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#1266419 - 09/11/09 11:49 AM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: Morodiene]
jotur Online   blank
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/16/06
Posts: 5277
Loc: Santa Fe, NM
The idea that when was born in the year, in the Outliers book, came from a study of young boys in a hockey program. There was a cut-off date that determined when you could enter the program. So there was sometimes almost a year's difference in age of those who were considered, say "six-year-olds". The ones who were older were physically bigger and almost a year more mature - a significant difference at younger ages. The older ones played better, and people assumed they had more talent - not taking into account the age difference. The idea was that, no matter *when* the cut-off date was in a year, the same effect would be there. If the cut-off date was June 1, then that would determine who was older, if the cut-off date was Dec 31, that would determine it. It wasn't the physical time of the year that made the difference.

Gladwell's sense was that the same affect would happen in other activities - like school. In piano, my impression is that people understand that "almost 4-year-olds" and "almost 5-year-olds" will probably progress differently, altho there will be some students with more affinity for piano. For adult beginners I doubt it has any affect.

Cathy
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#1266456 - 09/11/09 01:11 PM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: jotur]
etcetra Offline
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Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
joutur,

thanks so much for summarizing, you saved me a lot of time smile I don't have the book with me, so I wasn't able to explain what Gladewell meant in detail. I think he goes on to talk about how these older 'more talented' kids go on to play in the top team, youth camps.. etc and they have much more exposure to quality training... So the advantage becomes exponentially bigger as they grow older.

I think Gladwell also mentions a study that was done about music students. What they found out was that the top students practiced anywhere between 8,000-10,000 hrs, sometimes even more, where as the ones who weren't good enough to be performers practiced 5000 hrs or less.

speaking of quotes...

"People err who think my art comes easily to me. I assure you, no one has devoted so much time and thought to composition as I. There is not a famous master whose music I have not industriously studied through many times." Mozart

“I believe in things that are developed through hard work. I always like people who have developed long and hard, especially through introspection and a lot of dedication. I think what they arrive at is usually a much deeper and more beautiful thing than the person who seems to have that ability and fluidity from the beginning." Bill Evans


Edited by etcetra (09/11/09 01:16 PM)

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#1266463 - 09/11/09 01:28 PM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: etcetra]
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17698
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
[Wades into yet another talent vs. practice quagmire of a thread, 10-foot-pole in hand.]

sotto voce, I normally agree with everything you say, but I gotta disagree on the "talent is a crucial variable" argument. There's a lot of good researchers making a persuasive argument that talent is vastly overrated; some argue that there is, in fact, no such thing as "innate talent." Here's what my students are reading for next week in my psych of music class:

Ericsson, K. A., Krampe, R. T., & Tesch-Römer, J. C. (1993). The role of deliberate practice in the acquisition of expert performance. Psychological Review, 100, 363-406.

Howe, M. J. A., Davidson, J. W., & Sloboda, J. A. (1998). Innate talents: Reality or myth? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 21, 399-442.

The second article, if you can get hold of it, is especially interesting. The first part of it is a review article by Howe et al. describing all the literature suggesting that concentrated, deliberate practice is all that is needed to gain expertise in any subject. But about 3/4 of the article consists of rebuttals by other eminent scholars trying to poke holes in that argument. It's fascinating reading.

My own take on the O.P.'s question: You can start as an adult and, with sufficient focused practice and dedication, you can become an expert pianist and successful professional musician. "Innate talent" (if it even exists) plays only a negligible role (if it plays a role at all).

That doesn't rule out the importance of those other factors mentioned by people here; 'being in the right place at the right time' matters a great deal, too. But it's also true that if you broaden your definition of "right place" beyond that of the world's leading orchestras, there are a lot of potential "right places" a pianist can find him- or herself in. thumb
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#1266481 - 09/11/09 02:00 PM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: Monica K.]
sotto voce Offline
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Registered: 08/15/06
Posts: 6163
Loc: Briarcliff Manor, NY, USA
Monica, at least we can agree here that these threads are a quagmire. smile

I knew from past quagmires that your view of "talent" was different from mine. I recognize how intangible it is; all I can say in defense of its existence is that people with comparable backgrounds and experiences tend to experience differing results when learning a new task despite comparable efforts.

Maybe "talent" is no longer a good term for that difference, and I can't deny that there could be a constellation of other factors as well. Still, I think it's manifest that some people are "naturals" in the way they "take to" certain things; they progress at a faster rate and with less effort than the average person. If that were strictly anecdotal, it wouldn't carry much weight—but I'm pretty sure that it matches the real-life experiences that most of us have had.

