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> Interesting Research About Talent.
David.C.Bond
post Dec 2 2007, 11:37 AM
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As a part of my Psychology of Music module at university we looked in some detail at a study which more or less disproves the entire concept of natural talent. The study follows children from various upbringings and degrees of musical background to investigate whether talent is hereditary (whether we are born with it), or whether it is mainly down to your enthusiasm and sheer amounts of hard work.
They found that people who are born into musical families and do well musically are generally successful because of the pressure they feel to match the success of their parents and siblings. Also very many successful musicians are from non-musical backrounds and have got to their standard through many hours of practice, essentially proving the concept of talent to be a misconception.
So, anyone can be a virtuoso, with lots of work. What do you guys think?


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botoxfox
post Dec 2 2007, 11:48 AM
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I'm not surprised. I guess the only musical "talent" you can have is absolute pitch...


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David.C.Bond
post Dec 2 2007, 12:47 PM
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QUOTE (botoxfox @ Dec 2 2007, 10:48 AM) *
I'm not surprised. I guess the only musical "talent" you can have is absolute pitch...


Yeah thats true. I have some friends who have perfect pitch and they say it can often be more of a hindrance than anything, because any pitched noise they hear (sirens, electronic beeps etc) can be extremely irritating if its slightly out of tune.


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The Uncreator
post Dec 2 2007, 01:56 PM
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I agree, i dont believe in natural talent. Just hard work and practice.
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Pavel
post Dec 2 2007, 02:56 PM
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Well, i do believe in talent because there are some kids, like 7 years old kids who can do crazy stuff on instruments with almost NO hours of practice.

Don't even try to convince me wrong - it won't work. Let's just state our opinions here wink.gif


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Robin
post Dec 2 2007, 03:11 PM
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I have a theory that kids that grew up with listening alot to music are alot better than kids who dont. If they listen alot to music they'll feel the rythm, have it easier making music, be able to learn songs by ear and hear when something sounds terrible.

An example:
We were three guys in our band, me, drummer and bassist. Me and the drummer have been listening to music all our lifes, but the bassist wasnt interested in music at all, he never listened to music.
He was with us for three years, he never got any better at all, he had big problems with rythm, he couldnt make any riffs, he had to have tabs for absolutely everything and if he had the bass tuned one half step lower than me he couldnt hear that something was wrong.

Me and the drummer made riffs and songs all the time. The drummer that cant even play guitar just made riffs with his mouth, and then I played it. In studio and on stage people were always saying that we were very good with rythm and we didnt play mechanical etc. but the bassist was the one that had to often record some of his parts over again, he played like a robot and he always looked at my hands to know where we were in the song, he could never play for himself.


If you listen to music from when you're a kid you'll be more "talented" than others, you learn faster and have other qualities than those who dont listen to music, but I still think some people are naturally talented. Like 12 year old kids who plays SRV flawless.

This post has been edited by Robin: Dec 2 2007, 03:36 PM


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Andrew Cockburn
post Dec 2 2007, 03:39 PM
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I believe in talent.

I also believe in hard work.

Of the 2 of them I would rate hard work as being the most important, I think talent can have an accelerating effect but won't necessarily get you somewhere you wouldn't get to by hard work on its own.

I am a case in point - I have a very good musical ear, I always remember having it, it was never taught to me. It helps me understand the relationship between notes, chords and harmonies without working at it. When I was young, I never understood why my contemporaries couldn't hear when they were playing wrong notes, it really confused me.

Now here's the downside - as a result I became lazy. I never really had structured or formalized practice, I just played for fun, and became reasonably good quite quickly, but never really dug in and practiced hard. Now I am about 10% of the guitarist I could have been if I actually worked hard at it from an early age.

GMC has inspired me to work hard now, but I have wasted a lot of time. So, talent or no talent, hard work is absolutely essential and will get you where you need to be. Talent just means you get more bang for your buck in my opinion.

The single thing I liked most about GMC was Kris saying " I don't have any talent - I worked my way to it" - if you only learn one thing from GMC, it should be that hard work is indispensable!


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The Uncreator
post Dec 2 2007, 04:06 PM
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Im not saying i dont belive in talent.

Some kids pick up instruments, and are just good at it right away. Some kids have to work at it. I dont believe in this.... "Hes that good because he was born that way, and born better than me at that instrument". He may have started out an awesome guitarist, but he still worked at it.

When i see a 7 year old write something as significant as "Whispering A Prayer", or "Powerslave" or "Painkiller", then ill retract my statement wink.gif
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Andrew Cockburn
post Dec 2 2007, 04:10 PM
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QUOTE (The Uncreator @ Dec 2 2007, 10:06 AM) *
When i see a 7 year old write something as significant as "Whispering A Prayer", or "Powerslave" or "Painkiller", then ill retract my statement wink.gif


Heh, yes that would be something wouldn't it? I think that proves the point though, 7 year olds don't write that kind of stuff because it takes experience and hard work. Talent gives you a springboard but can't supply 20 years of experience.


