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Of course we are making generalisations. It doesn't invalidate something just because you talk in generalisations. Many things are measured by overall trends. If we had to exclude everything that contained an exception, we'd never make any statements about anything.

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Originally Posted by ando
Of course we are making generalisations. It doesn't invalidate something just because you talk in generalisations. Many things are measured by overall trends. If we had to exclude everything that contained an exception, we'd never make any statements about anything.


In order to make generalizations, one needs good data to do so. It is hard to make generalizations and determine "overall trends" which will have any sort of validity from a limited number of anecdotes.

Furthermore, the topic of rating the difficulty of one college major has been debated endlessly in other forums with no clearcut resolution of the issue (and people getting upset if they feel that the difficulty or rigor of their major is minimized). If you want to read more about the issue, just do a Google search on "most difficult college majors".

I agree that piano performance is a difficult major. Without taking a stand on what specific majors are more difficult (and/or require more work) than others, I would also like to point out that for many people trying to maximize their chances for launching a successful career in a field for which academic training is important (including human and veterinary medicine, science, engineering, law, and a number of other fields), there will be several times when the academic demands placed on them will be extreme. Whether they will average more academic hours (or less) than a typical piano performance major or whether they will be under more or less stress than a typical piano performance major is not a question that one can answer.

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Originally Posted by Otis S
Originally Posted by ando
Of course we are making generalisations. It doesn't invalidate something just because you talk in generalisations. Many things are measured by overall trends. If we had to exclude everything that contained an exception, we'd never make any statements about anything.


In order to make generalizations, one needs good data to do so. It is hard to make generalizations and determine "overall trends" which will have any sort of validity from a limited number of anecdotes.

Furthermore, the topic of rating the difficulty of one college major has been debated endlessly in other forums with no clearcut resolution of the issue (and people getting upset if they feel that the difficulty or rigor of their major is minimized). If you want to read more about the issue, just do a Google search on "most difficult college majors".

I agree that piano performance is a difficult major. Without taking a stand on what specific majors are more difficult (and/or require more work) than others, I would also like to point out that for many people trying to maximize their chances for launching a successful career in a field for which academic training is important (including human and veterinary medicine, science, engineering, law, and a number of other fields), there will be several times when the academic demands placed on them will be extreme. Whether they will average more academic hours (or less) than a typical piano performance major or whether they will be under more or less stress than a typical piano performance major is not a question that one can answer.


The problem with your comment here is that you don't acknowledge the nature of this forum. It is a place where people can report their anecdotes. In order for the data to start stacking up to the point of significance, you need to allow a decent number of people to report their anecdotes. The opinions from people with real experience on the matter will be given more weight, but after everybody has had their say, some sort of picture will emerge. If you adopt this, "you can't say that, where's your evidence?" approach right from the start, the anecdotes can't build to the point of significance. It's something that I frequently find frustrating on this forum. The self-appointed "scientists" throw their weight around in terms of what is allowed to be said or not. Like it or not, the prevailing opinion carries some weight and is interesting in its own right. As "scientists" such people should be aware of the implications of suppressing opinions or holding them to impossibly high standards of proof. It interferes with the experiment itself. a la Schrödinger's Cat.

The other thing is that this is a discussion forum, and as such we aren't required to footnote and justify everything we say. There are so many posts saying things like, "you would have to do a double-blind test to prove that...." Yes, I think most of us know the difference between anecdotes, personal truths and scientific evidence. There are weaknesses in all of them, but really, we know none of us is ever going to conduct the experiments that are being called for. Therefore, why don't we just dispense with this kind of talk and just give our opinions? Often this insistence on experiments and proof, knowing they will never be conducted, is a way of disengaging from the discussion - or worse, exposing a lack of confidence in one's own thoughts. We are allowed to think aloud and posit something for the sake of interest. All these demands for proof is really quite tiresome sometimes. There's a time and place for that. Let's at least allow plenty of people to venture an opinion before trying to affect what they say. That way, at least you have an emerging picture based on weight of numbers to refute.

For the record, I studied medicine for 3.5 years, done a radiography degree, have a Bachelor of Arts (history/philosophy), and I have a music performance degree. I can say without reservation that the pressure applied to me from without was far greater in music performance than the other fields. You can get booted for substandard performance quite easily. Much more easily than most other disciplines. Ok, it's only one person's experience. But in the process, I was also able to observe the workload and stress levels of my colleagues and they overwhelmingly echo my statements on the whole. There were extremely hard workers in all of them, but the overall impression I had was that the performers felt they had to spend more time on their practice, and give up more leisure activities than the other fields. You can separate out the amount of work-ethic in the individual, but the work expected from your teachers is very high and they state it outright. In most other disciplines, your teachers will leave the motivation to you. You then have to decide for yourself whether you are going to work day and night, moderately or be lazy. Of course, you rise to the top of any field requires an extreme level of dedication and motivation. There is no easy path to the top of anything.

