A few years ago, I read Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers, which propagates the idea of "the 10,000-hour rule," whereby it takes 10,000 hours of practicing a certain task to become a master of that task. This idea planted a seed that led me to create a spreadsheet to track my banjo playing. I already tracked my running on another spreadsheet, so it seemed natural to carry over the practice to quantify my musical pursuits.
Since 2008, I've logged 1,010 hours (and counting) of banjo playing, so in another 45 years I'll have mastered the instrument. I'll be 79 years old. It seems hopeless to think that way, but having the spreadsheet helps me keep track of my progress, regardless of whether I ever actually reach that gilded 10,000-hour mark.
A year ago, I bought a fiddle as a Christmas gift to me from my wife, and you'd better believe I created a spreadsheet to track my playing. I made some great progress in the beginning of the year, but then the weather got nicer and I started running more. My son was born in September, which really made it difficult to find time to practice the fiddle, at least until I started playing in the early mornings. So far, I've played the fiddle 117 hours, with the hope of hitting 125 by year's end.
Citing Clay County, W.Va., fiddler Wilson Douglas, Dwight Diller says, "It takes about 10 years just to start to learn the fiddle," so I'm biding my time.
Of course, logging hours isn't much of a measure of how I'm actually progressing. Since the baby arrived, I've focused solely on bowing at the expense of learning any new tunes. I play about 10 tunes, and that's enough for now. There'll be plenty of time to learn more tunes later.
Do you track how much you play your instrument? How would you rate your music playing this year? Any musical resolutions for the New Year? Let me know in the comments!