Talent for the violin
I've heard some people say that in order to be really good at the violin, you need a natural talent in order to be good. I've heard other people say that you don't need talent; if you practice enough efficiently you will sound really good. In my opinion, you do need some talent in order to be really good and above the average, for me, even though i practice a lot, i just don't sound that good given all the effort i put in, while for some people, they hardly even need to practice and they sound 10x better than me.
What's your opinion on the topic?
To put it bluntly and save you the sugar-coating, yes. Talented people learn the same things faster and more easily than others. But if a talented person doesn't care and slacks off, even a total blockhead could overtake them with enough work.
Good books are The Talent Code and Talent is Overrated. If the education and practice routine is effective, steps are small, smart, and efficient, then anyone can make beautiful music at a high level. You may consider doing some masterclasses or taking a few lessons with a couple of different teachers to see if you can find a better fit. It sounds like you have wonderful drive, just need to be pointed in a better direction. Whatever strong genetic dispositions one might have, lets call it "talent", there is a lot to being a successful musician. There is pitch recognition, rhythm, technique, well what about sight reading skills, preparedness and professionalism, networking skills, what about interpretation and music history knowledge, and list goes on. I think that there are so many elements to being a good musician that there isn't enough "talent" to cover it all.
Some things just seem to come more easily to some people. When you figure out why that is, there is a prize waiting for you in Stockholm. Remember that every hour you spend reading airport-bookstore self-help books is an hour you're not practicing.
You really need to have the talent of being able to work and focus tirelessly.
There's no such thing as being able to focus tirelessly. Getting tired and losing focus after a while are normal, unless one is a cyborg but these don't exist yet. But I agree with the idea of hard work although really hard work itself is only made possible by virtue of other aspects: liking what one is doing, being disciplined and methodical, self driven, logistically having the means and the time requiered, etc. I would also add to the two mentioned 'components' (talent and hard work) a third, good education as in having good teachers. A good teacher will show you how to make a good sound and improv3 technique, then it's up to you to practice and improve. But without a good teacher, you might not know how to, despite your hard work. Having mentioned it as a component, the idea of talent seems to me a simplified even maybe simplistic one.
"Talent" is a bag you fill up with hard work. Some people have big, full bags. Some have tiny, empty bags.
This is a topic I’m quite experienced with. For the past 3 years, I’ve opened my home to people from all over the world to come live and study with me at my home. Some people stay a week, some a weekend, some a whole month, some more, etc... And almost everyone who comes here practices a lot, and I hear them practicing.
Keep in mind that it's not just how long you practice, it's how you practice. Effective practice is more important than long practice. You get more out of 15 minutes of focused, targeted practice than a whole day of mindless repetition. You can make surprisingly great strides with the former. The latter just tends to bake in bad habits.
Talent definitely plays a role, but the amount of 'talent' required in different fields is different, for someone who wants to get to the top 0.1% of the profession.
Scott, that's a memorable definition of "talent"!
There's an interesting book written in the 1980s by a former conservatory professor turned social scientist, Henry Kingsbury, that argues talent is not a quality of the individual, but rather resides between the individual who recognizes talent, and the individual who is recognized as having talent. He draws upon the Parable of the Talents to help illustrate. He believes that identifying talent in another makes one partly responsible for cultivating it.
Scott’s definition should be a sticky. It is spot on.
Are there books or resources on how to practice efficiently?
The Bulletproof Musician blog is a good resource for that.
Let me disagree with my colleagues and say that talent does not exist, it is merely an invention created by some people to feel better about themselves, and their lack of success.
Talent is an ambiguous term IMO. Aptitudes is what enables talent, and there are certain aptitudes that goes a long way in making one's life easier when it comes to music. Perfect pitch, innard sense of rhythm, proprioception, coordination, memory, creativity, discipline etc. Lacking one or more can be overcomed with dedicated work, but those who have it all don't need to spend time doing that, and can in the same duration and effort progress much faster indeed.
Roger nailed it.
Roman you cannot explain away the problem like that. Because one could define "talent" as "not being lazy". And I am pretty sure some people are lazy doing X but not doing Y. So there we are back to "talent for doing X", i.e., not being lazy doing X.
Talent, that's a deep many faceted subject already covered well here.
Jean, what you are describing is not talent, it’s drive.
In psychology and neuro-physiology, the "talent" is described as inherent ability "to think" fast. It has nothing to do with to be smart (but can lead to this), but with the time the new connections between neurons appear, and how fast the signal propagates.
Instead of the word "talent", I'd use the word "instinct".
Like so many debates it all comes down to etymology. Unless you can agree on the definition of "talent" all discussion is futile. But K Ch is pretty funny
I think Roger's definition is correct. Talent encompasses a lot of different traits/aptitudes which make it easier to learn a musical instrument.
Thanks K Ch for the definition of talent from a psychological perspective. Very interesting.
Gemma K, you’re right about practicing. I met a fellow who had only been playing for a few years and he told me he never practiced., I found that hard to believe, until one day I saw him at his dad’s workplace hanging out (his father is a huge public figure in France and owns the big ferris wheel carnival in Paris) with his instrument practicing and playing. I must have gotten there at 3pm, and he was still going on til 2-3 am. When I asked him about it, he said he wasn’t practicing, he was having fun... haha
Perhaps what we are thinking about here rather than "talent" is like the movie "The Natural." My wife and I have a niece who is a "natural" violinist. As I understand the story, when she was 9 years old her mother decided to take violin lessons. So, one day her daughter decided to try to play her mother's violin - first time. She played so well that her mother quit and never played the violin again and her daughter started taking the lessons.
K Ch's commentary seems to conflate a bunch of different things, and even as a crude distillation of the science, isn't really correct.
I do not play myself (my son does). But i have 7 years of experience with stress-resistance, behavioral and Neuro- science, working with both people and animal models etc.
Lydia that's really interesting about gene expression - would you say practising more would help 'activate' the genes or am I interpreting it wrong?
It's interesting that you cite Paganini, K Ch, because he's an excellent example of how unusual physiology allowed him to be a superstar. It's generally thought these days that he had Marfan's Syndrome, which allowed him to be able to make exceptionally large stretches.
How very encouraging, to read that "until you have a real disability, the physical structure of the body has nothing to do with your performance". Unfortunately I suffer from the real disability of age so I must accept I'll never be a sub 10sec 100m runner.
K Ch, you seem to divide people into "talented" (prodigy material) and "normal" oeveryone else). Why wouldn't it be a continuous scale?
Not just violin, pretty much in any technique based activity (sports, musical instruments, crafting...) some people, call them talented, motivated, naturally lovers of that thing they do, will have much better results over other mundane people spending the same amount of hours.
On re-reading the OP's original post: I think the comparison is masking the real issue. It sounds like the OP is practicing a lot, but isn't making much progress. This is generally an issue with the teacher. Either the teacher isn't teaching effectively, hasn't taught the OP to practice properly, or the OP isn't paying attention and doing exactly what their teacher tells them to do.
Yup. Thus the last part of my sentence: "... the OP isn't paying attention and doing exactly what their teacher tells them to do."