One Source of Talent: Everything Counts (In Large Amounts)

Everything Counts

Researchers are not yet sure if “natural” talent exists. Pretty solid arguments can be made for either side, but in my opinion, the strongest evidence seems to tell us that “natural” talent is a myth. The myth of “natural” talent is so pervasive because it’s impossible to see all the ways someone has practiced throughout their lives, and by practice, I’m talking about exposure as well as the diligent sit-in-a-room-by-yourself kind of practice. Everything counts.

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.

There is mounting evidence that mere exposure, especially for young minds, affects brain development. For more on the topic, check out this great TED talk by neuroscientist Michael Merzenich.

Indian classical vocalist Prasad Upasani–one of the many stellar musicians I’ve interviewed about practice–remembers waking up to hear his dad’s singing practice. Young Prasad would toddle in to sit on his dad’s lap and they would sing his favorite songs. It was fun, relaxed, and enjoyable. Was it practice? You bet it was! Early positive exposure to music isn’t absolutely essential, but many of the best musicians out there appear to have had early musical experiences like this.

Another contributor to my research on practice is New York Philharmonic trumpeter Ethan Bensdorf. Ethan’s parents took him to hear the Chicago Symphony, with legendary principal trumpeter Bud Herseth when he was “about 3.”  I would argue that this kind of musical exposure is a passive form of practice that certainly contributes to one’s store of talent. Talent is built up. Like a gene, talent is expressed because of the environment in which the person develops.

But whatever the reality is, you have to check out this video of DMK playing a cover of Depeche Mode’s tune Everything Counts. The letters DMK stand for Dicken Schrader and his kids Milah and Korben. Dicken is a Colombian-American musician and video artist. I’ve posted about cool parents playing with their kids before, but in this example, there is so much to love. They’re all playing multiple instruments (some of which are clearly instruments they’ve made themselves) and they all sing. Everyone is having a great time, and all of them are totally engaged musically. I love the ending when it becomes clear this video isn’t cobbled together from a bunch of different takes, but is one clean performance, probably a long time coming based on their reactions. Great stuff. Thanks for sharing, Schraders!

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.

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