Nature over nuture? How important is practice?

I love to read studies on Musicianship – the psychics behind it and what parts of the brain enable one person to have better musicality than another, or what you can do in everyday life to improve your playing (this generally applies more to harp than voice – for me personally, I find rest and keeping relatively happy and relaxed are the best things for your voice. If I’m tired there is NO covering it up and often my voice will cut out mid song…)

Of course! This study has been done in Sweden ( I lived there for years, the whole report is massively swedish!) It basically supports the idea that musical ability is genetic and that the mind as  a pre-disposition to ‘bring musically minded.’ It describes musical ability as three things: rhythm, melody and pitch discrimination. It based the study on sets of Swedish twins and having some do more practise than others – it found no huge difference in ability after.

Firstly, I don’t disagree with this study – I remember listening to music on TV when I was four and demanding a piano or a violin because the tune was swirling around in my head and I wanted to play it. Or I would hear music on TV credits and start singing it, I wasn’t the height of the TV at this time. That is being musical. Some people have that and some people don’t. It helps to be naturally quick but I don’t agree that this is something you can’t tap into – with enough practise and tuition. I’ve met some people who are the best musicians around now a days and they’ve just worked damn hard at it – they definitely didn’t have it naturally. Then there are the people who are just borderline ‘gift from god’ talented. I think those people are just untouchable.

Even at performance level – I’ve started to attend music theory lessons with a retired Professor from The Royal Academy of Music in Dublin. I’ve been doing tedious theory for over a year and it has improved my musical ability in ways I can’t describe and I ways I didn’t think was possible. I can now pick up light classical pieces from youtube after one or two listens and I can transpose any pieces – it’s just opened my mind.

If I come back from a  four month tour with a great musician (I’ve one guy in mind here) I’ll find that my playing is razor sharp – because of the environment, the inspiration, and the PRACTICE.

Maybe this study should have got some professional musicians involved? It’s all very interesting anyway!

See the report beneath