Talent No Existe!

It’s not necessarily the amount of time you spend at practice that counts;
it’s what you put into the practice.
~Eric Lindros

A genius! For 37 years I’ve practiced fourteen hours a day, and now they call me a genius! Pablo Sarasate (Spanish violinist)


Not much time to post a full-length article this week as I’m preparing for presentations at the LHJF (on Practice–go figure–and The Breath) and also trying to finish my comprehensive exams for my PhD in music ed at Northwestern. So, consider the following story as yet more evidence that “talent” is merely disguised practice.

Anders Ericsson’s fantastic work on deliberate practice, as well as the work of many other researchers (see below), has shown that talent is merely disguised practice. In the following video, listen closely to how the teacher frames the girl’s typing skill, and how Makensie herself does. The teacher is flabbergasted, but Makensie gives us a lot more information: she practices, has goals, receives support and encouragement from family and friends, and gets self-esteem from the skill she’s acquired. All of these types of focus, and the context within which one practices, has a profound impact on one’s improvement. Someone with similar circumstances in music will have equal improvement. Talent has little or nothing to do with impressive ability. It’s work.

Have fun and good luck with your practice!

Want to learn more about the best ways to practice? Get an e-mail with a discount code when The Practice of Practice is published (June, 2014). To learn more about the book, check out a sample from The Practice of Practice.


For a more in-depth treatment of this issue, please refer to (in order of relevance):

Sloboda, J. A. (1996). The acuisition of musical performance expertise: Deconstructing the “talent” account of individual differences in musical expressivity. In K. A. Ericsson (Ed.), The Road to Excellence: The Acquisition of Expert Performance in the Arts and Sciences, Sport and Games (pp. 107-126). Mahwal, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum and Associates.

Howe, M. J. A., Davidson, J. W., & Sloboda, J. A. (1998). Innate talents: Reality or Myth? Behavioral & Brain Sciences, 21, 399-442.

Sosniak, L. A. (1990). The tortoise, the hare, and the development of talent. In M. Howe (Ed.), Encouraging the Development of Exceptional Skills and Talents. Leicester, UK: BPS Books.

Robinson, R. E., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1986). Culture, time, and the development of talent. In R. Sternberg & J. E. Davidson (Eds.), Conceptions of giftedness (pp. 264-284). New York: Cambridge University Press.


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