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Is There Such A Thing As Natural Talent?
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Fiddlerman
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July 23, 2014 - 11:18 pm
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Is There Such A Thing As Natural Talent?

When it comes to innate talent, we often hold conflicting ideas. On one hand, we’re told that we can be anything we want to be if we work hard enough. On the other, some people seem to be destined for their chosen field, or even a “born talent.” The truth, as usual, is somewhere in between.

According to Dianna Richardson, graduate of the Juilliard School and youth instructor at Baldwin-Wallace College, there is such a thing as raw, innate, untrained talent. It manifests in young students who show the natural ability to keep rhythm and differentiate pitch, but it is absolutely encouraged by formal training. All the raw talent in the world can go unrefined without developing a person’s skills and the drive to work toward their goals.

Dedication and motivation play a huge part in talent. It’s been shown that the average time needed to become an expert at any one thing is about 10 years. Talent can be more accurately thought of not as an inclination toward a particular skill but as a group of personality traits that make a person more likely to excel in a particular field. Our…

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Barry
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Do I believe in natural talent ? absolutely  !! The thing to remember is when these studies are made by folks from Juilliard they may, or at least it seems the have different standards.  John Lee Hooker didnt even know what key he was playing in, at least by name and he was one of the greats.

There is no shame in playing twinkle, youre playing Mozart

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coolpinkone
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violin-1267I liked that article.. the Part that says.. "It’s been shown that the average time needed to become an expert at any one thing is about 10 years "

I find that particularly interesting.  In ten years I will be 58.. been playing 2.5 years.. add two more years for my "slowness to become an expert."crossedfingersviolin-1267violin-1267I am thinking.. Heck year.. 2025 on my 60th BD.. if I check in on the expert meter with an 85%.. I will Be a happy violinist.   crossedfingersviolin-1267

I know... I  know.. set the bar high.. do it in the next 7.5 years and prove the point. :) facepalm

 ha ha..

Vibrato Desperato.... Desperately seeking vibrato

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uncledave
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Yes, I believe in natural talent but I also believe it can be a double edged sword. I taught guitar, banjo, and mandolin for close to 20 years. I had many students. I can remember many students who had natural talent but of these only a handful became good musicians. The reason? Natural talent sometimes leads to laziness. For example, "Why should I practice these exercises? I'd rather be trying to play this song I heard on the radio." Natural talent is effective only when combined with self-discipline.

On the other hand I've had some students who had very little natural talent but were dedicated to learning to play and they did in fact become musicians. Not "gifted" musicians, but decent musicians.

The best combination for a teacher is in that rare student who has both natural talent and a strong sense of dedication and practice. They are few and far between.

Dave

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coolpinkone
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@uncledave  very interesting and good perspective.  That makes a lot of sense. 

Vibrato Desperato.... Desperately seeking vibrato

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uncledave
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coolpinkone said
@uncledave  very interesting and good perspective.  That makes a lot of sense. 

Thank you! I have a question: how do you get the blue "@uncledave"?

Dave

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uncledave
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uncledave said

coolpinkone said
@uncledave  very interesting and good perspective.  That makes a lot of sense. 

Thank you! I have a question: how do you get the blue "@uncledave"?

Dave

Nevermind. I just found out how!  🙂

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RosinedUp
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Hopefully people can figure out that the claim about ten years to expertise has hidden assumptions such as: one is working at it intensely and full time, has a lot of interaction with established experts, and has the needed physical and mental abilities.  Otherwise it's a pipe dream. 

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coolpinkone
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And keep in mind the article claimed that 10 years was the average. So some can do it even in less time!violin_girl... Keeping that in mind I gave myself 4.5 years extra to be an expert.   Anyone else want to set a goal?   Or Pipe dream with me.... come on.. you know you wanna.. :) 1st-placejimi-hendrixjimi-hendrixjimi-hendrix

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Uzi
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Yes.

