PDA

View Full Version : Genetic or learned



lozarkman
07-10-2010, 10:37 AM
I am starting this thread as a throw out thought for what some of you might think/feel as to how we learn music/instruments. It has long been a belief of mine that true musical/artistic genius comes with the genetic package we come into the world with. I feel that the really greats in the world come with an innate ability to master their craft. I do believe that many, maybe most of us, can learn to perform well and achieve reasonably high levels of accomplishment, but the truly awe inspiring, soul moving individuals in our lives have come into this world with the special genetic imprints that give them the added well-spring of ability that vaults them into the accomplished result of their art. And how do we account for savants and their impressive display of talent? Just a thought, maybe not worthy of a thread, but have always found it an interesting concept. Lozark (Not intended to upset anyone that is struggling to learn an instrument and finding it difficult :) :) )

pulelehua
07-10-2010, 11:00 AM
If you look up the theory of the 7 intelligences, you will find that one of them is music. This isn't proof of anything, but the list is based on scientific research into cognitive development, and there is an argument that music is a unique subset. I prefer the notion that it is a peculiar mix of other traits, but many of those traits are certainly genetically rooted: hand-eye co-ordination, spacial/auditory awareness, the ability to process patterns.

I am a music teacher, and started music late (17). My wife started when she was 9, and her abilities are much more things you would think of as innate (sight reads, sings in tune, transcribes melodies all quite easily). So, do we both possess a genetic pre-disposition, and hers was stimulated in those important, formative years, while I had to wait until certain foundational skills were locked? Dunno. I think there is an arugment to be made there. Language skills are well-known to develop differently in the early years than later.

I suspect there is a lot for us yet to learn, and probably the rapid developments in both cognitive science, neurology and genetics will give us more insights, hopefully within our lifetimes.

Ukuleleblues
07-10-2010, 11:51 AM
Have you read the book Your Brain on Music"? http://www.amazon.com/This-Your-Brain-Music-Obsession/dp/0452288525#_
You mightr find it very interesting.

Tudorp
07-10-2010, 11:53 AM
Hmm.. That is a good question, but also leads me to believe I am some sort of freak of nature, hahha.. No one in my family played anything really. Music does run through my veins though, because my mother and my older sister both are awesome vocalists, but never played any instruments. As far as myself, I "can" sing, but just am not comfortable with it. Never have been. As far as "learning" an instrument, I never could. I tried and tried to "learn" music, reading, understanding and therory, but have always had a mental block with it. It just never stuck. I took guitar lessons at about age 13 because I have always loved the guitar. Took "some" piano lessons earlier than that, but dropped out, because my teacher was a therory nazi. At age 13-14, I just gave up the "learning" picked up my guitar and just started playing. And it sounded like something, not just a kid banging on a guitar. I played like that until about 16 when I tried to learn again and when I picked up the bass. I really tried to learn, but like I mentioned before, when I started to "play" with therory, or the technical aspect, I was horrible. When I tossed all that aside, and just played, everyone loved it. Later everyone told me to just leave the technical part alone and play, lol.. When I applied what I had "learned" it was just too mechanical for me, and sounded like it.. When I tossed theroy out, it always just came naturally and people liked to hear it.

So, in my blood? Dunno. Learned? Hell no.. In my soul, that's where mine comes from I believe..

Brad Bordessa
07-10-2010, 11:56 AM
Hmm... Interesting thread.

My family has little (no) musical talent. The last person I know of to play music in the family besides myself was my great grandpa (banjo, but just a little bit). My mom always says "I don't know where he [me] gets it....". Do I get it? I don't think it's necessarily a genetic thing. Some have more of a feel for it, but if you want it bad enough I think anyone can excel. Distinction: "talented" - someone born with a feel for something, "skilled" - someone who has worked hard to get a feel for something. People seem to throw the words "talent" and "protegee" around, but I don't like them. Even someone who is born with an ear for music has to practice. As far as I know there is no easy way (please let me know if there is). Then again, a talented person doesn't have to be inspired to use his or her talent. I wouldn't consider it a waste either. They'll go on to become skilled at something they love. Just my two cents.