Steven
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Schumann: Toccata Op. 7
Fauré: Ballade Op. 19

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#1266499 - 09/11/09 02:40 PM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: sotto voce]
spatial Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/20/09
Posts: 95
Loc: USA
I think it is also important to recognize several factors that might be mistaken for lack of "talent":

* Learning disabilities
* Inappropriate teaching style
* Lack of motivation
* Lack of self-confidence
* Improper practicing

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#1266694 - 09/11/09 09:24 PM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: sotto voce]
argerichfan Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 8696
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
Originally Posted By: sotto voce

Still, I think it's manifest that some people are "naturals" in the way they "take to" certain things; they progress at a faster rate and with less effort than the average person. If that were strictly anecdotal, it wouldn't carry much weight—but I'm pretty sure that it matches the real-life experiences that most of us have had.

Well, Steven, that has been very true in my experience.

Second year at university I studied the Saint-Seans 4th piano concerto. I put in my time practicing it -and managed to pull if off- but one of my mates was concurrently practicing the Beethoven 2nd, and there was plenty of evidence that he worked as hard as I did, but he simply never managed to conquer its technical challenges. (And they are intense, but not particularly more than the S-S 4th.)

The next year I switched to organ and church music, and once again I simply progressed faster than several of my mates. If that was to due to my intense -and experienced- Anglican background, I don't know, but what do you say to a friend that complains about the difficulty of the Bach 9/8 (P&C in C), but yet I got it within 10 days?

I'm no keyboard genius -and my application to Durham Cathedral is only a fantasy- but the mistaken idea that great piano or organ playing is all 'hard work' is utterly sickening to me. Yes indeed, there's plenty of hard work involved, but that measly 1% talent is what makes all that hard work pay off.

Why don't people understand that? It's not like balancing one's checkbook -anyone can do that if they apply a certain amount of effort- we're talking something so far removed, and to say hard work is all that is important makes a silly mockery of Rachmaninov, Horowitz, Argerich... or put in any name you wish.

Over and out, this issue is beyond tiresome.
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#1266720 - 09/11/09 10:21 PM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: argerichfan]
FormerFF Offline
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Registered: 03/26/08
Posts: 476
Loc: Roswell, GA, USA
No such thing as talent? Gary Graffman was accepted into the Curtis Institute at age seven. Keith Jarrett was playing in front of paying audiences at age eight - during which he played two of his own compositions.

When I was a child, my parents would tell me, "You can accomplish anything you put your mind to.". Boy, were they wrong. In my case, it resulted in a lot of frustration. I have two daughters. What I would tell them is, "You never know until you try." There will be many things that they can accomplish, and others that they can't.

On a different tack, for most nonretired adults, practice time will be the greatest limitation on what they can accomplish on the piano. Speaking of which, I'm off to practice. smile
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#1266728 - 09/11/09 10:35 PM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: sotto voce]
Damon Offline
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Registered: 09/22/06
Posts: 5913
Loc: St. Louis area
Originally Posted By: sotto voce

Maybe "talent" is no longer a good term for that difference, and I can't deny that there could be a constellation of other factors as well. Still, I think it's manifest that some people are "naturals" in the way they "take to" certain things; they progress at a faster rate and with less effort than the average person. If that were strictly anecdotal, it wouldn't carry much weight—but I'm pretty sure that it matches the real-life experiences that most of us have had.
Steven


I think many people have trouble dealing with the idea of talent because it creates the fear that they won't be able to achieve their goals through the application of hard work alone. Maybe also because it implies a gift from a diety in which they don't believe.
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#1266737 - 09/11/09 10:43 PM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: FormerFF]
argerichfan Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 8696
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
Originally Posted By: FormerFF
No such thing as talent? Gary Graffman was accepted into the Curtis Institute at age seven.

Thanks, I didn't know that.

I'm up too late this morning -must have been all the curry- but I was contacted by an Anglican Church earlier today to fill in for their organist who was taken sick.

I don't even know what the hymns are, let alone the anthem. I'll figure out some service music later on.

Whatever, I think that must take a certain amount of talent, but of course wasn't that just hard work? Not really, I do this stuff well. It is second nature. That is talent.

But as I say, Durham Cathedral is not asking for my services. Nuts to that. grin
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#1266769 - 09/11/09 11:24 PM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: Damon]
argerichfan Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 8696
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
Originally Posted By: Damon

I think many people have trouble dealing with the idea of talent because it creates the fear that they won't be able to achieve their goals through the application of hard work alone. Maybe also because it implies a gift from a diety in which they don't believe.

thumb

Very nice, Damon.

Religion isn't very trendy these days -not surprisingly- but I certainly attribute my ability to play an Anglican service at short notice to (a)I've done this stuff a lot and (b)I actually want to be of service to that church.

