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#1267911 - 09/14/09 03:05 AM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: etcetra]
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7460
Originally Posted By: etcetra
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



Well, then, what is your point? That everyone is capable of being mediocre at whatever they want to be mediocre at?

Quote:


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.



!!!!!!!!!

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#1268080 - 09/14/09 01:20 PM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: wr]
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

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

I get the impression that you are saying you either have to be mediocre or spectacular in music... I hate to repeat myself again, but all I am saying is that with modest talent, people seem to be able to attain high level of achievement in music (even professional level), even though it may not be spectacular keith jarrett level. Some of my teachers genuinely showed no talent in college.. at least it seemed that way back then.

As far as my comment about rhythm and culture. I am just making a point that we taking ALOT of things for granted, and sometimes we don't realize the advantages we have can be seen as innate talent. Are those people genetically superior in terms of rhythmic understanding? who knows, but I am guessing it has to do more with the fact that they are used to these complex rhythms at a very early age.

BTW.. I agree that talent in jazz is quite different than talent in classical. My point is that, very few people seem to have it easily/naturally even among the pros. I used to think I was really slow because it took me weeks sometimes months to learn new scales, chords or new licks, and I was surprised to find out that it was like that for everyone else including Bill Evans or Dave Liebman.

As far as I know very few people had the kind of talent to learn a new voicing in every key and use it the next week. The only person who seem to have that kind of talent is Keith Jarrett.


Edited by etcetra (09/14/09 01:27 PM)

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#1268102 - 09/14/09 02:03 PM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: sophial]
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17701
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
Originally Posted By: sophial
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.



Hi Sophia! I'm glad you took the time to look those articles up and found them interesting. You make a lot of wonderful points, and I certainly wouldn't disagree with your major conclusion: performance is going to be a function of both genetic and environmental influences. Where we will disagree is the relative percentages allotted to those two sources of influence.

Here's why I find it hard to accept the position that performance is 100% a function of deliberate practice: I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that 'g' (the innate general intelligence factor) exists and predicts all sorts of important outcomes. So if I'm willing to believe in some sort of dimension of innate ability as it pertains to educational outcomes, why should I not believe in a similar dimension of innate 'musical talent'?

The answer lies in the lack of empirical evidence for such an underlying 'musical talent' ability. Nobody has to date been able to (a) devise a musical IQ test that taps into aptitude (independent of learned performance) and (b) show that these aptitude scores predict musical expertise (controlling for practice), the way that IQ tests have been developed and shown to predict intellectual outcomes.

If 'musical talent' independent of practice exists, we ought to be able to measure it. The Ericsson article talked about efforts to come up with motor coordination and hand independence measures that ought to predict piano ability, but those measures didn't work.

I will confess to feeling sympathetic to the logical argument that there should be some normally distributed underlying individual difference aptitude for music analogous to the 'g' of general intelligence. But we don't have the data at the current time to support it... as opposed to the data in favor of the importance of deliberate practice, of which there is a huge amount.

On a somewhat different note, the jogging/running example mentioned by several posters is illustrative. Ericsson threw out the fascinating example that the winning time of the 1896 Olympic marathon was something like a full minute slower than the qualifying time of the Boston marathon today... a criterion literally tens if not hundreds of thousands of people meet easily today. The difference, of course, can be attributed to better nutrition, health, and training... all environmental factors. In other words, given basic biomechanical health (that is, you need two legs wink ), an argument could be made that training and diet matter much more than one's genetic makeup in determining something as body-focused as running speed.
_________________________
Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

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#1268135 - 09/14/09 03:15 PM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: Monica K.]
spatial Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/20/09
Posts: 95
Loc: USA
Originally Posted By: Monica K.

The answer lies in the lack of empirical evidence for such an underlying 'musical talent' ability. Nobody has to date been able to (a) devise a musical IQ test that taps into aptitude (independent of learned performance) and (b) show that these aptitude scores predict musical expertise (controlling for practice), the way that IQ tests have been developed and shown to predict intellectual outcomes.


How certain are you that lack of a 'musical IQ' test implies lack of musical talent? Are there are other qualities besides intelligence that can be measured in this way (that might be similar to music)?

