The world has two types of people, 1. Those born with talent, who seem to pickup new musical skills and techniques like its nothing, and 2. The rest of us! Born without the natural musical ability. It can be so difficult for us to feel like we are making measurable progress..
I’d like to take a second to call BULL S#!T on the first category. Today were going to dig into Talent; what makes talent, and why you don’t have to be born with talent to succeed at guitar. The second option is the one that great musicians and virtuosos are made of, and I am going to tell you why!
Making Talent Happen
1. A special natural ability or aptitude
2. A capacity for achievement or success; ability
When I was young, I really believed that the only definition of talent was, a skill you were born with. That was until I really picked up a guitar. After about a year of learning guitar, and guidance from mentors, I started to realise there was a stronger connection to hard work and the degree of musical talent. All it took to improve was a shift in my mindset, and four methodologies that would change how I looked at guitar.
Belief and Drive
In the beginning , I wasn’t very good at guitar. I had already tried to learn the instrument twice before, and failed miserably both times. Learning guitar was so intimidating and obviously I was not built for it, or so I thought. When I came back for the third swing, I decided that this was it, all or nothing! So thats exactly what I did, I put all my chips in one pile.
Each day I would spend hours, day after day finding excuses to pick up my guitar and strum and pick, instead of worrying about my skill level. I learnt some very valuable lessons in the process of committing to learning guitar. All of which spewed out into the rest of my life. I started getting better grades at school (because I actually started to enjoy learning), I became more confident and started to exercise my body, mind, and courage more often.
Here are those lessons:
- It’s possible for learning to be fun
- Learning leads to new opportunities and new experiences
- Everyone starts out, not knowing anything
- Everything looks impossible when you’ve never done it before
- Believing in your self can be enough to get you started
- You need to get out of your comfort zone to improve
- Thinking about your goals every day can be motivating
- Drive is about loving what you do, not forcing your hand to do something you don’t
When you look at someone with labeled talent; like musical virtuosos, performing looks like it’s easier to them than breathing. Talent is often looked at as a special ability you’re born with. The truth is, you can be born with a natural aptitude for something like music, but it will only get you so far.
From Mozart to Zakk Wylde, Django Reinhardt to Victor Wooten, you’ll find these individuals worked very hard in order to reach the skill levels they’ve achieved. These people had a capacity for achievement, and they executed on it. I dare you to google the history of these musicians. I’m positive you will find some great information on how much practice they put in to the craft.
At the beginning of learning guitar, I became very dedicated to practicing, and very organised about what I was practicing. I would wake up extra early before going to school, just so I could squeeze in 30 minutes of chord practice. Then when I got home, I would spend another 30 minutes on scales, and then another 30 minutes on songs before bed. No matter how frustrating it got a times, I loved it, and had to keep doing it!
Gradual Incremental Growth Over Time
Humans are creatures of habit, and so, our learning process is pretty similar. Our brain is far more likely to recall something it sees regularly, than something it saw one time, two months ago. You can check out more details about the brain and pattern recognition here Learn Songs Better, Faster Part 3 – Retention.
By making sure my practice was consistent, I amplified my learning, and saw progress faster, which got me excited. That excitement would help drive me over the next few years to really push my limits on guitar, and stay consistent with practice.
10,000 Hours (or 10 Years)
The author, Malcolm Gladwell made this idea popular; it takes roughly 10,000 hours, or 10 years, to achieve mastery of your chosen field. Malcolm researched and studied the lives of very successful people in their respective fields. The data all points to the conclusion that, the time you spend on your skill, has a huge impact on your ability. I have to say that the more time I have spent playing and practicing guitar, the better I have gotten.
One or Two More Things
Becoming a great musician doesn’t happen over night, but it can happen to you! Whenever I use these methods, every time, my progress visibly increases. If I stop using these methods, I can easily notice a negative difference in my productivity, and my progress, within a couple of days.
Keep working at it, and remember to apply these ideas to the way you practice;
- Belief and Drive
- Deliberate Practice
- Gradual Incremental Growth Over Time
- 10,000 Hours (or 10 Years)
I’d like to leave you with this TEDx Talk Video by Fritz Grobe (known for “Coca-cola/Mentos Experiment” Viral Videos), he takes the topic of being a Genius (being born with talend) and turns it upside down. While it is not about music directly, it is about practice and mastery in general, and what it takes to Make Talent Happen!
So tell me… Do you call Bull S#!T on Talent now too? Apply these ideas to your practice for a month, and leave a comment below when you start noticing the difference. I’d love to hear how it changed your progress on, and enjoyment of guitar.
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