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Thread: Mastering a New Skill

  1. #1
    '`'`'`'`'`'`'`'`'`'`' Jacob's Avatar
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    Default Mastering a New Skill

    "It's easy to believe that elite performers must be naturals who possess a gift that can't be taught. But what does the science say? Could the idea of innate talent just be a myth?"

    https://www.bbc.com/reel/video/p086w...ng-a-new-skill

  2. #2

    Default Re: Mastering a New Skill

    In short - there are certain things that science can't explain.

    When an untrained 5-year old hears an intricate piece of music for the first time, and then sits down at the piano and flawlessly plays it through - that is natural talent. Yes, that talent does need to be developed, but it's still a natural gift of some sort.

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    Pittsburgh Bill
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    Default Re: Mastering a New Skill

    This has been debated many times. I am in the camp of natural talent existing. I base this upon several factors, but relate to those factors that are of personal experience.
    Myself, no inate talent as I work hard at learning and improving my skills while watching others learn with relative ease. You may say this is can be attributed to our previously learned or practiced skills. I don't completely disagree. Then I think of our three sons. All dabble in playing some music. But our youngest, from a very young age could pick up any instrument and after a very few minutes produce recognizeable tunes. His music teacher said he perfect pitch. He could pick-up my mandolin and tune it to ear. When I would double check his tuning he would be right on. For me, with out the aid of a tuning instrument (electronic, piano, tuning fork) I would never be in tune.
    I can only ask myself how our youngest had these skills from an early age prior to having any formal music training.
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  4. #4

    Default Re: Mastering a New Skill

    Quote Originally Posted by Jacob View Post
    . . . Could the idea of innate talent just be a myth?" . . .
    For me? Yes. Definitely.

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    Registered User Jon Hall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mastering a New Skill

    One of my mentors, the late Paul Buskirk, thought that some of us are born with greater dexterity than others. Just his opinion, of which he had many.

  7. #6

    Default Re: Mastering a New Skill

    Actually... thorough surveys of people who have demonstrated unusual competency in a particular task show, without exception, that those people have logged tens or hundreds of thousands of hours practicing those tasks.

    Mozart was a natural child prodigy? No, he was trained to study and write music when he was a small child, and his first compositions were considered "fine" -- years later after he'd practiced for tens of thousands of hours, he truly became great.

    The examples are extensive, and they all show that talent is earned through practice.
    Last edited by bokchoy_ninja; Apr-10-2020 at 11:06am.

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    Default Re: Mastering a New Skill

    A friend of many years ago had been a public school teacher, a college professor and a corporate training manager. Her take on this question was that some people do have an innate ability. She said that it is the American way to reward perseverance and hard work which results in people overlooking their natural talents. Perseverance and hard work are best applied to a person’s talents to be truly great at whatever the endeavor.

  9. #8

    Default Re: Mastering a New Skill

    Quote Originally Posted by Dukesdad View Post
    A friend of many years ago had been a public school teacher, a college professor and a corporate training manager. Her take on this question was that some people do have an innate ability. She said that it is the American way to reward perseverance and hard work which results in people overlooking their natural talents. Perseverance and hard work are best applied to a person’s talents to be truly great at whatever the endeavor.
    You're starting off by presupposing that people have an "innate ability" at a particular task. I would say that innate ability is either non-existent or insignificant, compared to the ability that one acquires through dedication and practice.

    Maybe Mozart had an innate ability for writing, but we'll never know because he was pushed into music as a child and became a world renown musician. Just because he became a musical savant doesn't mean that it was his "innate ability" that got him there.

    I know too many people who wasted time waiting around trying to discover what they were "naturally good at" or "passionate about" -- when they could have just randomly chosen something, ran with it, and became excellent at it. And with excellence comes satisfaction.

    But what do I know...

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    Registered User J Mangio's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mastering a New Skill

    Way back when I was a music major at UMass, I had an electric piano in the kitchen, when my Mother would come over she would amaze me; never had a music lesson, couldn't read music, would sit down and pound out any tune you requested.
    And there I would stand thinking how I had to fight for every note.
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  11. #10

    Default Re: Mastering a New Skill

    Quote Originally Posted by J Mangio View Post
    Way back when I was a music major at UMass, I had an electric piano in the kitchen, when my Mother would come over she would amaze me; never had a music lesson, couldn't read music, would sit down and pound out any tune you requested.
    And there I would stand thinking how I had to fight for every note.
    I bet she practiced a lot. Just saying...

