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Re: Genes may be key to great musicians
trigalg693 #2312618 08/07/14 06:21 PM
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Originally Posted by trigalg693

If there's any reliable estimate of how good someone's technique is that I've seen, it's the total number of hours they've practiced. 15 year old kid playing Feux Follets as fast as Berezovsky vs. slightly less technically capable Julliard student? First kid probably did like 8 hours a day for 11 years, and the second probably only practiced 5 hours a day for 15 years, the numbers work out. I've seen several 11 year old kids pull off very difficult pieces well, and they all started at age 4, and practice something like 7-10 hours a day, which adds up to more hours than some conservatory students.

Again, you're already talking about the cream, the self-selecting elite. Everyone else has already fallen by the wayside long before. At that elite level, the number of hours of serious practice makes a difference. But even there, you can see the difference between the really gifted, and the gifted. The former achieve what they want to achieve with far less effort. (BTW, read the story about John Ogdon and his wife, both concert pianists. Ogdon practiced far less assiduously than Brenda in the conservatory, yet his enormous gifts swept everything before him.....).

The vast majority of pianists can't even get anywhere near that. Just ask any teacher ('ordinary' piano teachers, not the ones teaching in conservatories).


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Genes may be key to great musicians
pianoloverus #2312622 08/07/14 06:28 PM
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Are you sure? How many people practice 8 hours a day? I don't think self-selection kicks in that early, if you are a 6 year old or something, you don't practice 8 hours a day because you are good at piano, it's either because you really like it or your parents are forcing you. If you forced every kid to practice 8 hours a day since they were 4, if at least half weren't playing as well as one of the extreme examples I list, I would be very surprised.

There are people with extraordinary gifts like Ogdon, Hamelin, etc. but most of these incredibly technically capable pianists don't have any special jaw-dropping tales except the insane amount of practice. Out of all the music students I know or know of, only one has an extraordinary technical/sightreading ability. Everyone else seems to struggle about the same amount with the instrument, which suggests that's about the norm. Not that I tried to quantify any of this but it's good enough evidence for me.

Last edited by trigalg693; 08/07/14 06:30 PM.
Re: Genes may be key to great musicians
trigalg693 #2312628 08/07/14 06:40 PM
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Originally Posted by trigalg693
There are people with extraordinary gifts like Ogdon, Hamelin, etc. but most of these incredibly technically capable pianists don't have any special jaw-dropping tales except the insane amount of practice. Out of all the music students I know or know of, only one has an extraordinary technical/sightreading ability. Everyone else seems to struggle about the same amount with the instrument, which suggests that's about the norm. Not that I tried to quantify any of this but it's good enough evidence for me.

Well, at least you acknowledge that 'nature' plays an important part.

But I think you over-estimate the amount of practicing prodigies do. Benjamin Grosvenor only started practicing properly from 9, and within two years, had won the piano category in the BBC Young Musician competition (beating 18-yr-old pianists who had been practicing far harder and longer than him). Two years later, he was playing Liszt's B minor Sonata and Gaspard to the manner born. He certainly wasn't one of those hothouse pianists practicing 8 hours a day from age 3; he was blessed with great natural gifts (which he then made full use of).


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Genes may be key to great musicians
trigalg693 #2312649 08/07/14 07:41 PM
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Originally Posted by trigalg693
If there's any reliable estimate of how good someone's technique is that I've seen, it's the total number of hours they've practiced. 15 year old kid playing Feux Follets as fast as Berezovsky vs. slightly less technically capable Julliard student? First kid probably did like 8 hours a day for 11 years, and the second probably only practiced 5 hours a day for 15 years, the numbers work out. I've seen several 11 year old kids pull off very difficult pieces well, and they all started at age 4, and practice something like 7-10 hours a day, which adds up to more hours than some conservatory students.


You obviously don't have kids. To get them to concentrate on anything for that long is beyond parental coaxing and whipping. It is innate. It is their nature to nurture.

