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Natural ability??

Discussion in 'Ask Anthony Wellington [archive]' started by cire113, Jul 6, 2011.

  1. cire113


    Apr 25, 2008
    Do you believe some people have natural abilitiy to play music?
  2. Ant Wellington

    Ant Wellington

    Jan 4, 2011
    No,...I don't believe people are born with any kind of natural ability. I think people are exposed to things in a deliberate way. I've been reading so many books on talent and deliberate practice that I'm convinced that hard work is the only way to achieve greatness.

    But I do think we all have different levels of deduction and reasoning and memory. All of those things affect 'intelligence'.

  3. sayman


    Dec 14, 2009
    Hard work and dedication is a must, but history shows that some skills come more quickly and easier to some.

    It's more advantageous to be a "have-not", as you get someone to learn from.
  4. skwee


    Apr 2, 2010
    Absolutely, the same way that some have a natural affinity to be doctors or mathematicians. I can't solve an advanced equation, but I can phrase, for example.
  5. Ant Wellington

    Ant Wellington

    Jan 4, 2011
    I disagree and can substantiate with facts and references that things don't come easier to some. What can be substantiated is that some people work harder and longer than others. I can list a string of books and scientist who will say the same thing.

    See if you can find references that say otherwise. I'll even ask that you find a great musician or athlete who is good at that endeavor for any other reason than hard work.

    Don't just make a statement on your belief if you haven't done any research into the matter. I've research this very subject for the last 10 years. And like I said,...I can site references.

    And I'll leave you with this quote.

    "My father says that if I hit 2,500 ball each day, I'll hit 17,500 balls each week, and at the end of one year I'll have hit nearly 1,000,000 balls. He believes in math. Numbers, he says, don't lie. A child who hits 1,000,000 balls each year will be unbeatable."
    -Andre Agassi

  6. Basshoofd


    Jan 14, 2009
    People like to use the word "talent" everytime someone is good at something. People are different, some have great bodies for basketball and others have a little bit more-than-average developed brain. These people can do certain things more easily than other things. You could call that "talent" even though it doesn't have the magical quality to it that people like to see. It's just a physical advantage.

    I personally don't think you need a good build to be a great musician. And there's nothing magical about beeing one either.

    I share the same interest Anthony, nice to see your view on it!
  7. sayman


    Dec 14, 2009
    I would love to have some of the references, sounds like an interesting topic.

    I guess my off-the-cuff examples would be anyone who, in similar circumstances as their fellows, rose to excel in their craft beyond what his peers could achieve. People like Bruce Lee, Babe Ruth, Wilt Chamberlain, etc. They worked very hard, to be sure, but so did many of their peers.

    Then there are geniuses like Mozart, Einstein, Tesla, Newton, etc. They had the same access to knowledge and training as their peers, but again were able to transcend the accepted knowledge of the time.
  8. Ant Wellington

    Ant Wellington

    Jan 4, 2011
    I'm on a motorcycle vacation so I don't have too much time to respond. But here are some great books on this very topic. I'll add more as I think if them.

    Right now I'm reading a book called Bounce.

    Bit there's also the Talent Code, Outliers, This Is Your Brain On Music, Music, The Brain and Ecstasy and Musiciphilia.

    I have many discussions with Daniel J. Levitin. He wrote 'This is Your Brain on Music. He's a musician and a neuroscientist.

    The concensus is that it takes 10,000 of deliberate practice to attain mastery at any endeavor. That's what all geniuses have in common.

    The book 'Bounce' discusses other factors that contribute to a persons devipement.

    I've read all of these books and more and I've had many discussion with experts in this field. And I've attended many lectures.

    When I make statements I like for then to be backed with knowledge. Not just how I 'feel' about something.

    I used to think I had a gift from God. Now I realized that I just worked harder than most people. And having a neighbor who had an extra bass helped. So did growing during the time if Motiwn and Funk help.

    Sorry, I got to get to my bike ride to Glacier Park in Montana!

  9. sayman


    Dec 14, 2009
    Thanks for the references, this is an interesting topic.

    I am still skeptical that everyone can be a Babe Ruth if they only trained hard enough, but I really should do the research first.
  10. sayman


    Dec 14, 2009
    Oh, and enjoy your ride!
  11. Ant Wellington

    Ant Wellington

    Jan 4, 2011
    No, don't put words in my mouth. I didn't say that everyone can be Babe Ruth if they train hard enough. What I said was that every one who is great put in hard work. The neuroscientist says 10,000. What they also say is that putting in the 10,000 hours don't guarantee greatness.

    That's why you have to be in love with the journey. It may not get you anywhere.
  12. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    I always the Shelly Manne quote " It's amazing how talented you are when you practice 12 hours a day..."
  13. f.c.geil


    May 12, 2011
    I was going to use that quote!

    Andre is one of my all-time favorite tennis players, and I've read his book many times. The problem with that quote and sentiment, though, is that Andre was not unbeatable, even though he was (by far) the hardest-working man in tennis. Sampras beat him quite regularly.

