#1
Ahh yes, the age old debate; nature or nurture? Is their a predestined limit to how good you can be? Are there really players who are just better?

Work Ethic and Natural Talent

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I am always pointing out to musicians that we can learn so much from life that applies to music. I was just lecturing a really close friend as she cried and whined about the state of her life that all she really needed to do was reprioritize, get educated and get working.

This got me thinking about guitar players I have met (both on the net and in person). I hear a lot of guys say things like "It takes natural talent to play like that" and "I'll never be that good". I personally know of countless guitarists that let themselves fall short of even coming within sight of their potential simply because they do not have the drive to work at it.

I remember a time when I first got into playing music that I thought if I could only play the intro to "Wanted Dead Or Alive" by Bon Jovi that I would have achieved something. (I know, pop music sucks, etc... but that little descending arpeggiated acoustic part was damn catchy!!)

After that, my next plateau was the Randy Rhoads Tribute album live solo, then "Frenzy" by Paul Gilbert, then, the entire "Rising Force" album. To me, each of these were the first milestones I set for myself. I reached them all within 6 or 7 months of picking up the guitar.

Am I gifted? No. I just worked hard at it. Early on in life I came to the realization that barring extreme disabilities, anything one human being can achieve, most others can. It simply takes work. I played a minimum of 8 hours a day the first 3 years that I played guitar. It was not uncommon for me to skip school, skip work and just play. I picked up the guitar at age 18 and by age 21 I was giving lessons to guys who had played almost as long as I had been alive. Within a year of starting my instrument, I was a music major in college. Three years after I touched the guitar for the first time, I was opening for big time bands and had bands from all over the country playing with mine.

Now, my father was a concert pianist (not for a living) form the age of 11 until sometime in college, and my grand dad taught guitar and played in pro jazz bands since his WW2 days. Did I inherit talent? Maybe I was given a slight headstart, but my grandfather would disagree. He told me straight up that I would never be any good at a musical instrument, that I was the most "unmusical" person he had even known. To this day, I thank him for saying this to me. It was precisely that challenge that drove me.

It is true that some children take to music easier than others. I have two teenaged kids, and it was interesting to see my son dance as an infant, he currently sings in his school chorus. My daughter showed an instant love of music, but god I cannot stand to hear her attempt to sing along with her favorite songs, the concepts of melody and rhythm are lost on her completely.

I have been told by teahcers, fans, students and friends that I am "gifted" and was "born to play". This simply is not true at all. I worked damn hard, gave up anything resembling a social life for nearly 3 years. I studied hard. I focused on aspects of playing that appealed to me, and simply would not stop practicing them until they were conquered. I am and always have been an insomniac, I sleep maybe 4 to 6 hours a night, if at all. All of my nights were filled with practice, all of my days. I had literally no life. I even stopped dating for a while because the guitar allowed me no time for it.

I overcame my "lack of talent" through work and determination. Nobody is born to play like Paul Gilbert, John Petrucci or Steve Vai. Read old interviews with these guys, they practiced hard and heavy. Yngwie joked once about having a strat shaped indent in his ribs. You don't practice an hour a day and achieve great things, this applies to ANYTHING in life.

Sure, you can get by, maybe get rich, without working at it, but those of you reading this that truely wish to be free of any technical limitations and display complete mastery of your instrument, you need to practice. My brother often tells people that from the day I picked up the guitar he simply can't recall seeing me without one.

So, the good news is, anybody, barring unusual or extreme disabilities, can become a virtuoso on any instrument with enough work. The bad news is, it takes sacrifice, and you need to be honest with yourself and ask why you are doing it. You can become the most technically proficient player on Earth and that still does not guaruntee any success in the music biz. I know that my fortune in life probably will not come from my playing or my composing, I do it simply because I must. Because God made me need it. More than anything in life, music gives me peace, makes me whole, makes me who and what I am. Anyone with even half that much love of the art and commitment to excellence can break any barrier.

One more bit of bad news, if chops are not maintained, they diminish. I quit playing for 5 years about 7 years ago, and because I am very busy and have kids and a non musical job and other things, I still cannot play nearly as proficiently as before. Don't get me wrong, I can play just about anything I can hear, but now it takes time and practice, whereas before it all was so effortless because of the intimate connection I had developed with my instrument.

About the time I quit playing guitar, I was going to take up the piano. I bought a keyboard with 88 fully weighted keys and some books and started at it. I got "OK" at it. I mainly wanted to play piano because it is an orchestra in and of itself. The limitations of the guitar become very obvious once one really digs into the piano. I learned some cool music, of course some Beethoven and Mozart stuff, Rachmaninoff and some Chopin. I realized though, that I simply did not have the time nor inclination to master the instrument. Sure I could have dropped out of life for a few years, but I had been down that road with the guitar, and did not really see myself being able to stay the course.

