The proper age at which to begin musical study is somewhat shrouded in mythos. The composer Zoltan Kodaly (1882-1967) was famous for saying that the training of a musician should begin nine months before the birth of the mother. While it is clear that those who begin young have a significant head start, I tend to subscribe to the view that passion & curiosity are the more critical components of success since persistence or even initial interest is hardly guaranteed by situation of birth. For those who dedicate their lives to musical study a little later in life, achievement is very much possible, however the breadth and depth of the gap between late bloomers and their wunderkind peers has yet to be objectively measured. Historically, late beginner students lost access to advanced musical training once they aged out of the system, however the internet is increasingly the great equalizer in this regard, and music teachers are slowly opening their doors & minds to the potential of adult learners and digitizing their vast stores of knowledge. Still, much of the progress that adults make remains stunted due to constraints on freedom that come with adult responsibilities. The typical musical sojourn last ~2 years before ambition becomes ambivalence once the true distance to the mountain top is realized. This is far too short a timespan to know the limits of an adult learner. Partly out of scientific curiosity and partly out of my love for music, I have decided to embark on a 10 year -10,000 hour journey to explore and demonstrate what is really possible for a dedicated adult learner on one of the most difficult instruments to master in western music: the Cello.
The secondary and perhaps more important goaI of this blog will be to document the concrete steps such a journey entails. Scientific information about the path to musical mastery remains largely obscure, and advanced knowledge is still passed down by the traditional osmosis from teacher to student like closely guarded family recipes. The first tentative steps are uniquely terra incognita because most teachers were also child students. Much of the early learning process in then lost from memory to the dark recesess of inarticulate youth. The only well known study on the subject of obtaining mastery (by K. Anders Ericsson) was popularized with some controversy via Malcom Gladwell’s now famous 10,000 hour rule, which poses the dangerous idea that genius is really hard work & passion in disguise. Never one to look down my nose at lofty notions, I am actually quite inspired by the premise that the major barrier between myself and Yo Yo Ma is a mere ten thousand hours of practice. Therefore I’m starting with the assumption (or quixotic delusion?) that the only true limits are time, dedication, and whatever modicum of unrefined talent I am imbued with. Proceeding forward from there, I will be shinning a bright light upon the trials, tedium, elightenment, and exultation contained within a 10,000 hour journey into the realm of the possible.
In this blog, we will examine:
1) the process of learning
2) the elements of good technique
3) effective & efficient practice methods
4) the fundamentals of musicianship
5) how being a musician impacts the mind
6) the nature of sound & music