Why are some people born with natural talent?
Why is it that some people just pick up a guitar and know how to play, while others take lessons for years and never get anywhere? Why do some people seem to have been born with natural talent for something, like playing the guitar, or programming computers, or playing chess, or drawing pictures? Why are some people naturally good at these things and others aren’t?
I see this question come up in a couple of different ways.
Some people say they don’t have any natural ability and they will never be as good as someone else. They’re right. They won’t be as good as someone who has worked hard and gotten better over many years. But no one is naturally better than anyone else. Everyone has to put in the same amount of work. No one gets to skip out on the practice.
Other people say that other people are just naturally more talented than them, so they give up even trying to get better. They say “I just don’t have a natural talent for this. Other people are just better than me at this kind of thing. I guess I will never be that good because I wasn’t born with that gift of
It’s easy to believe that some people are born with natural talent and others aren’t. After all, it seems like some people just pick up an instrument and instantly become great at it. Research on the other hand, doesn’t support the idea of a talent gene. Instead, study after study shows that the most important factor in learning an instrument is not how talented you are or how hard you practice, but whether or not you enjoy what you do.
Here’s how it works:
When we enjoy an activity or experience something as “fun”, dopamine is released in our brain. And this dopamine makes us want to repeat the behavior that caused it. The more we repeat an action, the better our skill becomes at it. It is this process that leads to learning and expertise.
If you love your instrument and look forward to playing it everyday, then your brain will reward you with dopamine for doing so. This dopamine will propel you forward to play more and make more progress than if you had no enjoyment from playing. It doesn’t matter if you have a large amount of natural talent or if you have practiced for years; if there is no enjoyment from playing music, then progress won’t be
One of the most curious things about the human species is our obsession with talent.
Like many other mammals, humans have a strong instinct to compete with each other. But unlike other mammals, we’re obsessed with finding out who’s best at what they do. We are driven to rank everyone from politicians to professional athletes to pop stars from best to worst.
And one of the most famous questions in human history has been “Are some people born better than others?” Is greatness something you’re born with, or something you can learn?
One way to answer this question is by looking at rock stars.
Rock stars have always been our culture’s ultimate symbols of greatness. The Beatles were just a bunch of guys who played music together for years until one day they finally had an album that sold more than anyone else did that year. And then suddenly everyone wanted to be them and do what they did, and 50 years later people are still listening to their music constantly, analyzing it, and imitating it.
What made the Beatles so special? What was it about them that made them better than everyone else? This is a question that scientists have recently started answering, and their answers might surprise you.
We live in a world where the idea of innate talent is deeply ingrained in our minds. It makes sense to keep believing this idea because it’s comforting to think that some people are just born naturally better than others and there’s no point in even trying.
This is why it’s good to have a healthy amount of skepticism and not blindly believe everything you hear. The truth is never so simple.
A recent study look at twins and how they’re different from each other. The researchers found that genetics play a role in musical ability, but only a very tiny one.
The researchers were able to give the twins some tests to measure their musical abilities. One test was to reproduce rhythms on drums, another was to determine their “absolute pitch” (the ability to identify a note or even sing it without any reference notes). Another test was called “theory of mind” – basically how well they could understand what other people were thinking. Finally, they were given an IQ test.
The results? The musical tests had about a 12% genetic component, while the theory-of-mind test had about 40%. IQ was the biggest one, with 55% genetic component.
A study published in PLoS ONE found that children who were able to learn a new song on the piano in just five days had higher working memory than their peers. This suggests that kids with strong short-term memories can focus better and are therefore more likely to be “born with it” when it comes to music.
Furthermore, IQ isn’t the only aspect of a child that can directly influence their musical ability. A study from the University of Montreal found that a child’s ability to recognize pitch, or a note’s relative highness or lowness, is correlated to their level of musical intelligence.
In essence, musical fluency is all about how well you process sounds within your mind.
The good news? This concept isn’t limited to children only, as many adults can also boost their own fluency through regular practice and training.
One of the most commonly held beliefs is that certain people are just naturally “good” or “bad” at learning some things, and that ability is an innate skill.
However, research has shown over and over and over again that innate talent simply doesn’t exist. Instead, it’s a combination of hard work, deliberate practice and a growth mindset (the belief that you can improve) that leads to success.
Yet still we hear about the “naturally talented” musician or artist who seems to be able to pick up almost any instrument and play it with ease. Where does this idea come from?
I love this quote from Malcolm Gladwell:
“Natural talent doesn’t exist. There are only people who work hard, and people who are lazy.”
If you look at the most successful musicians in history, you will find a few commonalities between them. While they may not have all been successful right away, they all shared these specific qualities:
If you’ve ever taken guitar lessons and quit, it was probably because of one thing: the guitar can be hard to play.
The most common analogy I use with students is the comparison between the piano and the guitar.
Learning the piano is easy, but it takes a long time to master it.
Learning the guitar is hard, but once you get over the hump, it gets easier.
Piano players are taught to read sheet music right away. They’re given easy pieces at first, and they’re taught to play them correctly from day one. This teaches them to practice correctly right away, so that when they have trouble playing a harder piece of music, they know how to practice effectively in order to solve the problem.
Guitar players are taught chords and basic strumming patterns right away. And often that’s where they get stuck: being able to play some basic chords and strum a few songs around a campfire. That’s not enough for most people. Most people want to be able to play their favorite songs on their favorite instrument as soon as possible. But in order to do that, you need to learn how to read music and practice effectively on guitar just like on piano.