Fair enough.
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#1266784 - 09/11/09 11:52 PM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: argerichfan]
gooddog Offline
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Registered: 06/08/08
Posts: 4669
Loc: Seattle area, WA
I've been following this thread with interest. At the risk of sounding immodest,I've been told that I have the right talent and I have the right work ethic. Time (a full time job) is the only factor that is holding me back. I honestly don't know if my talent and hard work will be enough but I do know that I deeply love making music. It makes me enormously happy and satisfied. Only recently, I discovered I like performing so I am allowing myself to have dreams. I've always believed I could do anything if I have the right tools and a willingness to work hard enough for it. Maybe I'll become just another nameless mediocre advanced pianist or maybe kismet will work in my favor. Heck, Grandma Moses became a famous artist in her 90's. I'm not being unrealistic, I'm simply opening myself to possibilities.
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#1266808 - 09/12/09 01:01 AM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: gooddog]
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
gooddog

I really hope you do achieve whatever it is you want to achieve on the piano. I kind of realized the important thing is to be okay with it if you don't get there. I have certain things I want to do in music too, but I can't beat myself up for not getting there, esp if I am working hard to get there. If you really love something you'll keep on doing it regardless of outcome.. and the joy that one can receive from music is available to everyone regardless of their level of proficiency.

I guess in the end it's best to set aside any expectations we have on what we can or cannot do...and treat whatever achievement we get as fruit of labor, product of joy you receive from enojoying music.

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#1266822 - 09/12/09 01:54 AM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: gooddog]
currawong Offline
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Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5834
Loc: Down Under
Originally Posted By: gooddog
I do know that I deeply love making music. It makes me enormously happy and satisfied. ... Maybe I'll become just another nameless mediocre advanced pianist or maybe kismet will work in my favor. Heck, Grandma Moses became a famous artist in her 90's. I'm not being unrealistic, I'm simply opening myself to possibilities.
As you should. But "nameless" and "mediocre" are not synonymous smile. You may end up nameless (or perhaps fameless would be more what I mean) but that doesn't mean you have to be mediocre. I decided long ago what sort of pianist I wanted to be. Fame didn't really have anything much to do with it.
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#1267061 - 09/12/09 12:58 PM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: currawong]
gooddog Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/08/08
Posts: 4669
Loc: Seattle area, WA
etcetra and currawong, you've both captured what I was trying to say. I've always played and worked hard at it just for the pleasure of learning and making beautiful music. I'm very much one of those "enjoy the journey" people. It's only very recently that I've been finding out what I have. What has changed for me are my priorities. Now that my kids are raised, my top priority is still my marriage but number 2 is now the piano. (Unfortunately, I have to continue working at my job). I'm not heavily focused on a long term goal; I've just opened the door to it. I won't be crushed if nothing comes of this, but I'm no longer closed to the possibilities.

In response to the thread: Our society has made the mistake of believing that potential is the sole province of the young and that we fade away as we age. This is so wrong. As we get into our 50's, 60's, 70's and beyond, we are healthier and longer lived than generations before us. Changing and prolonging careers is becoming common. The body may be a bit more creaky, but the mind and its potential are just as vibrant as they were in our youth. We've experienced loss, hard work, profound joy and sadness. Our experience, and perspective allow us to have a deeper understanding of the music. We have more patience and more appreciation of what is precious. Put all this together with talent, time, training and luck, who knows what can happen?
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Deborah

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#1267168 - 09/12/09 05:30 PM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: argerichfan]
landorrano Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/26/06
Posts: 2443
Loc: France
Originally Posted By: argerichfan


Second year at university I studied the Saint-Seans 4th piano concerto. I put in my time practicing it -and managed to pull if off- but one of my mates was concurrently practicing the Beethoven 2nd, and there was plenty of evidence that he worked as hard as I did, but he simply never managed to conquer its technical challenges.




Your relegation of your mate to the piano scrap heap strikes me as brutish. It is evident that he suffered a blockage, that's all. Very talented people, "naturals", can experience that as well, and do. The reasons are not evident. Life is often complex, you know.

A blockage can dure a long time.

I've seen this occur in every realm of activity that I know, even activities a greal deal more simple that playing a Saint-Seans concerto. Many people do have periods where balancing their checkbook seems an unsurmountable task.




Originally Posted By: argerichfan


I'm no keyboard genius -and my application to Durham Cathedral is only a fantasy- but the mistaken idea that great piano or organ playing is all 'hard work' is utterly sickening to me. Yes indeed, there's plenty of hard work involved, but that measly 1% talent is what makes all that hard work pay off.

... to say hard work is all that is important makes a silly mockery of Rachmaninov, Horowitz, Argerich... or put in any name you wish.