A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort. ~Herm Albright

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RosinedUp
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Here is a pointer to the claim about ten years:
 
The role of deliberate practice in the acquisition of expert performance.
Ericsson, K. Anders; Krampe, Ralf T.; Tesch-Römer, Clemens
Psychological Review, Vol 100(3), Jul 1993, 363-406. doi: 10.1037/0033-295X.100.3.363
 

Abstract

  1. The theoretical framework presented in this article explains expert performance as the end result of individuals' prolonged efforts to improve performance while negotiating motivational and external constraints. In most domains of expertise, individuals begin in their childhood a regimen of effortful activities (deliberate practice) designed to optimize improvement. Individual differences, even among elite performers, are closely related to assessed amounts of deliberate practice. Many characteristics once believed to reflect innate talent are actually the result of intense practice extended for a minimum of 10 yrs. Analysis of expert performance provides unique evidence on the potential and limits of extreme environmental adaptation and learning. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)

=========================

Here is a general consideration of roles of talent, mentoring, and effort in success.

http://www.theguardian.com/sci.....nt-kaufman

What is talent – and can science spot what we will be best at?
Practice and our genes are not the only factors when it comes to developing special abilities

Scott Barry Kaufman
The Observer, Saturday 6 July 2013

 

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DanielB
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A lot is going to depend on how one defines talent.  My personal definition would be an innate ability or set of abilities/traits that facilitate a person's ability to learn and/or achieve in a given field.

Is it "Natural"?  Well, Of course.  What else would it be?  So far as I know, we can't go to the store and buy a box of artificial talent to make ourselves be better musicians. LOL 

However, talent is not what we can hear, as listeners.  What we can hear and see in a performance is skill.  Talent is one factor in developing/building skill.  I see it as acting as a sort of multiplier.  The more talent you have, the more progress you can get from something like a practice or performance.  

But there are other things I see as "multipliers" in the equation.  Take education, for one example.  Knowing some music theory (to take just one instance of something that can be learned) improves understanding of what we are doing and in practical playing situations, gives us more of a clue what to expect when we are learning a new piece of music.  At least to a degree, the more you know, the more clues you have to work with.  If you learn a G major scale, for example, you know what notes you are likely to see in a piece that is identified as being "in the key of G".  Learn about relative minors, and you know that those same notes are what you can expect in the key of E minor.  I'll stop right there, to avoid going into a long-winded talk on theory..

But knowing what notes to expect, just knowing that much, just makes it easier to learn a new song/piece.  It's like a little peek at the answer key before the test.  And so an hour of practice/playing can make more progress with it than without it.

Education. like talent, is one factor in building your playing skill, which is what a listener can hear.  There are many such factors.  I think that some of them we are born with, and others can be gained/improved upon.

That's my view on talent, anyway.  It is a factor, a multiplier, that is one of many that allows a person to gain more progress for a given amount of effort.

 

@coolpinkone:  I don't think I know what an expert is.  So I'm not sure as I would ever be one, or if I would want to be.  LOL

What I do want is that when I play for any typical audience of random listeners, for the larger majority (say 90%) of them to see me as playing well.  And to find it enjoyable to listen to, assuming it is a song/genre that they would normally enjoy when it is played well.   

I think that if I can maintain my current rate of work/progress, that will not take 10 yrs.  From when I started, I think 5 yrs would manage it almost certainly.  Maybe as little as 3. Probably somewhere between those 2 numbers.

But I consider anything beyond that level of ability as "gravy".  If I get it, I'll enjoy it, but I would not consider getting no further than that point to be a personal "failure" at violin/fiddle.  I could work with and enjoy that level of achievement.  And, if the fates allow, I will get it.  I am already en route.

"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

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Uzi
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Natural talent + practice. I rest my case:

 

A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort. ~Herm Albright

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Fiddlerman
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There is no question in my mind that natural talent exists. I've seen both, naturally talented musicians who never practiced playing fantastically and talentless musicians who worked their asses off to achieve the same thing.

The real question is what one wants to achieve with their playing and can one be satisfied just making music at any level whatsoever. I think the later is less common unfortunately. My least favorite job when I was a concert master in Gavle and section leader in Malmo, was sitting on the jury for new positions. I HATE having to judge people. It's not that it's difficult for me to do, rather it feels like I should listen for what is good and not what is bad. Listening to Mozart being played by hundreds of violinists in just the first round.....Try to remember who was just good enough to go to the next round....Towards the end of a long day of auditions, listening to the finalists deciding if any are good enough for the job, and which of the final 2,3,4..... is the best when they have different fortes.

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DanielB
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Well, Uzi.. Not trying to just be annoying here, but if that is where you "rest your case", I'm kinda glad you are not my lawyer.  LOL

I do not understand where the video example you posted serve to support "Natural talent + practice", really.

