warfare made him an icon - it was far more original compared to what was going on at guitar driven music department at the time.
Music is a combination of many many different things, not only the hours you’ve put into practicing but also your natural sense of melody, harmony, all the experiences and musical tools you’ve accumulated by listening to music etc, etc.


#27

I do 4 hrs a day but here is my secret.
I cant really focus for more than 5 or 10 minutes so allot of that time is spent Switching between topics.

Also im not constantly playing that whole time. Im documenting things or maybe thinking through something then back to playing.

So my 4 hours is probably more like 2.5 to 3.

I have found that for me this is the sweet spot.

I enjoy it

I think its like diet,
Don’t think of it as a diet
Think of it as a lifestyle and find
What you can consistently live with

Then live with it


#28

A lot of the “world class” guitarists I can think of - Satriani, Vai, EVH, etc - had at least gone through periods of their life where they practiced upwards of 8-10 hours a day.

Does that make it necessary to achieve that level of technique? I’m not sure… There are also plenty of guys who have practiced 8-10 hours a day or more, and NOT emerged with Satriani-level legato chops, for example. It may be quality over quantity of practice, it may be quality AND quantity, or it may be something else.


#29

hard to nail down the exact facts but the vid says RG was 19 here. He claims to have started guitar when he was 17. Uhmmm, thats just 2 years. He played violin starting when he was 7.

claims he started guitar in Feb 1991 so I am trying to suss out that maybe he was born in 1974?? i saw his Bday listed as 1986 but that cant be right

Says he often did 10 hrs per day for YEARS. Hello lol


#30

Just another reference point:

My old guitar teacher and friend A.J. Minette is an amazing player, and recorded his popular metalcore album two years after beginning to learn the instrument:

The above level of playing he had within two years, and it got him on the MetalSucks top guitarists list a few years ago. Obviously he didn’t do the often touted 10,000 hours within two years, so it is probably a matter of quality like @Drew mentioned. I never remember him telling me even once that he practiced to the point where the rest of his life was severely hampered, which is often the idea we get when we think of the effort necessary to play at a virtuoso level. He also had college and other obligations during that time period.

EDIT: I forgot to add he was enthralled by John Petrucci at the time. He learned all of his technique by mimicking John Petrucci’s Rock Discipline-era technique and doing all of the exercises.


#31

Just posted about an interesting paper I found, addressing the stratification of excellence, what it takes to become an elite performer (here, re: swimming, but I think applicable more generally), and why “talent” isn’t very useful when it comes to specifying what it takes to be great.

This made me think of this discussion, and how it may be kind of an impossible question to answer! From that paper, one important point is that quality of practice is much more important than quantity. That’s not to say that practice time has no bearing on achieving elite-level performance — but it’s probably a case of “necessary but not sufficient”.

It’s likely that practicing one hour per day, with great technique, extreme focus, a tight feedback loop, and a constant drive to get better, will lead to more gains than eight hours of average unfocused practice. Some cool examples in that paper looking at how some of the subjects of the study (swimmers) reach such a high level not through herculean efforts, or innate talent, but by doing certain things qualitatively differently.

I think this kind of question is fun to consider because it seems like there should be a simple answer to a simple question. But it also risks glossing over the other factors at play…e.g. with practice time, it’s important to keep in mind that the amount of time is only relevant if it’s the right kind of practice in the first place (perhaps not even just when it comes to technique, but other mental factors, goals, etc. as well).

It does seem useful to keep in mind the physical impact too and how it will vary depending on the skill being developed. I’d hazard a guess that optimal practice time may be quite different for a painter, a programmer, and an elite athlete. And similarly, eight hours of songwriting is very different from eight hours of picking exercises!


#32

maybe off topic, but just a thought off the top of my head.

those of us who have been playing and practicing for a number of years might ought to take a deep and hard look at why we arent where we want to be. if 10 or 20 or 30 years hasnt made us technical monsters, will 10 or 20 or 30 more make THAT much difference?

im preaching to myself mostly, but using my 30 years of playing as an example:

Ive been playing about 3 years longer than Rick Graham

Ive played for 30 years, VH1 came out when Eddie was 22

Ive played for longer than Jimi or Randy Rhoads LIVED

Ive been playing for TWICE as long as Yngwie had played when he did the Steeler album

u sort of see where I am going. If I am not where I want to be now…can I get there with just thousands of more hours??

obviously not. something else has to change

with me id say its FOCUS. 30 years of playing but ive YET to have anything resembling any organization. The words focus, routine, schedule, aim, goals etc are words that have meant very little to me

not that im a bad player, im not. But im not Yngwie or Rick Graham or even Zakk Wylde

one thing that stands out to me. I hardly have any “pet licks.” VanHalen has them. Yngwie has them. Rick Graham has them. Hell, Clapton has them. That means I havent been focused and/or driven enough to work out things to a high level.

