258 • Time in water

Most piano students, no matter the stage of development, know their right hand to be superior to the left. That's because the right hand spent more time at the keyboard; it's older by weeks, months, and eventually years technically speaking, it's because of mileage. The right hand actually pushed about four times as many keys (that's a rough estimate based on observation and experience) and thus - elementary deduction, Watson - dexterity is in the beginning as well as in the end all about time spent practicing dexterity. There is a threshold after which a basic and reliable ability is achieved - after about 3000 hours. An advanced and sophisticated ability establishes around 5,000 hours. Mastery needs much more time and in addition creativity and talent. Time spent with or in the element! Time in water is what distinguishes an olympic swimmer from a pool stud: Olympic swimmers (and aquatic lunatics) spend several years up to eight hours a day in water.

Eight hours*. Almost every day. For several years. Practicing scales and arpeggions; four note inversion arpeggios; three note scaling arpeggios; arm-weight, wrist, and finger trills and small groups (e.g. Franz Liszt), sequences (e.g. Charles-Louis Hanon), pentagroups holding exercises - diatonically and on diminished 7th chords (e.g. Isidore Philipp), octaves, broken octaves, chords, variations of patterns (e.g. 1243) and key signatures (first 5 # keys); back to scales in 3rds, 6ths, all 24 keys including melodic and harmonic minor; scales in double thirds, other double configurations, then all this in marching without (straight) and with wrist rotation (bent), then all this in pure finger release (but categorically without raising the finger beyond the arch of the hand, no hooks). And that's just the foundation, the beginning. At the same time constant push for increasingly complex repertoire from 4 epochs - Baroque, Classical, Romantic, Modern, and Etudes - first Czerny or similar, then Moszkovsky or similar, then Chopin, Liszt, Alkan, Debussy, Rachmaninov, Scriabin, Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Ligeti. or similar, while also learning how to create your own exercises and etudes. To master an element is hard, but the reward is utterly unlike the effort while the effort is reward in itself.

And one day, after spending 10,000 hours in water, you wake up a fish, at the piano as your natural habitat.

*Or four hours, almost every day, for many years. Or two hours, almost every day, for many more years. And there is also a lower threshold. If you want to run a marathon, you start training by building up your weekly mileage. If you run 3 miles a week, you can not increase your training to marathon preparation. If you run 30 miles a week, which needs consistency, it's a matter of a year to prepare for a marathon, anyone can do it. If you practice under a certain amount of hours a week, and that amount differs individually, natural entropy negates any progress made in a single session. It's like walking two steps forward and nature walks you 1.9 steps back. Those 10,000 hours have an expiration date, they have to be done in about 10 to 15 years. There are exceptions.

See: 363 • Mileage


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