• We would like to remind our members that this is a privately owned, run and supported forum. You are here at the invitation and discretion of the owners. As such, rules and standards of conduct will be applied that help keep this forum functioning as the owners desire. These include, but are not limited to, removing content and even access to the forum.

    Please give yourself a refresher on the forum rules you agreed to follow when you signed up.

'Gifted' Guitarists

JCBitB

Inspired
I definitely understand the OP's sentiment on the idea that calling someone gifted seems to downplay the hours and hours of effort, but at the same time being able to dedicate so much time to practicing IS in itself probably a gift.
 

nateytracks

Regular
I have a lot to say on this subject, but for now I will hold myself back and just say this: I know many talented people that accomplish very little, and many people without that talent that make those talented folks look like fools by the sheer mass of their accomplishments. I don't spend much time considering talent, only drive, passion, and hard work. :)
 

Toopy14

Fractal Fanatic
But seriously.. how much of it is talent VS skill?
I think for the majority of the great guitar players, it's 99% talent.

It doesn't matter how many hours I put it in, I never get better. Believe me, it's not for lack of trying, laziness, drive or passion. I look at my step-son and he can listen to a song and he'll be playing it in a matter 20 minutes or so, all by ear. He took lessons as well, when he was younger, but shortly after he started, the guitar teacher said there was nothing he could teach him. Now grant it, I took my first lesson, 9 years ago, when I was 41, so maybe if I tried to learn when I was younger, it may have been easier. I don't think so though. If it wasn't for tabs, I would never be able to 'play'. I just don't have the natural ability to listen and hear music. I have rhythm...kind of, but it only comes through sheer repetition and stubbornness, lots of it. Even then, I can't play to a backing track. I just don't have a natural sense of timing.

I am still amazed, in awe and even envious, when I watch some of the people on this forum and others I have joined, play the guitar! I consider myself very driven and I have accomplished a lot of things in half century of living, but being able to play the guitar consistently, easily and most importantly, musically, is just not in the cards for me. I'm much better at fixing them.
 
Last edited:

nateytracks

Regular
I think for the majority of the great guitar players, it's 99% talent.

It doesn't matter how many hours I put it in, I never get better. Believe me, it's not for lack of trying, laziness, drive or passion.
How many hours do you spend every day running scales, modes, arpeggios, learning new chords, songs, progressions, or rhythms? I absolutely do not believe that if you spent 8 hours a day on your instrument, practicing what you aren't good at, that you would not become amazing. :)
 

Toopy14

Fractal Fanatic
How many hours do you spend every day running scales, modes, arpeggios, learning new chords, songs, progressions, or rhythms? I absolutely do not believe that if you spent 8 hours a day on your instrument, practicing what you aren't good at, that you would not become amazing. :)
That's also my point, my step-son did very little of that, certainly not 8 hours a day. It just came naturally to him. He can play metal, hard rock, soft rock...acoustic, electric...doesn't matter. He picks it up by ear and in less than an hour or so, he can play the song. He can also play drums equally as well....all self taught.
 

plexi59

Forum Addict
Hard work beats talent, but not if talent also works hard. That's my position on the matter. I do not believe for a minute that most people could e.g. develop their technique to Paul Gilbert levels, no matter how much they practice. At some point they'll just get tendinites and abandon their aspirations. :lol
 

TexasChris

Regular
I have a lot to say on this subject, but for now I will hold myself back and just say this: I know many talented people that accomplish very little, and many people without that talent that make those talented folks look like fools by the sheer mass of their accomplishments. I don't spend much time considering talent, only drive, passion, and hard work. :)
There is nothing more common in the world than talented men who accomplish nothing.

In a conversation with Eric Johnson (the) I asked him what he focused on in practice and he said something that resonated so profoundly with me that I find myself to this day revisiting the thought every time I pick up a guitar.

"I try to avoid being drunk on potential."

I knew instantly exactly what he meant.

I have a tendency to come up with a cool riff and just sit there and play it over and over thinking about how cool it could be and all the things you could try with it, while never trying them....just stuck in the loop, playing my cool little riff over and over....never developing it. Same with songwriting or whatever.....write a cool line or melody....sing it over and over and never finish the thought.

