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Old 06-14-2019, 10:03 AM
Bax Burgess Bax Burgess is offline
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Default Inborn musical sensibility.

Since early on, pre-study, have you possessed an innate sense for music composition, hearing passages in the air before playing the first note?

I lack such musical foresight, wondering if it correlates to my ability to see the actual image on a piece of paper before I draw it.

When I hear an analysis of a Beatles' composition, I wonder if what is presented as being calculated was more or less a natural, free-flowing 'off the top of my head' sort of thing.
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Old 06-14-2019, 10:30 AM
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When I listen to unfamiliar music I can often correctly guess where it is going to go from music phrase to music phrase - at least with Western music anyway.
Composing something I can usually hear where I want to go. I think that just comes from having done a lot of listening over the years.
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Old 06-14-2019, 10:40 AM
RustyAxe RustyAxe is offline
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I agree with Rick. And would add that it is a lot like learning to speak. We start out simply aping what we hear, and as infants we usually hear a rather limited vocabulary. Later comes sentences, phrases and such with which we discover ways to communicate more effectively. Add grammar (the rules) and a growing inventory of phrases and we become capable of abstract thought and the ability to express it.

Hear, play, learn, compose.
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Old 06-14-2019, 11:29 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bax Burgess View Post
Since early on, pre-study, have you possessed an innate sense for music composition, hearing passages in the air before playing the first note?
Innate? Yes, I was composing music as soon as I emerged from the womb.


Seriously, the most likely scenario is that we all born with the instinct to learn from listening, to pick up patterns which seem to have meaning. Naturally, this is normally directed to learning language. It's probably how that capacity (if it is instinctual) evolved. As infants, we all learn our mother tongue without the aid of any academic tuition, just by listening to adults and older siblings, trying to mimic their sounds - at least those directed towards us - eventually building up a vocabulary to allow us to express ourselves in ways other than screaming or crying. We also learn grammar, syntax and accent of course. All well before we ever learn to read or write. We can say quite sophisticated sentences without knowing how any of the words are spelled.

It's quite likely that musical "gifts" are learned in a similar way. Those kids that seem unnaturally "talented" in music have probably picked it up alongside language, at least if they experienced music being directed at them in a meaningful way too - e.g., if being sung to, or hearing music played frequently and clearly enjoyed by those around them. Certainly we all know how much easier it is to learn stuff the younger you start.

Still, the issue of "nature vs nurture" is a somewhat academic debate. The point here is simply that the the better you learn something, the more "natural" it feels. We can't remember learning how to speak. We can't remember what it was like not to be able to speak. It feels natural - we don't have to think about how to put words together to say what we mean - until we have to express something complicated, where we perhaps lack the vocabulary.

Likewise, when we walk down the street, we don't have to think about how to put one leg in front of the other, or how to balance. It feels "natural", because we learned how to do it so long ago we've forgotten.

In that sense, musical skill is the same. We learn it in stages of course, so that the early stuff becomes subconscious - and therefore feels "natural" - while the later more complex stuff requires some conscious thought. The newer it is to us, the more thought it requires.

Probably all of us here don't have to think about how to play (say) a "D" chord. That shape is in our heads and fingers, subconsciously.

Composition (and improvisation) works the same way. The more you do it, the more natural it feels. It's crude when you start, but the more you practice, the better it gets.

And you learn it by copying - even if you don't think you are, you're reproducing sounds you've heard before somewhere. That's what "good" sounds are: familiar ones. "Wrong" sounds are any that sound "out of place". We can only know that from our experience of hearing music where everything is "in place" - i.e., every single recording of music ever made. (Well, OK, 99.99999% of music ever issued, roughly speaking.)

Those composers who seem to be most "original" - most unlike any who have gone before - have simply absorbed much more of what has gone before, than other composers have. The Beatles (for example) were great because they copied a whole lot more people than anyone else did. (They were also unafraid to experiment, but their vocabulary was all derived from what they copied.)
The same applies to Bob Dylan, and any other "genius" composer you care to name. As someone once said (and they probably stole the quote ): "talent borrows, genius steals." They steal so much, from so many different sources, that the individual elements disappear in the mix. (But actually, if you know all the Beatles influences, you can hear them all in their music; the rest is scouse chutzpah.)