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#1268142 - 09/14/09 03:22 PM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: spatial]
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17701
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
Not tremendously certain... I'm a social psychologist, dabbling in the psychology of music for a class I'm teaching. But I've read more of the scientific literature than a casual student. If valid tests of musical talent exist, I'm not aware of them... but would love to be made so.

As to other qualities besides general intelligence that can be reliably measured and have predictive validity, there are certain personality traits that come to mind, e.g., the Big Five (extraversion, neuroticism, conscientiousness, openness to experience, agreeableness). These have well-validated measures and have been shown to predict useful life outcomes. Impulsivity and delay of gratification (which in themselves are related to intelligence) also appear to predict useful outcomes.
_________________________
Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

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#1268150 - 09/14/09 03:33 PM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: Monica K.]
spatial Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/20/09
Posts: 95
Loc: USA
Originally Posted By: Monica K.
Not tremendously certain... I'm a social psychologist, dabbling in the psychology of music for a class I'm teaching. But I've read more of the scientific literature than a casual student. If valid tests of musical talent exist, I'm not aware of them... but would love to be made so.


But just as a general principle, if no test for measuring a quantity has been discovered, do we assume the attribute is not quantifiable?

Quote:

As to other qualities besides general intelligence that can be reliably measured and have predictive validity, there are certain personality traits that come to mind, e.g., the Big Five (extraversion, neuroticism, conscientiousness, openness to experience, agreeableness). These have well-validated measures and have been shown to predict useful life outcomes. Impulsivity and delay of gratification (which in themselves are related to intelligence) also appear to predict useful outcomes.


How about other qualities that, like musical ability, are only really evident after a significant amount of practice and exposure has been undertaken?

Or, are you saying that musical ability would be the predicted outcome of some hypothetical innate quality? If so, what's an example of a measurable innate quality along with its concrete outcome?

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#1268158 - 09/14/09 03:42 PM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: spatial]
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17701
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
Originally Posted By: spatial

But just as a general principle, if no test for measuring a quantity has been discovered, do we assume the attribute is not quantifiable?



Not necessarily...just that we haven't quantified it yet, and that trait lies in the great big bag of "to be empirically demonstrated" stuff.

Originally Posted By: spatial

How about other qualities that, like musical ability, are only really evident after a significant amount of practice and exposure has been undertaken?

Or, are you saying that musical ability would be the predicted outcome of some hypothetical innate quality? If so, what's an example of a measurable innate quality along with its concrete outcome?


These are great questions, ones I'm not sure I have the answer to. What I would like to see is some way of tapping into musical talent that does not involve actual musical mastery. If we devised a test, for example, that measured how quickly and smoothly a violinist could move his or her bow across a predetermined sequence of strings, it would probably predict skill as a violinist, but it wouldn't help us untangle the innate talent vs. practice question because performance on that measure would be confounded with past experience with violin.

But for the domain of IQ, we *have* developed measures (Raven's progressive matrices come to mind, as well as other nonverbal measures of intelligence) where the tasks involved on the test are largely unrelated to what people have learned in school or everyday life, yet scores on such measures predict outcomes like grades in college, success in careers, etc.

So what would be most useful is if researchers could devise a test that would tap into the skills that are necessary for being a good musician but that don't mimic the actual training musicians receive. And that's tough.
_________________________
Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

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#1268161 - 09/14/09 03:48 PM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: Monica K.]
spatial Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/20/09
Posts: 95
Loc: USA
Just out of curiosity, are we sure that IQ itself is not a good predictor of musical ability?

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#1268169 - 09/14/09 03:52 PM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: spatial]
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17701
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
I'm glad you're not in my class, because you keep asking good questions that I really ought to know the answers to! laugh

My memory is that I've read of studies that correlated IQ with musical ability and there was no strong/significant effect. [scampers off to look it up, so I'll be prepared when somebody asks me that on Wednesday.]
_________________________
Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

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#1268249 - 09/14/09 05:59 PM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: Monica K.]
ProdigalPianist Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/08/07
Posts: 1049
Loc: Phoenix Metro, AZ
Like many other terms, "talent" seems to come with a lot of baggage. My guess is that what is really going on is more like an affinity for music...a tendency from a very early age to notice and connect with music, long before you start playing an instrument. You have to be able to really listen and hear, connect with music and be able to imagine subtle or not-so-subtle changes or inflections and how that would change the music you're hearing. From then on it's a short step to wanting to try out those variations yourself.