  12. #11

    Default Re: Mastering a New Skill

    Nature vs nurture is an old, old argument in biology, not just for human skills. Some of the original studies were done in England on chaffinches during the 1950s where birds raised isolated in a lab vs birds that were not isolated. There were parts of the songs that were learned and parts that were natural. Nature and nurture appear to interact. It is not all one or the other. Similarly with talent and effort. The other thing that was learned was that there is a window of learning in early life where some skills had to be developed. Later in life, for birds and humans, they either are much harder to develop or they cannot be developed at all. It seems to be this way for absolute pitch.

    Here are some links with discussion on the bird song work though there is a lot of uncertainty whether it has any relation to human music. Also there is a link on the nature vs nurture debate in human psychology.

    https://www.terrain.org/2014/interviews/peter-marler/

    https://www.nature.com/scitable/know...song-16133266/
    https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/article/genes-behavior/

    http://https://www.simplypsychology....vsnurture.html

  13. #12

    Default Re: Mastering a New Skill

    Based on what I have seen Chris Thile and Sierra Hull do, especially in the "Live from Home" thread, I think some folks are just naturally talented!

  14. #13

    Default Re: Mastering a New Skill

    Quote Originally Posted by SOMorris View Post
    Based on what I have seen Chris Thile and Sierra Hull do, especially in the "Live from Home" thread, I think some folks are just naturally talented!
    By saying that, you're kind of cheapening the mountain of time and hard work they've put into crafting their talent. Just my 0.02

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    Default Re: Mastering a New Skill

    I think many accomplished musicians have some natural qualities and abilities that have been reinforced with practice, discipline and mentorship. In a sports anology, would Tiger Woods have been as dominant at perhaps baseball or soccer if that had been the sport his father had tried to groom him for? I think not. He found his sport that his physical and mental ability excelled at, but probably wouldn't have had he persued another sport.
    " Give me some words I can dance to and a melody that rhymes" - Steve Goodman

  17. #15

    Default Re: Mastering a New Skill

    I have always been a poor speller. So articles about spelling have always caught my attention. Basically, if you are a poor speller, there is nothing you can do to become a good spell.

    Thank God for word processors.

  18. #16

    Default Re: Mastering a New Skill

    Didja ever think a child's learning window is all about lack of distractions? How soon kids get sent to school and mentally taxed. Sure a brain can take a lot. But then comes adolesence, and hormones. Then marriage, a job, kids. Then you're distracted for 30 or 40 years. Lot's of empty nesters, and retirees, finally get a chance. It takes a little mental floss. Advanced cognitive learning takes that quiet concentration.

    Talent.? Natural talent? Don't know. What about instinct? Like animal instinct. Surely we have one or two left. I think we can have a knack, or affinity. Then if we capitalize on an afinity, there's an appearance of talent.

    I'm not much of a speller either. Don't much care.

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    Default Re: Mastering a New Skill

    Quote Originally Posted by bokchoy_ninja View Post
    You're starting off by presupposing that people have an "innate ability" at a particular task. I would say that innate ability is either non-existent or insignificant, compared to the ability that one acquires through dedication and practice.
    I agree that dedication and practice is a dominate factor in ones accomplishments. However, I think we may start from a different baseline.
    Just my humble opinion.
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    Default Re: Mastering a New Skill

    Didja ever think a child's learning window is all about lack of distractions?
    There seems to be something biological there also. It happens in animals , such as birds, in controlled lab experiments. The most striking example in humans is the development of absolute pitch. It seems to be a real capability that occurs fairly early in life if it happens. It is subject to a lot of debate in biology and psychology but appears to be real.

    The nature vs nurture thing (talent vs effort) has mostly come down to that it is both. There are almost no people with absolute positions on this in biology today. The serious study is on the interaction of the two.

