Sunday, September 4, 2011

To Brief or Not to Brief, That is the Question

I am amused at the debate over using briefs.  I have read at least one posting that states that the popularity of using briefs has swung back an forth between using few (or no) briefs to using many briefs over the years.

Fact 1: Ward Stone Ireland's original theory had briefs.  Not shocking because the pen-and-paper shorthand at that time (mainly Gregg's Shorthand) had briefs for frequent words and phrases.

Fact 2: I have not read through a stenograph machine theory that not use at least some briefs.  Some use few briefs like Sten Ed and Robert, Walsh and Gonzalez.  Some use a lot of briefs like Magnum Steno.

Fact 3: Hello people, your goal is probably to become a Certified SHORTHAND reporter (CSR).  Shorthand means to write in an abbreviated form.

My personal opinion is that frequently used words and phrases should have a brief.  After that it's up to the person to decide to write out the word (or phrase) or to use a brief.  

If a person wants to write faster, they need to their increase stroke rate (e.g., 3 to 3.5 stroke per second) OR they need to increase the amount of words (or syllables) are written per stroke (e.g., 1 to 1.5 words per stroke).  

So, the fewer briefs a person uses the lower the "memory load" (decreasing the chance of hesitation which helps increase stroke rate) but the person needs to be able to increase their stroke rate to increase speed.  However, using more briefs means a higher "memory load" (increasing the chance of hesitation which might decrease stroke rate) but the person does not need increase their stroke rate to increase speed.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Court Reporting at Home (CRAH) -- Lesson 9

Start Date: July 22, 2011
Finish Date: August 6, 2011

Here a brief summary of that lesson:

Vowels: "oo" words, oy or oi words, ou words, and au words
Endings: -ch and -sh
Suffixes: -able, -ible, -ble, -ability, and -ibility
Briefs: became, become, damage, inform, information, nobody, person, purpose, result, return, somebody, somehow, someone, something, sometime, somewhere

For the suffixes: -able, -ible, -ble, -ability, and -ibility, CRAH has a different suffix.  For example -able = AEBL,  -ible= EUBL, etc.  I looked at other theories and they only have BL for both -able and -ible.  Why make things more complicated?  I could not figure out a conflict where I would have to know the difference (or the spelling).  The same is true for -ability and -ibility, other theories use BLT for both.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Stenograph Alphabet

While writing my last blog on which theory was less stroke intensive, Sten Ed or Phoenix, I wondered why the initial side and final side alphabets in both theories were so close.  Meaning, I wondered if Phoenix had borrowed from Sten Ed or from an older theory.

I located and bought "Touch Shorthand Dictionary and Handbook" published by Stenograph in 1968.  After looking through the book, it seemed like both Sten Ed and Phoenix probably "borrowed" the alphabet from Touch Shorthand (as well as some other things).  Doing some more research, however, I learned that the Stenograph Company was formed in 1938 and that the stenograph machines used today (the basic machine and keyboard layout) was invented by Ward Stone Ireland in 1911.  This means that the alphabet used by Sten Ed and Phoenix could be based on an earlier theory.

Believe it or not Ward Stone Ireland not only developed the basic alphabet we use today, but developed a fundamental stenograph theory that has influenced today's theories.  The 1968 Touch Shorthand theory is very similar to Ireland's 1914 theory (search Google book "Stenotypy" by Ward Stone Ireland published in 1914).  Today's theories are more complex due to the need to eliminate conflicts.

Getting back to the alphabet. The only differences between Modern theories and Ireland's 1914 theory are:
1. In 1914, Initial Z = S (Now: Sten Ed= S* and Phoenix= SWR)
2. In 1914, Final V = F  (Now: Sten Ed= *F and Phoenix= -FB)
3. In 1914, Final Z = S. Note that the 1914 (as well as the 1968) keyboard had no Z.

On an interesting note, on Google books I found a manual from Ward Stone Ireland for a stenograph machine in 1917.  Apparently, he "improved" on his stenograph machine keyboard layout.  Basically, he rearranged the key layout, added another 2 keys on the initial side, and added a bar below the lower bank of keys that added more consonants.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

"Stroke Intensive" Theories: Sten Ed vs. Phoenix

If you're like me, you wonder which stenograph theory is the best.  I'm not interested in learning a stenograph theory which is considered "slow" or "inadequate" and which will only hinder me in the end.