I don't think "talent" is quite the right word for what I'm talking about though. It has been used too much to speak about the ability to actively make the sounds...not actively listen to them and think about them.

There is probably a sliding scale of humanity from "ignore music altogether" on up through world-class musical individuals. There have been times when I could have sat for hours and just played chords on a particularly lovely piano...and my husband didn't hear the difference at all between it and the one next to it.
_________________________
Adult Amateur Pianist

My only domestic quality is that I live in a house.

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#1268403 - 09/14/09 10:09 PM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: Monica K.]
sophial Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/05
Posts: 3408
Loc: US
Originally Posted By: Monica K.
Originally Posted By: sophial
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.



Hi Sophia! I'm glad you took the time to look those articles up and found them interesting. You make a lot of wonderful points, and I certainly wouldn't disagree with your major conclusion: performance is going to be a function of both genetic and environmental influences. Where we will disagree is the relative percentages allotted to those two sources of influence.

Here's why I find it hard to accept the position that performance is 100% a function of deliberate practice: I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that 'g' (the innate general intelligence factor) exists and predicts all sorts of important outcomes. So if I'm willing to believe in some sort of dimension of innate ability as it pertains to educational outcomes, why should I not believe in a similar dimension of innate 'musical talent'?

The answer lies in the lack of empirical evidence for such an underlying 'musical talent' ability. Nobody has to date been able to (a) devise a musical IQ test that taps into aptitude (independent of learned performance) and (b) show that these aptitude scores predict musical expertise (controlling for practice), the way that IQ tests have been developed and shown to predict intellectual outcomes.

If 'musical talent' independent of practice exists, we ought to be able to measure it. The Ericsson article talked about efforts to come up with motor coordination and hand independence measures that ought to predict piano ability, but those measures didn't work.

I will confess to feeling sympathetic to the logical argument that there should be some normally distributed underlying individual difference aptitude for music analogous to the 'g' of general intelligence. But we don't have the data at the current time to support it... as opposed to the data in favor of the importance of deliberate practice, of which there is a huge amount.

On a somewhat different note, the jogging/running example mentioned by several posters is illustrative. Ericsson threw out the fascinating example that the winning time of the 1896 Olympic marathon was something like a full minute slower than the qualifying time of the Boston marathon today... a criterion literally tens if not hundreds of thousands of people meet easily today. The difference, of course, can be attributed to better nutrition, health, and training... all environmental factors. In other words, given basic biomechanical health (that is, you need two legs wink ), an argument could be made that training and diet matter much more than one's genetic makeup in determining something as body-focused as running speed.


Hi Monica,

I think at least part of the reason it is so difficult to come up with a "musical IQ" test that would be independent of all (or at least most) training and practice effects is that the abilities are so diverse and multifaceted, even more so than intelligence. Piano performance, for example, involves many different skills that are both physical and cognitive, and involve speed of processing, coordination, ability to have or to acquire extremely good control of gross and fine motor activities, visual-motor, visual-spatial, kinesthetic and ballistic skills, as well as listening and musical skills that are interpretive, imaginative, emotive and beyond. To reach very high (i.e. professional performance) levels, I would imagine you need to have at least very good physical, musical and cognitive aptitudes (however they are defined) underlying all these abilities, and have most or all of them simultaneously. Plus then they interact with each other and with experience in ways that become a nightmare to measure.

If each of these aptitudes is distributed normally in the population, the odds of winning the genetic lottery and getting all of them at once are extremely low. For that group practice will likely pay off big time and progress could be extremely rapid. More of us might get some of them at a high enough level to compensate for others that might be weaker. Training might make up the difference, and early training might rewire brain areas in ways that compensate areas not as strong, or strengthen already strong aptitudes. All of these complexities will make it hard to develop a pure measure of musical aptitude or talent.

Re: the correlation with intelligence-- one of the rebuttals by Detterman et al in the Howe article talks about this and cites two articles that found significant relationships between general intelligence and musical ability (not clear how it was measured) in the range of .49 to .69.


Re: the running example, yes, good training, equipment and diet have no doubt made a big difference, but the whole distribution has gotten pulled up, not just the bottom part of it. There is still a wide gap between the Olympic champion and your average community marathoner. In the end, nothing is purely genetic, biological or environmental-- how much of one's potential gets expressed is always some synergistic combination of all these factors.