Ive been more or less one to just enjoy playing. Thats cool and all but not if u want to be a monster player. These guys enjoyed it but they also had some sort of focus enough to hone at least a handful of stock licks to very high levels.

The CTC stuff has helped me tremendously in the last 4 years. Now I know why I could never do the Paul Gilbert lick worth a flip lol. That being said, I COULD and SHOULD be as good as Yngwie now lol. Nothing Yngwie or MAB does is a mystery now.

So even though I started taking in the CTC stuff about 4 years ago. Why am I not an absolute monster now?

Same answer as always. Not enough focus, no clearly defined goals etc etc

There is hope though. I HAVE been diligent to put in maybe 15-20 hours of playing per week for a good while now and I have recently let some other stuff slide to free up my focus. One of my best licks right now is a pure dwps lick that i just learned in the last couple months. With just an ounce of focus I now have it grooved to where it faster than what I can think my way through.

Other licks are coming nicely, even sweep picking which I NEVER had patience before is starting to show some signs of life.

So where I SHOULD have a few hundred licks grooved like that (and maybe 10 albums under my belt), at least there is hope than old habits CAN be overcame. there is no mystery in any of this. If we arent great by now, we are simply doing it wrong

Peace, JJ


#33

I think that mental factors are actually the most important and the hours you put in are just a byproduct of them. I’d like to share something with you:


This is me at 13 years old, I’ve been playing for 1,5 years or something like that at the time. My natural upward pickslanting was already there and playing stuff this way was just easy and fun, so I’d go back from school or don’t go to school at all and just play the shit out of my guitar, just noodling or transcribing Vai, Malmsteen, Becker. If I hadn’t figured out UPWS at the time I’d probably quit guitar because of being bored and feeling like my goal is unacheivable.

#34

It’s a nice thought but can you name a guitar hero who got to where he is through that "one hour per day? I don’t know of even one example I could cite.

I haven’t yet read the article on swimmers but in athletics, recuperation plays an integral factor in making gains. A workout stimulates growth and the following rest period allows that growth to occur.

One of the reasons steroids have been ubiquitous in pro sports is because steroids allow an athlete to train long and hard and to then recuperate relatively quickly. Steroids allow them to make great progress from the intensity and length of training sessions which would otherwise result in severe overtraining.

Even a long, intense, guitar practice session doesn’t place anywhere near the physiological demands on one’s system as an intense athletic training session. With that in mind, I see a limited value in comparing an athletic training session to a guitar practice session IF the goal is to equate the value of a brief, high intensity athletic workout to a brief, yet high quality guitar practice session.

As guitarists we’re simply not imposing the tremendous physiological stress upon our bodies during a practice session that an athlete does during a workout. Therefore, there’s no reason for a guitarist not to practice both long and hard if achieving greatness is his goal.

I imagine the greats put in BOTH tremendous quality and quantity of practice. I don’t think there’s any substitute for putting in both high levels of quality and quantity of practice if one’s goal is to become a guitar hero and clearly every man I listed in the OP had that goal since childhood.


#35

In sports, say weightlifting, since I know something about it, there is something that is very useful when it comes to specifying what it takes to be great. There are many who believe: “If I just persevere, if I just work hard enough, eventually I must succeed.” Well, that will not lead to success on a world class, or even national level, if that athlete doesn’t have some certain innate qualities that could be referred to as " a talent for it" or " a gift for it." To be more precise, one of those qualities that is necessary to achieve on that level is what is generally referred to as “genetic potential.” Most men, simply do not have the requisite genetic potential to ever press 500 pounds. If one does have that genetic potential, he has to still have the drive, the ambition and the work ethic to put in the necessary work to become a champion. However, all the drive, ambition, and work ethic in the world coupled with just an average level of genetic gifts will never result in him becoming a national or world champion.

Where this applies to becoming a great musician is that we too must have that rare combination of drive, ambition and work ethic, coupled with the requisite genetic gifts which all the greats possess if we too have the goals those guitar heroes had - to becoming among the best of your era.