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Originally Posted by ando
The problem with your comment here is that you don't acknowledge the nature of this forum. It is a place where people can report their anecdotes. In order for the data to start stacking up to the point of significance, you need to allow a decent number of people to report their anecdotes. The opinions from people with real experience on the matter will be given more weight, but after everybody has had their say, some sort of picture will emerge. If you adopt this, "you can't say that, where's your evidence?" approach right from the start, the anecdotes can't build to the point of significance. It's something that I frequently find frustrating on this forum. The self-appointed "scientists" throw their weight around in terms of what is allowed to be said or not. Like it or not, the prevailing opinion carries some weight and is interesting in its own right. As "scientists" such people should be aware of the implications of suppressing opinions or holding them to impossibly high standards of proof. It interferes with the experiment itself. a la Schrödinger's Cat.

The other thing is that this is a discussion forum, and as such we aren't required to footnote and justify everything we say. There are so many posts saying things like, "you would have to do a double-blind test to prove that...." Yes, I think most of us know the difference between anecdotes, personal truths and scientific evidence. There are weaknesses in all of them, but really, we know none of us is ever going to conduct the experiments that are being called for. Therefore, why don't we just dispense with this kind of talk and just give our opinions? Often this insistence on experiments and proof, knowing they will never be conducted, is a way of disengaging from the discussion - or worse, exposing a lack of confidence in one's own thoughts. We are allowed to think aloud and posit something for the sake of interest. All these demands for proof is really quite tiresome sometimes. There's a time and place for that. Let's at least allow plenty of people to venture an opinion before trying to affect what they say. That way, at least you have an emerging picture based on weight of numbers to refute.
Well said. I also find tiresome those who repeatedly argue for the kind of discussion that IMO would be appropriate for a scientific journal or those who pick apart every sentence about the meaning of words in a way that would never be tolerated in face to face conversation.

When I asked the question in the OP I wasn't hoping for some scientific proof or even a consensus. I was just curious about other peoples' experience.

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I started university as a computer science major and later switched to math. CS had the *potential* to be as demanding as a piano performance degree, if you didn't have a solid footing going into it, and if it didn't come naturally. There were people in those labs for 20+ hours at a time. One big difference, from my own limited observation, between those fields is that the top, say, 10% of math and computer science majors needed vastly less study time than the rest. By contrast, I don't know any performance majors who do well without investing lots of time. I'm sure they exist, but the ratio seems very different.

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I have quite the opposite experience. I have a combined undergraduate degree in piano performance and psychology and I have never busted my tail so hard than when I was taking a 20 unit load consisting of statistics, lab courss, 400-level grad seminars and performing experiments. I slept 2 hours a night, sometimes spread out as power naps, started my day at 6 am, often got home between 1 and 2 am. And that was the year I did not have to practice much because I had already fulfilled the performance requirements for my degree.

Doing my core classes never took up that much time. Solfege and eurhythmics required zero non-classtime work. Theory and harmony took up perhaps a half hour or an hour at most three times a week. History was laughable because it was an undergraduate history course full of voice majors. I think I might have prepped for a couple of hours max for my conducting courses. The biggest time commitment was practice, but when I was fully involved in the performance aspect of the degree I didn't think I worked quite as hard as, say, the computer science majors who never emerged from their dungeons. Sure, I had early mornings and late nights, but midnight practice was much more bearable when my day started at 10 after a solid night's sleep.

Then I did psychology, neuroscience, and linguistic psychology and worked myself so hard that I had a paranoid delusion brought on by lack of sleep. That never would have happened with performance.

Edit: I should note that taking 17-20 unit loads was routine for me as an undergrad. It allowed me to graduate a semester early and soend my eighth semester doing pedagogy and other post-bac work while bathing my brain in alcohol 4-5 nights a week.

Last edited by Minaku; 05/09/12 09:38 PM.

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Depends where you do your performance studies. The top level ones work you super hard. The lesser ones leave it more up to you. I also noticed that people enrolled in double degree programs tended to receive less interest from teachers than pure performance majors. I guess they felt that they weren't as focussed or that music was not their intended career.

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Originally Posted by ando
Depends where you do your performance studies. The top level ones work you super hard. The lesser ones leave it more up to you. I also noticed that people enrolled in double degree programs tended to receive less interest from teachers than pure performance majors. I guess they felt that they weren't as focussed or that music was not their intended career.


This was true in my case although my repertoire was not any less difficult than my peers'. My teacher was always like, "Oh, you're in THAT program, whatever it is.". The other student in my studio who was also doing my program definitely got second-class treatment from her, but he was never cut out to be a performance major anyway.


