Practise vs gift

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by The Captain, Jan 31, 2008.


  1. The Captain

    The Captain Member

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    I know there are a couple of threads on this already but I had some insights I wanted to be seen.
    Rather than thinking "gift", maybe "predisposition" ?
    Thinking deeper, maybe this has to do with the degree of reward e get when we attempt a task for the first time. This reward can be exrinsic, in the form of success and praise, it can be negative in the form of failure and shame, or it can be intrinsic in teh form of endorphin release.
    Reward pathways and sensitivity to mood altering neurotransmitters/neuromodulators have been shown to be significant in the establishment and maintenence of many behavioural patterns.
    So, if we take a child who is a blank canvas ( assuming that for the moment) and expose them to sensory stimuli ( eg music), some will respond to that with interest, some with disinterest. Let's say there is a piano in the room. One child may make the connecion between the music they are hearing on the radio, one might not. Possibly a trial behaviour occurs, whereby a child attempts to reproduce the melody they are hearing on the piano. This behaviour may be reinforced by success, which can be heard by the child, or by praise from a parent. It may be extinguished by failure or by rebuke. The trial of behaviour may be thwarted by another child having possession first, no access, parental denial of access etc.
    Success may be futher follwed by formal training. Failure may be followed by a label of "no musical talent" therefore no formal training to back it up.
    Time goes by, one child is seen as "gifted", one is not.

    There are many possible variations on this scenario, but you get the general idea.
    Most importantly, there is no doubt that we all take to one task or another more readily than another. While myself, Ken, Ed, Steve VAi and others all swear they have no talent and it's all hard work, there is no doubt that results from hard work seem to come more easily to some than to others.
    It is really just why this is so that we are discussing.
    I'm going on holiday for two weeks now, and rudely won't really be checking in on this thread, but I hope for some more insights from you all.
     
  2. RichW

    RichW Member

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    How about 'the gift of practicing'? I've found that not everyone is as efficient and methodical about practicing as others are. These 'organizational' elements, as well as the ability to self-reflect (if you have no teacher to point out your flaws) are, in my opinion, very important to include in any consideration of hard work vs. raw talent.

    Basically, some people are just better/more efficient at doing the hard work, regardless of their raw talent for playing guitar.
     
  3. Dave Orban

    Dave Orban Gold Supporting Member

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    Practice is certainly important, no doubt.

    But, like anything, some things come very naturally to some folks. Others have to work a lot harder at it, just for meager progress.
     
  4. RichW

    RichW Member

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    I completely agree. I was just trying to point out that the 'hard work vs. talent' debate has more angles to it than most people seem to recognize. You can have talent for hard working.
     
  5. 57tele

    57tele Member

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    There was a thread on this a few months ago. People who study things like 'expertise' tend to conclude that the 'gift' has most to do with the ability to focus and stay disciplined, which translates into putting in the hours. There are certainly individual differences in other aspects, but this is the one that stands out again and again when examined systematically.
     
  6. The Captain

    The Captain Member

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    This is really what I was getting at. But why do I find it easy to devote practise time to guitar, but really hard to practise knitting ? I'm not stupid , I have a medical degree. I loved biochem, but hated physics.
    I am suggesting that the devotion to practise or not has a lot to do with the immediate reward we might get from it. The brain forms reward pathways a lot. Smoking, for example is maintained by a reward pathway, which is interupted by the anti-smoking drug Zyban. Reductil works similarly to suppress appetite but interupting the reward pathway associated with eating.
    I'm looking at the "gift" or "genetic" angle, thining that what it really is , is early formation of or possibly "hard-wired" reward pathways associated with musical endeavour, which promote dedication and application.
    Hard-wired behaviours are very easy to re-inforce. Humans don't have many, but we do have some. Sex behaviour is one of them.
    Maybe the "gifted" child gets a big blast of endorphins from music that the "non-gifted" don't. Something must have motivated the first man who built a harp or lyre. I know most boys get pleasure from belting things rhythmically, which is probably the most basic and primal form of music. Now that i think of it, sex is rhythmical, maybe it is linked to that ?
    The scenario I painted above is very much the story of me and my older brother. He learned piano by ear, and got a lifetime of musical teaching. I did not, and got bugger all, but my dedicaiton to and interest in music is far greater than his. I'm just trying to understand all this , so I can break down my learning blocks, which I undoubtably have.
    Before these recent conversations, I had always thought of him as gifted, and me as not , so forgive me if I am :horse but I have been immensely motivated by stuff I have read here lately, and I am grateful to you all for that. Perhaps I was simply not nurtured in the same way, but if I apply that nurture now, maybe it is not too late.
    :BEER
     
