This ‘Learn Music Faster’ series of posts highlights things my best students do that contributes towards their success. There are no secret formulae or magic tricks. Learning to play well still requires hard work, dedication and above all, practice. However, my students who do these things seem to improve quicker than the others.
Know / Believe that it’s not about Talent
Some people seem to pick some things up quicker than others. With music some students seem to pick up concepts and techniques quickly while others take weeks or months. It’s easy to feel that there is some kind of natural talent that some people have and others don’t.
However, there is a wealth of evidence out there that practice and effort are infinitely more important than any kind of innate ability. Get the book Bounce by Matthew Syed and read even just the first few chapters. It’s more about sport than music but all the principles apply. He shows that practice, facilities, teachers and resources are far more influential to developing excellence than ‘talent’.
The reason it’s so important to understand and believe this is that it puts you in control of your progress and development. If you think that musical ability is something you are born with then it’s easy to get into a spiral where every time you make a mistake you see it as proof you don’t have the ‘talent’. It seems there’s no point trying because you weren’t born with what it takes.
This attitude is demoralising and won’t help you improve. If you believe it’s all about hard work, effort, having fun, getting the right advice and so on, irrespective of what ability you were born with, it becomes a challenge rather than an insurmountable obstacle.
I’ve seen time and time again, kids who were slow at the early stages of guitar but who have persevered week after week and can now fly around the fretboard with no problem. On the other hand I’ve also seen people who don’t believe they are as talented as someone else – often a sibling who has been learning for longer than them. When they can’t immediately play things as well as that person they see it as proof they’re not as talented, so they don’t bother to practice as much. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I have never felt blessed with a natural talent for music. When I was starting out in my teens I had three friends who could just figure out songs by ear on the piano after a few listens. That was like magic! It still is to me, although my transcribing has improved over the years. However, I decided that I was going to bloody mindedly hammer some ability into my fingers and that’s what I’ve done.
I may not be Jeff Beck (yet!) but playing guitar earns me a living and has taken me all over the world. That’s down to perseverance rather than any inborn ability. If I can do it you can too.
So it really is about effort not talent, and you will learn faster if you know and believe that, I promise.
Previously on Learn Music Faster – Enjoy the process of learning, not just the dream of playing
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