The guy who was a "mediocre guitar player" until he had a concussion, and then suddenly "could play the piano"?   A.) He did have some musical background, so it isn't like it had to "come from nowhere".  B.) What are you trying to show with it as an example?  That we simply aren't banging our heads on the wall hard enough?  LOL

bunny-headbangdazedviolin_girl

The second video.  He did great, especially for a 10 yr old.   But... First off, that was not a perfect rendition or anything. Second, that piece relies heavily on short repetitive runs that are not all that much more complex than the manual dexterity of a 10 yr old video game addict who is really good at the special moves of a game.  Not running the kid down, just saying I'm not seeing anything superhuman there.

He's 10 yrs old.  Presumably he has been taking piano for some of those years and has put in a good amount of practice.  Probably has had some excellent teachers and a lot of support from his family.  Probably he has worked harder than most kids his age.  But other than his being 10 yrs old at the moment, it isn't all that amazing.  I think more than a few adults on this forum, if they were that highly motivated to play piano, had a good teacher and put in exactly as many hours as that kid has, could probably do the same piece as well.  If not better.  Some of the intervals on the left hand would be a bit of a reach with hands as small as his, so an adult would have some advantages. 

I mean, much applause for him.  He did really good.  clap

But how do you feel it supports your "Natural talent + practice" statement?  Not that I disagree with the statement.  I just don't quite follow how you feel those two examples are the best for proving it.

"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

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coolpinkone
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In my comments I used the word expert as that was the word used in the article.  It did cross my mind that an expert in some other field might not be the same as an expert in violin.  So the word expert was just something I plucked from the article but I realize it is just a term from the article.  I also realize the article was vague, and merely an article. 

I believe in natural talent in most things.  I have seen occur time and time again.  I have seen it occur where some of the others without it catch up to them.  OR not even close ever. 

I post my goals and dreams pretty much on how I feel. I read the article and figured out that If I want to be an expert at the violin according to the article, I could do this in the average time.  I am an average person.   Even so, I gave myself an extra  almost 5 years.  

I don't expect that by merely waiting 10 years while owning a violin I will burst into expert mode. 

I do hang out with an expert at an  Expert's site.  Pierre is an expert.  I get feedback and advise from an expert, Pierre.  I work on participating in violin playing activities to sharpen my playing skills.  I went to college to boost my music foundation and for an entire semester where I worked with an expert musician. (The best musician I have ever met).  I took lessons for a time, from an expert musician.   I practice 10-12 hours a week.  I am refining my training and my practice. I inhale everything violin that I can into my brain. I train with and have books to help me written by experts.  I have an experienced violinist to help me one on one.  I have a lot of friends here on the forum who are on the journey with me that help me daily.  I have only just begun, I can hardly call my journey and goals a pipe dream.

What that will mean for me??  when I am an expert??  well many things.. many many things.

For those that find me absurd, or to much of a dreamer.  Give me a call in 2025, you can celebrate with me or rub it in my face. Whatever seems to give you the most pleasure. If I am alive and my hands, arms and eyes are intact, I plan to be an amazing violinist.   I don't play everyday and live this journey to become any less.  And I am not afraid to say it. 

Vibrato Desperato.... Desperately seeking vibrato

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Uzi
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DanielB said
Well, Uzi.. Not trying to just be annoying here, but if that is where you "rest your case", I'm kinda glad you are not my lawyer.  LOL

...

But how do you feel it supports your "Natural talent + practice" statement?  Not that I disagree with the statement.  I just don't quite follow how you feel those two examples are the best for proving it.

Really?  I was trying to be brief. In the current state of the world, I should  be surprised by very little and yet I'm surprised that the concept of talent would be questioned.   

First of all, neither of those people has had the opportunity to practice for 10 years and whatever abilities they have demonstrated have come largely from some place other than practice. With regard to Derek Amato, he describes his previous guitar playing as maybe 2.5 on a scale of 1 to 10.  Yet, he was able to play complex music on the piano the first time that he sat down in front of one -- after his accident. That didn't come from practice, or desire. It was a gift bestowed upon him by the accidental rearrangement of neural pathways.   

Further, I'll use myself as an example.  No matter how many years I might try to be a great singer, that isn't going to happen. My voice just doesn't sound that good tonally, nor do I have a vocal range that extends much beyond about 1 octave. Assuming that I had perfect pitch (which I do not), and practiced for several hours every day with an expensive singing coach, I might eventually be a better singer, but I'd still never be a good singer. Why? I have no talent for singing -- although I still harbor a slim hope for a career in Tuvan throat singing. 

