deliberate practice vs. innate talent

Tonight I played jazz with a great upright bass player.  So rhythmically musical.  He soloed great – not “I’ve learned my scales, and let me prove that to you,” but thoughtful stuff.  He has a young face.  As to not misjudge his age and embarrass myself, I asked, “What school do you go to?”  (leaving the answer open for high school or college).  Turns out he’s been a high schooler for a month.  He just turned 14.  My mind is still blown.  As the pendulum swings, I tend to believe that “talent” is more a matter of discipline.  But this kid reminds me that, sometimes, people are born to do things.

8 thoughts on “deliberate practice vs. innate talent

  1. michael

    Have you seen the show “Eastbound and Down”? Filthy, horrible (hilarious) show, don’t necessarily recommend watching it, but the first two episodes touch pretty hard on this idea. It’s about a talented pitcher who never worked on it, who eventually loses his ability due to lack of discipline.

  2. Cerise

    This is a very interesting topic for me – talent vs. discipline – for many reasons (nearly all of them self-centered, natch). It’s also a very immediately needful topic in my little brain, poor thing. Imma watch that show.

  3. Stick

    Yeah, interesting subject. With our boys (9 & 6) it’s fascinating to see how those talents vs. skills materialize. I don’t think we’ve got any of those way out of the ordinary abilities like the kid you played with, but it’s still early enough. Nate does have a pretty good natural golf swing.

  4. michael

    I wonder what the background of your bass player was, up to this point. What do is parents do? What music did they listen to at home? How early did he take lessons, what kind of teachers did he have?

    And, I wonder what this particular kid would have done if someone, at age 4, had handed him a paintbrush instead of a bass.

    I think a lot of the creative arts share huge portions of the brain, and it’s always fascinating to me to thing about what talented people would do if someone had pointed them in a different direction early on.

  5. sharolyn

    I’ve thought about this too, in a practical sense. Our district has no sixth grade beginning band – therefore the instrument you choose in fifth grade is sometimes the instrument you play for life, and that decision is often made by what horn is available. (I’m guessing there are roughly 400 fifth grade band students in our district,and perhaps 100 high school seniors that still play.)

    I chose clarinet in third grade because I thought my brother’s eighth grade friend was cute, and that’s what he played. Oh, the long conversations I thought we could have with that commonality. My brother started on tenor sax (rather than alto) because that’s what Richie Cunningham played on Happy Days, his look-alike. We chose instruments for odd reasons, don’t we?

    Although the bass player in my story was quite mature for his age, sometimes something would happen to remind me that he was 14. His parents seemed delighted a surprised that his abilities would give him such opportunity.

  6. michael

    I played piano because my parent’s forced me to play piano. I played sax because my grandfather had a sax, clarinet, and flute that we could borrow, and the sax seemed the coolest of the three.

    I picked up bassoon for the ladies.

  7. Eric

    Michael already said it. I don’t know him and I already hate him.
    Of course I don’t really, but I am jealous. Recently I’ve worked with several young musicians (not 14, but under 20) who can not only play like I could never have imagined playing, even when I was in practice, but have amazing subtlety and musicality. I’m doing my best to be supportive rather than depressed…

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