The problem we face as musicians is not a theoretical or aural one - of knowing what the right and wrong sounds are. The problem is a technical one, of learning how to operate a musical instrument - a physical device outside of ourselves. We all know what a wrong note is. We know it when hear it. Learning to play an instrument is about training our hands to avoid the wrong ones and find the right ones. (Voices need training in the same way, if we haven't been singing for as long as we've been speaking.)
The ear is also trained to some extent, of course, but we have a head start there, because of all the music we've ever heard. That's the foundation we build on. We're not starting from zero, like we are when first picking up an instrument. Musical ear training is simply about learning to focus on finer detail.
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Old 06-14-2019, 11:56 AM
mr. beaumont mr. beaumont is offline
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Innate? Nah.

But that stuff can be cultivated. I actually bristle a bit if someone says I'm "talented." No I'm not, I worked.

I distinctly remember the first time I was in a car and heard a song on the radio (Sheryl Crow's "If it makes you happy) and I knew all the chords without having an instrument with me.

Some time later, I started to pre-hear lines in my head while improvising. This was all at a pretty young age, 16-17, when I had HOURS a day to do this stuff. I'm not a huge fan of the "music is language" metaphor, but in this sense it really applies.

It literally came from doing and trying and failing and trying more.
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Old 06-14-2019, 12:04 PM
DukeX DukeX is offline
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It's a pretty broad question.

For songs, the melody (and lyrics) come long before I touch an instrument. Many parts of the arrangement also come before touching an instrument.

It makes me neither genius nor talented. It just is what it is.
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Old 06-14-2019, 12:35 PM
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My favorite cartoon of late:

ItsPractice copy.jpg
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Old 06-14-2019, 01:25 PM
Silly Moustache Silly Moustache is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doug Young View Post
My favorite cartoon of late:

Attachment 23775
I feel a bit like that when people say I'm "lucky" to have the guitars I have.

Of course, I'm lucky to live where I do and at the time I've live in, but I've had to work hard for 41 years to achieve what little I have and it also means not having other things.

I'm also frustrated when people say "I wish I could play guitar... !"

"Simple - just buy one and work hard at it for 40-50 years and hope to achieve mediocrity!"

However, back to the OP's question.

My mother loved music and had a beautiful (untrained) voice.
My sister (10 years older than me) was a dancer and skater and forever playing music to practice her routines etc.

I was initially fascinated by rhythms and percussion - a perpetual "tapper".

I was probably in my 20s before I changed from drums to guitar. It was a long hard road.

I go to a regular sports massuese, who always has 2easy listening music in the room via spotify.

I prefer that she plays light classical, or jazz because if, like yesterday, she played singer-songrwriter type music (which was delightful, I'm analysing the chord progressions ... can't help it. More complex music I can simply enjoy without understanding it, and having to analyse it.
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Old 06-14-2019, 01:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bax Burgess View Post
....have you possessed an innate sense for music composition...?
Quote:
Originally Posted by mr. beaumont View Post
Innate? Nah.
But that stuff can be cultivated.
I agree with Beaumont - very little is "innate." It's acquired, mainly through familiarity. I listen to a song and I can easily pick out the chord changes. That's because I'm really familiar with chord changes. And that's mainly because I've been banging on a piano and "playing by ear" for, uh, many, many moons.
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Old 06-14-2019, 08:44 PM
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Hi folks

I agree that if there is a natural musical gene, it won't be effective unless it's exercised/practiced.

People will say to me "You're really good…" and I thank them. But I figure after 55+ years of practice, lessons paid for starting at age 8, and being involved in playing instruments, singing, arranging, theory classes, my major in college (music ed)…if I'm not good now…something went seriously wrong.

I understand some kids are better at math or engineering, or mechanical workings, and some of us are better at music. So there may be inclinations because of our genes, or our exposure.

I think a lot of it was because of my parent's encouragement, and permission to involve myself in choir, orchestra, band, marching band, pep band, and music contests in jr. high school and high school…and them funding my music lessons and travel.