Examples of people with huge desire, and years of practice appear every year, trying out for American Idol, but no matter how great their desire, regardless of how many hours they've spent caterwauling at family and friends, no matter how many of their singing coaches have prayed for an early death, 95% of them are going to fail. Why? They have no talent. 

Anyone can look at themselves and recognize that they naturally and organically do some things better than other things and have done so since they were toddlers. If innate talent was not a requirement for success, then it would be a strange world indeed. The division of labor would be unnecessary, since everyone would be capable, if they so chose, to do equally well, for themselves, what everyone else could also do -- given time to practice.  No surgeon would be better than another surgeon assuming equal training and practice.  No violin player would be better than another given adequate devotion to the instrument. Albert Einstein could have been replaced by any ditch digger given the opportunity and some education. Yoko Ono could have been an operatic super star had she just practiced more.  Codswallop. 

The fact is that people have different innate talents and they should (and the non-delusional  will) cultivate, maximize, enjoy and employ those native inborn talents, in such a way as to maximize the benefit to themselves. Areas where they have less talent they do as a diversion, a hobby, or to simply have fun. The key to happiness is being able to tell the difference between the two.  All of which is a long way of saying -- the best way to make a living and be happy is to do what you're good/talented at. 

A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort. ~Herm Albright

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RosinedUp
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Uzi said  Yoko Ono could have been an operatic super star had she just practiced more.  

Well I must say that I was proud of her vocal on The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill.  She correctly pronounced the 'r' in "Not when he looked so fierce", and I bet that took some discipline and practice.

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I agree with Daniel that the outcome is a product of factors.

The main ones that come to mind could be given names such as inborn properties (senses of pitch and rhythm, manual skill, anatomy, intelligence), application (amount and quality of practice), and environment (early exposure to good music and good musicians, guidance, access to resources).

One factor I think is important in any activity could be called the love of it.  For example, if you love music, you probably practice it more and seek out others who love it.  You want to know how to do it well.  So I don't consider that the factors are independent of one another.

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Uzi
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RosinedUp said
I agree with Daniel that the outcome is a product of factors.

The main ones that come to mind could be given names such as inborn properties (senses of pitch and rhythm, manual skill, anatomy, intelligence), application (amount and quality of practice), and environment (early exposure to good music and good musicians, guidance, access to resources).

One factor I think is important in any activity could be called the love of it.  For example, if you love music, you probably practice it more and seek out others who love it.  You want to know how to do it well.  So I don't consider that the factors are independent of one another.

I didn't say that talent was ALL that was required to become a very good musician, simply that it's a prerequisite.  If you don't like the word talent, call it an aptitude-based predilection, but without it one will not achieve the highest levels of proficiency in that particular skill set.   The more of it that one has, the greater the likelihood of success, the less one has the less likely.  Even those with talent have to work to develop their talent -- even if they've been bonked on the head really hard. 

When I was younger I was friends (or very well acquainted) with a few  famous (or would become famous) musicians. Two of those were brothers.  Both brothers played their guitars almost constantly and were in bands from their early teens onward.  The older brother taught the younger one to play guitar. The older brother was a good solid competent player and played for many years and is probably playing still.  His younger brother, who he called Mr. Moretone, however, was a phenomenal player and could play back songs  (such as Jimi Hendrix tunes) after listening to them once -- back then on a vinyl album. If he was sitting in with a band he didn't need to know the song, he'd just jump in and play something wonderful, memorable and recordable. 

What was the difference? They both played constantly. They were both in bands from the time they were 12 or 13 onward.  They both toured. They both recorded albums. They both became rather famous and they both played with other famous recording artists on albums. Yet one was significantly better (and as a result more famous) than the other.  The difference is what we call talent.  They both had it, it is just that one had more of it and sitting with them in living room listening to them play together, it was very evident. 

However, that doesn't mean they didn't work at it pretty much constantly.  That doesn't mean they were born knowing it all and didn't learn from others. That doesn't mean that they just learned what they needed and coasted from there.  It was an ongoing and constantly evolving learning process.  

On the other hand, I knew people with enormous talent, that did not stay focused and eventually wandered off into obscurity.  Talent alone is never enough. 

A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort. ~Herm Albright

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