I have known many talented people who are losers (myself included) because they refuse to develop their talent beyond what it's become in the darkness of their apathy.....and it hurts when you see those lazy apathetic people that are so genuinely talented that they can not touch a guitar for a year just to pick it up write something that you couldn't write in 10 years of the most mentally present practice you could muster but I digress, we're all more or less stuck with the talent or X factor we're born with....beyond that....you either commit to extra work or not.

So I totally agree with the OP. I have a buddy who always says "you were born with it." Fuck you holmes. I was born with talent...but I got my 10,000 hours inside the first 5 years....and never looked back....now there were some periods of hiatus between then and now....but when he says he could never be as good as I am I always disagree. We'll never know buddy, because you have never tried.

"Talent" with respect to us is the ability to move your fingers independently, fine motor coordination, perfect or good pitch. I can watch certain people's hands and know they're never gonna rip a solo. Their hands are stupid and useless and they can't move them independently let alone move their fingers independently. They're never going to learn to mute specific strings with their fingers while putting ringing strings in the creases of their knuckles to allow them to vibrate free. Just aint gonna happen. Their brains never developed those pathways in childhood. There are tone deaf people who can't tell their guitars are out of tune....you can't teach a tone deaf person to be not tone deaf...all you can do is tune their guitars.

Talent is real but it is just the raw resource. Hard work is the crucible through which it becomes genuine skill.
 

Ron_R

Forum Addict
You are born with a "gift", that requires "work" to reach it's fullest potential. Someone without this "gift" will never reach the same potential given the same amount of time and putting in the same amount of effort.
 

willowdale

Fractal Fanatic
There definitely is such a thing as gifted musicians. There are gifted people in all walks of life. The natural talent in and of itself doesn't guarantee success, but it sure helps a lot, especially when they're also gifted with being very driven & focused.....
 

Rick

Fractal Fanatic
A favorite quote: "Potential is an odd commodity. Without it you can do nothing, but by itself it's worthless." Gifting is potential. The likelihood is most potentially awesome musicians may never be known because they never picked up the instrument their natural potential would have thrived on. But when you see potential and dedication come together with a dose of passion... something special comes of it. That sort of nexus is always fun to be around when it happens.
 

luke

Fractal Fanatic
This conversation reminds of a scene in Charlie Wilson's War. The one guy comments to the other how Mr. Wilson had an army of beautiful, big bosomed secretaries. To which the other replied, "we can't teach them to grow tits, but we can teach them to type".

Similar to the basketball saying, "you can't teach height".
 

Bojangles

Veteran
Please read this carefully

There are certain traits and natural abilities that help with all sorts of things, yes some people were born with traits that make certain goals easier. However you have to clearly define the goal before you can go and call someone naturally talented at anything.

Saying someone is naturally talented at something is fraught with problems, saying someone is naturally talented at guitar or art is even worse, due to the amount of variables in the tasks, and the subjective nature of the goal. What is even a guitarist?

What is the talented marker your comparing with (is it notes per second, is it their tightness, is it how much money they make out of music, is it how much people smile when they hear them, or how many $2 hookers you get after a gig), who are you comparing it with, at what stage in history are you comparing it

i.e. take a basketball player, being tall is a huge advantage, however we can’t consider that a talent, it’s just lucky

Take a basketball player, and at the age of 2, he could throw 10 times more hoops then other kids.

We can say with certainty a 2 year old kid that can throw 10 times more hoops than other 2 year-olds in the history or future of the human race is naturally talented at throwing hoops, though be very aware, that is all the talent is, and has no bearing on whether he is "naturally talented at basketball"

So we have discovered just because someone does 1 component of a task well, it doesn't make them instantly good at everything in a related sphere. Just because someone can play reggae in time, doesn't make them a talent musician, or write talented songs, just means they can play reggae well

Which brings me to the following, sometimes what people refer to as talent is actually a skill

Now, someone can be naturally talented at learning some skills, but the lines hear actually get really murky

How do we know this talent at learning said skill isn't just dumb luck, i.e. how do we know this person wasn't just in the right place, at the right time, with the right attributes, the right attitude, learning the right thing, from the right source, in the right way.