Of course my ultimate goal as a court reporting student is to reach the goal of 225 WPM.  I was impressed with Mark Kislingbury's Magnum Steno Web Page.  Basically, your can only increases your steno writing speed by writing faster (increasing your strokes per second) and/or writing shorter (decreasing your strokes per word).  Note that hesitation is another major factor in writing speed and affects your strokes per second.

The Sten Ed and the Phoenix stenograph theories are taught in about 75% of the court reporting schools.  Basically, Sten Ed and Phoenix are both considered "stroke intensive."  In fact, it seems like most stenograph theories are called or considered "stroke intensive," and the only non stroke intensive theory seems to be Magnum Steno.  However, the Magnum Steno theory has been called "memory intensive" because it uses numerous "briefs" to reduce the number of strokes.

Well, let me answer the question: Which theory is more stroke intensive, Sten Ed or Phoenix?  The simple answer, based on the raw theory, is Sten Ed.  The Sten Ed appears to be approximately 11.5% more stroke intensive than the Phoenix theory. However, let me point out a few things.  (Note that I base my results on the article "Steno Comparison Chart").

  1. The Phoenix theory required 166 less strokes for the 683 comparable words.  Approximately 95 strokes (57%) were due to how inflected endings are incorporated into the stroking (see #2).  Approximately 65 strokes (39%) were due to how suffixes are written.
  2. Sten Ed follows the NCRA Guidelines of adding the plural of a word (-es, -s) in a separate stroke. The Phoenix theory allows for adding the plural of a word in the same stroke in certain cases or for certain suffixes.  I counted 63 of the "saved" 95 inflected ending strokes were due to this.   
  3. Not all Phoenix words had less strokes.  Twenty-two (22) Sten Ed words (3.2%) had fewer strokes.  Most of which were due to how suffixes are written.  
The most common suffix (about 31% of words with suffixes) is the inflected plural ending (-es, -s), so changing how this is stroked can significantly impact how "Stroke intensive" the theory is.  Because this can be a big factor, let's remove the plural ending component from the analysis.  The result now is that Sten Ed appears to be approximately 5.3% more stroke intensive than the Phoenix theory.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Court Reporting at Home (CRAH) -- Lesson 8

Start Date: July 7, 2011

Finish Date: July 21, 2011

Another lesson that took about two weeks due some vacation and only practicing 1/2 hour per day (plus watching Women's World Cup Soccer).  As I have said before, the lessons will same practice writing these words or sentences this 5 times.  I had to practice it 20 times or more to get through the lesson.

I think one thing slowing me down is that I tend to take a quick peek at my hands from time to time because my hands are slightly out of home position.  I figure that this might be a sign that I may not have fully mastered the keyboard (basic alphabet), certain briefs, etc.

Knowing and admitting your weak points and taking steps to correct them is pretty important to a self taught student.

Here is a brief summary of Lesson #8:

* Months of the Year (Briefs)
* Days of the Week (Briefs)
* Writing multi-syllable words
* Writing compound words
* Briefs: All right, begin, began, begun, avenue, Dr., maybe, Mr., Mrs., Doctor, No Sir, No Ma'am, Yes Sir, Yes Ma'am, today, tomorrow, under, understood, understand, understood, woman, women

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Court Reporting at Home (CRAH) -- Which Theory is CRAH?

The CRAH Website make no mention of which theory is taught.  In fact, it sounds like CRAH is unique stenograph theory.  The website states:
"This [CRAH] theory was developed so it could be SIMPLIFIED for home study students, containing only 20 theory lessons, while still meeting the NCRA requirements for NCRA-approved theories"
The CRAH material I bought (used) came with a two Sten Ed books.  Looking through these books and comparing them to the CRAH program, it appears that the CRAH theory is a modified Sten Ed.  Meaning that the alphabet, basic word prefixes and suffixes, etc. have a Sten Ed look and feel.  Or if you have to pick a theory (Sten Ed, Phoenix, Stenomaster, etc.) that is the closest to CRAH, it probably would be Sten Ed.    CRAH, however, has added it's briefs, prefixes, suffixes, etc.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Court Reporting at Home (CRAH) -- Lesson 7

Start Date: June 21, 2011
Finish Date: July 3, 2011

This lesson took about two weeks due to its length (16 pages) and not being able to practice every day due to issues at work (and watching Women's World Cup Soccer).  This is the first lesson that I just did not speed through the "theory."  In fact, I went through the lesson several times to master it.