lozarkman
07-10-2010, 01:00 PM
Some interesting comments and theories. I don't think I have innate talent, but have had to work hard to achieve a tolerable level of playing pretty much enjoyable to those around me ( piano for 64 years, yeah 64, guitar for 12, and uke for two). My Dad was a pretty much accomplished guitar player and had his own band when he was quite young, but gave it up when family and responsibility called. The heart of my thread though is aimed at the truly gifted, world renown artists that stood the test of many many generations, not those of us that play well and can impress with our finger dexterity and soulful crooning, but those that seem to at an early age, even 3-4 (Mozart for one example), seem to have it already in place and can perform ( music, a foreign language, advanced math, woo the girls :) far far beyond the normal stream of people. Pulelelua Makes some really interesting points about cognitive theory and other researched areas, and maybe it has something to do with our inherited quantity/quality of nerve endings, chemistry, brain cells. Anyway, only a few are chosen to stand the test of eternity. Lozark

Tudorp
07-10-2010, 01:20 PM
Well, count me out. I am in no way in that catagory, lol. A close though is my 13 year old daughter. She actually sang before she even talked. She would sing "words" even though she didn't know what she was saying. She could sing a song, but not be able to talk in full sentences. Not just baby talk, or child jibberish, but sing, and carry a tune even. Ever since before her 2nd year of life, she would draw a crowd wherever we went, because she would just start singing, and peoples jaws would drop trying to process what they were hearing, and seeing. She has sung nearly the entire song "Delta Dawn" when she was only able to talk two or 3 word sentences. Also "What's Your Momma's Name Child". Those were her favorites before she could even walk, and sang the entire songs from memory, IN TUNE before she was 2 years old. We would go to our classic car club meetings where she was always a hit. She would stand up on the table and put on a concert. She loved it. She started playing the uke at around 4 (not well, but she did play it while she sang. Just good thing her singing overshadowed it, hahah). I bought her a kid guitar at 5 or 6, and she started playing melodies with it. By 8 she was chording pretty damn good on a full sized acustic. She fell in love with my strat before she was 8, and we bought her her own by 10. She has recently been playing around with my banjos, and I don't see her stopping anytime soon. She sings at school events for several years now, and everytime she opens her mouth you can look around and see everyone looking at each other with their mouths open in amazment. I baste in pride. She is known around our town now as being quite the young vocalist. I think she will be doing it for life, maybe even some day profesionally.

lozarkman
07-10-2010, 01:29 PM
WOW Tudorp Now that is along the line of what I am talking about. I am impressed. Definitely encourage her to pursue her talent and hopefully it is her dream to do so. Does she have anything on UTube yet? if not encourage her to do so. Talent is definitely discovered there, even there are 3 billion hopefuls on U Tube :) You can certainly be proud of your daughter!! Lozark

Tudorp
07-10-2010, 01:38 PM
She has been Youtube shy over the past couple years really. She can sing live, but gets nervous singing to a camera. She did one, "Im Yours" believe it or not. She didn't do so well due to her camera shyness. But live on stage, she can really blow, and does. She is a little thing too, but has a voice you can hear all the way to the back. Let me see if I can dig up her Youtube... Again, it by FAR does not showcase that kids talent. She was having a very hard time singing to a camera, lol.. I have her on some audio recordings singing "Long Black Train" that is better though.. I'll see what I can dig up..

Tudorp
07-10-2010, 01:41 PM
And by the way. yeah, it is HER passion. We have never, ever been "stage" parents.. We encurrage her in what ever she wants to follow. But never push her into any of it.. I hate stage parents, lol..

Tudorp
07-10-2010, 01:48 PM
Shes gonna hate me for this, because she hated how this turned out, lol.. But, it is tough to get her to sing to a camera, hahhah.. And by the way, this was only about the 2nd time she ever sung this song..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pvALWQNTajA

lozarkman
07-10-2010, 02:18 PM
I just watched your daughter's U Tube debut. Very nice. You can tell she is a bit nervous, but she does well with a difficult song to sing. The flow of the lyrics is pretty fast, but she handles the changes quite well. She does have a very good voice. Tell her to keep working at it and watch herself on camera. The more she watches the more she can tell what she needs to do to improve. One of these days we may see her winning American Idol!!

