10,000 Hours*

guitar handsMy eldest daughter has just driven off to take her grade 8 classical guitar exam.  It seems very different from when she did her first music exam, but in reality not much has changed.

Outwardly driving herself to the exam is obviously not how it was back when she was in 2010.  Back then I recall picking her up from school and taking her to some church hall where I nervously hung around – adding to her tension. Now we are hanging around nervously at home.

She is older so we’ve let her determine the effort she puts in (well ok we do nag a bit) but the pattern is the same.  She slowly, over a long time, works on the set pieces, learns the scales, practices the aural tests.  Again and again and again.  She and her Tutor (a big thank you to Jim Bateman) break each piece down into tiny sections, perfecting the techniques to be used for each few notes.  Then slowly the sections are joined together until eventually the whole piece can be played.  At first this may be a little halting but repeated practice creates the fluency.

With the exam date looming there is a usual crisis of confidence and a lack of self belief.  Jim never falters in his absolute belief, tempered with realism.  He knows she can do it, if she puts the work in.  Two weeks to go and the pieces are ok but they lack the subtle nuances that create a true performance.  Practice, practice, practice.  Until her hands ache and her fingers are sore.

A few days to go and suddenly, as if by magic, those stuttering early renditions have metamorphosed into beautiful pieces that take the listener on a wonderful journey.  Reflective quiet passages, intricate finger work, joyous rhythm leading to a crescendo make the playing a true performance.

Watching her fingers you’d better believe she has a talent.  That’s a prerequisite.  But it’s not enough on it’s own.  Without the determination, without the effort, she’d still be strumming chords.

Tonight we’ll get a phone call.  Passing matters.  It matters a lot.  Enough to spend 10,000 hours* on.

*In the book ‘Outliers‘, author Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field.

I hope that God decides to talk through him
That the people decide to walk with him
Regardless of pitchfork cosigns I’ve jumped
Make sure the soundman doesn’t cockblock the drums
Let the snare knock the air right out of your lungs
And those words be the oxygen
Just breathe
Amen, regardless I’mma say it
Felt like I got signed the day that I got an agent
Got an iTunes check, shit man I’m paying rent
About damn time that I got out of my basement
About damn time I got around the country and I hit these stages
I was made to slay them
Ten thousand hours I’m so damn close I can taste it
On some Malcolm Gladwell, David Bowie meets Kanye shit
This is dedication
A life lived for art is never a life wasted
Ten thousand

Ten thousand hours felt like ten thousand hands
Ten thousands hands, they carry me
Ten thousand hours felt like ten thousand hands
Ten thousands hands, they carry me

10,000 Hours Macklemore