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Saoirse O'Shea
post Dec 2 2007, 05:19 PM
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Interesting thread smile.gif .

The research to me sounds like a typical 'nature vs nurture' type argument. If it is it's one that has been around for many years and many behavioural scientists, sociologists and indeed psychologists have argued for a more middle ground rather then a polarised dyad. To suggest that we have a simple causal relationship here is, to me, somewhat tenuous. It isn't the sort of psychological experiment that one might conduct in a lab under test conditions - thus it is a 'real life' one and as such there are many variables involved that either need to be excluded or accounted for.

To do this research adequately, as far as I can see, would require large scale longitudinal research over many years. Certainly one might argue that if the sample size was sufficiently large that one might then mathematically/statistically start to ameliorate these; or similarly one might argue that given a suitable model that one may then start to statistically look for relationships and be able to reduce uncertainty and control for the degrees of freedom. However given the form of stats involved herein there has long been an argument that such research becomes partial, subjective and arguably flawed: it leaves it's safe ground as a professed 'hard science' and enters the more murky waters of a social science.

Personally I don't think there's a problem with this move - indeed the research psychologists I get on academically with tend to see them selves as social psychologists rather then 'hard science' - BUT what is often apparent is that much here fails to account for its own methodological blind spot vis partiality and subjectivity. Speaking as someone trained in philosophy but with an earlier background in the hard sciences what passes for methodology is too often what I would term 'method' and not 'methodology' - it merely describes what was done and how but fails to come to terms with why and fails to reflect upon itself. 'Method' here is what is termed as surface description. If this research adequately accounts for methodology then great - but I somehow doubt it - without it though, to me, it acquires limited currency. I should say that I'm not attacking psychology or research psychologists rather what I am saying is that any research methodology needs to account for reflexively; yet little does.

On a much lighter note personally I tend to agree with Robin's point (and encompass the middle ground) but also see Pavel's point. Opportunity is important - and being exposed to music during your early years and having the opportunity to play with different instruments is important. One thing I was told many years ago was that everyone can play a musical instrument - the key is finding the instrument right for you. You often see children struggle with an instrument and then blossom when they take up a different one. Being surrounded by and hearing different music throughout our lives must surely have a positive affect - you get used to hearing particular note relationships, chord sequences, drum patterns and so on.

Nonetheless some children do seem to have a better sense of time from a very early age. Of my wife's two nieces, aged 3 and 6, the 3 year old has a much better sense of time then the 6 year old - yet both have been exposed to the same music and have the same opportunities to play instruments. Arguably the 6 year old has had 3 years more here and is 3 years more 'developed' so it should be the 6 year old who is better but not in this case. She has problems clapping out a slow, basic 4/4 - destined to be a drummer I guess wink.gif - yet her little sister can follow much more complicated patterns. The 3 year old just seems to have more talent then the 6 year old. I'm not claiming this as de facto truth - it is merely observation and, as Pavel very rightly says, my opinion wink.gif .

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Ivan Milenkovic
post Dec 2 2007, 05:32 PM
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THere are a lot of prodigy children, but very very small number of them goes through puberty and remains a great musician. Everyone can look in a 6 year old and be amazed with his talent, bu ta small number of this children becomes a genius in terms that he creates something for the future generation (like Mozart did for example). So i do beleive in talent, but human beings are a lot more complicated than it seems. I also strongly beleive in hard work as a foundation of any type success. Without hardwork - no success.


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David.C.Bond
post Dec 2 2007, 06:06 PM
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Some very good points made, and Tony picked up on some interesting issues with such research.
If anyone wants to read more into the article the reference is:
Sloboda, J. A., Davidson, J. W. & Howe, M. J. A., (1994). Is everyone musical? The Psychologist, 7 (7), 349-354.

And as Tony pointed out, it is certainly very closely related to the nature nurture debate. The thing with this debate is that 90% of the time, research into it finds it to be a mix of the two, therefore for a study to attempt to argue that there are no elements of nature involved is bound to be met with much disagreement.
I probably misrepresented my personal opinions on the research, as I personally believe there is a bit of both involved.
As Pavel mentioned, studies like this don't account for child prodigies, Mozart would be the classical example. I do believe theres often somewhat of a self fullfilling prophecy at work when 'musical geniouses' spring from very musical families though.
Environmental psychologists would have us believe that babies are born identical, the 'clean slate' idea. This study is certainly leaning towards this approach.


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Robin
post Dec 2 2007, 06:18 PM
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Hard work is necessary no matter what you do. I think its stupid when people says stuff like "Oh, you're so lucky because you got musical talent"
Anyone can become good with practice, but theres a few people that have more "talent" than others, and as I said, people who grow up listening to music are better than those who didnt(not necessarily technically better though)


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Owen
post Dec 2 2007, 06:32 PM
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Heh, the first guitar I played was actually one given to my brother as a present, he was always more naturally musical than me, despite being around the same amount of music I could barely keep a beat down, I had no concept of natural rhythm or pitch, or anything for that matter and he always outshone me.