There are exceptions to everythig I just said. It has been said that Mozart quite possibly had the highest IQ of any known person. This would easily explain his early musical successes, that and the fact that he was driven by his father. Beethoven was abusively driven by his father, yet if he had died before the age of 35, the age of Mozart at his death, he may have never been remembered as a master. So it is true that there are some people born with a more developed brain, or a brain developed in a different area than others, but these cases are rare.

Natural talent may define a starting point, but certainly not the ending point of ones musical achievements. The jury is still out in scientific circles regarding nurture vs nature, but I have seen an awful lot that persuades me that we are more a product of conditioning than we are genetics. People born with disabilites are at times able to overcome them with the right support and training.

One thing is true, there is a definite advantage to beginning the process earlier. Beginning musical study before the age of 5 will definitely give you a huge headstart. As we age, it is more difficult to form new neural pathways in the brain, hence learning becomes more laborious. Still, this does not mean we cannot learn at an older time in life, simply that more work is required to achieve the same end result.

So, the next time you see a musician perform and it makes you feel 2 inches tall, instead of sighing and saying "must be nice", just go home and practice.
#3
nice
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#4
i agree with you on the fact that we all have to practise. But honestly, some people are just born with the ability to learn or play whatever instrument they choose. However, it isnt just musicians who are born with 'natural ability' there are sports men and women, artists, and braniacs too. I mean not everyone can sing right?? If you cant sing, no matter how much you practise you probably wouldnt be able to sing like some of those other amazing vocalists out there, maybe the fact that im 15, i dont have the same amount of life experience as yourself, but some people are built with the natural ability. It may not be genetic, but some people are just born with it.

No one in my family plays an instrument, no one can sing, dance or even be partly musical. They've all got two left feet and are tone deaf but for some weird and wonderful reason, im the only one that can play the piano or guitar. I've skipped 3 piano exams and im grade 5 yet i've only been playing solidly for 5 years and i only practise a max of 5 hours a week?? and you think that my talent is out of practise?? im not trying to be a know-it-all or say that im better than all the rest but dont you think that my talent and people like myself have something special? that its not just the fact that we practise???

A good friend of mine has been playing guitar for a very short time and hes the worlds greatest guitarist, he has the technical brilliance of vai and hendrix and has the hearing of a bat (or whatever other animal has super sensitive hearing) hes not a show off, most people just remember him as the short weird guy with bad acne, but he plays the guitar like no body else, maybe its just that hes a friend of mine but he really has a natural ability!!
#5
I totally disagree with Emily, with my argument being that I totally agree with spaivxx

Spaivxx, may I ask you what band you were in? Were you well-known?
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#7
The natural talent comes with the writing and creativity and innovation in my opinion. Technicality comes from practise and learning.
#8
Quote by Emily...
i agree with you on the fact that we all have to practise. But honestly, some people are just born with the ability to learn or play whatever instrument they choose. However, it isnt just musicians who are born with 'natural ability' there are sports men and women, artists, and braniacs too. I mean not everyone can sing right?? If you cant sing, no matter how much you practise you probably wouldnt be able to sing like some of those other amazing vocalists out there, maybe the fact that im 15, i dont have the same amount of life experience as yourself, but some people are built with the natural ability. It may not be genetic, but some people are just born with it.

No one in my family plays an instrument, no one can sing, dance or even be partly musical. They've all got two left feet and are tone deaf but for some weird and wonderful reason, im the only one that can play the piano or guitar. I've skipped 3 piano exams and im grade 5 yet i've only been playing solidly for 5 years and i only practise a max of 5 hours a week?? and you think that my talent is out of practise?? im not trying to be a know-it-all or say that im better than all the rest but dont you think that my talent and people like myself have something special? that its not just the fact that we practise???

A good friend of mine has been playing guitar for a very short time and hes the worlds greatest guitarist, he has the technical brilliance of vai and hendrix and has the hearing of a bat (or whatever other animal has super sensitive hearing) hes not a show off, most people just remember him as the short weird guy with bad acne, but he plays the guitar like no body else, maybe its just that hes a friend of mine but he really has a natural ability!!


BS.
He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt.
He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would fully suffice.


Remember: A prudent question is one half of wisdom.

Click.
#9
Emily, in my original post I apoligize for my ineptness. It was my intention to state that natural ability can account for someone having a good headstrat. Let me try and clarify this:

Natural talent defiens where you begin, not how far you can go. I do agree that some people may be physically or mentally developed in areas where others aren't

Take your singing example. I cannot song at all. It's not that I cannot hit the correct ptches, it is that I have difficulty controlling my voice. Also, my voice is much like a movie mobster voice: gruff and threatening. Now, if I were willing, and if I had the proper coaching, I have no doubt that I could learn to sing. If I were to put much effort into it, I could probably be taught to sing quite well.