Is picking the right poker machine a talent or just lucky?

Inversely there is also sheer bad luck, someone in the wrong place, at the wrong time, had the wrong mind set, learnt the wrong stuff, from the wrong source, in the wrong way, to have achieved what one might think is important for a guitarist, at ones particular stage life

-- Yeah you know it, while you were in your teens you wanted to learn your favorite band flubberdirp (that coincidentally no-one remembers and had no influence on the world), while other guitarists were interested in guitar playing mechanics, intellectualizing nuances and styles


Are they talented and are you untalented.. In that case no, they were just a bit more long sighted.. And you were achieving different goals

Most of what people call talent can be explain by environment…. not all, but most

Interesting observation

You take any naturally talented person at something, and put them out of their element, and they just become average if not worse, get joe sach to play flamenco, see how far he gets

<Insert your favourite guitarist>, put them as a cameo in another <insert your favourite other band here>, and it doesn't mix, that sound would have never become popular, said guitarist (low and behold) just become not talented in an instant, well at least not talented in that environment. That’s to say, this talented guitarist is only talented at the things they are good at.... hmmm *scratches head*


So what we have discovered is that most of what people consider a talent guitarist is now broken in subjective narrow minded surveys of what someone does with the guitar at a particular point in time compared to someone else, which is kind of pointless, unless your talent marker is some metric which can always be measured at any point in time in the past and future

ah, but i hear you say, "little Johnny (my brothers, illegitimate sons former roommate) is naturally talented because he has been playing for 3 years and is better than me, he can play jazz, country, and the flugal horn"

But can he play flamenco, or <insert some other genre here that he can’t play>?

I hear you say "if he did try flamenco, he would pick it up faster than me"

But would he pick it up faster than say a Portuguese gypsy orphan who lives in the back room at the gypsy flamenco institute of technology with his adopted flamenco playing family

Probably not

We are starting to see how narrowly you have to define your talent marker to even start claiming someone is talented at something
-- You have to running logic tests to judge whether they are going to be considered talented in the future and past, surely talented is time independent
-- You have to run a culture stimulus test to prove it’s not environmental
-- You have to run the sheer luck test to prove it’s not just happenstance and positive feedback

So after all that it seems little Johnny is not talented at, it was just environmental factors at the particular point in time

Just because kids can drive better than Henry ford did, doesn't make them talented, it just means the environment is different

ahh but I hear you say "how come johnny picks things up faster than me, talent still must be real)

Sure Johnny might have a slight better beat perception, fine motor skills, can remember more things

But Johnny is probably younger, has a younger brain, hasn't done as much drugs and alcohol, he didn't play college football, he listens to more music more of the time, he has things like ipods and mtv, he probably has more friends and family that are guitarists, ect. ect. ect.

So sure talent is real, but the word is misused probably 99 times out of 100

Last words

My argument is talent really only gets you in the door, it does little for you after that, no-one can play Paganini after 5 minutes, and Paganini probably didn't play as well as other people when he started, additionally, there are probably 10 year old girls that can play Paganini better than Paganini these days, are they talented?

If you think so, please reread this all again, and make sure you have sufficiently thought about it before you answer again
 

Rex

Legend!
You've put a lot of thought into this, and I agree with some what you say, but I think the bulk of it is off the mark.


...take a basketball player, being tall is a huge advantage, however we can’t consider that a talent, it’s just lucky...
Is picking the right poker machine a talent or just lucky?
Talent and slot machine selection are both about luck. Either you hit the payoff combination or you don't.

That said, talent is an innate facility for doing something. Height is an advantage in basketball, but it is an advantage, not a talent. A short person can have a talent for basketball that, along with practice, can at least partially overcome the disadvantage of being short.


Take a basketball player, and at the age of 2, he could throw 10 times more hoops then other kids.

We can say with certainty a 2 year old kid that can throw 10 times more hoops than other 2 year-olds in the history or future of the human race is naturally talented at throwing hoops, though be very aware, that is all the talent is, and has no bearing on whether he is "naturally talented at basketball"
But it does have a bearing. Any two-year-old who can throw hoops with any repeatability at all clearly has a talent for throwing hoops, and that is one of the things that a basketball player must do. Whether he has sufficient other talents to be a competitive basketball player is a different question.