But what I have and my brother lacks is the drive and the realisation that to get places you have to work hard, to this day he will not try anything for fear of failure or that he may have to work to achieve his goals, whereas I can practice on guitar for 5-6 hours he will just sit down and play PC games because he is too afraid to try anything incase he "cant do it", however, after three years of hard work (and sometimes not so hard work laugh.gif ) I have a far more advanced concept of music than he does despite having less musical perception to begin with.

So whilst I believe that some people can have slightly more natural talent to begin with I also believe it will never take the place of hard work.

Music, and more specifically guitar, I believe is 99% perspiration.

This post has been edited by Owen: Dec 2 2007, 06:34 PM


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Pavel
post Dec 2 2007, 08:03 PM
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Hard work, ha? Sure is! But i have a guy in my city (22 years old), who is practicing a lot, but he can't play a thing except for simple riffing. He's practicing sweeps for 2 years now - now result! He sucks at it!

How would you explain that?


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Owen
post Dec 2 2007, 09:31 PM
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He obviously isnt reiterating want he wants to achieve enough, either that or he is persisting with prolonged bad technique and possibly not pushing himself to a higher level.

I can only speculate but if practice hasnt paid off then he must be doing something wrong.


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SLASH91
post Dec 2 2007, 09:37 PM
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QUOTE (Pavel @ Dec 2 2007, 01:03 PM) *
Hard work, ha? Sure is! But i have a guy in my city (22 years old), who is practicing a lot, but he can't play a thing except for simple riffing. He's practicing sweeps for 2 years now - now result! He sucks at it!

How would you explain that?


His problem could be something like this:

https://www.guitarmasterclass.net/blog/?p=102


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David Wallimann
post Dec 2 2007, 09:48 PM
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I'll try not to go too much in my religious beliefs, but I believe in talent.

Now that doesn't mean that someone without talent can't make a living of music. One without talent can develop good musicianship with hard work and practice.

However, I think that some peopel are called to be musicians and are given a divine gift. Not because they deserve it in any way. Some are given musical gifts, others will be given another gift, like writing, or wisdom, or patience.. There are many many gifts.

The key is to find that gift, (or talent), and develop it. Of course that doesn't exclude people withgout that gift to succeed. Also, it is very possible for someone who has no talent to play better thatn someone with the gigft. That's where work and practice comes in.

Often times, someone who has that talent will rely on that gift and not develop it.

Thjat's my 2 cents... :-)


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Kristofer Dahl
post Dec 2 2007, 10:23 PM
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This topic is very dear to me and I would be very interested in reading what everyone has got to say about it (instructors as well as students). I have taken the liberty to paste what I said about it in this thread one year ago.
-----------------------------

I don't believe talent exists.

And if it does no one can ever objectively determine whether you have it or not. Not me, your mum or your music teacher.

The only thing I can tell when I hear somebody's recording is if I liked it or not. I cannot tell whether I liked it because they have practiced or if it's because they have talent or if it's a combination of both.

Unfortunately no scientific studies of rock n roll have been made yet - I suspect that's why there is an awful amount of bull going around on this topic. That is also why I like to make a stand against the whole talent thing.

Now here is something I do know - I exposed my playing and music to a lot of people in my early practicing stage and did not get any acknowledgement. This wasn't once or twice - there was an obvious trend. Now, I could have chosen to do as many people would have - acknowledge defeat... ("I don't have sense of timing, musicality...talent!)

But I didn't - that's when the fun begun. I told myself s**w them - they are speaking about talent as an excuse to why they never got anywhere, I won't let that happen to me. I sat down and practiced and now I make a living of my playing - thanks to motivation not talent (I will never know if I had any - but if I had listened to what others said, I wouldn't be were I am today and surely would have thought of myself as talentless.)

Now recently I have got to hear "Sure kristofer you can play guitar - that's your talent" - (where were these people 10 years ago??!!) - "but don't think you can write and sing songs"!! Ok so there are still a lot of ignorant people to convince. At the age of 23 I could barely sing a note in pitch - but is that going to stop me?

Recently I have practiced singing and songwriting - you will find my most recent attempt here. I can tell you that tune alone has been enough to prove my point to some people. However I intend to take this very much further and keep developing my singing and songwriting through new strategies. I like to use my brain and not my "talent".

...talent, an extremely miss-used word. How about we throw it in the bin and substitute it with the following ( English grammar experts please fill me out here):

motivation, starting-early, early-positive-stimulation

Now if you lack the the "early" parts no worries - that's why we have gmc. smile.gif

--Kris

PS Awesome discussions we got going on! biggrin.gif


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Layzer
post Dec 2 2007, 10:29 PM
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A bit off subject...but i have seen some children with Autism have perfect pitch and amazing talent but are completely unable to read music. Very interesting!


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