A common topic of conversation among musicians and non-musicians is the concept of talent. Does a student have to be talented to excel in music lessons? Most non-musicians claim that being good at music is all about natural talent, while many musicians I’ve talked to claim that it’s mostly passion and hard work. So what is the difference between passion and talent? Arthur Buddhold said “ follow your passion, and success will follow you.” Passion is a positive kind of obsessive love, where one cannot help but to devote oneself to it. It is that devotion that spurs the impassioned musician to keep playing music. They must play, they have to play, and so they do, over and over and over again. That repetition and practice, enjoyable as it may be, is the deepest type of indoctrination and most importantly, is a process of learning. So because of this many passionate musicians are also considered to be talented.
To talk about talent alone is easy. It is simply a natural biological advantage in a specific area. It’s bland, it’s boring, and a musician with pure talent and nothing else is not often talked about in the history books. It cannot reasonably be denied that natural talent exists and often breeds passion which breeds success, but that is not always the case. Talent can be twisted and turned against the talented, it can give rise to alienation, or guilt. So it is of the utmost importance that parents of musically talented children choose a teacher that can guide that talent into true passion, and not merely into robotic perfection. It is passion combined with their natural talent that creates that which we ultimately desire for our children: happiness. Talented children should be given a chance to share their gifts with the world on their own terms.
So what about the larger percentage of people, who aren’t gifted from birth with a natural sense of harmony, melody, and rhythm? Well, for them, practice is the one and only answer. Talent is not an on/off switch, it is a scale. Some people are on the higher end than others, and most are somewhere in the middle. Which means that most people have natural musical ability. The nature versus nurture question often comes up at this point. People in various African tribal cultures where rhythm and dance are a part of everyday life from birth are often credited as having superior skills in those areas compared to people growing up without a lot of music. So is every person in that tribe born on the highest end of the musical talent scale? Probably not. A more likely explanation is simply that they learned rhythm and dance at a younger age and continued to practice it every day, making them better at it than those who grew up in a different cultural environment.
The trick is, if you want to be good at something, surround yourself with it! Listen to classical music, it can teach valuable lessons about form and structure. Listen to other kinds of music than just what is on the radio, there is a whole world of music out there that isn’t mainstream but is still amazing in its own way. Play as much as you can whenever you can find time. Learn more than one instrument. Go to see local bands, symphonies, and operas and listen to them critically. Make music a part of your every day life and you will begin to notice things in it that you never have before. And perhaps then, the concept of “talent” will no longer matter.
Guest post by Holly Shephard, Piano Teacher with Emily Lowe’s Music Star Studios based in Nashville, TN!
If you are currently seeking lessons in piano, guitar, voice, strings, woodwinds, brass or percussion / drums, then call Music Star Studios at 615.509.1753! Based in Nashville, Brentwood, and Franklin, TN, our knowledgeable teachers provide music lessons both in-home and online by webcam! We select our teachers carefully and want all of our students to shine!