...sometimes what people refer to as talent is actually a skill
True.


Most of what people call talent can be explain by environment…. not all, but most
Talent is a major factor. You brand new baby will develop language. The family puppy, raised in the same environment, will not. The difference is talent.


Interesting observation

You take any naturally talented person at something, and put them out of their element, and they just become average if not worse...
You just put them into a situation to which their talent does not apply.



...get joe sach to play flamenco, see how far he gets
Neither of us has sufficient information to know how good a Flamenco player Satriani would be if he were inclined to pursue it.


I hear you say "if he did try flamenco, he would pick it up faster than me"

But would he pick it up faster than say a Portuguese gypsy orphan who lives in the back room at the gypsy flamenco institute of technology with his adopted flamenco playing family

Probably not
If said Portuguese Gypsy orphan had little musical talent, then yes, little Johnny could become a much better Flamenco player.


ahh but I hear you say "how come johnny picks things up faster than me, talent still must be real)

Sure Johnny might have a slight better beat perception, fine motor skills, can remember more things

But Johnny is probably younger, has a younger brain, hasn't done as much drugs and alcohol, he didn't play college football, he listens to more music more of the time, he has things like ipods and mtv, he probably has more friends and family that are guitarists, ect. ect. ect.
But little Billy, the same age as Johnny and equally drug-free, possessing an identical iPod (MTV doesn't do music anymore) and listening to just as much music, might have the talent to become a great nuclear physicist and still become a lousy musician.


...there are probably 10 year old girls that can play Paganini better than Paganini these days, are they talented?
Darn right they are. :)
 

Loquenau

Forum Addict
Typically those who've been good at, or at least revered for, something have done it the hard way. Nothing I've ever been good, let alone great, at came that way. It was mostly easy, if not instantaneous. One day in Counterpoint class we were watching Glenn Gould on video playing piano. Something about his finger movements clicked, and I knew it, and even though it was hours later, when I got to my guitar and played, it was like never before. Similar has happened when I've watched Allan Holdsworth, or when a certain local guy played my guitar (though that was more his energy, I could feel it).

But those were isolated events, not easily reproducible. One thing that I'm great at came so naturally I've not heard a story like it - and then my 'tutoring' experiences, which were extremely varied in subject, helped it along in a similar unreal manner. I think most anyone can have a similar experience. They just don't realize, and then realise, the opportunity.

This topic has come up before, a couple years ago, and I said basically the same stuff.
 
Last edited:

Jeries

Forum Addict
I think I'm wired for music

I started taking piano lessons when I was 4 or 5
pickedup guitar at 13.

NOW- when I was 15- I decided to learn trumpet - which after all the strings/keyboard instruments I could play found very difficult.

The first time I touched a trumpet was the first day of band camp my sophomore year in high school.
Someone else (who was a year younger than me) picked up the trumpet the same exact day as I had.

...He practiced every day 2 hours minimum.
I never touched it outside of band rehersal

No matter how hard he tried- or how much he practiced- I was always better than him without trying... and always dozens of steps ahead of him. To the point where- a year later I was better than the people who were a year younger than me and played trumpet since 4th grade or middle school. (by senior year I was first chair)

I'm not saying I'm talented.
I'm just saying- My mind is wired for music and wired in a way where it can flourish in musical senses- above average.

I played guitar 8 hours a day for 5-6 yrs.

But I also got very good very fast- (a year into it could play every hendrix/clapton/greenday song- and within the year after that everything metallica/nirvana and a few others)- The rest of the time was really refining things no one else would ever notice (and studying orchestration and theory)


People are impressed by young kids playing stuff like eruption- it doesn't amuse me or impress me... it's easy to get good fast-
And electric guitar is an adult male instrument- give a kid a piano, give them an electric guitar= same thing... just appeals to an atypical audience.

BUT the hard part is where do you go after you get there- so if an 8 year old is as good as guitar as i am when i'm 16.... by the time i'm 23 and they're 23- will there be a difference?
 