Re: Genes may be key to great musicians
Damon #2312709 08/07/14 11:06 PM
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Originally Posted by bennevis

But I think you over-estimate the amount of practicing prodigies do. Benjamin Grosvenor only started practicing properly from 9, and within two years, had won the piano category in the BBC Young Musician competition (beating 18-yr-old pianists who been practicing far harder and longer than him). Two years later, he was playing Liszt's B minor Sonata and Gaspard to the manner born. He certainly wasn't one of those hothouse pianists practicing 8 hours a day from age 3; he was blessed with great natural gifts (which he then made full use of).


Again, I'm saying that for most "prodigies" (I use quotes because the word is used incorrectly way too often) this is not true. There are these exceptional people who for whatever reason, genetic, environmental, etc. end up with an extraordinary ability to learn the instrument, and can do so with a lot more ease and speed than others.

However, even among the top musicians in the world many of them did not have this kind of blessing. They had the same struggles as you and me, but they worked through them, although they had time on their side. For example, for many of the Chinese pianists considered to have incredible technique, I think that technique can be mostly attributed to the 8-10 hours per day of practice. No matter how you cut it, it's just more practice than just about everyone else. Lang Lang purportedly practiced 12 hours a day. Richter clearly had an immense gift but he also practiced 12 hours a day IIRC.

Originally Posted by Damon

You obviously don't have kids. To get them to concentrate on anything for that long is beyond parental coaxing and whipping. It is innate. It is their nature to nurture.


I obviously don't have kids, but I was speaking hypothetically. I was more trying to get at the kind of gift bennevis was talking about, the people who learn significantly faster than everyone else, the people with the unfair advantage. I'm saying most people don't have that sort of gift, but it's not necessary to achieve a world-class technique, only motivation to practice is.

Last edited by trigalg693; 08/07/14 11:16 PM.
Re: Genes may be key to great musicians
pianoloverus #2312891 08/08/14 09:36 AM
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Wow, what a thread.. i was just going to read and not post, but it seems like everyone here is divided... its either good genes(natural talent), or hard work...

When in reality it is ALWAYS a combiniation of both, and different proportions for different individuals..
I dont care how talented someone is, but if they dont nurture that talent and develop it and are consumed by what they are involved in.. they are just another waste of talent, and there are lots of those around.

Then you have people who everyone in the world has written off..But they didnt write themselves off, and through their passion, dedication, and hardwork. achieved levels beyond what anyone thought was possible.

I dont think there is a clear cut line in the sand here.. and i think everyones oppinions are right to some degree, and wrong to some degree also.

But you cant deny that if you are very talented you may have to put in less hours(hours not work)at the keyboard itself. but i believe these people also eat, breathe and live what they are invlolved in.. so while the may not be at the keyboard, who says they are not thinking about it while away(mental practice) etc.. that counts as practice time too i would say.

I would say that you cant count on 10000 hours(or however many) to become a virtuoso, and you also cant count on talent alone. it is always a blend of the two.

I would put alot of stock in saying that... an "extremely talented" person who has a big head and doesnt develop their gift with a very strong work ethic, will evantually be out performed by a "somewhat talented" individual with a very strong work ethic and a good head on their shoulders.

Please forgive any spelling errors, i whipped this up quickly on my break wink lol



Re: Genes may be key to great musicians
J.T.1986 #2312934 08/08/14 10:51 AM
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Originally Posted by J.T.1986
Wow, what a thread.. i was just going to read and not post, but it seems like everyone here is divided... its either good genes(natural talent), or hard work...

When in reality it is ALWAYS a combiniation of both, and different proportions for different individuals..


I can't speak for other posters, but in all my posts (except the tongue-in-cheek ones wink ), I've always alluded to the need to work on whatever talent you're blessed with.