This lesson also introduces the concept of writing word ending.  And this lesson covers the popular and most frequent word ending: -s or -es, -ing, and -ed.  Then Steno for adding -s or -es is -S in a SEPARATE stroke (or -Z if the word end in a D, which may be combined into a single -DZ stroke).  The Steno for -ing is -G in a SEPARATE stroke, and the Steno for -ed is -D in a SEPARATE stroke.

Having read that these very popular endings don't have to be stroked separately (for example Stenomaster, also see this page and this page), I might modify this part of the theory.  Why?  More strokes means a slower writing speed.
[7/20/2012 Update: my thoughts about the above paragraph have changed.  See more recent posts]

Here is a brief summary of Lesson #7:

* Final "V" sound
* Word Endings: -s and -es, -ing, and -ed
* Basic word writing rules
* Proper Names
* Briefs: About, Accident, After, Another, Answer, Around, Before, Business, Happen, Husband, Injure, Injury, Jury, Juror, Question, Very

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Court Reporting at Home (CRAH) -- Lesson 6

Start Date: June 10, 2011
Finish Date: June 20, 2011

Well, this is the first lesson where I did not breeze through the "theory"and spend most of my time practicing the word lists and sentences.  Two things slowed my progress. First, beginning X is made with the KP keys if the "X" is followed by a vowel of vowel sound.  However, use final EBGS ("ex") in a separate stroke if "X" is followed by a consonant.  Basically, KP is a shortcut to save a stroke.  Second, beginning Z is made with the S and * keys.  I had a hard time a first "reaching" with my right index finger to press the * key while pressing other keys (example: ZIP = S*EUP).

Here is a brief summary of Lesson #6:
Lesson #6:
Initial Side Letters: X  C  Z
Final Side Letters:  X
Vowels: long U
Symbol: Asterisk Key
Brief Forms: ask, could, from, had, have, should, their, they, why, would

After 6 lessons:
* All initial and final letter have been covered
* 3 punctuation characters and 3 symbols have been covered
* 41 brief forms have been covered

Friday, June 17, 2011

Case CATalyst on Mac OS X

Personally, I don't know if there is any CAT software for Mac.  When I bought my Elan Cybra, it came with Case CATalyst version 10 for the PC.  So I decided to see if I could install it on my MacBook Pro (Intel Core i5, Mac OS X version 10.6.7).  I already had installed VirtualBox on my Mac (with Windows XP) to run Windows software, if necessary.

Please note that Case CATalyst only recommends installing Case CATalyst on BootCamp and does not recommend installing Case CATalyst on a virtual machine like Parallels Desktop or VMware Fusion (or VirtualBox).

However, I have been able to install the Case CATalyst software on VirtualBox, connect the blue security device and my Elan Cybra (and the Stentura 400 SRT) to my Mac and Case CATalyst program without any noticeable problem.  I must note that I am new to the program and have not tried all aspects of the program.  But  it seems to work just fine.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Court Reporting at Home (CRAH) -- Lesson 5

Start Date: June 6, 2011
Finish Date: June 10, 2011

I finished CRAH Lesson #5 in less than a week, though I have to admit that I went through the material once (or twice) while doing lesson #4.  While a person is not suppose to look ahead in the lesson manual, I will read the next lesson if I find myself doing the practice lessons a bunch of times.  Here is a basic summary of Lesson #5:

Lesson #5:
Initial Side Letters: V  Q  G
Final Side Letters:  Z  J
Vowels: long O
Brief Forms: can, many, were, when, where, whether, which, with, yes

Sunday, June 12, 2011

After One Month with CRAH

After one month with the CRAH program, I have completed 4 lessons.

I think that I'm an average (skilled) person and only have about 1/2 hour to 1 hour to practice each day, and I do miss a day here and there.  At this rate, I am completing about a lesson a week and it will take me about 5 months to complete the 20 lessons of theory.

