As someone who talks a whole lot about creativity and overcoming the challenges that come with it, I am about to see if I can actually live up to what I preach. I am about to embark on the most significant creative adventure of my life yet - I will be trying to become a professional electronic music producer, and using the process of getting there to find out if talent is indispensable to attain a reasonable level of success or whether it can be overshadowed by hard work.
According to the trendy notion established by one of the best known authors on the topic of success Malcolm Gladwell, by dedicating approximately 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to a skill, one can reach the level of mastery. So starting today, I am officially committing the next several years of my life to music, until I reach 10,000 hours.
A STUDY OF TALENT
Now, most of you know me as a photographer, but the more I understand myself, the more I realize that I am many things - a photographer, a writer, an artist, and now a musician. I am truly passionate about creativity in general (not any particular field) and the role it plays in our lives, so I thought what better way for me to study it than by putting myself to the test? Not only will I be testing the 10,000 rule, but I will also be finding out whether to succeed in any field, talent is an absolute requirement.
Here are the goals that I want to attain at the end of my 10,000 hours of practice:
- Play a live set of my original tracks to a live audience at a decent venue
- Release an album of ten original tracks so people can purchase my music if they wish
- Establish a unique sound
Here are some important points that I am considering:
- I am currently on hour 56 (more about those hours in later posts)
- The 10,000 rule is not really a rule. There is no proof that it works, but it is safe to assume that after 10,000 hours of practice one can expect to be infinitely better at the skill in question than without such a commitment. However, that does not guarantee success, nor does it prove or disprove the importance of natural talent, but aiming for 10,000 hours is a great, tangible target that I will be aiming for.
- I did some simple math and determined that if I continue to produce music at my current pace of about 6 hours per week I will attain 10,000 hours in 32 years. That is a really long time. If we add my current age of 24 to that we can calculate that I will be 56 years old at the time of completion. Music doesn’t (or at least it shouldn’t) have an age limit, but I’d like to not wait so long. Besides, who wants to follow an experiment for 32 years? So I am going to have to step up my game. I think it is reasonable to give myself 10 years. Even less, let’s say 8 years. That gives me the following numbers: Year of completion: 2023. My age at completion: 32 (reasonable). But! That means that I have to make music for at least 24 hours a week. This is going to be challenging in its own right, considering that I have to keep my day job to “finance” this experiment. That is about 3.5 hours of making music a day. I will have to make music my top priority after work. Hopefully, as my skills improve, I will have more endurance to make music for longer stretches of time and, hopefully, somewhere down the line I will be able to find a job in a field related to music, so that my work serves as an apprenticeship, accelerating my growth.
- It’s important to note that only the hours of actually making music count towards the 10,000 hour goal. Reading about music, watching tutorials, learning to play an instrument, and other related activities are important, but only applying those skills to original music productions actually counts.
- For the experiment to qualify as a success I must actually play at least one live show to a live audience, and have the above-mentioned album actually released
- A similar experiment is currently in progress. It’s called the Dan Plan, where a man named Dan is trying to reach a world class level as a golf player. You can read all about it here: thedanplan.com. The only reason why I find his experiment unsatisfying to my curiosity, and thus feel that I need to conduct my own, is because golf and music are entirely different in terms of what kind of talent they seem to require. Golf is a physical activity and is not notorious for requiring any extraordinary inherited talents. It appears that anybody in good health, without physical disabilities, and with enough dedication should be able to perfect his game through guided practice and persistence. Music on the other hand is surrounded by a heavy notion that only those naturally gifted with particular skills can reach mastery and that usually the talent of such people is seen in their early years. It is believed that music requires a very specific cognitive predisposition, good audation, an ability to hear pitch, as well as a strong sense of rhythm. So while I am by no means discrediting golf, I am acknowledging the fact that there is a much stronger emphasis on talent when it comes to music, and hence I have the desire to find out with my experiment whether someone with no talent can nevertheless reach mastery.
- Another very important thing to mention is that I am not trying to attain “best in the world” status. No, that is very complex and probably requires not only years of hard work, some extraordinary circumstances, and yes, perhaps even some magic in the form of natural talent. I just want to find out if I can reach a relatively high level of electronic music production so that people like to listen to it and so that is indistinguishable in terms of quality from the music produced by professional artists.
- With that said, I think it is important that I mention that I do not have musical talent. I do not have perfect pitch, I do not know rhythm, I cannot sing, or play by ear. Which makes me an ideal candidate for this study and thus makes this experiment all the more interesting and important.
- Regarding this blog that was set up to keep anybody who is interested up to date on my progress: I’ll take notes after each production session and then convert them into a post with a report and the accumulated hours, weekly.
Okay, so this about wraps it up for now. With clear goals established and some important aspects of the challenge considered, I am very excited to begin and to see just how far I can go. I invite you all to follow along and I would love to hear what you think about talent.