You know a few. Those really annoying musicians who have excelled with seemingly little effort. The fellow students or colleagues who have a career on the world stages – some of whom partied so much they shouldn’t even be functional. While the rest – those who really tried and worked hard – have had to be content with carving out a career of bits and pieces.
Then answer is in the quality of the practice. Not the quantity. From a study* in Berlin in the 1990s: elite musicians spend an average 3.5 hours a day in two well-defined chunks – morning and afternoon – doing the uncomfortable, methodical, ability-stretching practice. Then they relax. Have fun. Sleep better. And improve.
Average musicians spend more time haphazardly throughout the day – ending up more stressed, sleeping less, and not improving at the same rate.
Startling conclusion: ”Do less. But do what you do with complete and hard focus. Then when you’re done be done, and go enjoy the rest of the day.”
Image: A Good Thing Happened