Dancing, to say I had two left feet would be to give me too much credit. But I cannot even begin to practice dancing because I feel so completely retardred doing it. Many women in my life have tried to teach me, but I cannot overcome the feeling of complete sillyness any time I even attempt it. But, the funny thing, put a guitar in my hand, get me on stage, and I am all about moving with the music.......

tp600, you may be right about the natural talent and witing and all. But, then again, even those things can be developed with practice. Write 100 songs and I guaruntee you that if you analyze and work over each one, with the goal being to ecome better at it, and with the proper education and guidence, your 100th will be far better than your first.....

I am not stating that I do not believe in natural talent, just that I feel it enters the equation much more towards the bginning of the process than towards the end.

elvenkindje... I highly doubt you have heard of any of the bands I was in. The one which got the most noteriety and was the closest to success was an old metal band from the early 90's called "Retribution". I could wax nostalgic for days about my years in that band and all the crazy/fun times that came with them. I got to meet a lot of pepole who did make it through that band. for instance, a guy named Fred Durst had a band called Ten Foot Shindig that opened up for us occasionally. Alex Skolinik, one of my fvorite metal guitarists from back in the day (way back, we're talking like the 80s/early 90s!!!) was in Savatage when we played with them. Was cool becasue I got to hang out with someone whose music I had spent so much time studying.

We played with a lot of bands whose names you may recognize, but drugs and women ended the band. That and piss poor management. We had a stage show that most of todays metal bands would be envious of. Pyrotechinics, lasers, track spots, etc... I had my own guitar tech (as did the other 4 members of the band.) For close to 4 years I had lived as though we were famous, but, als, we never were......

Below is a link to a song from our CD.

http://www.soundclick.com/bands/songInfo.cfm?bandID=450859&songID=4054749

If you do not like bands like Queensryche, Fates Warning, Maiden, etc.... do not click it. The singer's voice can be ver yannoying if it's not what you are into. At the time I thought he was great. This was my first band, first time in a real studio and first CD . Just so ya know, there are some cool guitar parts toward the middle tothe end of the tune.....

Anyhow thanx alot guys for reading these posts of mine, I love nothing more than music and I very much enjoy sharing my knowledge and experiences, it makes me very happy to meet others who also love music and wish to delve deeply into it, even if their opinions differ from mine.
#11
*yawn* That's quite a resume.

I can appreciate the topic, it was something I was going to write about too. Make it a little more impersonal. You tie yourself into every paragraph... it's a distraction to the reader. If you're going to do that, start off and finish with that. At the very least, separate the parts about yourself from the key points of the article.
#12
Quote by NotAJock2Day
*yawn* That's quite a resume.

I can appreciate the topic, it was something I was going to write about too. Make it a little more impersonal. You tie yourself into every paragraph... it's a distraction to the reader. If you're going to do that, start off and finish with that. At the very least, separate the parts about yourself from the key points of the article.


I see what you mean, I just tend to communicate better when relaying info from my own personal perspective. In the future I shall endeavor to take a less personal approach.
#13
I like the music! Mostly a jazzer, but I listen to metal from time to time and this appeals to me Also, is the Fred Durst you speak of the same as the one in Limp Bizkit?
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#14
Quote by elvenkindje
I like the music! Mostly a jazzer, but I listen to metal from time to time and this appeals to me Also, is the Fred Durst you speak of the same as the one in Limp Bizkit?


Yeah, Bizkit were from here Jacksonville Fla. We have a very small scene here in which everyone knows everyone just about, and it was even smaller back before Bizkit broke. Ask anyone here in town that was gigging back then and they likely have some Durst or LB storeis.

Funny part is, Skynnard is from here to. I am no southern rock fan at all, but anyone who lived in Jax during the days when Lynard Skynard were doing their thing has storeis about them too.....
#15
Quote by spaivxx
Yeah, Bizkit were from here Jacksonville Fla. We have a very small scene here in which everyone knows everyone just about, and it was even smaller back before Bizkit broke. Ask anyone here in town that was gigging back then and they likely have some Durst or LB storeis.

Funny part is, Skynnard is from here to. I am no southern rock fan at all, but anyone who lived in Jax during the days when Lynard Skynard were doing their thing has storeis about them too.....


must of been sweet growing up when skynard was comming up..
#16
Mostly agreed, good article.

I heard that False Prophet song before, I must say its pretty cool.