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Old 06-15-2019, 07:03 AM
Mr. Jelly Mr. Jelly is offline
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When my son was in grade school and I rented him a saxophone to play in band. The first day he took it to school, that afternoon I was sitting at home with the windows open. I could hear a saxophone coming my way playing a nice lick. When my son was 12 I bought him a little Rage amp and a EVH type guitar. I had been playing acoustics at that time and can't say he was paying attention at all. So the next day I snuck into his room to play it as it'd been awhile since I'd played an electric guitar. I was trying to figure out a Guns and Roses lick when he came in after school. He said at one particular point to fret it up a fret from where I was playing it. He was correct. I was totally dumbfounded. He didn't know how to play guitar at that point. When he was in high school my wife and I went to conferences. His music theory teacher asked us to talk him into going into choir. They had a great choir and went to state and won every year, she'd put him into the first choir. I asked why would she do that. She said you must not know he has perfect pitch. We didn't. To this day I've never heard him sing. He, and I know of others, can play on stage with people with no information of the material they are playing. The audience would never know it and they play along like they are all practiced. I personally have no musical talent but I can tell the difference between who does have it and who doesn't. And if they don't that doesn't mean they sound bad or uninspired or anything. There is a difference.
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Old 06-15-2019, 07:14 AM
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100% convinced that there are those that have natural musical ability, undeniable examples include the savants that are unable to function on other levels but are obviously "born musicians." I believe it's a continuum with some folks born with no ability to make sense of musical structure, though it's rare. The rest of us fall somewhere in between.

Imagine a group of 100 motivated beginners all putting in 20 hours of playing per week for a year, all with the same teacher. Does anyone think all players will be at the same level of proficiency after one year?

I've always thought my "natural" skill set is less than others and that what I can do is a result of hard work and pretty much taking it by force. The danger comes in the thought "I'm just not good at this" and not working to make the most of what we are given.
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Old 06-15-2019, 10:51 AM
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I enjoy music in most forms and have enjoyed singing for as long as I can remember. As a kid, I sang along with the radio and people would comment to me or my parents how nicely I sang. When I first picked up guitar almost 50 years ago I knew when something didn't sound right, and through a lot of practice learned how to "fix" it. Music seems to come natural to me in a way and perhaps because of some sort of predisposition I pursued it and have gotten better.

I'm NOT a professional by any measure but I seem to have the ability to hum along and sometimes find a harmony in a tune (just don't ask me to sing it )

I don't have anything near perfect pitch but I can hear when something is "off" or seems to be nicely arranged. Is this "innate" or just the result of years of immersing myself in music? Nature vs nurture?

I think we all are born with varying degrees or abilities in many different things and just like running or throwing a ball, we choose what to concentrate on and develop. I have been playing guitar for almost 50 years and while I often say I should be better than I am considering the amount of time I've been at it, I'm fairly good. Like Larry and Mr. Moustache said above, dedicating time and effort will produce results.

I recently saw a video of a pro baseball player playing catch with a small boy in the stands between innings and was amazed at how accurately both of them threw it to one another. They were about 20-30 feet apart and while I expect the pro do be able to throw directly to the kid, avoiding other people in the stands, I was thinking all the while how many spectators I would accidentally bean if I were in his shoes. But because of the years of work and dedication he put into throwing a baseball accurately, he seemed perfectly relaxed tossing the ball to the kid knowing it would go directly to the kid.

I guess it's a combination of having a little kernel of ability combined with the desire to dedicate a lot of time to its development.

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Old 06-15-2019, 11:03 AM
JonPR JonPR is offline
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Quote:
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My favorite cartoon of late:

Attachment 23775
I like it! Some people just like to hang to the idea of a "magic", or "mystical" notion of "talent". Incurable romantics.

Personally, my view is shifting a little. I think there may well be some genetic component.
Not that it's black-and-white, that you have it or you don't. I believe we're all born with "it". But some may have more of "it" than others.

It's pretty obvious (from all the research I've read) that early experience is crucial. There's a definite correlation between musical "talent" and starting at a very young age. And keeping it up, of course.
E.g., perfect pitch (not a musical skill in itself) seems to be learned before the age of 6. If you don't have it by then, you never will. Those who develop it have an intensive musical environment before the age of 6.
TBH, I'm not sure about exceptions - whether there are cases of PP among people with no such experience, or how many kids who do have intensive musical infancies don't develop PP.

But PP is clearly linked with language, because speakers of tonal languages (such as Chinese) have a far higher incidence of PP than speakers of non-tonal languages. So the "nurture" hypothesis makes a lot more sense than the "nature" one. It seems to be a skill that piggy-backs on the language skill, as an accidental by-product of it - but it's not universal even in tonal language speakers. They don't need PP for their languages, but they do need a refined level of relative pitch. In that sense, learning a tonal language is a little like learning music in infancy. You're persuaded to pay attention to pitch difference, because it affects meaning. Easy to imagine that perfect pitch could occur accidentally, because of that extra focus.
At the same time, the variability in who actually gets it might point to genetic factors (or might still be totally random and accidental).

