Originally posted by Leslie R
I just keep hoping the saying, "persistence is a good substitute for talent", has some truth.
After 40 years, still don't know if that has any merit.
Take heart, I doubt you are alone on that one. I think we have all, at one time or another, attempted to differentiate between gifted (from above) & constant exposure. Who can say for sure? I suppose one can always fall back on where one places the bench mark,,,,as compared to who? And at what point one becomes satisfied on this quest. Is that a cop out?
Originally posted by maxmax
I know it's been long debated if musical talent really is a thing, or if it all comes down to practice. There's a new study by Fredrik Ullén, a Swedish professor in cognitive neuroscience, that was just released. There's an article here, but it's in Swedish: https://www.svd.se/svensk-forskning-gener-avgor-hur-langt-vi-kan-na
He and his team have spent a decade studying great musicians and also studying the musicality of identical twins. They found that the environment someone grows up in and how much they practice absolutely makes a difference, but that our genes also play a role in how far a musician can develop.
When it comes to sense of pitch, it is said that someone who plays a lot of music develops better hearing for small changes in pitch than someone who doesn't. But when they looked only at identical twins, who grew up in the same environment and share the same genes, were one of them spent a lot of time playing music and the other did not, they could not find a difference between them. The twins all had the same sense of pitch as their sibling. So a persons genes seemed to play a bigger role there.
Then, how someone practices also has a big impact. But someone who is impulsive by nature is not able to practice as focused as someone with a high cognitive ability. Also directly related to our genes.
There's of course a bunch of other stuff in the study as well, but I thought these two were kind of interesting. I realize all studies do not come to the same conclusion, but I thought it was kind of neat that they actually took the time to try to study this as properly as possible. Looks like I'll never achieve perfect pitch no matter how much I practice.
The way I believe is that everyone is gifted with a different amount of natural talent, and whether you have loads of talent or just a bit, you still need to practice a lot to refine that talent. And hopefully, practicing is an enjoyable part of the journey.
10,000 hours is an arbitrary number someone pulled out of their arse just to say - practice a lot. It drives me nuts all the people who take this literally. Come on people, use your brains.
In my experience, a lot of people who "just can't" play an instrument aren't actually trying, even if they say they are. There's practice and then there's "practice" - i.e. noodling around then throwing the instrument aside in disgust when you don't sound like Roy Clark on the first try. Effective practice is going to look slightly different for everyone, but that ain't it.
Some people are going to pick things up quicker than others, but to me, practice will always be THE most important factor. Even a tone-deaf person can improve their ear with proper training.
A bit of a tangent: I think discussions like this shed some light on why the popular legend of Robert Johnson selling his soul to the devil at the crossroads still enjoys such currency - because it's a more interesting explanation for him becoming very talented in a short amount of time than the reality of sneaking in lots of practice late at night in a cemetery. Likewise "it's an innate gift" is a much more romantic explanation for musical proficiency than "doing the same thing over and over for a long period of time, thereby getting better at it," whether a Faustian bargain is involved or not.
Edited by - UncleClawhammer on 11/23/2020 23:19:34
I think a lot of what really are practice hours remain uncounted and then get attributed to the mysterious "talent". E.g. my son is more musical than his sisters but it showed early. Before he even spoke in full sentences he sang songs all the time (i.e. many, many practice hours) while in his pushchair. He became a good singer that hits the notes right at an age where few children have an ear for that. When he was four years old, we went on vacations and there was a piano in our holiday home. Since the moment he understood what it was and how it worked, he has wanted to learn to play the piano. In his lessons he is doing better than his kindergarten buddy who probably didn't pick up piano playing because he actually had such a desire but rather because his parents thought it was a good idea. Perhaps some day my son will pick up a guitar from a friend and will stun everybody with his "talent" because he can make it sound good in very little time. And the truth will be that he will have spent more quality time with music than his guitar-playing friend.
“Talent” isn’t a vague, mysterious notion. We’re told that God gives us different hereditary talents. Musical talent is in the mind and heart. Practice is in the muscle memory performing what's in the mind and heart.
I believe that. It’s not totally up to us individually to earn our skills through practice. So much of it is heredity. People are stuck on the philosophy that you have to earn everything you can do. But that’s simply not the whole truth.
That being said, it's still critical to practice your talent to stay on top of it.
Edited by - Doug Knecht on 11/24/2020 07:32:33
Told by whom? That's absolutely meaningless to anyone who isn't religious.
I'll grant that anything we make a decision to pursue is going to have a certain coefficient of adversity, which may involve heredity to a degree. Someone who's 6'11" is probably going to be a better basketball player than someone who's 5'1". Someone with no arms is probably not going to a very good banjo or guitar player. But there are even exceptions there.
I like to quantify things to try to better visualize them. For illustration, suppose that on a scale of 1 - 100, my initial "prowess" registers 10. I can practice 5000 reps/hours and raise it to 12, or I can practice 'til the cows come home and then some and raise it to 15. I can practice all of my waking hours and maybe get it to 18. Maybe there comes a time* where I'm better off simply accepting my limitations and have some fun..... especially when the actuaries say I might have 6 or 7 years left before I join the big jam in the sky.
* = luckily I don't have to choose between having fun this way https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qxH_4e7W7hc and having fun with TIM-TIM-TM.
Edited by - Owen on 11/24/2020 08:29:57
My theory is that people are wired 2 ways. 1- they are oriented by what they hear in the music and can pick up and repeat a tune fairly quickly, 2 - those who can play mostly my memorization or reading music - but can't 'hear' the music.
The guys I play with all play by ear and some can read music too. We once had a lady in our Church who played the violin beautifully as she was classically trained. But she had to have the music. We asked here to jam with us once. We decided to play Turkey in the Straw, and she said where's the music. We figured everybody knew and ought to be able to pick/play along with that tune, but I was wrong. She needed the music or she couldn't play. I've known others the same way including my wife who played sax in HS. She can play if she has music - but can't play a simple tune without.
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