I don't know who says that it is just a question of hard work. I don't remember having read that idea in this thread, and I don't have the impression that etcetra is defending this idea.

There are many excellent musicians, capable of deeply emotive playing, who are not a Horowitz or an Argerich.

Music, like love, is a human characteristic. It is not reserved for a handful of lucky souls.


Edited by landorrano (09/12/09 05:31 PM)

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#1267391 - 09/13/09 06:40 AM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: etcetra]
wr Offline
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Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7422
Originally Posted By: etcetra


I think Gladwell also mentions a study that was done about music students. What they found out was that the top students practiced anywhere between 8,000-10,000 hrs, sometimes even more, where as the ones who weren't good enough to be performers practiced 5000 hrs or less.



But this gets into questions of why some students practiced more than others. Obviously, if you are talented at something, doing whatever it is that you are talented in will be gratifying in ways that it won't be if you aren't talented in that area. So, lots of practice and talent go together in ways that do not mean that practice creates talent.

Quote:


speaking of quotes...

"People err who think my art comes easily to me. I assure you, no one has devoted so much time and thought to composition as I. There is not a famous master whose music I have not industriously studied through many times." Mozart



And so...? Most people with a huge talent in an established art still have to do all the groundwork, and they often are incredibly focused at gaining as much knowledge as they can. That drive to soak up as much as they can is a manifestation of the talent.

But it should also be mentioned that Mozart himself said things that would lead one to think that composing was the easiest thing in the world for him.

And finally, working as hard as Mozart will not turn just anyone into another Mozart. If that were true, we'd have many more Mozarts.

Quote:


“I believe in things that are developed through hard work. I always like people who have developed long and hard, especially through introspection and a lot of dedication. I think what they arrive at is usually a much deeper and more beautiful thing than the person who seems to have that ability and fluidity from the beginning." Bill Evans


He's talking about a preference for artistic depth achieved the hard way, over being facile. I don't think that has much to do with the topic. And frankly, the quote reads to me like a bit of sad self-flattery, from a very badly messed-up person who was a wonderful jazz musician in spite of everything.

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#1267405 - 09/13/09 08:23 AM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: wr]
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
Wr,

As far as practice goes who knows. If you are implying that talented people practiced more because it was easier and more enjoyable for them, that is not necessary of case. There are plenty of good (jazz) musicians who wasn't good enough to be accepted at good schools, but that didn't stop them from trying. Some of them practiced through years and years of frustration and not being accepted.

I don't know how much you know about Bill Evans. yes he had drug problems, but if you watch his interviews and read up on him. he was very articulate and intellegent and very modest person. To me you calling Bill Evan's quote a form of "self-flattery" tells me more about you than Bill Evans.

landorrano,

Yes I am not saying you can get there ALL by hard work, or that we can all play like Horowitz or Keith Jarrett. Thanks for actually understanding my point!! smile

Of course there are exceptional talents out there, and we can't expect to do what they are able to do.

As far as I know majority of (jazz) musicians believe that the had modest talent at best, and the rest was just result of hard work. I've read Pat Metheny, Bill Evans, Dave Liebman saying the same thing. So I guess I tend to value hard work more than talent... and you don't need exceptional/genius talent to do things at a high level.

To me talent just seems overrated. There are plenty of late-bloomers are there, and early promise never translates to success later on. one thing I learned from college from my teachers is that you never know what happens to people after college.

I heard one of my teachers told me my jazz teacher was actually pretty horrible when he was in college, and everyone thought he just didn't "have it". In fact, he was so horrible back then that nobody could believe he was able to do what he is doing right now.

I guess the point is that nobody is really fully capable of judging anyone's talents. In some ways growth is a mysterious thing, when we get blocked, we never know how long we are blocked.. and we never know when breakthrough would occur, it might occur tommorow, or it might never occur at all

this is from Dave Liebman's article

GENIUS OR WORK?
In my opinion the only pure genius in music was Mozart. He was different from day one, he had it hooked up. EVERYBODY ELSE WORKED THEIR ASS OFF!! EVERYBODY!! Bird worked, Trane worked, Bill Evans worked, even Miles in his way worked-I can tell you that. Of course each person has their own way of practicing and their own goals but it is not about genius or incredible talent only (of course you have to have some degree of that). It’s about commitment—I can do this, I can get better, I can be at least as good as that guy over there. Everybody in this room can get better. If you really wish to get better, whether you are a professional, an aspiring student or play for a hobby. Whichever way, it is the same. Whatever level you are on, it doesn’t matter; you can be better than you think if you put time in and are serious about it. It’s how you organize your time that is crucial.

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#1267409 - 09/13/09 08:37 AM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: etcetra]
pianoloverus Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19097
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: etcetra
To me talent just seems overrated. There are plenty of late-bloomers are there...