Sophia


Edited by sophial (09/15/09 12:43 AM)

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#1269944 - 09/17/09 01:12 PM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: sophial]
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17701
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
Originally Posted By: sophial

Re: the running example, yes, good training, equipment and diet have no doubt made a big difference, but the whole distribution has gotten pulled up, not just the bottom part of it. There is still a wide gap between the Olympic champion and your average community marathoner.

Sophia


This is a good point... so good, in fact, that it took me two days to think of a rebuttal to it. laugh Yes, there will still be a wide gap between the Olympic champion and the average marathoner, but that gap could still be caused by environmental factors. We have physiological data to show that certain muscle characteristics associated with running ability follow long-term practice rather than precede it, but little evidence of genetic markers that predict outstanding athletic performance (excepting the case of height and basketball).

My class had a spirited debate about this issue yesterday. The conclusion we reached is the same as yours, and is, indeed, the only one that makes any sense:

Originally Posted By: sophial
In the end, nothing is purely genetic, biological or environmental-- how much of one's potential gets expressed is always some synergistic combination of all these factors.


However, where we differ is that I believe that the environmental component of musical ability is larger than you apparently do, and substantially larger than the corresponding environmental component of, say, cognitive ability... but I would not try to argue that there is no genetic contribution at all.

I am convinced enough of the importance of deliberate practice that I am distressed when I hear people say "I have no talent" or "I could never play a musical instrument" or "It is impossible for people who begin piano as adults to reach an expert performance level." I think all of those statements are incorrect and unnecessarily self-limiting.

I like the following analogy: Playing a musical instrument is rather like reading. There is a minimum aptitude level that must be possessed in order to learn how to read, but pretty much everybody except those at the -1.5 or -2 standard deviation level passes that threshold, and the more focused practice they put into reading, the better at reading they become. There are individual differences: some people learn to read quite easily; others struggle to lesser or greater extents. Some people become reading 'geniuses' who are capable of speed-reading and understanding large and esoteric vocabularies. These individual differences are undoubtedly a function of both innate and environmental factors. But pretty much *everybody* who works at it long and hard enough can become an expert enough reader to be able to read and understand difficult texts. Substitute 'music' for 'reading,' and that sums up my viewpoint on the issue.
_________________________
Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

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#1270149 - 09/17/09 07:28 PM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: Monica K.]
ProdigalPianist Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/08/07
Posts: 1049
Loc: Phoenix Metro, AZ
The more I read the articles, the more I think that "talent" is being equated with technical expertise, which it should not be.

Too many people, I think even the authors of the papers, are talking about technical skill rather than musicality when they refer to "talent". Note perfect performances of extremely difficult pieces, performed with beautiful technique, are very impressive and deserve every bit of accolade they receive...but I don't think that's necessarily what "musical talent" really is...if there is such a mystical quality given to a few.

I think great strides have been made in piano pedagogy in the last few decades. Sure, there were always world-class teachers, but the astounding, jaw-dropping performances of younger and younger children from more and more places point, to me, that we have learned a LOT about how to be very, very successful in teaching piano. The evidence points to the fact that we simply must have teachers capable of getting people to higher levels than before, in more parts of the world. I overheard someone who has an MA from a well known school say that now high school and even jr high kids are regularly playing stuff that was reserved for grad students when this person was a student.

If you think awesome technique is "talent"...then of course deliberate practice (enough hours in the day, enough days in the year, enough years; combined with a very good teacher) will get you to an impressive level of "talent".

But, as I said, if "talent" exists for some more than others...and IF (huge if) it is NOT something that depends on a particular experience or nurturing of something-or-other in infancy (which we are never gonna know because we can't do controlled experiments on large numbers of people from birth to death to find out)...I argue that it is _enhanced by_ but not _dependent upon_ technical skill.

A grade 2 piece can be played with heartbreaking beauty by someone with "talent"/musicality/sensitivity. Technical difficulties are impressive but not absolutely necessary to music.

The real danger, if you want to call it that, is that far too many people think that if a child has "talent" that they can be given any piece of junk piano and whatever "calls themselves a piano teacher" teacher that's around and cheap...and in a year or two kiddo will be soloing with a symphony or on the Tonight Show...and if that DOESN"T happen the kid clearly didn't have "talent".
_________________________
Adult Amateur Pianist

My only domestic quality is that I live in a house.

