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Thread: Natural talent vs practice

  1. #1
    Registered User Gunnar's Avatar
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    Default Natural talent vs practice

    https://theoffgridmusician.music.blo...t-vs-practice/

    Not an either or, and not exactly a myth versus reality
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    Default Re: Natural talent vs practice

    One thing I know, I don't have any natural talent in B.

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    Registered User sblock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Natural talent vs practice

    There can be little doubt that natural talent for music exists. One only has to consider child prodigies for this phenomenon to be abundantly clear, but there are numerous other examples in history beyond that. And yes, natural talent certainly gives certain musicians a "head start." A big head start. But natural talent alone, left largely un-nurtured, cannot thrive, and prodigies need to practice just as the rest of us do. That said, some of them are more efficient with that. But can they get farther along than the rest of us? I would argue that YES, they can. Not that all of them do, mind you. But if you look at the greatest performers/composers in classical music -- folks like Mozart, Bach and Paganini -- you'll find people who clearly had both natural talent and who practiced -- relentlessly.

    I am of the opinion that most of us can get very good indeed with concerted effort. And that is plenty good enough to make a lifetime of wonderful music, with great personal satisfaction. So this is no reason for despair. But we will never have the potential to go much beyond that. Those lucky few born with 'natural talent' who ALSO practice diligently have the ability to surpass most of us, I'm afraid. Not that they all do, mind you, and a good number of child prodigies tend to burn out, for various reasons.

    Something similar holds for natural intelligence. Being naturally smart is no substitute for study, learning, and focus. But when these attributes are combined, the result is formidable. Alas, not everyone can be a Newton, Da Vinci, or Einstein simply by applying themselves assiduously. There's a whole lot more to it than that, I'm afraid. By the same token, you do not get to be a musical virtuoso just by applying yourself. Alas, if it were only that 'easy!'

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    Registered User Mike Buesseler's Avatar
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    Default Re: Natural talent vs practice

    I have “some” natural talent. I think it usually takes some to keep someone at it, but I’m 71 and I’m positive that all the practice I’ve done (a LOT) hasn’t made me 10% as good as Sierra Hull (or any other phenom) was at 10.

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    Default Re: Natural talent vs practice

    FWIW, our furnace went out Friday night (yep, after everybody closes for the weekend) Anyway, it was getting cold inside even with the space heaters. Sat morning I got the answering service for the heating repair company, young kid came out and several hours later we had heat. He mostly told us we needed a new furnace. I was grateful for the Sat house call. Keep in mind, old furnace, old house, etc.......well, we had good heat until Sun afternoon. Suffered Sun night. Mon I called again and asked for my regular guy, been doing it for 35 years. He came, turns out it was a $20 switch. That sure sounded better than a new $8,000 furnace.......

    Old guy said, "it is rare, but these switches do go out..." The kid missed it, but still got us heat and ultimately had a solution, if I wanted to spend the money. (I may have to anyway, the jury is still out....)

    OK, furnace repair isn't "art" but did either of those guys have natural talent? Not sure. But, the guy with the experience fixed it....

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    Registered User Mike Buesseler's Avatar
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    Default Re: Natural talent vs practice

    I’m looking all over my mandolins for a switch....

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    Default Re: Natural talent vs practice

    When I was a kid (in the 60's) I thought the musicians I admired were special people touched by the gods.
    I would never be able to be that.

    Now I know they just invested more time into it than me and had devoted their lives to it.

    I think work & dedication is the only way.

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    Registered User Joe Dodson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Natural talent vs practice

    I don't know if I have any natural talent. What I do have is an abiding love for the sounds of acoustic guitars and mandolins that's been with me for as long as I can remember. That's allowed me to sit behind them for a good many hours and make some progress, maybe despite my lack of talent and a few other obstacles along the way (jobs, kids, mortgages, parents who failed to nurture my gifts and send me to Berklee, etc., etc.).

    I'm grateful to feel that connection to music, to have better collection of instruments than I ever imagined was possible when I was younger, and to have a good collection of fiddle tunes under my fingers. Maybe in the next life I'll get to retain a bit of what I've learned and come back with a little talent.

    Whenever I get to feeling sorry formyself about my stubby little uncooperative fingers, I remember that Django Reinhart had no use of his third and fourth fingers on his left hand. So there goes that excuse. (I just learned that he died when he was only 43 as I was fact checking myself, so there's another reminder to make the most of the limited time and gifts that I've got.)

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    Registered User sblock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Natural talent vs practice

    Quote Originally Posted by BoxCarJoe View Post
    When I was a kid (in the 60's) I thought the musicians I admired were special people touched by the gods.
    I would never be able to be that.