This may be true in jazz, but not in classical music. Tere have been numerous threads at PW about this, and to the best of my recollection no one has been able to name a single world class pianist who didn't start out very early and was not a terrific pianists at a young age.

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#1267422 - 09/13/09 09:43 AM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: pianoloverus]
Andromaque Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/29/08
Posts: 3885
Loc: New York
Denying the existence of talent or "innate gift" is denying human physiology. We are determined to some extent by our genes. Why do people accept this concept when it comes to some physical features, such as eye and hair color but not to more complex phenotypes such as aspects of brain function. Does anyone really believe that we are born with tabula rasa brains ready to be loaded with anything and without the hint of an operating sytem or a bit of pre-programming that allows the brain to receive and process information? Wouldn't we be a lot less diverse if that were the case.
The fact that all acoomplished people "work hard" cannot be considered, not even remotely, as an argument against the existence of talent. Now the environment (exposure, early practice,listening to music at home etc) plays an enormous role, and perhaps for practical purposes, it can obviate the need for that extra advantage called talent, but it all really depends on your standards of outcome evaluation. If you place a good orchestra violinist in the same bin as David Oistrakh or Vadim Repin or Jasha Heifetz, then yes you can consider talent overrated. But one needs to examine high achievement at a higher resolution. Nowadays many factors greatly facilitate our ability to develop skills and go very far in achieving proficiency: widespread access to good instruments and instruction, easy exposure to music, improved standards of living and increased leisure time, are but a few factors. But that does not "debunk" the idea of "talent". Neither does the existence of a genetic predisposition towards a complex activity deny the rest of the popualtion the ability to learn a skill.
I will add, with some trepidation, that this resistance to the idea of talent especially in the music arena is almost peculiarly American. I don't know where we get it. Something about our national psyche. We are quite responsive to the idea of "yes we can" (uhummm) and I think that is a "good thing", but it is not a free-out-of-genetics jail card.
Take another instance of very high performance: do you really think that anyone is cut out to be an excellent surgeon? Hundreds of doctors and surgeons are graduated every year and most are very competent But not all are capable of performing the most complex procedures with equal success. Yes, experience matters, but if you do not have that extra something (a facility with 3-dimensional visualisation, good judgment.. notice we are not just saying plain old dexterity), you are not even likely to go as far as being able to obtain the 'experience". If you needed a complicated procedure, would you go to any doctor with a degree?? Would you not want to go to the one who is most talented and whi has the best results? Sure, the hospital he or she practices at, the type of training etc all go into the assessment, but there is no question that some are more talented than others. You just need to compare them under more "extraordinary circumstnaces" and not "routine procedure".

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#1267424 - 09/13/09 09:53 AM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: etcetra]
sotto voce Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/15/06
Posts: 6163
Loc: Briarcliff Manor, NY, USA
Originally Posted By: etcetra
[...]Yes I am not saying you can get there ALL by hard work, or that we can all play like Horowitz or Keith Jarrett....

So I guess I tend to value hard work more than talent... and you don't need exceptional/genius talent to do things at a high level.

You might need it to do things at the highest level—like, for example, Horowitz and Jarrett. smile

Originally Posted By: etcetra
To me talent just seems overrated.

Another member, in another of these interminable discussions about this selfsame topic, once opined, "People who write such things about talent generally do not have any." That statement may contain bluntness and hyperbole, but I think it distills a certain truth about the subject.

The desire to minimize the importance and impact of talent can certainly seem like a mechanism (1) to protect and bolster the self-esteem of those who may lack it, and (2) to sustain the motivation to achieve notwithstanding one's assets or imperfections. There's nothing wrong with promoting a serious work ethic, but people who have natural gifts don't seem to share such a preoccupation with the theories of natural ability versus hard work that downplay talent.

Originally Posted By: etcetra
There are plenty of late-bloomers are there, and early promise never translates to success later on....

this is from Dave Liebman's article

GENIUS OR WORK?
In my opinion the only pure genius in music was Mozart.

It's simply untrue that "early promise never translates to success later on," and highly doubtful that "the only pure genius in music was Mozart." (I added italics to emphasize the kind of absolute terms that raise the red flag of skepticism.) Liebman made clear that his statement about Mozart was just his opinion, but I can't imagine any basis for an assertion that Mozart was unique in his capacities as a musician.