As in my most recent example of Ben Grosvenor (who's playing Chopin's E minor concerto and Franck's Symphonic Variations at the BBC Proms in two hours' time - www.bbc.co.uk/proms ): he was just another so-so 'talented' kid who could tinkle the ivories a little until, at nine, he realized that his peers were playing better than him. Then he decided to practice properly and set to work, and the rest is......history thumb.


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Genes may be key to great musicians
pianoloverus #2313918 08/10/14 04:40 PM
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I feel like everytime I go on this website, someone mentions musical abilities and genes. It's getting old, people!


*Fiona*

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P.S. I am in love with Beethoven, infatuated with Liszt, and crazy about Chopin!
And when he behaves, Rachmaninoff is my darling! ;p
Re: Genes may be key to great musicians
Fiona0424 #2313944 08/10/14 06:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Fiona0424
I feel like everytime I go on this website, someone mentions musical abilities and genes. It's getting old, people!
I'm guessing that the subject is "new" to the folks participating in the discussion. cool


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Re: Genes may be key to great musicians
pianoloverus #2315252 08/13/14 11:47 PM
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There are plenty of reasons people can fail to become a top level pianist. Some people here are saying things like, "I worked hard and didn't become a top level pianist.....therefore my genes are bad." There are so many reasons a person can fail, assuming it was genes is wrong.

What are some of the reasons a person can fail if they work hard? Here are some, I'm sure you can think of others:

1) You don't know what it means to work hard.
2) You think you worked hard, but you didn't really.
3) Your teacher didn't know the best way to teach you (or worse, anyone).
4) You didn't have a teacher.
5) You kept playing the same piece over and over, instead of pieces that were appropriate for your level.
6) Although your teacher was good, you didn't like your teacher and didn't listen.

In that list we haven't even gotten to physical things yet.


7) You tried to practice hard, but you didn't have a good diet/exercise/sleep, and your brain didn't have the energy it needed to learn.
8) You spent too much time practicing to get your finger muscles stronger, which is a blind alley.
9) You thought your fingers were too short, and this self-doubt prevented you from improving.
10) Your fingers weren't flexible enough, and you didn't do the things that would make your fingers more flexible (a teacher can help here).
11) You have one arm.
12) Somehow the nerves in your arms are magically slower than the nerves in other people's arms.


There are so many reasons that jumping to the conclusion that your reason for failure is genes is jumping to conclusions. Unless you have evidence that some genetic trait was stopping your progress (like slow nerves?), then in fact, you are jumping to conclusions. Don't do that.

Last edited by phantomFive; 08/14/14 12:32 AM. Reason: added sleep

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Re: Genes may be key to great musicians
pianoloverus #2315257 08/14/14 12:17 AM
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Love that list!

I used to be guilty of # 1, 2, 6, but then I grew up (literally and figuratively) and instead of being 10 and "forced" to play, I was in my 20s and actually wanting to learn.

I know people guilty of #5. They just seem to want to play pieces that are beyond them and they play it poorly and make many fundamental errors.

Guilty of #7 sometimes, but I think it is from lack of sleep. My diet and exercise, while not "perfect", is still pretty good. But I need more sleep. Add sleep to #7. A good diet/exercise/sleep is important.

#11 would really suck ****. If I had to lose an arm and could choose which arm, I would say, "take the right arm". I'd have to learn how to write again as I am right handed, but there is a lot more music for left hand only than there is for right hand only.

I think some people like to blame something they have no control over to push the blame away from themselves. I know a few people who like to blame the piano.

Re: Genes may be key to great musicians
pianoloverus #2315258 08/14/14 12:24 AM
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This is just a case of people thinking their opinions are correct just because they seem logical, when in fact, the evidence says otherwise.

You're staring at facts and saying they're untrue.