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#1270236 - 09/17/09 10:49 PM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: ProdigalPianist]
Philip Lu Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/25/09
Posts: 294
Loc: Hacienda Heights, CA
I doubt there is any inborn musical talent, or at most down to some rhythms (which probably don't help much). How long has it been since we have been using instruments in creating music or writing down music for instruments? Even if there is talent in seeing I do not believe that chance could create a trait in the past 2000-5000 years or so since more complex musical instruments have been around. Other than, of course things such as intelligence (It's hard to teach something that has no brain).
But aside from my idle thoughts above, I believe that it is very hard for genes to create musical talent. In this nature vs. nurture, I favor the nurture part of it. Of course, IMO the environment plays the great role in determining whether a child will be successful or not. I still think that the mindset of the person determines everything.
_________________________
"Nie Dam Sie!"

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#1270277 - 09/18/09 12:06 AM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: Philip Lu]
Horowitzian Offline
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Registered: 09/18/08
Posts: 8453
_________________________
Close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and nuclear weapons.

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#1270294 - 09/18/09 12:54 AM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: Philip Lu]
argerichfan Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 8699
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
Originally Posted By: Philip Lu
I doubt there is any inborn musical talent, or at most down to some rhythms...

So basically the accomplishments of a Bach, Mozart, Beethoven or Wagner could conceivably be duplicated in any classroom, or the accomplishments of a Rachmaninov, Horowitz or Argerich could be duplicated in any practice room. After all, it's probably just a matter of an inspiring teacher.

Oh yes, throw in some hard work too, forgot about that.

Wow. I guess I had it all wrong.
_________________________
Jason

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#1270299 - 09/18/09 01:11 AM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: argerichfan]
sotto voce Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/15/06
Posts: 6163
Loc: Briarcliff Manor, NY, USA
Nah, you had it right. Even though the writer fancies himself more mature than adults several times his age, such "idle thoughts" are those of someone not yet old enough to get a license to drive.

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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#1270314 - 09/18/09 02:17 AM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: sotto voce]
landorrano Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/26/06
Posts: 2445
Loc: France
Originally Posted By: sotto voce
Nah, you had it right. Even though the writer fancies himself more mature than adults several times his age, such "idle thoughts" are those of someone not yet old enough to get a license to drive.

Steven


That's great! We search our Mozarts, and for the others wallop 'em with ideas like that.

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#1270338 - 09/18/09 04:52 AM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: landorrano]
Andromaque Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/29/08
Posts: 3885
Loc: New York
Don't worry landorrano. A real Mozart can take a sotto voce nudge. smile

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#1270388 - 09/18/09 08:51 AM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: wr]
cardguy Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/17/08
Posts: 977
Just to jump in here a bit, for those arguing that many top tier performers insist that it was mostly hard work that got them there, and since they ought to know it must be true, I'd like to say this: that one can't really take credit for talent. It's hard work that's to be admired. If I were a highly skilled pianist, I'd be tempted to say the same thing.

When Thomas Edison say's it's 99 percent perspiration, in my view he's being somewhat disingenuous..

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#1270429 - 09/18/09 10:26 AM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: cardguy]
argerichfan Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 8699
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
Originally Posted By: cardguy

When Thomas Edison says it's 99 percent perspiration, in my view he's being somewhat disingenuous..

Yes, because it's that '1%' talent (or inspiration) which makes the '99%' perspiration payoff. You can't have one without the other -no matter how hard or long you perspire- which is why breaking this down to percentages is so laughable.
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#1270444 - 09/18/09 10:55 AM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: Monica K.]
sophial Offline
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Registered: 04/11/05
Posts: 3408
Loc: US
Originally Posted By: Monica K.
Originally Posted By: sophial

Re: the running example, yes, good training, equipment and diet have no doubt made a big difference, but the whole distribution has gotten pulled up, not just the bottom part of it. There is still a wide gap between the Olympic champion and your average community marathoner.

Sophia


This is a good point... so good, in fact, that it took me two days to think of a rebuttal to it. laugh Yes, there will still be a wide gap between the Olympic champion and the average marathoner, but that gap could still be caused by environmental factors. We have physiological data to show that certain muscle characteristics associated with running ability follow long-term practice rather than precede it, but little evidence of genetic markers that predict outstanding athletic performance (excepting the case of height and basketball).