    While I agree in general that "talent" is merely shorthand for "lots of practice and dedication," there must be such a thing as "natural ability" and/or talent. There is no possible way that W. A. Mozart had enough time for the education and practice to be better than the other composers by the time he was five. Also, there are slews of other "child prodigies" out there, performing at (or nearly so) a professional level when they are still young. You can't get 20 years of work into five years. Again, though, for most people, most of the time, practicing well and prodigiously is the answer.

    So, by this, you are agreeing that there is a degree of natural ability involved. People who naturally hear more acutely will be able to learn to play by ear more easily, for instance.
  14. sayman


    Dec 14, 2009
    Oh, I misunderstood you then, I completely agree with that.
  15. Octavian

    Octavian Supporting Member

    Sep 25, 2009
    I'll jump in for a bit...experience so far has taught me it's a mixture of both natural talent and hard work. But, I'm defining natural talent a bit differently than most people. I think Anthony hit it spot on with natural talent simply being a degree and quality of exposure. The more exposure you have to a quality source, combined with nurturing, the more naturally gifted you will be. To take that "natural talent" to a higher level, well...that's where a lot of hard work comes in. And, not just hours of practice. But hours of perfect practice.

    I can put 10,000 hours on the bass and if I'm playing with my toes instead of my fingers, I probably won't be too good. I'll be interesting to watch, but not to listen to!
    But, if I can make each and every practice session count for all 10,000 hours...then watch out! This was aptly demonstrated to me by Anthony a couple of days ago in our first Skype session.

    Anthony, our mutual mohawked friend once put this in perspective for me when I made a comment about how good he was on the bass. He just smiled and said, "No, I'm just more experienced than you."

    Now...there will always be outliers like Einstein, Hawking and certain athletes, but for 99 percent of us, the range in our intelligence and physical abilities is really not that different from one another. It all boils down to what we do with it.

    So, my philosophy is I will be the Mozart of the electric bass. Guaranteed. It will happen. The only thing I can't guarantee is when. :)
  16. Ant Wellington

    Ant Wellington

    Jan 4, 2011
    And yes,...it's been shown that Mozart got his 10,000 hours in before he was a teenager.

    What I recommend to you 'doubters' is that you read 'Bounce' and/or 'Outliers'.

    And when it comes to facts and opinions,...

    I trust scientist and doctors WAY more than I trust musicians who haven't done any research at all.

    There's a difference between playing your bass and deliberate practice. I know a lot of musicians and most of them don't practice in a deliberate way. They just jam on stuff they are good at already.

    And that deliberate practice is complimented by nurturing, culture, environment and other 'advantages'. Like I said, most experts agree that what we call talent is just hard work.


    Michael Jordan, arguably the best basketball player ever, wad cut by his high school team. So between 16 and 20 God didn't just decide to bestow talent on him. And to say that demeans the hard work he put in. And it also gives lesser players and excuse not to work hard.

    And Victor Wooten, like Mozart, started playing before he was 5. And by the time he was 12 Victor was playing Stanley Clarke solos note for note. It's because of the hard work he put in. But also aided by the fact that his 4 older brothers were already great musicians when he was born. And he had parents who did whatever it took to help them prosper.

    Michael Jordon, Victor Wooten, Mozart, Tiger Woods, Mike Tyson all had great work ethic and grew up in an environment that encouraged growth.


  17. sayman


    Dec 14, 2009
    No argument here, all the greats worked insanely long and hard for their craft. No one is born an expert!

    I mistook your meaning, the point I was speculating on was given a large enough population, with individuals working just as long as hard as each other, there will be a few who will gain more skill and knowledge than others, for whatever physiological reasons. And a rare few who take things beyond the conventional wisdom of their times.

    But I admit I haven't read enough research on this seeming phenomena and it may well simply be due to harder work on the individual. I have a new interest in learning more about, well, learning.

    I have read recently how dopamine neurotransmitters acts as a motivator, giving us more pleasure for our achievements, which in turn gives us greater focus and encourages us to work harder for our goals. Perhaps people we term as having "Natural Ability" tranmit more dopamine and are consequently more focused in their practice?
  18. Ant Wellington

    Ant Wellington

    Jan 4, 2011
    Sounds very plausible. That's why most musicians just play licks or songs and call that practice. I think it's built into our DNA that we want to sound good. But these same neuroscientist say the growth is in 'failure'.
  19. this seems a most interesting topic. Thinking about it, all the great musicians I know that I've said have natural talent have actually spent literally days (some even months) at a time alone practicing at . If you dont mind a minor derail, What should you deliberately practice to get better? I can never seem to figure out how to practice groove.
  20. sayman


    Dec 14, 2009
    Huh, I get that - negative and positive motivators?

    I definitely have to read "Outliers" soon - but I still have "Blink" on the waiting list!