Talent or Hard Work

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by schleiman, Oct 30, 2010.

  1. Ed Kennedy

    Ed Kennedy Forte User

    Nov 18, 2006
    "5% Talent, 95% sitzfleisch"
    Carl Fruh, noted Chicago Cellist and teacher
  2. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003
    I think there are three disctinctly different aspects to it that haven't really been discussed yet, so I'm going to throw in my 2¢ and hopefully add to it a bit.

    I think that there are a couple of aspects of talent that have to be looked at, as well as looking at natural physical gifts that some people are born with - the gift of good genetics.

    Let's start with the physical. Playing trumpet requires a degree of physical coordination and motor skills in order to achieve a certain level of success. For some people fine tuning the physical aspects of playing the instrument is no big deal - it comes naturally to them. The basics of technique are already there and the effort required to fine tune it to a high level of proficiency seems almost effortless. It's similar to athletics. Some people are just naturally athletically gifted, and through coaching and work, turn into superstars while other people, even with the same level coaching and hard work just never get beyond a mediocre level of ability.

    Then there is the mental aspect of it, which is also linked to the physical. The amount of mental focus it takes to coordinate the physical is different for everyone, and mentally we are not all equal. Some people can study music and learn all the ins and outs of technique, theory and all of the other intellectual aspects that go along with playing music on an instrument, but it won't necessarily make them a good musician.

    Then there is what I refer to as the "X" factor and this is what I think that most people are referring to when they talk about "talent." Some people just have a fundamental understanding of music. They have a good ear, they fundamentally know how the parts go together, and they know what to do with it. This is something that can't really be taught - it can be brought out and developed with hard work and time, but if a person is lacking in that X factor, they'll never get it.

    In my years as a musician, I have known people who desperately wanted to be musicians and worked hard at it, but they just didn't really "get" it. They couldn't seem to muster the coordination to build technique, or they just couldn't seem to apply intellectual musical concepts into the act of making music, either vocally or instrumentally. I've also come across players who had loads of ability to play from a technical standpoint, but never could seem to hook it together with the intellectual aspects of playing an instrument, or tie into the emotive aspect of making music. Even if they could manage to play the right things - play the ink, if you will - they sounded sterile and the overall effect couldn't really be called "music."

    In my own efforts with music, I've never been overly gifted from an intellectual or physical standpoint, but I've always seemed to fundamentally understand from an emotional or expressive standpoint. In a nutshell what this means is that as long as the rhythmic concepts or technical requirements don't get too far off the beaten path, I'm fine, but as soon as the technical/physical requirements or intellectual requirements get to a certain point, I need to dig pretty deep and work hard, and I've always had better success adding to my intellectual foundation than in building the extra technique.

    So, that's my 2¢ thrown on top of the pile.
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2010
  3. leftmid7

    leftmid7 Mezzo Piano User

    Sep 21, 2010
    Franklin, TN
    I really think it is hard work applied to existing talent and a good chunk of talent at that. I look at any discipline and the 'greats' always have something that was not learned. Landon Donovan jumped into a soccer game at age 5, having never played, with a bunch of 7 year olds and promptly dribbled down the field and scored. Andre Agassi did similarly with a tennis racket, both had to practice hard to maintain the highest level. Are there late bloomers? Yes. Michael Jordan comes to mind, he got cut in high school. Regardless of when the talent manifests itself, it is still there.

    So many times I have played with guys that practice and practice and when it comes to the performance they chip and crack, flub, clam. Some people just don't have 'it.' That doesn't mean they shouldn't do it for enjoyment, but I think this idea that is spouted at every commencement ceremony, 'if you work hard enough, you can attain whatever you want' is one of the greatest disservices to people. I will never play in the NBA, I am 5' 8" and cannot play basketball. No matter how many hours I practice.

