Some times I do have the feeling that there is still a majority of people who believe that a person is either “gifted” or not, and therefore one “has it” and can do it (whatever subject or specific skill we are talking about), and others cannot. And this cannot be changed.
I went to Berlin in the late 90ies, approaching the best Jazz Musicians to learn from them. Berlin is kind of the Jazz capital in Germany, so there are quite some world-class players around.
Later, from 2003 ongoing, I did spend a lot of time training Taijiquan and Qigong, always looking for good sources and having great opportunities to learn from real lineage-holder Masters. In those traditional lineages, the dedicated students used to have close relationships like in a family, spending a lot of lifetime together in order to train and learn more, constantly and intensively.
After all these experiences I am pretty convinced that the general concept of ether being or not being “talented” is a very untruthful one! Especially the real Masters are all emphasizing how much work they put into their Art. I believe, there is no such thing as “talent”, at least not in the way it is usually understood.
There is no “talent”, but the will to practice.
We need to get INSPIRED!
What I observe in people in general is a struggle to keep the focus and concentrate on one thing for more than 30 seconds … And I did this for HOURS, and the whole procedure FOR YEARS, and I did this with different things (mainly Music and Taijiquan, but also Meditation and holistic bodywork). And all the really great Musicians and Masters I met, they did exactly this type of work their whole life, focusing on only one thing!
I also got this “charming” feedback from people, that I am so “talented”. But I by myself know best about all the work behind every single result I got. If I have one talent, then I would say it is a general understanding of learning procedures. I know how to break down complex things into single pieces, then how to process those pieces and how put them together again. Every little step in this needs exercises! Finally, people only see the result, having no clue about all the tedious work behind it!
I think there are two kind of people: the ones who like to train/learn/practice things and those who, for whatever reason, do not enjoy such kind of work too much. Among this second group, there are some who follow this concept of being or not being gifted, quite a lot.
It’s function may be only to justify wrong believes (mainly negative judgments on ourself, very self-destructive) and/or to justify laziness (witch is also self-destructive). Modern psychology might proof this just too well. But we do not want to work on this now psychologically, let’s get practical on the flute! This, in case, might also heal us psychologically …
Let’s have a closer look:
Having said that there is no such thing like “talent” now I have to point out that I did NOT say that everybody has the same prerequisites! And here is the key of understanding the whole issue.
We humans are quite complex, and the world we live in is just as complex. And everybody and everything is unique. Yes, we all have two eyes, one nose, one brain etc. But not one of my cells is also one of yours, right?
The nature of practicing an art
In order to explain the different prerequisites which I observed, I need to explain a bit about the nature of “practice”:
To learn an art is quite different compared to other things.
To learn an art like Music (or Martial Arts, painting, bodywork etc …), we need to CONSTANTLY PRACTICE. It is more than just memorizing one thing after another, until the picture is complete.
We need to set strong foundations. Therefore we have specific exercises, and those we basically will do for the rest of our lifes. These procedures will create certain skills and qualities, and out of those Music will emerge. For instance getting a good sound: on the flute similar to the violin. We need to play long sustaining notes, over and over again. Day by day, year by year. This way the sound will be refined, and our body and mind can relax more and more. A little bit like a preparation exercise for Meditation.
Having a good sound now comes into play with every single note we play in whatever piece of music. Always. So this is a very crucial aspect.
But there are more of those aspects and specific skills. They all together form the “ability to play”. Translated back into the common thinking, this is what people tend to call “talent”.
Let’s have a closer look, to get out of all those abstract words:
Prerequisites for playing the flute
I will go more specific now for the flute, actually for playing music in general. Only certain aspects need to be emphasized differently for other instruments. The topic “Sound” for instance will be a little different for flute- or violin-players, compared to piano-players. But they also HAVE this topic!
The skills we need are:
- good sound
- good intonation
- good timing & rhythm
- little knowledge about theory (depending on specific styles this varies)
- a good attitude (esp. when playing together with others)
Requirements for a good practice are:
- patience (with ourself!)
– the best here is to become totally “non-judgmental”
- a good method
I hope, that with these two lists things are clearing up already. And we can see the individual differences from person to person. The key is to develop the prerequisites. Learning to play music requires the skills in the first list, and developing those skills requires the all the attributes from the second list.
If one or more of those is aspects very weak we will have a hard time. And then we might call ourself “not gifted”, right? So why not start there and work on the weak aspects?
One of my very first Jazz Guitar teacher told me already years ago:
There is only one talent, and that is the will to work it out.
Without that all other attempts are useless, and we better go and do some “external” stuff, like shopping, watching movies, finding new fancy food, having the same old chats with the same old friend over and over again etc. But if we have this will, then let’s get started.
Maybe we should make an inventory of our self first. Or you can do this also simultaneously while practicing. Let’s check on:
- our ability to focus (which can and should be trained with every single exercise we do),
- our relaxation (can be enhanced wherever we go, and whatever we practice) and
- our patience (same thing, to be applied in actually all live situations).
Just bringing the awareness to those aspects will train them already. Only be aware not to step into The Trap of Perfectionism, and please also be aware that judgments, especially those on our self, are quite tricky. Best is to become fundamentally non-judgmental.
On this topic, please also have a look at the article The Non-Competitive Mindset (this goes to another website of us, but this topic is universal and relevant for music as well!).
To find practical examples and exercises, please check the Blog Category “Learn to play”, and to stay updated about new releases, please sign-up for the newsletter.
See u soon and happy practicing,