  7. willhutch

    willhutch Member

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    I believe there are differences in the structures and chemistry of our brains and bodies that give us all a unique set of things we are good at and not-so-good at.

    Music making is an activity that activates many areas of the brain and body. Therefore, any individual will be have areas of music-making at which they are good and at which they are not-so-good.

    The nature vs nurture debate is implicit in the question. From the statements above, I believe people have innate aptitude for certain things. But this is typically not as influential as the role of cultivation of skill. I think this is particularly true in the technical aspects of playing a musical instrument.

    Now, there is one aspect of music-making where I think hard work cannot make up for a lack of a musical gift - composition. I believe that being able to compose music that touches the soul is a you-have-it-or-you-don't kind of thing. Compare music to the skill of writing, which most people do with about the same level of profiency. The thing seperates us from the great authors is that great authors HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY. Creativity and the ability to create something that has meaing to others can only be developed to a limited degree.
     
  8. TonyV

    TonyV Member

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    If practice was all that was needed I would be a 2 handicap. ;)
     
  9. Ed DeGenaro

    Ed DeGenaro Supporting Member

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    This implies that music is akin to sports with a definitive goal in mind. Whereas I do believe it has more to do with a form of communication. Do you engage in a conversation and worry whether you can run on a sentence faster than the next guy. You learn the rudiments and use them to get a though across, and that's all there is to it.
    Not like you worry about stabbing yourself in the face when eating with a fork, but you had to learn how to do that at one point too. Or a little better analogy, you aren't driving to work thinking.. 'kay, I'm going 17 miles an hour time to shift in the next gear, put foot on clutch, shift gears, let go of clutch, concentrate on steering...

    I have an issue with the believe that art has to be either overthought or can't be broken down into it's components. However in the end those are things that we learn and then move on and just make a joyous noise...hopefully.
     
  10. Gene

    Gene Member

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    There is a great book by Dr. Diana Deutsch that talks exactly about this. The book is called Psychology of Music. Ability and Achievement is the premise.

    Musical talent is definitely innate. Whether the person then goes on to become a musician or even a good one because of this innate ability is unknown.

    In my experience, people have different degrees of ability. If I give it a scale to make it easier to grasp, let's say musician A was born with 5 for ability and musician B was born with 20 for ability.

    With incredible discipline and work, I think the musician A can achieve maybe a 10 or 15. On the other hand, if the musician B with 20 doesn't do anything at all with his talent, he can probably fall to about a 10 or so.

    I know this is non-exact but I don't think you can be in this case. Really, it doesn't matter in the end. You can't change your innate ability. If you love music, then do it. And spread some joy and beauty to yourself and others.
     
  11. 84leek

    84leek Member

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    here are 3 good books that i have read recently. These help me get outside myself to understand music and the brain more. the books. " This is your brain on music' by daniel j. levitin.... "musicophilia" by oliver sacks ..... "the singing neanderthal" by steven mithen.... i like the idea that steven pinker thinks that music is auditory cheesecake.[ i dont] Could it be that the purpose of and development of music have to do with 'picking up chicks". Read deeper into that. This is complex stuff as there are trillions of connections in the development of the brain . And there are very few scientists researching the brain and music. one of those books says there are about 250 scientists doing research on this. fascinating stuff
     
  12. Clifford-D

    Clifford-D Member

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    This is right on.