Steven
_________________________

"There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats."
—Albert Schweitzer

Chopin: Allegro de Concert Op. 46
Schumann: Toccata Op. 7
Fauré: Ballade Op. 19

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#1267427 - 09/13/09 10:03 AM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: sotto voce]
-Frycek Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/06/05
Posts: 5921
Loc: SC Mountains
At the risk of blowing my secular cover, "faith without works is dead." To me it's the same with talent. I have no doubt whatsoever it exists, it's just that by itself, it's not all that much. You have to do something with it. Even Liszt practiced eight to ten hours a day for years. A strong willed, but modestly talented (read relatively untalented) individual might do the same, and develop into a very respectable amateur pianist but he'd never be Liszt and Liszt if he'd practiced a good deal less would still have been a great virtuoso, but he wouldn't have been THE Great Virtuoso.
_________________________
Slow down and do it right.

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#1267449 - 09/13/09 10:56 AM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: -Frycek]
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
pianoloverus,

Yes, that is true, but I have met good number of people who started late and was able to achieve "professional level" by your definition, meaning graduating college/grad school with a performance degree.

sotto voce,

My experience was that everybody in music school seem to have some kind of talent, but there were very few people that I would say was truly exceptional. So my feeling, and (probably every else's feeling)was that whatever talent we had was modest at best. I can say the same thing about most of my teachers too.

So in that sense I don't believe you have to have 'exceptional' talent like Jarrett or Horowitz to play at a high/respectable (maybe even professional) level. being a world-class performer is completely different issue.

"but people who have natural gifts don't seem to share such a preoccupation with the theories of natural ability versus hard work that downplay talent."

but then again, Dave Liebman, Bill Evans, and Pat Metheny all downplay talent. They've all said, one way or the other that they have modest talent at best, and it's hard work that got there.

as far as "People who write such things about talent generally do not have any." goes.. Thomas Edison once said “Genius was 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.”.. So I guess I'll take both statements with grain of salt smile

I am not saying talent is irrelevant or you don't need talent to succeed.. but it's important to realize talent is 'perceived', its something that someone either "seem" to have or not, and often times we can be wrong about our assessment. Sometimes people's real talent don't really emerge until later in their development.

Maybe part of the reason I feel this way about talent is because I grew up in Asia, and people tend to place you according to whatever talent you seem to posses at a young age. But as far as I know, that kind of filtering has not been very effective in many cases, and in some ways it was harmful to children's development.

Andromaque,

No I don't believe that everyone is capable of becoming a excellent/exceptional surgeon. But I don't think it's impossible for people with average talent to become a doctor or even a 'descent' surgeon.. and becoming a doctor is a pretty high level of achievement in itself, even though it may not be as spectacular as being a world class surgeon.


Edited by etcetra (09/13/09 11:01 AM)

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#1267456 - 09/13/09 11:29 AM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: etcetra]
sotto voce Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/15/06
Posts: 6163
Loc: Briarcliff Manor, NY, USA
Originally Posted By: etcetra
but then again, Dave Liebman, Bill Evans, and Pat Metheny all downplay talent. They've all said, one way or the other that they have modest talent at best, and it's hard work that got there.

I am sure that talented people who downplay their own talent do so out of a sense of humility, modesty and good taste. It would be unseemly to exhibit any semblance of vanity or boastfulness about something that comes from genetic happenstance and amounts to luck of the draw.

Hard work has bragging rights; natural endowments do not.

Steven
_________________________

"There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats."
—Albert Schweitzer

Chopin: Allegro de Concert Op. 46
Schumann: Toccata Op. 7
Fauré: Ballade Op. 19

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#1267478 - 09/13/09 12:24 PM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: sotto voce]
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
Originally Posted By: sotto voce
Originally Posted By: etcetra
but then again, Dave Liebman, Bill Evans, and Pat Metheny all downplay talent. They've all said, one way or the other that they have modest talent at best, and it's hard work that got there.

I am sure that talented people who downplay their own talent do so out of a sense of humility, modesty and good taste. It would be unseemly to exhibit any semblance of vanity or boastfulness about something that comes from genetic happenstance and amounts to luck of the draw.

Hard work has bragging rights; natural endowments do not.

Steven


That may be true, but we haven't talk to them in person so we can't really assume. As far as I've read, Bill Evans genuinely believed that he did not possess any exceptional talent.

Also I remember Bill Evan's talking about how talented people may get 'stuck' at one point of their development. If a lot of things comes easy/natural to you, you might not have the ability to deal with something that is difficult later on.

Also when I read Kenny Werner's "effortless mastery", my impression is that a lot of one's success largely depended on how you practice and your attitude about learning. He talks about how things came more natural to him, not necessary because he had exceptional talent, but because he learned how to practice at an early age. I don't think he dismiss talent completely, but I wouldn't be surprised if he said that the reason people don't achieve their desired level has less to do with talent than we think.