Tudorp
07-10-2010, 02:30 PM
Thanks, and I agree on all counts. She hates that I posted that on youtube at all, but I tell her also, if she plans on that industry, it is TOUGH, and she will need to get over nervousness on all mediums. It is kinda odd tho, because she does her best WITH a crowd (ussally the other way around with most), and you can tell she holds back on one on ones, or things like a camera. On a stage, she really opens up, and it is so smooth and natural. I really don't think the Youtube song flowed as well as I know she could. That, and she only sang it once maybe twice before I put the camera on her. I actually tried to make her nervous to get her to face that. Sooner or later, I would like to put her in some formal training, because she has never had any. Hers at this point, is simple, and raw.

itsme
07-10-2010, 02:56 PM
Some have more of a feel for it, but if you want it bad enough I think anyone can excel. Distinction: "talented" - someone born with a feel for something, "skilled" - someone who has worked hard to get a feel for something.
I'd mostly agree with this. Music is like math or even athletics. Anyone can learn to a certain degree, but some will just naturally excel, while others will have to work harder at it. The best, of course, are those born with inherent talent who also work hard at it.

The Gunrunner Rimbaud
07-10-2010, 04:01 PM
Genetics can be weird. My dad is a accomplished professional musician, yet I've got none of his knack for it. It kept me off music for quite awhile, because he's so good at it. For example, when I brought my uke over for a visit, he was jamming on it better than me and it's been over two decades since he's touched one. Nowadays I don't care about how tough it is for me to play and just play for the sake of pleasure and expressing myself with others.

I'm a pretty good writer. Won some minor awards for my poetry and short fiction when I was younger. Words, how they flow, their color and tenor, I can string them together real pretty without much effort. In grad school I would bang out essays overnight without breaking a sweat and get high marks on them. However, about a year ago while I was working on my third unfinished novel, I realized I got very little pleasure out of the act of writing. It was tedious, and moreover what I wanted to write was thematically untenable to publish either commercially or academically. Since people just don't read and share writing in person like they do music, so I decided to get an uke on a New Year's whim and stop writing. Since then I've been having a blast as a mediocre musician.

I can say I sorta understand the choices Artie Shaw made in his life now.

KevinV
07-11-2010, 12:20 AM
I'm sure it comes more easily to some than others, but if you look at many of the folks considered to be great musicians, they put in many hours of dedicated practice a day. And there's a big difference between dedicated practice and noodling.

Muppet-G
07-11-2010, 01:15 AM
Agree with KevinV! Malcolm Gladwell's book, Outliers, describes the 10,000 hour threshold. Many of the greatest musicians, athletes, success stories worked on their craft for years before becoming successful. Becoming good may have more to do with dedication (sticking with something long enough to have actively practiced 10000 hours!) than innate ability. Good news for anyone wanting to get better -- practicing does help! Bad news is that at my current rate of practice, Ive got about another 40 years to go! Haha! Starting very young helps. Or practicing "8 days a a week", like the Beatles did in Hamburg Germany before becoming legendary (a reference from the book).
Keep on practicing!

ichadwick
07-11-2010, 01:54 AM
Have you read the book Your Brain on Music"? http://www.amazon.com/This-Your-Brain-Music-Obsession/dp/0452288525#_
You mightr find it very interesting.

And also Music, The Brain and Ecstasy. Very intriguing. Unfortunately the author seems unawaer that pop music exists.

Pippin
07-11-2010, 12:48 PM
If you look up the theory of the 7 intelligences, you will find that one of them is music. This isn't proof of anything, but the list is based on scientific research into cognitive development, and there is an argument that music is a unique subset. I prefer the notion that it is a peculiar mix of other traits, but many of those traits are certainly genetically rooted: hand-eye co-ordination, spacial/auditory awareness, the ability to process patterns.

I am a music teacher, and started music late (17). My wife started when she was 9, and her abilities are much more things you would think of as innate (sight reads, sings in tune, transcribes melodies all quite easily). So, do we both possess a genetic pre-disposition, and hers was stimulated in those important, formative years, while I had to wait until certain foundational skills were locked? Dunno. I think there is an arugment to be made there. Language skills are well-known to develop differently in the early years than later.

I suspect there is a lot for us yet to learn, and probably the rapid developments in both cognitive science, neurology and genetics will give us more insights, hopefully within our lifetimes.