Bojangles

Veteran
yeah all fair comments, please be aware i was trying not to write a thesis

To summarize,

-- What people call talent can usually be explained rather than invoking supernatural genes
-- Further more, when someone has a natural ability to do something, it doesn't make them talented
-- Just because your tall, doesn't mean your talented at who-can-touch-the-furthest-up-the-wall-game

In very rare cases, the sum of natural abilities, and environment will produce someone who can achieve a task better than someone else
However the more complex the task is, the less its natural ability and more environmental, which is proved by putting someone out of their comfort zone in a similar task

Additionally i'm not saying talent doesn't exist, its just used wrong factors times more then its used right (in my opinion)

Talent and slot machine selection are both about luck. Either you hit the payoff combination or you don't.
No... talent is some physical or cognitive ability that is able to produce an outcome better than others, talent and luck cant be used interchangeably. although, that's not to say you wouldn't be considered lucky to have talent

More to the point, being a Basketballer who is talented at throwing hoops, is not innately a talented basketballer, your just good at throwing hoops, many more skills to basketball that would make or break the nbl

If said Portuguese Gypsy orphan had little musical talent, then yes, little Johnny could become a much better Flamenco player.
Id put my orphaned Portuguese Gypsy kid (adopted by a flamenco family) against johnny-no-practice in a speed-flamenco-learning-competition any day, assuming both never played the guitar before, both had the same interest in learning, and both did the same amount of practice. That's not to say there is no such thing as guitar talent, its just to say, what ever talent someone has, its probably trumped 1000 times over by environment, i.e how can you be naturally talented at flamenco if you havent had life time of hearing it, johhnys talent wont get him far there, he will need a lot of environment to overcome that, or just turn into a djent player (all good)

You just put them into a situation to which their talent does not apply.
Although, on reading back i made the point fairly badly, the undercurrent here is, by using the word talented, you have to be sufficiently careful about what it is your labeling talent (if existed at all) i.e is super djent light speed player a talented guitarist? or just a talented super djent light speed player. moreover, have we absolutely canceled out the fact that, he has just practiced lots, have lots of djent peers, or was just lucky to learn the right things at the right time

Neither of us has sufficient information to know how good a Flamenco player Satriani would be if he were inclined to pursue it.
True, True, however i have personally seen more than my fair share of talented guitarist miss the mark out side of their comfort zone, so are they talented guitarist? or just good at what they do, my guess is flamenco joe would be fairly average compared to an average non naturally talented career flamenco player (that's just my guess)

But little Billy, the same age as Johnny and equally drug-free, possessing an identical iPod (MTV doesn't do music anymore) and listening to just as much music, might have the talent to become a great nuclear physicist and still become a lousy musician.
We can cancel billy out because no one tried to label him a talented guitarist, johnny on the other hand, has been labeled as such, so he must play the guitar, and as such, before we label him naturally talented, we have to cancel out the fact he maybe good for a lot of other reasons first

In regards to 10 year old girls who can play Paganini, before we call them talented, we would first have to compare them to all the other 10 year old girls who play Paganini first and those after them, and make sure we are comparing apples with apples, make sure they are given the same stimulus and tuition and motivation, and same practice. If one stands out more then the others, we are able to say she has natural ability to learn and play Paganini, we cant just broadly say she is naturally talented at violin, as there are many other skills she many not be good at.


The point of both my spiels are, that talent can get you through the door to larger goals, (ie super djent player) however it cant make you good at everything on guitar, only environment, and practice, intellectualism, and potentially dumb luck can get you there, in witch case, its not really talent we see, just the products of a lot of other things
 

Rex

Legend!
However the more complex the task is, the less its natural ability and more environmental, which is proved by putting someone out of their comfort zone in a similar task
Driving someone outside their talent zone doesn't prove that talent is less important for complex tasks.


No... talent is some physical or cognitive ability that is able to produce an outcome better than others, talent and luck cant be used interchangeably. although, that's not to say you wouldn't be considered lucky to have talent
The point is that having talent in the first place is purely a matter of luck, the same luck that determines how tall you are or whether you picked the "right" slot machine.