    Now I know they just invested more time into it than me and had devoted their lives to it.

    I think work & dedication is the only way.
    Well, investing more time and devoting your life to music may be necessary to become truly great. But it is not usually sufficient. Virtuoso musicians usually have something more going for them, which the OP has been calling "natural talent." If you are so inclined, you can call possessing this talent being "touched by the gods." Or, if you are more modern and secular in your approach, you might say they were favored by a quirk of genetics. "Work and dedication" are necessary, yes, but they are not the only factors involved. There really is such a thing as "musical talent," and we are not all born with identical potential, in some cookie-cutter fashion! Much the same argument holds for being great in a sport, or art, or many types of intelligence challenge, like puzzle-solving or mathematics. Practical skills, like musical performance, can be honed and perfected, but we should not willfully ignore the fact that natural abilities are not the same from one person to the next. The evidence for that is all around us. It will not do to ignore it simply because you hope (perhaps from a philosophical belief) that personal devotion is all it really ought to take. Alas, if only that were true.

    In a phrase, it's not "nature or nurture." It's nature AND nurture!

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    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Natural talent vs practice

    Coltrane comes to mind. Abundant natural talent. Practiced 10-12 hours a day.

    Mick
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    Registered User Joe Dodson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Natural talent vs practice

    Quote Originally Posted by brunello97 View Post
    Coltrane comes to mind. Abundant natural talent. Practiced 10-12 hours a day.

    Mick
    Wow. I should blow up my damned television. I waste so much time.

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  19. #12
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    Default Re: Natural talent vs practice

    I was able to differentiate the difference between practice and natural talent when our youngest began to play. With very little time on the strings he could tune perfectly without a tuner, listen to a tune on the radio and quickly learn to play it, and carry a tune on vocals pleasing to the ear.
    Me, after many, many, hours of practice with a love of playing can do none of the above. I always feel quite accomplished in spite of those deficiencies, especially when I'm complimented on my playing by others. But, it does not come naturally. I use a tuner, I learn tunes by first acquiring the notation and then practice on top of practice, and when I attempt to carry a tune on vocals people feel sorry for me.
    That's my story and I'm sticking with it.
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    Default Re: Natural talent vs practice

    While my wife was executive director of a youth symphony organization, she ran a piano competition for a solo performance with the symphony. It was very serious stuff indeed. These kids, 8 to 18, all had expert training, grand pianos in their living rooms, and type A parents driving their maximum efforts. What I saw was performance after performance of note perfect perfection, without an ounce of musicality. Then some thirteen year old would blow the doors off with an exhibition of splendid emotional nuance. It was night and day after multiple soulless performances.

    You need natural talent and discipline to excell. Fortunately you need neither to enjoy playing.
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    Default Re: Natural talent vs practice

    There is talent (which I have none of);
    There is practice which leads to ability (which I have some of);
    but in my mind the most important aspect of music is love. If you don't love music your natural talent for music will never be fully realized; but if you love music you are far, far more likely to push yourself to practice, improve and eventually develop some level of ability - even if you have no natural talent.

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    Default Re: Natural talent vs practice

    Quote Originally Posted by Joe Dodson View Post
    Wow. I should blow up my damned television. I waste so much time.
    I believe the Chris Thile quote I heard most recently was `if I practice less than 2 hours in a day, I'm moving backwards'.

    I believe there are a couple different `natural skills' that can help in music [perfect pitch comes to mind], but most people who are considered top tier musicians have likely put an insane amount of time into their craft and often practice in a very planned and disciplined fashion. A violin player with great pitch has an advantage while learning to play, but after a certain point knowing what to play is more important.

    I am pretty sure my bandmates know every practice whether I took time off since last week or put in serious hours playing [even tunes we do not have in our songbook]. No amount of natural skill can replace what daily practice achieves IMO.
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    Jerry Cobbs jerrycobbs's Avatar
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    Default Re: Natural talent vs practice

    My personal pet theory, not based on any research of which I'm aware, has to do with the conventional wisdom that it takes 10,000-20,000 hours to master a skill, such as a musical instrument. I think a lot of what comprises natural talent amounts to the way some people, while they're just listening to or participating in music, are unconsciously taking it apart, analyzing, and filing away all the patterns, relationships, harmonies, etc., that most of us just let go by without noticing. They "know" what a I-IV-V progression sounds like and how to use it, without having ever consciously learned it. Other people have to grasp these concepts through formal study. Somehow or other those people with "natural talent" are able to get in much of their 10,000 hours of experience by just being surrounded with music. That doesn't mean they don't have to practice; it just means that to the rest of us music seems to come easier to them and they make more progress for the same number of formal practice hours than others.

