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Remember on Gilligans Island or Cast Away when they'd mark the passage of time by scoring a tree trunk . Why do I have this random image of you notching a guitar neck with every hour that passed. Imagine 200 notches on 50 guitar necks. That's a helluva lot of guitar necks!
 

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The start of my 10K hours was spent practicing, but the last few years haven't seen nearly as much. I don't know if I've improved much over the last 3-4 years as a player (I understand what it is I can't do hahaha) but I've had some fun.
 

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1) The source of the 10,000 hours thing was K. Anders Ericsson, at Florida State University ( People ), and not Malcolm Gladwell, as too many seem to think. Ericsson has spent much of his life studying the acquisition of expertise. One of my favourite books is one he editted on the topic some 20 years back: The Road To Excellence: the Acquisition of Expert Performance in the Arts and Sciences, Sports, and Games: K. Anders Ericsson: 9780805822328: Books - Amazon.ca While there are many things that contribute to the acquisition of expertise, time plays a big role, since it is required for all the other important elements to happen. When Ericsson and others looked at people who demonstrated high-enough performance levels in some domain that they could be called "experts", they found that, far from simply having any sort of "natural gift", they had invested huge amounts of time. One of Ericsson's fellow faculty at FSU is Neil Charness, who once spent his sabbatical from Univ. Waterloo at our lab in Victoria, before moving to FSU, and we had several pleasant chats. One of the things he studied was musical and mathematical savants - the Rain Man types of people. He told me that their mysterious ability to carry out what strike us as remarkable feats comes from spending just about every waking minute concentrating on those areas. In other words, those isolated special abilities come not from anything hard-wired into them, but rather from spending as much time and effort in those specific areas as any of us would need to spend to achieve a similar level of expertise. It may look like some natural gift because, in the absence of all the other tasks of daily living that the rest of us are distracted by, they can obsessively cram the 10,000hrs into a shorter period of their lives.

2) When the topic of expertise would crop up in Intro Psych class, I would always get blowback from students who, like Dave, experienced the investment of substantial amounts of time, without a similar benefit, leading them to doubt the time/practice aspect and focus on the "natural gift" aspect. But, as I noted in #1 above, time and practice simply provide an opportunity for other critical elements to happen. Charness also studied coaching of prodigies, and one of the things he told me was that great coaches - like any great teacher - are able to find the "teachable moment" in prodigies. That is, during the course of guided practice, they select the right moments and tasks to connect up what the learner already knows in a manner that adds great value. In other words, expertise comes from devoting long periods of practice, but it must fundamentally contain many "A-ha!" moments. What separates experts from novices is generally the interconnectedness of their knowledge base about the subject - their ability to have a wide range of options available but also identify what matters most and least at the moment.

I guess the bottom line here is that it pays to have a great teacher, no matter where one is in learning their instrument. If you're lucky, you stumble on to the a-ha moments in the right sequence entirely by chance. Folks who believe that simply woodshedding for thousands of hours will get them there may be relying on chance a little too much. It's like the difference between those who play the slot machine, and those who have received expert instruction in poker strategies. You can pull the handle or buy lottery tickets for a looooonnnnngggg time without getting ahead.
 

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... far from simply having any sort of "natural gift", they had invested huge amounts of time.
Gotta call bullshit on this.

I can practise ad infinitum. And have the best instruction. I will never play in the NHL. No "gift".

Nor will I ever be a virtuoso on guitar. I have worked at some complex pieces for decades and have never mastered them. No "gift".

Song-writing has been limited only by the amount of time I have been able to put in. But, I feel no limitations there. Its my "gift", and has been the envy of guys who make me look dumb on guitar. They will NEVER be able to do it. No "gift".

Also with welding. I got good. Took a long time. But there were guys in the same classroom who were better than I EVER got in their first week! No exaggeration.

My two cents. No offense mhammer, I always enjoy your input, bro!
 

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Gotta call bullshit on this.

I can practise ad infinitum. And have the best instruction. I will never play in the NHL. No "gift".

Nor will I ever be a virtuoso on guitar. I have worked at some complex pieces for decades and have never mastered them. No "gift".

Song-writing has been limited only by the amount of time I have been able to put in. But, I feel no limitations there. Its my "gift", and has been the envy of guys who make me look dumb on guitar. They will NEVER be able to do it. No "gift".

Also with welding. I got good. Took a long time. But there were guys in the same classroom who were better than I EVER got in their first week! No exaggeration.

My two cents. No offense mhammer, I always enjoy your input, bro!
I was watching a video interview of an up and coming guitarist and he made an interesting point that his "talent" decreased when he wasn't practicing 6 hours/day. Hard work will always trump an inclination or facility to master an instrument. I respectfully disagree with your argument. Cheers.
 

