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Talent vs Skill
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July 6, 2012 - 6:29 am
Member Since: May 4, 2012
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Recently I was talking with a friend of mine and I was kind of surprised when claimed he wasn't talented musically.  Mostly because he doesn't sing or play an instrument well.  On the other hand, he knows music better than many people so far as beats and having a discerning ear for sound, and he's worked as a party DJ at some points in his life.  Considering that I have also known him to mess around with an instrument for an hour or two now and then and come up with some listenable sounds and bits of songs, I would tend to disagree that he lacks talent.  To my way of thinking, he just hasn't made much use of his talent or developed much skill with an instrument yet.

I tend to view talent by the dictionary definition, which is basically a natural ability or aptitude.  A capacity for achievement.

Skill, on the other hand, is something gained through practice, study, and experience.

Personally I think everyone has at least some talent in anything they may try to do, and that talent acts as a sort of a multiplier.  With learning an instrument or a piece of music, the more talent a person has, the more skill they will achieve for a certain amount of time spent practising, studying, playing, being coached by a teacher or fellow musician, etc.  So a person with a large amount of talent will make more progress from an hour of work than someone with a more modest amount of talent.

I'm not sure if the amount of talent a person has stays the same or might change over the course of their life, but to keep things simple enough that my brain doesn't hurt from trying to figure it out, I usually just assume that talent stays the same.

The problem I see is that people tend to call the ability to play well "talent".  I think it is more accurate to call how well a person can play "skill", since there isn't any way to evaluate the amount of talent a person may have until you know how much work went into a performance or you can see how much progress they make with a certain amount of work.

The "wonder kid" performers everyone tends to like to send links to vids or recordings of may seem amazing because they can play very complex passages of music at an early age.  But that isn't a good reason to jump to the conclusion that they are more talented than you are.  You may only have 15 min a day to dedicate to practice and they may have had to practice for 8 hrs a day.  So they get 32 times as much practice as you do in an average year, and maybe they have been doing that for 7 yrs while you have only been playing 6 months.  So (to save you having to calculate some math) they have put in 448 times as much work over the years as you have.  (Yeah, this would probably be an extreme case, but having known a few parents who wanted their kids to be "stars" of one kind or another over the years, it is probably not an impossibly extreme example.)  Well, one should hope they are better, when you think of it that way.  But when you consider that, maybe they are no more talented than you are.  Heck, they may even have less talent than you.

According to some stories, the violinist Paganini was kept locked up for much of his childhood with first the mandolin and then the violin and expected to spend every waking moment practising.  Assuming that is at least somewhat true, then it isn't much of a surprise that he developed a lot of playing skill at an early age. 

I really don't agree with the people that think of the ability to play music is a "gift".  Most people that will call it that aren't musicians or artists themselves, or they are talking about someone else.  To me, anyway, a gift is something you are given.  If you have to work for it, we don't usually call it that.  I know of no musician or artist that didn't have to work for the skill they have, and that is something more worthy of respect than referring to it in a way that makes it sound like they just got it effortlessly when the good fairy came along and bopped them on the head with a sparkly wand or something.  I'm not saying it isn't a wonderful thing in our lives or that I don't appreciate having it, but for most of us it was more like Edison's "Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration" than it was any sort of a "freebie".  LOL

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

Russia, Tatarstan rep. Kazan city

July 9, 2012 - 6:38 am
Member Since: October 7, 2011
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DanielB said
  So a person with a large amount of talent will make more progress from an hour of work than someone with a more modest amount of talent.

Agreed! As You mentioned, talent is a natural ability... LOL! I'm envy to lucky talented bastards roflThose who are like me have to work really hard and a lot to BE ABLE!


Amarillo, Tx
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July 9, 2012 - 1:26 pm
Member Since: May 20, 2012
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In comparison to your friend, I have been told I have a great ear for music as well.  I have always wanted to learn an instrument.  I have thousands of tunes stuck in my head, but I want them out and in the open air so people can hear them.  How can I accomplish this?  Learn to play an instrument.

My progress right now is, well, sucky.  I only get about 30min - 1 hour to learn each day.  So my idea of progress is sometimes, "I will never get this."  Then I see vids of some of the people on here who have been playing a few months or even a year or so.  They do not sound perfect, they admit this themselves, but they do sound like they are getting better.  So these vids are very inspirational to those who have moments of ,"I will never get this."

It is these people who have been struggling, like myself, that inspire me to keep going and never give up.  I may not be able to play Beethovens 5th the second I pick up the violin, but someday, someone will be watching my video and think, "He has talent."  I will say, "No.  I just practiced my little butt off." smile

"Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its entire life believing that it is stupid." -Albert Einstein

July 9, 2012 - 2:00 pm
Member Since: February 28, 2011
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Skill is the ability to translate some marks (notes) on a piece of paper into specific pitches and durations.

Talent is to convert the same marks into music.

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

July 9, 2012 - 2:49 pm
Member Since: March 14, 2012
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Oliver said
Skill is the ability to translate some marks (notes) on a piece of paper into specific pitches and durations.

Talent is to convert the same marks into music.



When the work's all done and the sun's settin' low,

I pull out my fiddle and I rosin up the bow.

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