    I have no idea whether this is really true or not, but it seems to me to explain why some people can pick up an instrument and within a few minutes, start picking out tunes and chords, or why they can improvise a harmony part to a song they've never heard before. At some point in their life they've unconsciously done the "homework" that allows them to do these things seemingly without effort.
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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Natural talent vs practice

    My talent is tenacity.

    When I want something I bulldog it down. I am like a T-Rex fighting a Triceratops, a mother lion taking down a gazelle, etc.

    Just tenacity. Ask my friends, who find me so unavailable when pursuing something I want.

    This skill has not always served me well. There have been times when subtlety might have been more useful, where eloquence might have saved the day.

    But no, for better or worse my skill is tenacity.
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    Registered User Mike Buesseler's Avatar
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    Default Re: Natural talent vs practice

    I doubt that any of us believe that the best player in the world is the one who practices the most. Of course it takes talent and practice. Seems to me it is a question of how far can I take my playing with my allotment of each.

  31. #19
    Registered User Mike Buesseler's Avatar
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    Default Re: Natural talent vs practice

    Now that I think about it, I bet that the more natural talent one has, the more they want to practice. If I acquired a sudden burst of talent, I don’t think I could put my mandolin down. Even now, if I get a little breakthrough, it spurs me on.

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    Default Re: Natural talent vs practice

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Buesseler View Post
    Now that I think about it, I bet that the more natural talent one has, the more they want to practice. If I acquired a sudden burst of talent, I don’t think I could put my mandolin down. Even now, if I get a little breakthrough, it spurs me on.
    Yup. And sometimes, like last night, when it feels like I'm just beating my head against the wall, the best thing I can do is put it down. There's a point of diminishing returns where all I'm doing is practicing my mistakes. For me, that happens a long time before I hit Coltrane's 10 hours a day.

  34. #21

    Default Re: Natural talent vs practice

    In my experience, achieving distinction in any activity requires commitment verging on, or perhaps crossing over into, monomania. Most highly successful people I have known worked at it night and day to the exclusion of almost everything else. These folks also tended to be people with a large amount of natural talent for and great love of the work.

  35. #22
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    Default Re: Natural talent vs practice

    Talent is a plus, nothing replaces hard work and opportunities realized.

  36. #23

    Default Re: Natural talent vs practice

    This guy, Howard Gardner talks about the different types of intelligence though one of them is naturalistic, not natural.

    Take 10 mandolin students and one is better in certain ways than the others. This may be because, for example he/she did a typing class at a young age. The other students will feel that this person is somehow gifted... but. A lot of it is education, hard work, money, and of course luck.

    https://en.m.wikiversity.org/wiki/Ho...f_Intelligence

  37. #24
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Natural talent vs practice

    Setting aside the formal definitions and meanings.

    It seems to me in common associations that talent refers to how far I'll never get no matter how much I work. It is something outside of our control. It is a thing born out of comparison, and gives us license to give up on ourselves.

    There is only so far you can go, you know, without talent.

    Practice, on the other hand, is born of hope. The confidence that where ever I am I will be better for the practicing. Comparison of myself today with myself yesterday.

    Just ask me. My failure is due to a lack of talent. (Never a lack of practicing). My success due to my hard work and practice, (never an innate ability for which I cannot take credit).


    I think I am much better off ignoring altogether the concept of talent. Just entirely deny its existence. Just get after it: go for increased ability, skills, proficiency. Just practice, hard as I can. As hard I profess I want to be better. Just comparing myself only with myself in the past, not with anyone else or with where I wanted to be by now.

    Of course practice is not enough. Of course there is only so far I can go. But I don't know where that is, and I never have experienced an inability to improve. If I deny the limit, I will get closer to it. If I accept that there is only so far that I can go, well how much do I give up by giving up anyhow. I mean if I there is a there to which I will never get, what is the point. I'll just be satisfied where I am. Or not, and give up entirely.

    What does a focus on innate talent do for me? What does it have to do with me?

    Ignore the facts, talent has nothing to do with it. Just get after it.
    Last edited by JeffD; Nov-22-2019 at 5:47pm.
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  39. #25

    Default Re: Natural talent vs practice

    On the Nature vs. Nurture question, I don’t think it is Nature AND Nurture so much as it is Nature TIMES Nurture. Folks with a good natural ear and musical sensibility will get a ton more out of their practicing than the rest of us. That said, as one’s ear and musicality and familiarity with the instrument develop, the return on investment from practice also goes up. After years of flailing, I now know enough of the fretboard to understand what I’m practicing and the difference is remarkable.

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