"A good intention but fixed and resolute - bent on high and holy ends, we shall find means to them on every side and at every moment; and even obstacles and opposition will but make us 'like the fabled specter-ships,' which sail the fastest in the very teeth of the wind."
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Re: Genes may be key to great musicians
MALDI_ToF #2315261 08/14/14 12:31 AM
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Originally Posted by MALDI_ToF
Guilty of #7 sometimes, but I think it is from lack of sleep. My diet and exercise, while not "perfect", is still pretty good. But I need more sleep. Add sleep to #7. A good diet/exercise/sleep is important.

Good point, sleep is one that definitely could be added to the list.


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Re: Genes may be key to great musicians
phantomFive #2316163 08/16/14 06:25 AM
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Originally Posted by phantomFive

There are so many reasons that jumping to the conclusion that your reason for failure is genes is jumping to conclusions. Unless you have evidence that some genetic trait was stopping your progress (like slow nerves?), then in fact, you are jumping to conclusions. Don't do that.


The opposite is just as true. Unless you have evidence that you have no genetic impediment to being as wonderful as the great pianists, you are jumping to conclusions if you assume you have no such impediment.

Re: Genes may be key to great musicians
wr #2316245 08/16/14 12:02 PM
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Originally Posted by wr
Originally Posted by phantomFive

There are so many reasons that jumping to the conclusion that your reason for failure is genes is jumping to conclusions. Unless you have evidence that some genetic trait was stopping your progress (like slow nerves?), then in fact, you are jumping to conclusions. Don't do that.


The opposite is just as true. Unless you have evidence that you have no genetic impediment to being as wonderful as the great pianists, you are jumping to conclusions if you assume you have no such impediment.

Indeed. Assuming is an easy way to be wrong.


Poetry is rhythm
Re: Genes may be key to great musicians
pianoloverus #2317973 08/21/14 12:31 AM
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Poetry is rhythm
Re: Genes may be key to great musicians
phantomFive #2317985 08/21/14 12:56 AM
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Good video, and Sal Khan is the man, but it does nothing to help your unsupported position or refute the facts.


"A good intention but fixed and resolute - bent on high and holy ends, we shall find means to them on every side and at every moment; and even obstacles and opposition will but make us 'like the fabled specter-ships,' which sail the fastest in the very teeth of the wind."
R. W. Emerson
Re: Genes may be key to great musicians
pianoloverus #2319436 08/24/14 10:28 PM
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When I was young, I always loved singing, and once I started piano as a teen, I really took off. I have a good ear, and a good sense of rhythm. I grew up in a church that didn't allow musical instruments, but they were superb a cappella singers. I heard four part singing from the time I was a baby, and became a part of that singing as soon as I entered school. I think a lot of my ear and rhythm came from that experience.

Re: Genes may be key to great musicians
pianoloverus #2326429 09/11/14 12:29 PM
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In case anyone was thinking intelligence derived from genes is required to be a better piano player, this study puts a nail in that coffin.

The researchers did a massive search over the entire genome. They identified the genes that most strongly correlate with intelligence, and found that the effect of those genes was about half an IQ point. Half an IQ point is like a rounding error.

Combined with previous studies that show IQ can increase or decrease over a lifetime, it's obvious that environment has a huge effect on intelligence. If you want to increase your musical ability, create a musical environment for yourself.


Poetry is rhythm
Re: Genes may be key to great musicians
phantomFive #2326443 09/11/14 01:17 PM
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Originally Posted by phantomFive
In case anyone was thinking intelligence derived from genes is required to be a better piano player, this study puts a nail in that coffin.



Actually this is what the study implies (quoted from your link):
"All of which suggests that intelligence isn't a matter of a handful of genes. Sure, there are some genes that, when damaged, have a catastrophic effect on cognitive abilities. But, assuming you avoid these, it seems that your intelligence is likely to be the product of a huge collection of minor genetic effects, combined with a very large helping of your environment."

So you kind of jumped into a conclusion that goes beoynd the results of that study. They did not study musical ability at all, or the correlation between it and IQ. Neither did they come to the conclusion that genetics isn't important for high achievement.

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