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1) The source of the 10,000 hours thing was K. Anders Ericsson, at Florida State University ( People ), and not Malcolm Gladwell, as too many seem to think.
You can see why people think that, though. Gladwell popularized a (probably) fairly academic concept. He sold a lot of books by being conversational.

And it happens all the time. I still hear lots of people give credit of our electric grid to Edison. The public being wrong en masse isn't unusual.
 
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Gotta call bullshit on this.

I can practise ad infinitum. And have the best instruction. I will never play in the NHL. No "gift".

Nor will I ever be a virtuoso on guitar. I have worked at some complex pieces for decades and have never mastered them. No "gift".

Song-writing has been limited only by the amount of time I have been able to put in. But, I feel no limitations there. Its my "gift", and has been the envy of guys who make me look dumb on guitar. They will NEVER be able to do it. No "gift".

Also with welding. I got good. Took a long time. But there were guys in the same classroom who were better than I EVER got in their first week! No exaggeration.

My two cents. No offense mhammer, I always enjoy your input, bro!
One virtuoso guitarist I watched discussed how for about 8 years he practiced 12-16 hours per day every day. He also practiced things in a learned manner. Scales, theory, songs, styles etc. Watching him play I am amazed, but then I never spent years and years day in and day out 14 hours a day playing scales, modes, triads, arpeggios etc.
 

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You can see why people think that, though. Gladwell popularized a (probably) fairly academic concept. He sold a lot of books by being conversational.

And it happens all the time. I still hear lots of people give credit of our electric grid to Edison. The public being wrong en masse isn't unusual.
Yeah, I'm not blaming anyone. I'm sure most folks will skip the reference list at the back of whatever non-fiction they're reading, and only remember the gist. No great sin on their part or Gladwell's. I just wanted to set the record straight. I've been interested in the research on expert/novice distinctions for over 30 years.
 

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Gotta call bullshit on this.

I can practise ad infinitum. And have the best instruction. I will never play in the NHL. No "gift".

Nor will I ever be a virtuoso on guitar. I have worked at some complex pieces for decades and have never mastered them. No "gift".

Song-writing has been limited only by the amount of time I have been able to put in. But, I feel no limitations there. Its my "gift", and has been the envy of guys who make me look dumb on guitar. They will NEVER be able to do it. No "gift".

Also with welding. I got good. Took a long time. But there were guys in the same classroom who were better than I EVER got in their first week! No exaggeration.

My two cents. No offense mhammer, I always enjoy your input, bro!
Expertise does not come from genes, outer space, or time alone. What creates the belief in "giftedness"? Typically, it results from not witnessing the on-line and offline practice of someone (for instance, infant speech can seem to come from out of nowhere, but they spend hundreds and hundreds of hours practicing sounds before weget up). It also results from the exasperation that people feel when they know they have put in the time and yet it seems to come so effortlessly to others. But that exasperation - justified as it may be - is not any sort of explanation. If you and your friends each separately purchase lottery tickets every draw, and someone else wins before you do, it's luck, not special skill or a gift. Some of us can get lucky and the right experiences fall into place at the right time, allowing us to extract more from our practice. Some of us are luckier still and have decent coaches. The rest of us stumble along, trying, bt the experiential stars don't align for us.

It is a natural occurence in human learning that we tend to learn stuff in pockets or silos, and fail to connect stuff that is related if it was acquired in a different context. With time, the independent tidbits of our knowledge can become connected, permitting higher-order more abstract thinking about the subject matter. One of the nicest illustrations of this was a paper we read in grad school about children's mathematical reasoning. There will be exceptions, but your average 7 year-old is unlikely to realize that money operates by the same rules as classrom arithmetic; that two dimes and nickel works identically to 10+10+5 or (2x10)+5, because they were learned in different circumstances. Examination of experts, and the growth of expertise, is that their knowledge in those areas where they have expertise is very well interconnected. They often have instant analogies for anything and everything in their area of expertise. Expertise is generally always domain-specific, not generalizable to new domains previously unexperienced; although "domain" limits can vary, such as a person who plays piano being able to pick up guitar with some ease.

For something like guitar, what distinguishes the folks who blow us away is their capacity to deploy complex strategies on the fly. I listen to a guy like Guthrie Govan, and his improvisational abilities astound me. He knows what-to-do-next at the same speed as your favourite NHL, NBA, or NFL/CFL player knows how to catch and use a rebound or "see a hole" in well under 200msec. The speed with which experts can determine what course of action is feasible at this precise moment comes from their practice and the manner in which the knowledge they have gained over that practice has become well-integrated.