Edited by etcetra (09/13/09 12:27 PM)

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#1267482 - 09/13/09 12:32 PM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: etcetra]
sotto voce Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/15/06
Posts: 6163
Loc: Briarcliff Manor, NY, USA
I wasn't referring to super-talented performers or to anyone specific at all; I meant people in general who have a degree of talent of which they are aware.

This thread is becoming awesome. etcetra, I'm wondering just how many times you're going to resummarize and restate the exact same points. smile

Steven
_________________________

"There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats."
—Albert Schweitzer

Chopin: Allegro de Concert Op. 46
Schumann: Toccata Op. 7
Fauré: Ballade Op. 19

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#1267544 - 09/13/09 02:37 PM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: sotto voce]
sophial Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/05
Posts: 3405
Loc: US
I hesitate to enter the fray but I did look up and check out the articles Monica (very graciously) pointed us towards. I must say I did not find them as convincing as she did on the "training" side of the "training versus talent" controversy. I think the rejoinders to the Howe article were very interesting and a great intellectual free for all ensued. Fascinating stuff!

As I've said in past threads, part of the difficulty with discussions like this is they tend to polarize into "either-or" thinking: nature vs nurture when of course it's BOTH working synergistically. I accept the evidence that focused practice makes a huge difference in skill level over time and in maximizing one’s natural aptitudes and abilities. However, there are some reasons I don’t buy the full argument that 10,000 hours is sufficient to turn anyone selected at random into a professional-level or elite pianist.

I think the problem with much of the expertise literature is that it is not dealing with randomly selected populations but compares different levels of attainment within groups of musicians, or chess players, or other skilled groups. When the sample is selected from one end of the distribution and the range is restricted on that variable, the correlation of that variable with outcomes will be reduced (a statistical effect of range restriction). So within that group, yes, practice will show larger effects because they are already self-selected to probably have a higher than average degree of aptitude (“talent” if you will) compared to the population as a whole.

If we think of this literature in terms of how to best nurture and develop aptitudes in people (which probably are some combination of cognitive, physical, and temperament endowments) - it makes sense. People who start out with some aptitude and interest, who are highly motivated to improve, and who stick with it (remember there is a strong attrition process as those not doing well drop out) will improve, and often greatly improve, to some level of expertise after many hours of focused concentrated practice (not just repetition, but focused on skill building). I have no argument with that and think the evidence is quite good for it.

It gets interpreted though by many people as meaning that if you select people randomly you can create Martha Argerich, Vladimir Horowitz or Mozart by subjecting them to 10k hours of focused training. I just don't think there is any good evidence to that effect (and I read the studies Monica cites – there is far from consensus among scientists that talent is nonexistent or irrelevant. Just read the rejoinders to the Howe article. Some excellent points by eminent scientists for the other side.) In the real world, people don't spend 10,000 hours doing something they have no aptitude for-- the process weeds out those who are not making progress. Perhaps having the cognitive and physical ability to intensely concentrate, focus and discipline oneself to not only put in the time but benefit from and progress as a result of hours and hours of efficient practice is in fact part of the underlying set of aptitudes that we call talent!

I've made this point in other threads, but I find it interesting that most people have little trouble accepting that you need to be born with a great vocal apparatus to become a world class singer but that somehow the same principle doesn't apply to the piano. Yes, much hard work, many hours of practice and a will to succeed are also necessary to have a professional career, but without the basic physical apparatus, all the work in the world will not produce a Renee Fleming or Joan Sutherland, nor will it produce a Horowitz, Argerich or Richter. That's not to say hard work is not needed but it's not going anywhere without the basic underlying physical and mental aptitudes. Training is no doubt necessary but I do not think it is sufficient to achieve elite status. And other set of factors come into play to have commercial success in a professional career as a musician-- much hinges on temperament, luck, timing, good connections, drive and even, these days, how good looking one is!

So I agree that it takes stuggle, sacrifice and intense practice even for the innately talented. The only thing we can control is how much and how well we work. We can't go back and trade in our genetics or our very early learning experiences. So let's focus on high quality hard work and see how far it gets us. But it's also important to have some realistic expectations too. On a population basis, only a few people will make it to the top. However, it's difficult to predict for any individual where she/he will end up given the right kind of focused work-- which is why this should not be interpreted as discouraging people from working as hard and well as they can and seeing how far they can progress.

Sophia

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#1267652 - 09/13/09 05:52 PM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: sophial]
landorrano Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/26/06
Posts: 2443
Loc: France
Originally Posted By: sophial


In the real world, people don't spend 10,000 hours doing something they have no aptitude for-- the process weeds out those who are not making progress.



If this is one of the excellent points by an eminent scientist, he ought to stick to his specialty.

Everyone has an aptitude for playing music. Just as everyone has an aptitude for language. It is a human characteristic. If great talent or genious exist, they exist on the basis of this general human quality.