Therefore, the people that you read about on the CRAH website who finish the theory in about 3 months are probably practicing about 2 or more hours per day, which is not unusual for (full time) court reporting student.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Court Reporting at Home (CRAH) -- Lesson 4

I finished CRAH Lesson #4 in about a week and a half, though I think that it would taken me only a week if I practiced everyday for an hour.  For this lesson, I was only able to practice for about 1/2 a day, but I was unable to practice everyday.  Here is a basic summary of Lesson #4

Lesson #4:
Initial Side Letters: J  Y  W  F  K
Final Side Letters:  F  M  K
Vowels: long I
Symbols: "Q:" and "A:"
Brief Forms: be, because, did, if, that, there, this, what

Similar to Lesson #3, I could not keep up with the dictation CD after doing the practice words and sentences about 20 times.  I think that I did them again another 10 times or so and could almost keep up, so I did them a few more times and was finally able to follow the dictation CD, though I did make errors.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

New Steno Machine -- Elan Cybra

When I was originally looking for a Steno Machine, I had considered getting an Elan Cybra, a paperless machine.  They were a bit more expensive and I had read that you really don't need a paperless machine until you finish the basic theory and a person needs the ability to read the "raw" steno notes.

But it occurred to me that I would eventually be connected to a computer where it would be translating my input into English in realtime.  On top of that, I could save money on ink and paper.

So I decided to purchase an Elan Cybra.  I would use both of them out and then sell the one I did not like on eBay.  After using the Elan Cybra for a few weeks, I generally like it a bit better than the Stentura 400 SRT, but I have not yet decided if I want to sell the Stentura 400 SRT.

(Note: the previous owner put some non-slip pads on the keys.  I really didn't like them, so I removed most of them.  I left the non-slip pads on the asterisk key and the number bar to help me with one of my ealry problems: my finger drifting from the home position)

* Paperless.  No paper or ink to deal with.
* Made in 2009.  More modern than the Stentura 400 SRT.
* The keys are more adjustable.

* Must be connected to a computer to be meaningful. This means I had to learn the CAT program (all by myself).  I would eventually have to learn it with the Stentura 400 SRT, but I had to use valuable practice time to learn the CAT program.
* More expensive than the Stentura 400 SRT, though I got it for a a good price on eBay.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Court Reporting at Home (CRAH) -- Lesson 3

Well, it took me a bit more than a week to complete CRAH Lesson #3.  I continue to only practicing about 1/2 to 1 hour per day.  I spent the other time setting up and learning the basics of the Computer Aided Translation (CAT) software.  Here is a basic summary of Lesson #3

Lesson #3:
Initial Side Letters: D  B  M  H
Final Side Letters:  D  B  G
Vowels: long E
Punctuation: ","
Brief Forms: also, always, any, in, knew, how, will

Just like Lesson #2, what took me so long too complete this lesson were the practice words (about 92) and the practice sentences (about 13).  I could do them slowly, but once again I could not keep up with the dictation CD.  So if you're like me, don't be shocked if you breeze through the beginning of the lesson--new letters and brief forms--and spend most of your time practicing the words and sentences.  

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Court Reporting at Home (CRAH) -- Lesson 2

Well, it took me a little less than a week to complete CRAH Lesson #2.  I have to admit that I'm only practicing about 1/2 to 1 hour per day, but this seems all that I have time for right now.  I had an easy time with the new letters and brief forms.  Here is a basic summary of Lesson #2

Lesson #2:
Initial Side Letters: P  L  N
Final Side Letters:  P  L  N
Vowels: long A
Punctuation: "?"
Brief Forms: are, he, I, is, it, the, you

(For Steno Machine Basics, click here)

What took me so long too complete the lesson were the practice words (about 45) and the practice sentences (about 16).  I could do them slowly, but I could not keep up with the dictation CD.  The Lesson Manual said to practice the words and sentences 5 time each.  I recommend at least 10 times each, and it probably took me about 20 times each before I was able to follow along with the dictation CD.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Court Reporting at Home (CRAH) -- Lesson 1

I started the Court Reporting at Home (CRAH) program on about May 7, 2011.

