So i've been thinking about musical prodigies lately after seeing some on tv. I don't understand how someone can have a natural ability to play an instrument. I understand having a natural ability to write music, but isn' musical skill based of muscle memory?

Can anyone enlighten me on this?
It depends heavily on musical influences. A kid can be labeled a prodigy because he's great at playing an instrument simply because he understands the phrasing and expression of the type of work that he's playing.
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Read "This Is Your Brain On Music" by Daniel Levitin.

It'll answer your question and much more.

...modes and scales are still useless.

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i think everyone has different parts of their brain that naturally work better than the other parts and some people are lucky enough to have the parts you use to play guitar performing better...

or something like that
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we learned this in psychology. i can't remember what part of the brain controls musical ability (maybe right frontal lobe??) but chances are the child prodigy has a well developed part of the brain that controls musical ability and it develops at a faster rate than other people. this isn;t saying that they know how to play guitar or piano right off the bat. BUT they can learn wayy faster because their brain can remember simple repetitions. you know how you try to play a song and u have to think uber hard? but eventually u can just play it without thinking at all. well it's that part of your brain taking over. the prodigy child just has a faster developing one so they can figure out a song way faster than us normies.
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I hope this thread doesn't lead to people naming people like Steve Vai or Buckethead as prodigy examples.

Yeah. There are definitely a lot of mislabeled prodigies.

Lots and lots and lots of dedicated practice coupled with perfect pitch.

Yet these kids seem to have a natural ability with playing certain instruments...