    Rowuk is right on with the 'opportunity' part as it relates to being 'successful', or making a good living at it. Chris Botti is a great player, but if you think his looks and the 'opportunity' he was given don't factor in you are wrong. There are most likely a few players on this site who have just as much talent or more.
  4. Dark Knight

    Dark Knight Pianissimo User

    Apr 7, 2010
    Thanks fo the vote of confidence. I have more belief in my ability to work hard than I have in my ability. I am confident that I am always better than the week before. However, I do not yet have confidence that I am good in any absolute sense. That will probably come when I start to play for others and I can get some feedback. Right now, the only others I have are my wife and kids and they are pretty miserable. So, I have to also have a sense of humor while perservering but I take my practice dead serious.

  5. ewanmains

    ewanmains Piano User

    Jun 9, 2009
    Kilmarnock, UK
    Hey DK, I hear you man!!

    Just thought I would mention about how much having a focussed positive attitude can help, even when things are hard. Just stuff I've learned from hard experience, having been in a dark place more than once myself.

    Sounds like you're on the right track. Keep practicing - you will get there! Perhaps you can look at joining a local community band? I always strive to play with musicians who are way better than me - I find it's a pretty good gauge as to how I'm doing, but it's also inspirational. I still grab every chance to play with any other band or ensemble, even if it doesn't pay.

    All the best

    Ewan :-)
  6. Ed Lee

    Ed Lee Utimate User

    Aug 16, 2009
    Jackson NC
    First, I don't think anyone is born with talent but some grasp it sooner than others through a deep dedicated interest and lots of practice. If this were truly so, it would not necessarily require work ... it would become pleasure. I don't think really hard work comes onto the table of thought unless one pursues gigs with or without pay. Many say you have a talent because you do something they don't do, and they like what you do, so it often is ambiguous in terms of a factor in musical instrumentation. I don't think many professionals are talented ,,, but they are very well trained and such training requires practice to continue to produce the excellent music we buy and listen to.
  7. The Kraken

    The Kraken Piano User

    Mar 28, 2007
    Gold Coast - 805

    unless you squander it's gifts :think:
  8. kingtrumpet

    kingtrumpet Utimate User

    Sep 20, 2009
    New York State USA
    and the rest of us? well lets not discount the "H" factor -- that is those of us less talented, but we have HEART, and we find some things on the trumpet we can play --- some stuff we can't --- so we concentrate on that which we can do -- though it may be narrow compared to the Pros ---- and then we practice, practice, practice - learn and practice -- and make the best of what we can do --- and sometimes that is enough to please audiences, make music enjoyable --- and let us enjoy playing the instrument we love
  9. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003
    KT, the "X" factor isn't a yes/no thing - people have it to varying degrees. Example, a guy I know who is all of 23 sent me a track today of something he drummed in the studio. Flat out, it's awesome. No doubt he has worked hard on his craft as a musician, and I work hard at it too - there are things that I do well, but simply put, he's better than I am, and not necessarily because he has worked at it harder or longer than me, but there is definitely an "X" factor when he plays. He just knows what to do with it and how to structure a part, and it's not something he thinks about too hard. I do think about it hard, which is why he and I collaborated recently to help him set up his presentation for a clinic he was going to give. So much of what he does he does because he just gets it, and he doesn't really understand why. I broke down the things that I do and think about as a drummer for the genre of music we both play for (contemporary Christian Rock) and he agreed with all of it, and thanked me because I was able to put it into words in a functional format.

    But the bottom line - the kid is awesome. He's actually on the cusp of a couple of great opportunities where he has done the recording and it looks like he's going to go on tour. He was definitely at the right place at the right time for this one, but none of it would have happened if he couldn't bring it where it counts.

    This isn't to say that I don't have the "X" factor with my drumming - I do, but I don't have it to the same level and therefore I have to work harder at it from an intellectual standpoint.
  10. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003
    I think that a person also needs to be realistic and honest with themselves when it comes to things like this too - some people are going to excel with music and some people, even if they work hard, will never be at a point where they can play at a level beyond say a mid-level community band. But they will have heart, and as long as they can continue to strive to seek improvement and yet be content with their current status when they are making music, isn't that what's most important?

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