#36

I competed in powerlifting and spent many years in (and out unfortunately lol) of gyms. I studied many of the old Soviet era translated Russian manuals. good stuff.

image

They had it worked out to a science back then etc. Many interesting ideas and some of them probably translate directly to lead guitar playing (effects of practice leaving “traces” on the central nervous system etc)

Kind of makes me wonder when i think about Anton Oparin and his father being a Russian sports trainer. hmmmm

one huge difference though. Whereas weightlifting and other very physical sports place a huge strain on the muscles and on the overall bodies recuperative abilities…guitar playing probably doesnt lol.

So while there are some concerns about overuse and tendinitis and some concerns about muscular recovery etc, guitar playing is way more about nerve impulses isnt it??

afaik not many sports athletes would train 6 hrs per day 5-6 days per week, but a guitar player could probably do that as long as he wasnt doing weird stuff like overstretching or other stuff that would hurt the hands etc

I could see something like two or even three 2 hour sessions 5-6 days being a pretty strong routine. Split the sessions up by several hours etc etc

if u think about it, this is probably exactly how Eddie and Yngwie came up. Play some in the morning, go play football with friends, play some more later, eat, nap, play more that night etc


#37

Yes, that’s the crux of it. WE as guitarists don’t have to be nearly as concerned with overtraining. BTW, did you ever read Mike Mentzer’s writings? He had things down to a science as well. If you do know of him, what do you think of him and his theories?

It’s certainly about developing extremely high levels of coordination. Whether that’s mainly a matter of changes in the central nervous system, or something else, I honestly don’t know but would be interested in learning more about that subject. Where would we look for that type of scientific information?


#38

I would think the hands would be the limiting factor.

Think about an SRV or Phil Sayce style and guitar setup. They were GOING to have hand issues eventually. Pretty sure Phil has came down several string sizes now. So with that type of setup they probably werent going to do 5-6 hrs per day…at least not every day. They might have when they were young but it would catch up eventually. SRV died young so hard to say with him. Didnt he start to have hand issues near the end?

On the other hand a guy like Yngwie uses such a light touch and light setup, he could probably play many many hours with no issues

of course as I mentioned, a large AMOUNT of hours isnt going promise success. I think there are other X factors as I mentioned above.

for example:

  1. one guy loves to noodle about and “have fun” blah blah. he can sort of play lots of stuff and sometimes hits some good licks. 3 years into it and he sounds pretty good but maybe nothing that would knock your head off

  2. his buddy takes like 5 licks and just massively overlearns them and gets them to blazing speed.

which guy is going to end up being the pro??

guy #2 has the foundation. He can take his core licks and throw in some phrasing in between and its going to sound great. If you think about Yngwie and VH you can name like 5-10 core licks they built their styles around

guy #1 will sound about the same after 5 more years, then 10 more years etc. He never quite crosses that threshold over into great abilities


#39

Fairly recently there was a thread where some misguided people claimed that it shredding like Yngwie takes “no talent.”

Well, human genetic characteristics exist along a continuum. On one end of it you have the giants of the NBA and at the other end you have midgets. On one end you have geniuses and at the other end you have morons. Recuperative ability from high intensity workouts is another one of these things that exist along a continuum. The genetic requirements needed to run extremely fast or to become able to lift huge amounts of weight also exist along a continuum. People’s ability to gain muscular mass also exists along a wide continuum because we all have varying genetic potential regarding it!

Why then, would anyone think that the ability to play guitar at a virtuoso level takes no talent - only dedication? It would very naive to think that when it comes to the genetic potential to debvelop the ability to make highly intricate, coordinated movements (and that only addresses the more physical aspect of playing like Yngwie) that we are all the same.

Why would one think that people do not vary in their ability to develop incredible coordination and the ability to make intricate, delicate, highly coordinated movements at high speed? The notion some people have that all the aforementioned things are areas where people lie on one part of a continuum which measures whether you are among the most genetically gifted, among the least genetically gifted in that area, or somewhere in between, but that for some reason the ability (genetic potential) to develop extremely high levels of coordination would somehow be exempt from the variations we see in human beings in a myriad of aspects, is just mind boggling!

I can understand why some people would wish it were not so, but to actually believe it’s not so? That’s what I call “the denial of reality.” Of course considering we live in an increasingly PC culture and that political correctness is “the denial of reality”, I can see why this phenomenon would be prevalent in this particular era.


#40

The real mystery for me lyes in the fact that these guys had mastered so many facets so early.
Technique, note choice, feel, stage presence, songwriting, etc
That is why I think of them as special.

That’s why we still say the same 10 names over and over