And yes, of course people spend 10000 hours doing things for which "they have no aptitude". Jogging, for example. And just look at how many people run marathons today, and the years of preparation that that implies. If people had that kind of preoccupation with their artistic being instead of their physical fitness, that would be interesting. There'd be a much richer basis for discussing the importance of in-born talent in music or in art.

That is obviously a social phenomenon and has nothing to do with individual talent or aptitude.

To take up your example of singers, I think that there as well things are not so evident. You have a very specific idea in mind of what a great singer is. Yet I have heard Pavarotti say that everyone has a great voice inside of him, it is just a question to find it. I am firmly of this opinion as well.

And Louis Armstrong, does he not fit the bill as a great singer? Did he have the right apparatus?

This idea of the "basic physical apparatus" of a Joan Sutherland or a Martha Agerich strikes me as tredding very close to the idea of Stalinist genetics that a selective reproduction can be effectuated resulting in a population of bel canto.

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#1267802 - 09/13/09 09:31 PM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: landorrano]
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5834
Loc: Down Under
Originally Posted By: landorrano
Originally Posted By: sophial

In the real world, people don't spend 10,000 hours doing something they have no aptitude for-- the process weeds out those who are not making progress.

If this is one of the excellent points by an eminent scientist, he ought to stick to his specialty.

Everyone has an aptitude for playing music. Just as everyone has an aptitude for language. It is a human characteristic.

(I can't believe I'm getting into this...)
Everyone may have an aptitude for making music - but we're talking a bit more specifically here, aren't we? We're talking about playing a specific instrument, a piano. Surely you don't think that everyone has an equal aptitude for playing the violin, or the flute, or the double bass?
_________________________
Du holde Kunst...

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#1267888 - 09/14/09 12:55 AM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: etcetra]
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
A lot of people are arguing as if I am saying there is no such thing as talent or that we are all capable of playing like the best of the best just from hard work..and that is not what I am talking about.

Originally Posted By: landorrano

I don't know who says that it is just a question of hard work. I don't remember having read that idea in this thread, and I don't have the impression that etcetra is defending this idea.


If I can get this much across, then I wouldn't need to repeat myself so often smile

landorrano,

If you look at Bulgarain and African ethnic music, there are a lot of complex rhythm and odd-meter stuff that most people would find 'intimidating'... I think most of us would conclude that the music is way beyond our ability and these people are born with innate talent for rhythm. But for them, those things are natural part of their lives. And if you visit them, they might be surprised to see you struggling with things that even kids are able to do there. Of course there are different levels of excellence among them, but overall their aptitude for rhythm is better than most of us.


Edited by etcetra (09/14/09 01:30 AM)

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#1267900 - 09/14/09 01:54 AM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: etcetra]
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7422
Originally Posted By: etcetra
Wr,

As far as practice goes who knows. If you are implying that talented people practiced more because it was easier and more enjoyable for them, that is not necessary of case. There are plenty of good (jazz) musicians who wasn't good enough to be accepted at good schools, but that didn't stop them from trying. Some of them practiced through years and years of frustration and not being accepted.



I don't understand what point you are trying to make. On one hand, you are saying these are good musicians who practiced a lot, but it sounds like you are also saying they aren't good musicians (i.e., haven't got talent).

Quote:


I don't know how much you know about Bill Evans. yes he had drug problems, but if you watch his interviews and read up on him. he was very articulate and intellegent and very modest person. To me you calling Bill Evan's quote a form of "self-flattery" tells me more about you than Bill Evans.



In the quote you cited, he could just as well have come right out and said that he thought it was his own artistry that was a "deeper and more beautiful thing" than the artistry of people who, in his eyes, didn't work so hard as he did. And that sounds like self-flattery to me. He wasn't talking about Vladimir Horowitz, you know, he was talking about musicians who just happened to be exactly like him (I wonder who those players were who he thought had "that ability and fluidity" from the start, that he didn't think so highly of).

If he really thought he had little or no talent, he must have been defining the word to suit his self-image. It was obvious to other people that he did have a massive talent, or he never would have become famous and we would never have heard of him. Oftentimes, it is others who recognize that a person has talent, not they themselves. To the talented person, they just are what they are, and it only gets to be seen as unusual when compared to other people. That can mean they are not in a position to accurately assess whether they have talent.

In jazz musicians, talent can be a very different thing than in classical players, and it can be as much or more a compositional/arranging/improvisational talent as a performing one in the classical music sense. And to the extent that a person is coming up with a unique style, it can take a while to get worked out, and while that working out is in process, the person may not seem to be doing a whole lot that is especially notable, and may not be getting much positive reinforcement along the way.

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