Psychologist aren't always right

Psychologist say we shouldn’t practice more than 4 hours and even less but great jazz musicians, Coltrane, Rollins, got great by practicing way more than 8 hours a day. Any ideas or comments?

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I guess you have to define “practice”. More than just technique, there’s reading, repertoire, theory/harmony, arranging, eartraining - maybe even discussing it. Not just repeating a lick over and over, but developing a vocabulary…

My opinion!

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Your right about all that goes into practice but the point I was trying to make is legendary musicians practiced over 8 hours a day and I think saying practicing over 4 is harmful just isn’t true, all due respect to the field of psychology.

Who said that practicing over four hours a day is harmful?

People who don’t like to practice and people who can’t play :slight_smile:


I understand what you mean. People on the internet commonly repeat these types of vague blanket statements. But when you read actual research papers, nobody actually talks this way or says things like this.

Without knowing what someone means by “practice”, it is impossible to say whether a statement like this is true or false. Is it a good idea to repeat highly repetitive picking exercises 4+ hours a day? Probably not.

Is it ok to do a wide variety of different musical activities that might make you better as a musician overall? Probably. Have many famous players spent more than four hours per day doing these kinds of things? Probably. Was some of it a good idea, was some of it a bad idea, and did some of it have no effect at all? Also, probably!

Without specifics and details, super vague one-liner statements about “practice” (intentional quotes) are never really helpful. I apologize! It’s just a pet peeve of mine.


Correlation is not causation.

They are great because they were passionate and dedicated and had talent. These features compelled them to practice for 8 hours a day or more, and these features were also the cause of their success. There’s a high chance they would achieve the same success if they practiced for 4 hours as the other hours had too much of diminishing returns to be significant. (They probably were not harmful, but also didn’t make that much a difference.)

Marcin Patrzałek who I also consider “legendary” is practicing for 4 hours,

If you don’t know who Marcin is:

17:55 is where he talks about practicing


On top of this, it is never about the findings of one research study, even one that manages to make it through peer reviews and is published in a scientific journal. it’s about how repeatable the results and findings of the study are.

These things all tend to be somewhat anecdotal and speculative. Can we know this for sure? Probably not. There are no parallel worlds we have access to peep into to confirm this. What someone feels is best for them is probably okay enough.

Who said that practicing over four hours a day is harmful?

There is a Blog on this web site that says so…"Do you need to practice 8 hours a day?

“Will it help?” and “Will it hurt?” are two different questions.

And both questions can have the same combinations of answers if you are looking at it through a purely Boolean lens.

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This guy has done 20 hours in one day:

Pffft, if you aren’t practicing 40 hours a day you may as well give up.


But you can always buy the shirt.

We could conclude that Coltrane and Rollins could have been just as good if they practised half as much, but only if they managed to make that half as much practise twice as good?

I dunno.

Are you looking for a reason to play guitar for 12 hours? None of us are going to stop you.

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I think focusing on time spent practicing doesn’t tell you much. I could easily “practice” for 8 hours and make zero progress.

IMO better questions are (here are just some random examples):

What problem do I want to solve today / what am I going to try to do to solve it?

What new thing I am going to know at the end of the session that I didn’t know before?

Etc etc.


This general discussion of correlation versus causation re: “what did the greats do?” reminds me of something I saw on TV this week. Valentina Shevchenko is one of the coaches on the new season of “The Ultimate Fighter”, and whether it’s her legit practice or just a gimmick for the show, she was telling the team she’s coaching that they’re not allowed to drink water during training sessions, and that going without water during sessions is supposed to help them develop mental toughness and a champion’s mindset.

The implication was (paraphrasing) “I’m a champion, and this is how I do it, so you should do it that way too.”

All I could think was: “I bet Amanda Nunes used to drink water when she trained, and if Shevchenko had enjoyed the developmental benefit of training hydrated, maybe she wouldn’t have had to run from the Bantamweight division to the Flyweight division to escape Nunes.”

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What you are suggesting sounds great for self-taught guitarists. But for people with a teacher, perhaps practice is as simple as doing what they’re told, for as long as they’re told to do it.

Totally agree with this! I think practicing with intent for a short while is much more beneficial than noodling around for a longer time.

On a different subject (old guy rant warning… ) I often see people sitting on machines in our gym, who do a set, then sit there for several minutes starting at their phones and then repeat. So in 15 minutes (yeah I’ve timed some of them as I’m usually on a cross-trainer which has a timer on it and I’m waiting for them to get off so I can use the machine!), they maybe do 3 sets.
I sometimes wonder do those people think ‘hey I was in the gym for 2 hours today, I’m great’ where the reality is they probably spent 15 minutes actually working out…


Psychologists aren’t always right, but research studies are usually detailed and measured such that they could be reproduced, and they involve groups of participants to avoid a few exemplary participants skewing the results, and they compare groups against each other and themselves to find statistically significant results, and they explain what they found such as giving a reason for why they found that practicing for more than 4 hours a day isn’t recommended.

On the other hand you have a few exemplary musicians saying they practiced 8 hours a day. Even ignoring that they may be exemplary and thus what they do may not translate to the average person, did they actually practice 8 hours a day? Or did they just think that they did? Or are they just saying they did because it sounds good and other musicians seem to be doing the same? We don’t know because there wasn’t a researcher there to record how long they practiced.

And did they actually benefit from the 8 hours of practice, if that is in fact how long they practiced? Did they compare their practice results at 8 hours with practicing for 2, 4, or 6 hours? Could they have made the same amount of progress with only 4 hours of practice? Could they have made more?

You can choose who you want to believe. I choose to believe the researchers who measured, compared, and analyzed data to find result-based recommendations that work for a wide range of people. It’s not the only way, certainly, but it seems more likely to work better for the average person.

Besides, the whole thing is moot unless you have 8 hours a day to practice. I don’t even have 4.