Along with golf, I’ve recently picked up playing chess. And like any new interest, I’m a huge proponent of immersing myself in the topic by reading books, subscribing to services to learn from others’ experience, and of course, practicing regularly by playing friends online.
But I cannot underscore enough, the power of “reading.”
Some will say “experience” is the best teacher, and they may be right. Not much can compete with real-world experience and continual execution. The problem is the length of time it takes to master something – anything worthwhile – from scratch, when you have to go at it alone. That’s why terminology like “don’t reinvent the wheel” is so popular because it makes sense to learn from the knowledge and experience of those who’ve already successfully tread the same path.
Malcolm Gladwell, in his book, “Outliers” talks about the “10,000 hour rule.” He says it generally takes about 10,000 hours, or 10 years, to master something. I’d bet you can get that down by standing on the shoulders of those who’ve done what you want to do.
That’s why I love books.
I can read about Warren Buffet’s journey. He can be my mentor.
I can read what the world’s best golfers have advised about the sport. They can be my mentors.
And in the case of chess, I can read up on strategies that give me the know-how to compete NOW, not in 10 years. And compete, I do!
But I digress.
Here’s something I recently read about “how master chess players think.” I was surprised to discover it’s very similar to how master “ear musicians” think.
Sounds like video 4 of the free video series.
For the longest, I’ve preached the importance of pattern recognition – how playing by ear is predominantly recognizing repeated patterns that occur over and over in songs.
Turn on the radio for an hour and if you don’t come across a pop song that uses a 1-5-6-4 progression (for example, C major – G major – A minor – F major), I’ll quit running Hearandplay.com. It’s just that common.
The ear musicians who are sitting there trying to pick out songs note by note, chord by chord, without understanding the underlying patterns at work, are doing similar to the beginning chess players who rely on 95% calculation, 5% pattern recognition (see the photo above). One method is taking on each situation, case by case. The other method is drawing on a body of past knowledge.
Notice the author says: “For master-strength [chess] players, the figure is more like 40% calculation and 60% pattern recognition.” Sure enough, I’ve found myself in situations where I could draw from my understanding of the placement of pieces to put together winning game plans.
In music, understanding the top common patterns and training your ears to listen for them is critical to learning songs without sheet music. For gospel players, it’s what I covered in GospelKeys 202. It’s also one of the major topics of our 4 free video series.
Since I’ve had that “Aha!” moment, chess opponents who used to beat me 6 out of 7 times have lost the last 4 out of 5. There’s one opponent I’ve got to do a little more studying to dominate, but I’m well on my way. When you’re a reader, you know there’s nothing in this world you can’t learn or attain.
What’s on your shelf?
Until next time –
P.S. – If you’re a member of chess.com, search my name and let’s play!