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Originally Posted by Minaku
This was true in my case although my repertoire was not any less difficult than my peers'. My teacher was always like, "Oh, you're in THAT program, whatever it is.". The other student in my studio who was also doing my program definitely got second-class treatment from her, but he was never cut out to be a performance major anyway.


I was in a similar situation. I had to go through a separate audition to get accepted into the B.M. program by my professor. The faculty, however, did not treat the double-majors and multiple-majors any differently. We got the same amount of work and were held to the same degree of performance level for juries.

I think my workload was about the same as the other students majoring in Biology, Physics, or the engineering programs. They just spend more time in labs as we do in practice rooms. But there were also the "joke" majors who could afford to play computer games all day long and still get their degrees.


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Originally Posted by ando
Originally Posted by Otis S
Originally Posted by ando
Of course we are making generalisations. It doesn't invalidate something just because you talk in generalisations. Many things are measured by overall trends. If we had to exclude everything that contained an exception, we'd never make any statements about anything.


In order to make generalizations, one needs good data to do so. It is hard to make generalizations and determine "overall trends" which will have any sort of validity from a limited number of anecdotes.

Furthermore, the topic of rating the difficulty of one college major has been debated endlessly in other forums with no clearcut resolution of the issue (and people getting upset if they feel that the difficulty or rigor of their major is minimized). If you want to read more about the issue, just do a Google search on "most difficult college majors".

I agree that piano performance is a difficult major. Without taking a stand on what specific majors are more difficult (and/or require more work) than others, I would also like to point out that for many people trying to maximize their chances for launching a successful career in a field for which academic training is important (including human and veterinary medicine, science, engineering, law, and a number of other fields), there will be several times when the academic demands placed on them will be extreme. Whether they will average more academic hours (or less) than a typical piano performance major or whether they will be under more or less stress than a typical piano performance major is not a question that one can answer.


The problem with your comment here is that you don't acknowledge the nature of this forum. It is a place where people can report their anecdotes. In order for the data to start stacking up to the point of significance, you need to allow a decent number of people to report their anecdotes. The opinions from people with real experience on the matter will be given more weight, but after everybody has had their say, some sort of picture will emerge. If you adopt this, "you can't say that, where's your evidence?" approach right from the start, the anecdotes can't build to the point of significance. It's something that I frequently find frustrating on this forum. The self-appointed "scientists" throw their weight around in terms of what is allowed to be said or not. Like it or not, the prevailing opinion carries some weight and is interesting in its own right. As "scientists" such people should be aware of the implications of suppressing opinions or holding them to impossibly high standards of proof. It interferes with the experiment itself. a la Schrödinger's Cat.

The other thing is that this is a discussion forum, and as such we aren't required to footnote and justify everything we say. There are so many posts saying things like, "you would have to do a double-blind test to prove that...." Yes, I think most of us know the difference between anecdotes, personal truths and scientific evidence. There are weaknesses in all of them, but really, we know none of us is ever going to conduct the experiments that are being called for. Therefore, why don't we just dispense with this kind of talk and just give our opinions? Often this insistence on experiments and proof, knowing they will never be conducted, is a way of disengaging from the discussion - or worse, exposing a lack of confidence in one's own thoughts. We are allowed to think aloud and posit something for the sake of interest. All these demands for proof is really quite tiresome sometimes. There's a time and place for that. Let's at least allow plenty of people to venture an opinion before trying to affect what they say. That way, at least you have an emerging picture based on weight of numbers to refute.

For the record, I studied medicine for 3.5 years, done a radiography degree, have a Bachelor of Arts (history/philosophy), and I have a music performance degree. I can say without reservation that the pressure applied to me from without was far greater in music performance than the other fields. You can get booted for substandard performance quite easily. Much more easily than most other disciplines. Ok, it's only one person's experience. But in the process, I was also able to observe the workload and stress levels of my colleagues and they overwhelmingly echo my statements on the whole. There were extremely hard workers in all of them, but the overall impression I had was that the performers felt they had to spend more time on their practice, and give up more leisure activities than the other fields. You can separate out the amount of work-ethic in the individual, but the work expected from your teachers is very high and they state it outright. In most other disciplines, your teachers will leave the motivation to you. You then have to decide for yourself whether you are going to work day and night, moderately or be lazy. Of course, you rise to the top of any field requires an extreme level of dedication and motivation. There is no easy path to the top of anything.


You are not accurately representing my position. I fully respect the anecdotal nature of many of the posts on this forum. I am not suggesting that this should change. My point is that it is difficult to answer the question posed in this thread. Several other people in this thread have expressed similar views. My views are actually similar to those expressed by gooddog and Carey in his first post, and a number of others. I am not in any way suggesting that you or anyone else should change your style of posting or that there should be fewer anecdotes and more scientific data. The anecdotes are among the most interesting part of the forum!

Regarding other points of disagreement that you and I may have, there is no way to resolve them here. Let's just agree to disagree and move on.

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