My class had a spirited debate about this issue yesterday. The conclusion we reached is the same as yours, and is, indeed, the only one that makes any sense:

Originally Posted By: sophial
In the end, nothing is purely genetic, biological or environmental-- how much of one's potential gets expressed is always some synergistic combination of all these factors.


However, where we differ is that I believe that the environmental component of musical ability is larger than you apparently do, and substantially larger than the corresponding environmental component of, say, cognitive ability... but I would not try to argue that there is no genetic contribution at all.

I am convinced enough of the importance of deliberate practice that I am distressed when I hear people say "I have no talent" or "I could never play a musical instrument" or "It is impossible for people who begin piano as adults to reach an expert performance level." I think all of those statements are incorrect and unnecessarily self-limiting.

I like the following analogy: Playing a musical instrument is rather like reading. There is a minimum aptitude level that must be possessed in order to learn how to read, but pretty much everybody except those at the -1.5 or -2 standard deviation level passes that threshold, and the more focused practice they put into reading, the better at reading they become. There are individual differences: some people learn to read quite easily; others struggle to lesser or greater extents. Some people become reading 'geniuses' who are capable of speed-reading and understanding large and esoteric vocabularies. These individual differences are undoubtedly a function of both innate and environmental factors. But pretty much *everybody* who works at it long and hard enough can become an expert enough reader to be able to read and understand difficult texts. Substitute 'music' for 'reading,' and that sums up my viewpoint on the issue.


Hi Monica
As always, you make great points and I wish I could have been in your class discussion. And I agree that we agree ( smile ) on lots of issues here but probably disagree on the extent to which “talent” or aptitude is in the mix. You mentioned studies showing that certain muscle characteristics associated with running ability follow long-term practice, and of course that’s correct. Training changes the body and brain. However, the extent to which people can make those changes or benefit from training probably depends upon a number of factors, some of which are likely to be related to aptitude. To get to a basic level of competence on a simple task is probably within the capability of most people given training; to get to very high levels of competence on very complex tasks however is where individual differences are more likely to show up even with good training. My contention is that the more multifaceted the abilities required, and the more complex and demanding the task (like playing piano at a professional level), the more individual differences are likely to emerge and persist despite training. In fact, it may be that the ability to benefit from intense training may be part of individual differences that we call “talent”.

A thought experiment:
To take your reading example to an even more basic task, let’s use a really simple task of picking up a small sponge ball from a table and putting it in a paper cup next to it. Most people, even small children, could learn to perform this task quickly after seeing it performed or getting instruction and do it correctly virtually100% of the time. They have all achieved “expert” status at performing this task. Even though there are individual differences among these people, the task is simple enough and easy enough that those differences will not necessarily come into play in meeting the criterion of getting the ball into the cup.

Now let’s start to make the task harder. Take the ball and make it larger, and make the cup a hoop and suspend it 10 feet off the ground. Let’s make everyone an adult who’s never done shot a basketball free throw to keep it simple. Initially, there’s a high failure rate but with practice and training our group of people improves, but some improve more quickly and reach proficiency (let’s say 90%) while others don’t. But given the task is fairly straightforward, let’s give them 10,000 hours of focused practice and probably very many will reach that criterion. However, there will still be some range of proficiency. Now, let’s make it even harder. Add the requirement to dribble, move with and without the ball, and have a very tall and extremely skilled defender attempting to block, steal and otherwise disrupt your shot, requiring you to go around him/her at high speed or jump and elevate to make your shot—think NBA basketball. Even without the height issue, the set of skills required and the complexity of the task starts to result in a widening range of achievement despite intense training—partly (and I stress partly) probably due to individual differences in component abilities that show up as the task gets more complex and the range of skills and abilities gets more diverse and taps into a larger set of underlying competencies that differ among individuals.

I think the same argument can be made with music—depending on where the bar is set, yes, probably most people with practice and training can accomplish basic musical competency (just like reading competency). However, as the bar gets set higher (professional or elite levels of performance), individual differences are likely to emerge as important in terms of who gets there even with training and practice. And the skills involved are so multidimensional that it is not surprising we haven’t identified a musical aptitude test—it is no doubt a variety of aptitudes all working together with training.