I play many instruments and never had a lesson in any of them, and I sing lead and backup. The whole family is musically inclined. I do believe that there are native talents and skills that can be finely honed that were once raw, but a big part of being a musician or singer is being able to feel the music and that is hard to teach. That is where the technician and the artist are separated.

I am also a visual artist (photography, pen & ink, charcoal, watercolor, calligraphy). It is well-known that artists SEE things in a different light, so to speak. Though principles can be taught here, there are some that transcend teaching. Same with writers, there are good technical writers and there are good story-tellers.

A strong case can be made for genetic tendency.

Tudorp
07-11-2010, 01:12 PM
Ahh. Right brain, left brain arguments, lol.. Right brain dominate tends to be more artistic and very talented in the "arts" weather it is music, dance, visual, etc. Left brain tend to be more technical, and are generally the technicians, engineers, scientists.. Right brain people are more carefree and generally happy people. Left brain people tend to be more introverted, analytical, but can figure things out very clearly and easily. they tend to be very "linear" and thinkers. Right brain people tend to be more abstract, and dreamers. Good and evils in each.

Then there are the ambidextrous brained. Even tho being both right and left brained sounds superior, it isn't. It can be good, but at the same time, those people battle with themselves allot, and in most cases, their own worst enemy. I know this, because that is where it has been said on many occasions, is where I fall. I have a huge artistic side. But many times my analytical side fights it. I want things to be perfect, but in many cases, can't be. Case and point is what I said above about myself and my music. I WANT so bad to learn the technical part of music, because I am a very technical person (being from the computer engineering industry, and holding a degree in technology engineering). But at the same time, I HATE the black and white perfect thing. I like to be free, and I am in many ways. I am an extrovert, but at the same time, am very introverted. So, right AND left brained people have both capabilities, but sometimes having both battle within themselves between the two. So, its good to have both IMHO but at the same time, irritating as hell inside my brain.. lol..

Right brained people just are more artistic, and have more natural abilities with music, and art in general. They don't even have to think about it most the time. It just happens. Left brained people it isn't natural in most cases, they have to learn it, but they learn it very well, and stick with the technical knowledge and skills they develop with that.

Ukuleleblues
07-11-2010, 02:39 PM
Agree with KevinV! Malcolm Gladwell's book, Outliers, describes the 10,000 hour threshold. Many of the greatest musicians, athletes, success stories worked on their craft for years before becoming successful. Becoming good may have more to do with dedication (sticking with something long enough to have actively practiced 10000 hours!) than innate ability. Good news for anyone wanting to get better -- practicing does help! Bad news is that at my current rate of practice, Ive got about another 40 years to go! Haha! Starting very young helps. Or practicing "8 days a a week", like the Beatles did in Hamburg Germany before becoming legendary (a reference from the book).
Keep on practicing!

Reading the book inspired me, Of course there is inate ability, but practice...and if you love to play it's a blast. When my wife and I have fun time we "practice", and we have gotten much better, and I have the recordings to prove it. Too many folks get discouraged because they see the end results. It the journey....HAVE FUN DOING IT...and you will get better.

luvdat
07-11-2010, 02:42 PM
Genetics wins essentially because the learning part esp. if it's parents and relatives...are also those who transmit the genes. In short, Nature also provides the base for Nurture. This does NOT discount hard work and purposeful practice.
Years ago I knew this guy who finished a degree in Comparative Lit at Johns Hopkins and then finished a Master's in Biblical Studies. Genetic aside, this man, now a scholar, studied quite hard and worked quite hard.

Much of educational theory nowadays involves Natavist overapplications of theorists like Chomsky, and at least in America the results are in...sadly. I would daresay such factors as prenatal health and nutrition make considerations of "genetics" somewhat...nonspecific.

austin1
07-11-2010, 07:25 PM
I started formal music lessons when I was six, and to this day I cannot cannot cannot read music. I was the bane of every music teacher's existence, because I'd make them play songs eight times until I memorized it, and then I'd go home and figure it out for myself. They really didn't like me. So I'm going to say my music abilities are neither genetic nor learned, but rather, directly uploaded to my brain by aliens with a sense of humor.