    It addresses the op plus presents another avenue to explore
    regarding expression.

    Seems if you're good enough to sound like youself, you look around
    and see the other players that sound like themselves.
    Everyone sounds a bit different.

    People are different, they are born into whatever body they were dealt.
    Sometimes it doesn't work right.
    Sometimes it excels.

    One thing for sure, there isn't another body like it. It's unique.

    That is the game. Find who you are and what you can be.

    :)
     
  13. brad347

    brad347 Member

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    The best "gift" you can have, as far as music-making is concerned, is a natural curiosity for and love for music (and that doesn't mean the idea of being a musician, but rather a genuine love for and curiosity about the sounds themselves).

    With that, everything will take care of itself and any deficiency or obstacle, real or imagined, can be overcome (cf. Django Reinhardt, Ludwig Von Beethoven, etc etc etc).
     
  14. Clifford-D

    Clifford-D Member

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    Nicely put.

    But sometimes a kick in the pants wakes someone up.

    No, don't believe in spanking,
    empowering, sure
    power of choice.

    "Butters, you can just stay in this room young man, until you stop making that face
    "
    .

    :D



    .
     
  15. jspax7

    jspax7 Member

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    If you took 2 students, one "gifted" and one "average" and had them practice the same things, in the same way, for the same amount of time each day, it might be easier to assess whether one is truly "gifted".

    In my experience, the students who practice effectively are the ones who see the greatest results. The gifts that we give our students are the tools to become better musicians.
     
  16. KRosser

    KRosser Member

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    I've said it before, I'll say it again.

    Playing guitar is only one thing in life that's very important to me.

    Some of my endeavors come easily.

    Some of them are a daily uphill struggle.

    And all points in between are represented somewhere....

    Life, right?

    This is just another superfluous dilemna.
     
  17. Gene

    Gene Member

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    Banacos and I were discussing one of his student who is mildly autistic. His gift for music is off the charts. He is 8 years old and plays piano...

    Musical memory, hearing, ability to play back almost anything he hears after 1 attempt. And we are talking complex musical pieces.

    I have never met anyone who has been able to match this by sheer practice and hard work. You either were born with it or not.

    Will this kid even be interested in music at age 15? Who knows.
     
  18. rotren

    rotren Member

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    I am a big believer in that hard work can get you almost any where you want. I don't have any special talent, although sometimes people tell me so, which I do appreciate, of course. However, I know I don't have this real natural talent, because I have seen players with such talent who could learn stuff a million times faster than me and also execute what they played cleaner and with better timing.

    However, I spent a lot of time practicing when I was younger, and I got to about the same place as these other players, but it just took me way longer.

    I also think that if someone with this real natural talent also puts in a lot of hard work and practice, they'll become "world class players", no doubt.
     
  19. Gene

    Gene Member

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    Definitely world class "players" but will they really have anything to say artistically? Being naturally talented does not mean you will have any need to express your life observation/experience in a musical language.

    Some say suffering in life is a prerequisite to creating meaningful art that speaks to the difficult task of living ones life in this world with all of its beauty and ugliness. Although I don't buy into this thought 100%, it certainly has merit for discussion.

    In the end, natural talent or not, it is about the individual. This whole shallow thought of he/she is better/worse than me is just that. You are not loving/playing music, I hope, so you can beat some PacMan highscore. But then again, you might be... That is really none of my business.
     
  20. henry_the_horse

    henry_the_horse Member

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    Autists are more sensitive to stimuli than a healthy person. For some tasks their exalted sensitivity can be an advantage, but their condition makes them to be alerted by the rest of the society and stressed by noises. It is socially a disadvantage. I don't see were the "gift" is. It is clearly a condition they are suffering from.

    Regards
     

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