...is super djent light speed player a talented guitarist? or just a talented super djent light speed player.
He's a guitarist, and he has a talent that helps him play guitar. Anything beyond that is more about your definition of the word "guitarist" than anything else.


True, True, however i have personally seen more than my fair share of talented guitarist miss the mark out side of their comfort zone, so are they talented guitarist?
It seems that in order for a person to be a talented guitarist, you feel he must be talented in all aspects and styles of guitar. That seems arbitrarily restrictive.


In regards to 10 year old girls who can play Paganini, before we call them talented, we would first have to compare them to all the other 10 year old girls who play Paganini first and those after them...
Any ten-year-old who can play Paganini passably is naturally talented. Take any group of ten-year-olds and drive them to practice Paganini for eight hours a day. The talented ones will do it better.


...If one stands out more then the others, we are able to say she has natural ability to learn and play Paganini, we cant just broadly say she is naturally talented at violin, as there are many other skills she many not be good at.
Playing Paganini well requires exceptional ability in just about every aspect of violin playing, and cannot be accomplished without an above-average dose of talent. That makes her a talented violin player. Unless you require her to demonstrate prowess in bluegrass before you consider her a talented violinist.


The point of both my spiels are, that talent can get you through the door to larger goals, (ie super djent player) however it cant make you good at everything on guitar...
True.


...only environment, and practice, intellectualism, and potentially dumb luck can get you there, in witch case, its not really talent we see, just the products of a lot of other things
The existence of those things doesn't make the talent go away or reduce its influence. That's the part of your position I don't get.
 

Bojangles

Veteran
Rex

to make things clean and not mince words, the above can be broken down in the following

A. Show that when someone says "he or she is a talented guitarist" they are probably wrong (due to semantics)
B. Show that even nailing down the constraints of what is talent (in any field) and more-so measuring said talent with any comparison is exceedingly difficult (due to the sociologically and subjective terminology it is)

In the first part, labeling someone a talented guitarist is just too broad, guitar and music is just too broad to be talented at, you can only be talented at a subset
If they are talented at something, its not the guitar, the guitar playing is really only the effect of the talent, as the talent is (in essence) somewhat more benign
We need not really need to go into this more, as i said its just semantics, and just a annoyance of mine

In the second part, which it seems i've also made a mess of, however it really is the more important issue...

To prove someone is naturally talented, you cant just rate someone by their ability at any given time, because that has nothing to do with talent
Talent is a natural aptitude or skill, so the only way to gauge if someone has a natural talent is identify the means which makes them good at what they do
Ie how do we know someone got their skills gifted to them, or they had to work for it?
We need to look at how they got there, we need to be able cancel out the environment

The environment (as i call it), can involve everything from, early stimulus, through to practice, through to the right knowledge (penny drops) at the right time, the right influence, the right peers, the right acquisition of complimentary skills or basically everything that hasn't been given (genetically programmed)

So how do you prove that, the wrong way to prove it is to look how long it has taken someone to get any particular level skill, as that could have roots in environment
Another wrong way is to look how well someone does something (as discussed above)

So how to we prove someone is talented, you cant, its a sociological subjective problem, and can only be gained by a survey, which may change in future (as discussed before)

So if someone says to me little johnny is talented, or even joe or guthrie are talented, my response would be, there has never been a guitarist that was born good, everyone had to learn, everyone had to practice, everyone gets there

Instead of trying to be good at what everyone else does, just be good at what you do (quote Joe satriani)
 

vinnyburns

Veteran
I think that you either have it or you don't. Just my opinion.
I have known some guitarists for over 30 years and no matter how many hours they put in, they will never have it. I know guitarists who hardy pick up their instruments but when they do, they nail it every time.
The ability to get inside every note comes from within. It's about passion and not everyone is a passionate person.
It's not something you can buy or practice at, you either have it or you don't.
Most guitarists cannot bend a note nicely. Same with their vibrato. They just don't feel it. Forget alternate picking, sweep picking, scales etc. You can pretty much determine off one note bend with vibrato what end of the scale a guitarist is at.
Hours has nothing to do with it. Some people are just better than others. You can't polish a turd :)
 
Top Bottom