I watch the DVD lesson and read through Lesson 1 in the manual.  The lesson basically covers some initial and final letter and the short vowels.  Here is an outline of Lesson #1:

Lesson #1
Initial Side Letter: S  T  R 
Final Side Letters:  S  T  R
Vowels Sounds: short A, short O, short E, short U, short I (press E & U)
Punctuation: "."
Brief Forms: None

Because I had already completed several lessons in the Phoenix Theory manual, I was able to complete the Lesson within an hour or two.

A Note on Vowel sounds:
Vowels sounds are either long or short.  All long vowels sound like the letter.   Short vowel sounds do NOT sound like the letter and the pronunciation sound is like adding an "h" to the letter.  Examples:

kit = short I (sounds like "ih")
kite = long I (sounds like the letter "I")
back = short A (sounds like "ah")
bake = long A (sounds like "A")
net = short E (sounds like "eh")
neat = long E (sounds like "E")
not = short O (sounds like "oh")
note = long O (sounds like "O")
nut = short U (sounds like "uh")
cute = long U (sounds like "U")

Monday, May 23, 2011

What I don't Recommend for Learning the Steno Machine

Before I purchased the Court Reporting at Home (CRAH) program.  I figured that I would buy some text books and a steno machine and teach myself.  While I don't doubt that I could have succeeded, I now realize that this could have been a long, hard road.

Recommended: A developed program of study.  Either through a vocational school (very expensive) or a home study program (much less expensive).

Not Recommended: Buying the text (theory) books and steno machine yourself and being purely self taught.

Before CRAH:
Steno Theory:
I discovered that there were several Steno machine theories:  Phoenix; Sten Ed; Roberts, Walsh, and Gonzalez; Stenomaster; etc.  Theory is fundamentally how to write on the steno machine but also includes how to write on the steno machine so that court reporting software can translate your typing in realtime into English so that everyone can read it.

I became partial to the Phoenix theory and bought 2 theory used books on eBay for about $20.

Steno Machine:
I also read about Steno Machines, and my conclusion was that I should buy either a Stentura 500, a Stentura 400 SRT, and elan Cybra (Student model by Stenograph), or a Stentura 200 SRT.  All these models can connect to a computer--indicated by the SRT on the Stentura models.  The elan Cybra is a more expensive "paperless" writer (saving you money in paper and ink but costs more and but to be connected to a computer).

I bought a used Stenura 400 SRT on eBay for about $600.

Dictation CDs:
In the Phoenix theory books I noticed dictation exercises which I did not have.  I soon realized that these were important if I wanted to learn the steno machine and increase my speed.  So I bought the exercise CD and some other related material on eBay.  (So at this point I have a little less than $700 invested in my new career).

I then noted that I was starting to put together my own program and realized that an established program would be much better.  After some research, that's when I determined that the best study at home program was Court Reporting at Home (CRAH).

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Court Reporting at Home (CRAH) Program

I highly recommend Court Reporting at Home (CRAH) program.  Why?  First, I can't find one person who has anything negative to say about it.  Second, I believe it to be the only NCRA approved program that is specifically developed for home study. Third, the entire program is only about $5,000, which is less than a single tuition payment at a vocational school.

I purchased the CRAH program (see photo) used for $450.  I was lucky to come across it, and from what I read on the first page of the theory manual (the blue binder), a person is not allowed to resell the material.

The program included the theory manual--which contains 20 lessons, the practice and reference manual (white binder), necessary academic material on law, medical terms, etc. (the black binder), and 20+ CDs which contain dictation tests/practice for the theory lessons and speed building dictation practice (60 to 225 WPM).  I also received 2 StenEd books, but I'm not too sure if they were part of the original program.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

How Long Will It Take to Become a Court Reporter?

How Long Will It Take to Become a Court Reporter?
From what I've read from other court reporters and students is:
1. The more time you practice, the quicker you'll finish.
2. Also, daily practice of 2 hours a day is not the same as 7 hours on Saturday and Sunday.

The average time to finish a court reporting vocational school is 3 years.  The Court Reporting at Home (CRAH) program is self paced, but from the website it looks like it can be completed in about 2 years.

Keys to Becoming a Court Reporter:
Once again from what I read:  Traditional vocational schools have a drop out rate of 80 to 90%.  The remaining 10 to 20% have problems passing the national RPR or their state CSR.  It appears that many students become discouraged and give up.

