Friday 24 April 2009

Talent versus Persistence

It has become apparent to me, and it might even be true - no matter how much you practise and try, you cannot make up for a lack of talent.  You can come close, but you'll never achieve what you weren't born with.  Before we all hang our guitars on the wall to gather dust, or start flaming me for outrageously negative statements, let me explain:

First of all, you don't believe me?  If it weren't the case, then all you need to do is keep practising and you could be a Tommy Emmanuel/Michael Jordan/Tiger Woods/any leader of their skill.  Take Sungha Jung, he's what, 13?  I have probably played the guitar for at least twice as many hours as he has in his life - probably a lot more - yet he is superior player to me.

There is that edge, something different happening in the brain, in talented people.  Something that isn't learnt, it just is - like being born with the genetics to be two metres tall rather than one metre fifty.  But unlike being tall, or short, which is something obvious we can see (and we're happy there is nothing we can do about it), we can't see what is happening inside a brain, and whatsmore we can get pretty close to what those talented people are why can't we push on a little further to achieve the same?

Fortunately talent isn't everything; I won't try to put a number against it, but I'm sure that an un-talented person (such as myself) who has put in a lifetime of persistence is going to do better than a talented person who hasn't.  The hard slog will pay off in the end, thank goodness - otherwise nobody would bother - but watch out, when those with talent start putting the hard slog in too, well, it's lucky we have day jobs, and we're primarily playing the guitar for our personal enjoyment ;)



  1. Also helps to be young. If you start when you're 6? like he did you're always going to have a super headstart - and he's dedicated (or his parents are...) with probably the best instruction you can get.

    I started when I was 25, I'm doomed - though I can still potter around and make a nice sound occasionally, that's all that matters in the end isn't it?

  2. ...unfortunately, I started when I was 7, so I should be a lot better by now ;)

    Starting young may tease out talent if it is there (but not in great quantities); however I suspect starting young just gives you more time for persistence ;)

  3. I mostly agree. But people with a very obvious talent are few.

    Music (and art in general) is meant to be enjoyable, for the musician and for the listener. So there's less need to compare than other competitive activities, as the listener will always go for the music he enjoys listening, regardless of the musician's ability or talent.

    Yes having talent does help, it certainly opens doors to more possibilities, and ultimately more freedom in your art.

    Some musicians play, create, regardless of their own ability.
    Some musicians only look at others, feeling frustrated, without ever really focusing on producing the music they would be able to, and that is also regardless of their ability, as there is always room for improvement. Yes the frustrated type can very well be the talented one.