The classic research on expert/novice distinctions was carried out with chess experts. They were studied largely because there are international rankings of chess players that allow the researcher to compare , say, the top 5% against a group ranked 30 percentile points below that, versus complete novices. No different than studying groups of people taking identifiably different daily dosages of a given medication. One of the things that came out in the research was that expertise allows one to do less work, by permitting the expert to completely ignore what they recognize as irrelevent. Case in point. Experts and novices were briefly shown a photo of a chess board with pieces spread around, and then asked to recall what was on the board, and where, some time later. Experts had near-perfect recall, and novices were spotty. The same persons showed absolutely NO difference in recall of things like word-lists. But more telling was the finding that expert-novice differences in chess-board recall were for images of games-in-progress, and not for randomly-distributed pieces. If it was a game in progress, the novice had to memorize it as the black horsey thing was over here, the white castle thing over there, the salt-shaker thing over there, etc. The expert looked at the board and thought "Ah, the 1956 Hungadunga opening gambit!", and that was it. Their well-organized background knowledge allowed them to be more effective because they had less work to do. When the board was simply random placement, and they could not apply that knowledge, they had just as much work to do as novices, and their performance fell to similar levels as novices.

So let's take this to the guitar context. you've worked your way up to a particular note - let's say a high G on your E-string. What comes next? Well, what could come next? What prepared strategies do you have under your belt? Which of those best complement where you were headed, your current tone setting, where you want to end up, and so on? Is there anything in your riff tool-belt that you can use to provide a surprise element, or that can expediciously take you from where you are to somewhere that will provide that element of surprise? Will it complement where you have your fingers, or the speed with which you can move them from where they are now? A lot of micro-decisions to be made in a short period of time. Will any of that be instantly accessible if one has simply been playing the same runs for decades? Not likely. What will do so is practice that explores branching-off points and provides strategic alternatives, that can be assessed/ranked for their applicability to any subsequent choices one is going to make. And so on.

I never really liked what I had heard of Ten Years After player Alvin Lee. Not all that crazy about George Thorogood, either. Both of them always struck me as very repetitive. I mean, they had some decent classic riffs, but always struck me as being in a rut that never extended beyond those riffs. Admittedly, that bias on my part may be due to the limited playlist found on radio stations. It's possible that both have a broader repertoire; I just never got to hear it. Assuming what I'm familiar with is representative, THAT's what happens when one engages in lots of practice without extending beyond and interconnecting new and old ideas and strategies. HIghly practiced is part of, but not the same as, expertise.
 

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Hmm, maybe I coulda played in the NHL, even without strength, size, and co-ordination.
A completely fair point when it comes to skills that require particular physical attributes (although, having gone to the Senators/Blue-Jackets game on Friday, I didn't see all that much coordination on the ice, apart from the ability to come off the bench seamlessly). But, Dave has been to my home, and unless some terrible accident has befallen him since, I can attest that he has two arms of suitable length, all ten working digits (none of them particularly pudgy or misshapen), and decent enough motor control to work chopsticks or a doorhandle. So, in the case of playing guitar, it's not the physical attributes that stop his progress.

But lets look at differences between those individuals who all possess the same necessary physical attributes for some particular sport or skill. Even there, we see clear differences between tier 1, 2, and 3 players. What makes for the player whose passing seems to always have the gift of prophecy, compared to the one whose best move seems to be icing the puck or sending it over the boards? It's their strategic abilities, and THAT comes from the right sort and amount of practice.

I would be remiss in not addressing what gets a person to the point of sufficient practice. It is fair to say that few people get to be experts in anything without caring. The caring and motivation - nay, obsession - is what gets them to put in all that time. And when a person feels themselves making progress in some area and expanding their skills from what they were, that is very motivating. Moreover, when the learner has the benefit of a-ha moments (experienced when higher-order concepts occur to the learner, and things feel like they have finally come together), they are more motivated to put in more time. Things making sense is a big draw for learners.

That's the magic of guided productive practice. The more you learn, and the clearer things feel, the more you practice, and the more you practice....

But yeah, unless you're Django Reinhardt, Jerry Garcia, or Tony Iommi, it pays to have all 10 fingers.
 

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... unless you're Django Reinhardt, Jerry Garcia, or Tony Iommi, it pays to have all 10 fingers.
Is Phil Keaggy missing the exact same digit as Gerry Garcia? I thought so, then I didn't think so, now...???

Anybody know for sure? Help!
 

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Django wasnt born great at guitar though.

What about the folks who use their feet to play?

Some people want it more and they work for it.
 
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