1. Stick to it.  Don't expect instant results.  Progress can seen by looking back several lessons.
2. Practice EVERYDAY.
3. Push yourself

I'm also a self taught drummer and the same things apply.  You can't improve without practice, and the more you practice, the more you improve.  Also, slow and correct is better than fast and incorrect.  Why?  With slow and correct, you can (slowly) build speed.  If you do it wrong and practice that, you'll just continue to do it wrong.  

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Why I Decided to do Court Reporting?

My Current Career (2011):
First, let me say that I'm currently (2011) a licensed Civil Engineer in the State of California and have worked in this field for almost 20 years.  However, I work in the Public Sector (in local government) and I think that I can see the handwriting on the wall.  This will be the 4th straight year of budget cuts and the 2nd year of lay offs.  Come July 1, 2011, 34% of our Department staff will have been laid off.  If this continues, I think that I will only have a job for 2 or 3 more years. And finding a new job in my field will be very competitive if or when I get laid off.

Looking for a New Career:
While the particulars of my story are unique, there are many people who are finding themselves with no career openings in their fields when they get laid off.  Therefore, I decided to look for an alternative career with the following (before I am potentially laid off):

* A well paying job.
* A job that will be in demand in this economy.
* Something that learned or studied at night--because I have a current job--that was not going to break my finances.

Personally, I had a hard time finding something.  I thought about assisted care (or an errand running business) due to the aging population, but it might be hard to find work or many people might depend on government assistance which is being cut.  I thought about starting an online business, but I already tried that twice and only end up losing money.  And in this economy, people are not buying things like they use to.

I stumbled across courting reporting on the internet, and after reviewing the available information I knew it was for me.  Here are the reasons:

1. Court reporters earn a good income.
Average income is about $62,000 a year.  Those with 5 or more years of experience generally make between $70,000 and $90,000 a year.  Some court reporter make over $100,000.  (This a very good income if you consider you don't need a degree and only takes about 2-3 years of training--see below).

2. There is a demand for court reporters.
When I called the local court reporting school, they said that job placement is basically 100%.  The US Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that court reporting jobs are expected to grow by 18% between 2008 and 2018, which is above the national average.   Not all court reports work in a court room.  In fact, only about 15% do so.  Court reports take depositions at a law office for legal cases, do closed captioning for TV, and provide Communication Access Real-time Translation (CART) for the hearing impaired.  This makes a large customer base (courts, law firms, TV companies, and any company or organization who needs to provide CART services).

3. You don't need to attend an expensive vocational school or get a degree.  You only need to pass a test.
While most court reporters attend 3 to 4 years of vocational school, you don't need to.  Why?  To work as a court reporter some states do not require any certification, though most states require you to pass the RPR (Registered Professional Reporter) exam as given by the NCRA (National Court Reporters Association).   A few states require the passing of an additional CSR (Certified Shorthand Reporter) exam after you pass the RPR exam (example: California requirements).  To take the RPR you don't have to be enrolled in a court reporting school or even be a member of the NCRA.

Why I decided on a "study-at-home" program:
Most court reporting vocational schools are day classes, but you can find a school that offers night time classes.  There was only one night time school in the area I live.  The classes are held Monday through Friday for 5 hours at night (and they said the homework was about 2 hours per night).  After 10 months, though, I could then go "online" and only came in 1 day a week.  On top of that, it was going to cost me about $50,000 over three years--the average time and cost to complete all the courses.  If you factor in the cost of a used stenograph machine (about $600) and the supplies (about $300 per year), that's an average cost of $17,200 per year.  Ouch!  I can't afford that. This option was not for me.

So, I looked for purely online schools, but they seemed similar to the night class option (i.e., many hours at night studying and practicing on the steno machine but without the need to be at a particular location), and the cost was about $30,000 over 3 years or about $10,500 per year.  Cheaper, but still too expensive for my budget.

I eventually found a study at home program for me: the Court Report at Home (CRAH) program.  The cost for the complete program--regardless of how long it takes you--is about $5000 and this includes a steno machine.  The CRAH program also only takes about 2 years, assuming 2 or more hours of practice a day.  This amounts to an average cost of about $2700 per year.  Gee, I could afford that.