    There is no single gene for music that can be switched on or off. That is pretty certain. However biology may give better hand coordination. This can be overcome as Django Reinhardt proved. It may give better pitch memory. Tone deafness is a real, but rare thing as is absolute pitch. There may be better pitch perception and hearing. As an extreme some people are completely deaf.

    The wiring in the brain can do strange things. This will show up in extreme cases where strokes or tumors do damage. Oliver Sacks, the neurologist who was the subject of the movie Awakenings, wrote a book called Musicophilia, Tales of Music and the Brain. It is an entire book discussing a lot of this stuff. It is written for laymen and pretty interesting. It discusses how the brain does or does not develop the ability to produce or hear music.

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    Default Re: Mastering a New Skill

    Many years ago I was at a career crossroads. I needed income so I took a gig that involved a lot of computer programming. People had been telling me how technical and difficult it was. After about a week I was thinking, “Wow, this is easy. It’s almost like stealing the money.”. After that gig I got deeper and deeper into computing and never looked back. I had a highly successful career.

    All I can say about the nature versus nurture argument is that some things do just come naturally to some people.

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    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mastering a New Skill

    This topic comes up time and again ... and understandably. Some people have to "take sides" on this issue. I believe reality is more complicated, there is no "nature vs. nurture" in real life, there is "nature + nurture". In the end, my take-away on this issue is, "Practice, and practice well, and practice often. That's how you improve." I believe that a person born with a great degree of propensity, if one exists (and I believe they do), that person will still need to practice, practice well, and practice often to improve.

    As to whether all folks are born with equal propensity to learn or do anything, I believe that idea is patently false. We're none of us entirely equal in either genetic pre-disposal nor environmental experience. It certainly could be, and probably is, true that some are better equipped than others from birth to make music.

    No matter, because regardless of any of that, if you want to improve as a musician then you'll have to work for it. I'd be willing to wager that any musical hero you might have would confess that they've put colossal effort into improving their chops since they first picked up an instrument. So you can improve if you want to. Perfect practice makes perfect; good practice makes good. Bad practice doesn't help so much.

    Good video, thanks for sharing.
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  26. #21

    Default Re: Mastering a New Skill

    IMHO, its hard work and the right environment. In addition, from an evolutionary biology perspective its plausible that some forms of knowledge persist and are passed on. Given neuro-plasticity the structure of our brains change overtime as a consequence of what we study and how we spend our lives. It seems conceivable that these neurological traits can be passed on (and accumulate) over generations. Stated differently, what we may interpret "natural talent" might better be thought of as knowledge or skill "earned" by previous generations. .... maybe.

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    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mastering a New Skill

    Quote Originally Posted by beginnerbill View Post
    IMHO, its hard work and the right environment. In addition, from an evolutionary biology perspective its plausible that some forms of knowledge persist and are passed on. Given neuro-plasticity the structure of our brains change overtime as a consequence of what we study and how we spend our lives. It seems conceivable that these neurological traits can be passed on (and accumulate) over generations. Stated differently, what we may interpret "natural talent" might better be thought of as knowledge or skill "earned" by previous generations. .... maybe.
    Interesting idea
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  28. #23

    Default Re: Mastering a New Skill

    Sometimes i think music is just another language. Because there's so many similarities. A second language to be sure. Sort of a go between language. I personally opine and afinity aside, it's nearly impossible to get anywhere on your own. I.e. One can't easily learn conversational Elbonian, unless one frequently surrounds one's self with jabbering Elbonians.

  29. #24
    Registered User Louise NM's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mastering a New Skill

    Innate talent is not a myth. Look at violinist Sarah Chang. She was admitted to Juilliard at age five, auditioning with the Burch concerto. At eight she performed with both the New York Philharmonic and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Both her parents are musicians, so nurture was a factor, and she must have had a phenomenal work ethic and ability to focus at an early age, but no one can do what she did without a huge helping of natural ability.

    A first-rate musician needs a good ear and memory, manual dexterity, the right set of opportunities, and an appetite for practice. Different people have these attributes in varying proportions, of course.

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    Default Re: Mastering a New Skill

    So Babe Ruth was a better hitter than Rabbit Maranville cause he spent more time practicing?



    Talent is real.

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