Sorry for the long response. Keep us posted about the course, please!

Sophia



Edited by sophial (09/18/09 10:59 AM)

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#1270471 - 09/18/09 12:00 PM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: Andromaque]
Horowitzian Offline
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Registered: 09/18/08
Posts: 8453
Originally Posted By: Andromaque
Don't worry landorrano. A real Mozart can take a sotto voce nudge. smile


grin
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#1270472 - 09/18/09 12:01 PM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: sophial]
Toman Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/24/09
Posts: 164
If there were adult beginners playing highly advanced works, this discussion wouldn't be necessary.

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#1270616 - 09/18/09 03:41 PM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: Toman]
Andromaque Offline
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Registered: 08/29/08
Posts: 3885
Loc: New York
So many ways of stating the obvious: All living creatures exhibit a compound "readout" that is the result of the interactions of their genes with the environment. There have been vast amounts of data in many fields that confirm this hypothesis. The fact that we cannot measure a complex parameter, such as "musical talent", does not diminish its value or eliminate its contribution. After all it took us a while to learn how to measure Earth's orbit around the sun but our world was still not geocentric pre-Galileo. The same can be said about the existence of radioactivity before and after Madame Curie discovered how to measure it..
Speaking of runners by the way, there is readily accessible data (see PUbMed)that demonstrate differences in oxidative capacity and other parameters that provide a definite genetic advantage among elite runners.
Ascribing percent values to the contribution of the 2 factors, genes and environment, is pseudo-science at best in my opinion. It is also not likely to be very applicable since there is significant and dynamic interaction between the two, which means they are not likely to obey a constant and predictable mathematical formula.

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#1270635 - 09/18/09 04:11 PM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: Andromaque]
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17701
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
Sophia, that was a wonderful post and an excellent and thoughtful conclusion on the issue. With your permission I'd love to copy and paste it and send it on to the students in my class (giving you credit, of course!).

Andromaque, are you talking about the Park et al. (1988) study on 'energy metabolism of the untrained muscle of elite runners'? Their data are certainly suggestive, but as they acknowledge themselves, not conclusive. They are comparing differences in muscles between athletes who have already achieved elite status and a sedentary control group. And as they state on p. 8784, "The possibility that athletic training could affect untrained muscle cannot be rigorously excluded." In a way, it's a bit of a moot point, because their interpretation is consistent with a model of performance that allows for at least a partial determination by innate factors--and that's a model I wouldn't disagree with. But I bring the issue up simply to illustrate, again, how difficult it is to study this question in a manner that allows for firm causal inferences.

I also think that ProdigalPianist and others have identified an important reason why I'm beginning to suspect there is actually greater agreement on this issue than appears: We may all be entertaining widely different operational definitions of the terms "expertise" and "expert performance." I'm not saying that everyone, or even many people, can become the next Horowitz or Argerich or Mozart--I'm with argerichfan and most of the rest of you on that. When I say that I think most people can achieve an expert level in piano, I'm talking about the technical skill and ability to play well enough, say, to work as a cocktail bar pianist. You folks here in the Pianist Corner might think that sets the bar awfully low. To the nonmusician or the crowd over in AB forum, it appears awfully high... and the assertion that they, too, could reach that level given sufficient practice is inspiring. thumb





Edited by Monica K. (09/18/09 04:57 PM)
Edit Reason: added italics, hedged one phrase a little more
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#1270661 - 09/18/09 04:49 PM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: Monica K.]
argerichfan Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 8699
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
Originally Posted By: Monica K.
When I say that I think most people can achieve an expert level in piano, I'm talking about the technical skill and ability to play well enough, say, to work as a cocktail bar pianist. You folks here in the Pianist Corner might think that sets the bar awfully low...

Not as far as I'm concerned. Playing good quality (technically and musically) cocktail piano is, IMO, a lot harder than it sounds. I've done it on occasion, and some of the best cocktail pianists (not me, of course) sound as if they could play a fair amount of Chopin and Liszt in between 'Smoke gets in your eyes' and 'Don't cry for me Argentina'.

