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How Much Musical Talent Do I Need?

Question: Hi Albert, I was wondering what you would suggest for a person that doesn’t really have any musical talent? My brother plays the guitar and now the piano. I am starting to learn how to play the piano.

– Alanna

Albert’s reply: One thing that is central to my teaching philosophy is that whatever one’s level of talent, everyone can always improve in their core musical skills. Students with less talent simply don’t get as far, or they get there slower than those with more talent.

This is the only difference – there’s no fundamental difference in teaching methodology or in the musical skills developed. While amateur musicians aren’t held to the same standards as professionals, this doesn’t mean that they’re free to make mistakes in practice or that they can neglect core musical skills.

The real pleasure will come when, after extensive concentrated work, you break through to the next level of a skill, when what was once impossible becomes easy. You’ll then realize how learning music is a muscle like any other.

Please understand that music is not a competition. You and your brother may have very different musical talents, or you may be stronger in one skill or vice versa. You’ll both change given time and practice, and you may surpass each other at some point or other.

That’s irrelevant. What really counts is surpassing nobody but yourself, going as far as you can and getting all the joy out of playing that you seek.

Even in the ultra-competitive world of the concert pianist, this is how I look at things. Maybe I worked on a piece for months and somebody else learned it last week. Or maybe they’ve already learned the complete works of a composer I’m just getting started with. None of this matters to an audience – the only thing that counts is a beautiful performance.

Look to greater talents as models for what’s possible. Even if you don’t end up going as far, you get to develop a love of playing and gain a true appreciation for the accomplishments of masters. Savor your own journey, and go as far as you can.

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