Still, whether it's innate or learned in infancy - or a mixture of both - it hardly matters. Once you're beyond six years old, that level of "gift" is all set. Obviously you can still learn music! But the older you get - the further you are beyond six when you start - the harder it is, and the less "natural" it feels. Learn it young enough, and music is just a normal part of life. It would never occur to you that it's "hard". It's a fun game, like anything else you play as a kid.

Personally, as someone who started at 16 (with zero evidence of any innate "talent" before that, and no musical interest in my family), I've always felt "behind" in comparison to those I've met (of any age) who seem to be more "natural" musicians. But I know now that many other people look at me and think of me as "talented" - I "make it look easy" - but that's because of the work I've put into learning.
In fact I learned quickly in the first 3 or 4 years because I was totally obsessed. Not because some "hidden talent" emerged, but because I decided to make music "my thing". Guitar was cool and I wanted to belong to that world. I'd practice until I got blisters on my fingers. My ear was crap, but I listened and listened and steadily it got better. So I could play quite complex fingerstyle pieces (learned by ear) a couple of years after first picking up a guitar.

Of course, I guess you could say that that level of commitment was itself a kind of "talent". The patience and the monomania it takes to focus on one thing and not get distracted. I do believe you need a certain kind of personality to do it. If you have ADHD it's just not going to work. If you think anything in your life is more important than music (work? family?? friends?), it's just not going to work. I don't mean you can't have other interests, they just have to be secondary.

I remember reading that Pat Metheny used to practice 8 hours a day as a teenager. That's no normal teenager. How many of us could stand that at that age? How many of us would dare claim "even if I practised 8 hours a day I'd never be that good, because I'm just not talented"? Ever tried it? Every day? For weeks, months, years?
IOW, "talented" really only means "won't give up". And of course that means you have to enjoy practising. You can bet Metheny never thought "oh no, I've got to do some practice now..." Much more likely "oh no, I've got to stop playing now" (to eat, sleep or whatever).
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Old 06-15-2019, 11:29 AM
JonPR JonPR is offline
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Originally Posted by Mr. Paul View Post
100% convinced that there are those that have natural musical ability, undeniable examples include the savants that are unable to function on other levels but are obviously "born musicians." I believe it's a continuum with some folks born with no ability to make sense of musical structure, though it's rare. The rest of us fall somewhere in between.
I broadly agree. Just as there are a tiny minority of savants at one extreme, so there are a tiny minority who suffer from "amusia" at the other - to them, music makes no sense at all, it's just meaningless noise.
For everyone else, music part of being human. It's only a particular kind of cultural upbringing that persuades some that they "can't do it", that to be a musician is a profession, only open to a certain lucky elite. That if one is not "talented" one may as well not bother. A lot of people seem to like to say they are "tone deaf", and really they're not.
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Imagine a group of 100 motivated beginners all putting in 20 hours of playing per week for a year, all with the same teacher. Does anyone think all players will be at the same level of proficiency after one year?
I'd say pretty much, yes.
The question would really be in the nature of that motivation. Are they really all equally motivated - from the beginning and right the way through? If not, why not?
You'd also have to screen for any prior experience. They may be beginners on the instrument, but have they sung before? What is their ear like at the beginning?

Even so, I wouldn't argue that even if you could get a group that all began from exactly the same place, they'd all end up with exactly the same level of skill at the end.

Only two things really bother me:
(1) The way the "talent myth" persuades some that music is not for them at all. That there's a minority who can do it, and a majority who can't. (Celebrity culture, the star system, and the Romantic myth of the artistic genius compounds that.)
(2) The unthinking adulation of those who are good at it, as if they have a magical innate skill, that they were destined to develop. Ask any "talented" person, they will respond with how much work they've put into it. (Not that there is nothing innate; but whatever may be innate is vanishingly small compared to the training.)
It's not that I expect people to go "wow" at all that work instead of going "wow" at the innate talent. I don't want anyone to admire me for my hard work, any more than I want them to go starry-eyed at my "God-given talent" (not ).

I'm just impressed by other cultures (African ones in particular) in which everyone is musically active in some way. If they don't actually play an instrument, they all sing, they all join in in group musical activities. There are no "god-given geniuses" in those cultures, but no "tone-deaf" people either. It proves that music is not some special talent only available to a lucky few.
It's quite clear that there is the kind of variability in all of us that you're describing; that's easy to observe; and maybe that variability is (at least to some degree) innate (although that's often an unwarranted knee-jerk assumption). But it doesn't rule anyone out of the game.
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