But I would certainly agree with Monica that most people with good teaching and appropriate hard work could be more than adequate cocktail pianists. (Besides, you can make good money if you know what tipsy people want to hear... smokin )
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#1270674 - 09/18/09 05:04 PM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: Monica K.]
Opus_Maximus Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/27/04
Posts: 1458
I think that it is TECHNICALLY possible that anyone, at whatever age they start ("any" meaning an age when the brain and body are still able to absorb new information at a comfortable pace...possibly age 50 or below) has the chance to reach an extremely high level of performance, nearly a professional level.

The problem, however, is that what adult is ever going to have the TIME, NERVE, or MONEY to actually dedicate themselves to the level of training and dedication that a kid/teenager usually does?

For instance, the typical piano student will begin lessons at 5 or so. They learn the basics for a few years, and, if they really fall in love with the piano, by age 12/13 they have a great teacher and are practicing 3-5 hours a day. As they get later into their teens, they usually attend music festivals, take lessons with many teachers, get accustomed to playing on stage, enter competitions, and boost practice time to 6 hours a day. All the while, letting piano slowly integrate into their daily life, so they have a foundation for the ethic of daily practice as being something as natural and necessary as breathing. At 17 or 18, they enter a conservatory or college, where all they do day and night is work at their music. The next 10 years, through their twenties, are spent with incessant practice, accompanying, teaching, networking and competing. Around age 30, unless you are playing concerts full time - most tend to phase out from this intensity and resort into teaching or other jobs.

This is about a 20 year process, and let's say the person is a true, complete, professional artist by age 25. They could not have reached that level without going through all the above steps. Where is any adult, even with the financial means, going to have the psychological drive to put themselves through all of that?

Hypothetically, if someone starts lessons at age 35, a large part of their necessary development would be playing with and for 16 year olds! Even if the mental and physical ability is there, the social constraints and societal expectations regarding age make it nearly impossible.

That being said, I know of several professional pianists in their late 20's, 30's - and if you head them you would have guessed that they began as children like most, but they got serious in their late teens, but have finally caught up. I guess anything is possible.

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#1270701 - 09/18/09 05:52 PM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: sotto voce]
Larry Larson Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 992
Loc: Carmel, Indiana
Originally Posted By: sotto voce
However common or fashionable it is to dispute the importance (or even the existence) of talent, I find mystical or paranormal theories to be even less credible explanations for achievement.

Steven

Steven, have you heard about this orthopedic surgeon who began playing and composing piano music after being hit by lightning?
http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/07/23/070723fa_fact_sacks
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#1270716 - 09/18/09 06:25 PM Re: Realistic Goals as adults/late starter [Re: Monica K.]
ProdigalPianist Offline
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Registered: 04/08/07
Posts: 1049
Loc: Phoenix Metro, AZ
Originally Posted By: Monica K.

I also think that ProdigalPianist and others have identified an important reason why I'm beginning to suspect there is actually greater agreement on this issue than appears: We may all be entertaining widely different operational definitions of the terms "expertise" and "expert performance."


The other thing that I think might be going on, is not everyone (perhaps not psychologists who write articles about talent wink ) may be able to *hear* the difference between "expert performers," "pro-grade musicians" and "exceptional world-class artists."

It's a matter of perspective. When you're on the ground it's hard to judge the distance between things that are 900 feet above, a thousand feet above, and 1200 feet above...all you can tell is they're far above you smile

My darling husband thinks I play just as well as my friends that are graduate performance majors wink (he really does). He really has no clue. I don't think it's true of *everyone*, but I think if you don't know what to focus on, it might be hard to judge.

What really brought this home to me is a quote from one of those articles (in the rebuttal section) where a principle violinist from a major symphony, upon attending a concert by Midori, is supposed to have said, "If I practiced for three thousand years I couldn't play like that. None of us could."

I might recognize wonderful playing but I don't know if I could judge the enormity of difference that violinist (obviously pro-grade) saw between himself and Midori. Likewise I'm not confident I could pick out the difference between a very good graduate student and a pro-grade performer.

I'm not saying we couldn't recognize an exceptional world-class artist when we hear one...I'm saying maybe many of us wouldn't truly understand HOW exceptional unless we were pretty far advanced ourselves...

There are people, I'm sure many on this board, who are quite knowledgeable listeners and have learned enough to tell the difference...but I think it's just not something that would be immediately obvious to the lay person, or early-level student...

(this may start a whole other vehement debate wink )
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