Natural Talent or a Learned Skill??


Silver Member
Well, the link refers back to an article from The Economist, not the study itself, but at least that article was a bit more realistic than the snippet from engadget. Take a look at this closing paragraph:
That is not to say practice has no value. Playing an instrument and singing are physical skills, and do take a long time to master. But, though the experiment could not measure this directly, it is a fair bet that only those with high musical ability in the first place can ever hope to master these skills—and Dr Mosing has shown that musical ability has a big genetic component.
So the author concludes with "you need to practice in order to get better" and "being able to master an instrument may have a genetic component". My, but those are controversial statements.

Regarding talent and skill, I think it's safe to say that some people use these words interchangeably, so if we want to talk about them we must first define what we mean by them. I take skill as some set of characteristics which are quantifiable, for example, the percentage of free throws a basketball player makes over the long term or the speed and accuracy of drummer's paradiddle. We might consider breaking this apart into technical skills versus artistic skills, too. Talent, OTOH, is generally defined as an innate ability. I think of it as describing how easy it is for someone to attain a certain skill. By these definitions it's possible for someone to have a very high skill level but little talent. It's also possible for someone to have a lot of talent but a very low skill level.



Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
"So the author concludes with "you need to practice in order to get better" and "being able to master an instrument may have a genetic component". My, but those are controversial statements.

I don't think it is controversial. He is saying that genetics is a component. so in order to get better you need 1) practice, 2) genetics and God knows what other parts. Not that you need practice or genetics.
True someone can have a high skill and not much talent and someone with talent may have a low skill level but given the same amount of practice the one with the genetics or talent will advance further over a given set of time.


Senior Member
Saying that talent has nothing (or even little) to do with it is comically naive.

To say such a thing would mean that if I threw as many passes as Tom Brady and did the exact same practice routine as him during his entire life... that I would be Tom Brady.

Or if I ran as many drills as Barry Sanders that somehow I would be able to juke everyone in the world out of their shoes.

Its just not true and rather ridiculous.

Some people have a feel. Either you can feel the pocket or groove or you cant.

Not only am I saying that two guys (One with natural feel, one without) can do the exact amount of practice and one will pick it up quicker... I am saying that one of those guys can practice for 10,000 MORE hours and not EVER catch up to the guy with natural feel (talent).

I know guys that have spent huge amounts of time learning chops and putting the time in to learn as much as they possibly can... and they incredibly technical players. Muscle memory has done that for them. But he can't groove. He can't play in the pocket. So he cant find steady work in a band.

I know other guys who dont know what a rudiment is and they are highly sought after yet not nearly as technically proficient.

One has feel (Natural talent) and one doesnt.

How would I put this in the least offensive way....

If you dont realize that you need to have a natural feel, an internal pocket in your head, than you probably dont have it. And that could explain why you dont understand it.

Damn. That still comes out badly. But I dont know any other way to put it. I appologise if I offended anyone.

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
Saying that talent has nothing (or even little) to do with it is comically naive.
I agree with everything that The Heel has said.

The only thing I will add is that; I have seen drummers with no natural talent end up making lots of money playing drums. And I have seen some of these same drummers become famous drummers. Perhaps due to hard work and/or some luck.


Stitch Kaboodle

Senior Member
Some people have a natural predisposition for learning. Or you could say a 'talent' for learning.

How's that for a cop-out on the question?



Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
Or if I ran as many drills as Barry Sanders that somehow I would be able to juke everyone in the world out of their shoes.

Really. What he did you don't teach. You may modify or improve, but you don't teach.


Platinum Member
It's all in the brain, and how it's developed over our lifetimes. I am very good at figuring out computer and network problems. I always have been, and computers were not really around as such when I was a real youngster, so it's not like I grew up with them until a certain point. I'm just "naturally" able to put a problem into a "physical" space in my head, look at all the variables, and draw logic lines.

At the same time, I'm terrible with emotions or illogical aspects of the world. I have no aptitude for it, and if I even want to pretend, I have to work really hard at it.

Drumming and music, I'm somewhat in the middle. I seemed to have some aptitude for rhythms and what we call "feel" around here, but the act of drumming itself is very difficult. It challenges my brain in ways that literally nothing else has ever done, and in turn, I'm inspired to learn more and develop even stronger neural pathways.

Also, if you're dumb, you're gonna have a bad time. I think we can all agree that general intelligence is something you're born with as far as where you can take it. The most intelligent people I know are also the most flexible and can appear to have more "natural talent" at something compared to someone who isn't as intelligent, even if they've both never done whatever it is before in their lives.

I don't think there's a black and white answer. I do think that the concept of natural ability at something specific is real. I mean, is everyone born intelligent, or are some people just more naturally stupid?


Silver Member
Natural Talent is a real thing, but it's not black and white, it's more like a big grey wash of people with more talent and people with less. I have natural talent and I'm very good at playing in a band but if you were to whittle down to the technical bits and have me try to write out what I'm doing I'd be lost. I can hear a drum beat or have one hummed to me and play it pretty much instantly. There's no required practice time to get something down and I'll have it solid after playing it just a hand full of times. This doesn't just apply to drums either.

While I was learning guitar my friend was also learning and she was practicing 3 times as much as me, yet she learned at half the pace I was going. I've tried teaching her one on one and she has a very hard time making her hands follow mine. When I throw a sheet of tabs in front of her she can learn much quicker, more like a classical musician. All this being said she's an extremely fast and accurate player but doesn't have much feel when placed in a band. She's a very good example of someone with learned skill but no talent.

The most appreciated part about having talent for me is the multiplication factor it adds to practice. The more talent you have the more skill you gain from practice, but this also has the side effect of making one lazy since things come so easy. I as a drummer don't focus on rudiments or set patterns typically when I practice/play in a band. I play what naturally fits into the song, usually finding myself playing complex sticking patterns, (that I've never practiced) without thinking. This gives a more organic feel when playing in a band rather than an a super rigid beat pattern and fills for a certain song. This cuts down on mistakes since what I'm playing is loose and open, a good example would be the singer or guitarist missing a bar or progression round and having to start at an odd point.

Talent is a funny thing since I can't count beats, I feel them. I can't read sheet music, I hear what I need to play. I don't rigidly practice anything over and over, I randomly practice beats and fills till I find something new. I've never played with a metronome until last month but I'm dead on time when I use it. I make an excellent producer but I can't come up with a song on my own. So talent is a weird wonderful thing, amazing when augmented with learned skill and practice.