On the issue of talent

Skills are learned. Of course, some of us may have better or faster response times, or be a little quicker at learning certain types of things than others. But in reality, the level of skill we achieve as guitarists has far more to do with our motivation, our interest level, and our enthusiasm and temperament, than some elusive, innate quality called "talent." Itís practice that gives a guitarist good technique.

Iíve already dealt with motivation, inspiration, and enthusiasm in 1. The key to success So letís take a look at temperament--the other biggie as I see it. Obviously, someone into perfection and detail will likely wind up with a more highly-honed and precisely-controlled technique than someone without that trait. But is that necessarily better? I mean, itís a big world and there are a lot of different tastes in music. Simplicity is an art, too. And maybe another guitarist who may lack a focus on detail may have a unique creativity, or presence, or feel, etc. Music isnít just about skill. If it were, it would be just like juggling or typing. Music is about creative expression.

I think temperament also has a lot to do with the more elusive qualities: so-called "star quality," or "fire" in oneís presence or playing, and even creativity itself. Here are the aspects that really fall more clearly into the innate realm. We canít do much about our basic temperament. But again, itís a big world out there, with room for every expression of style: from intense, dramatic, and explosive, to relaxed, lazy, silly, etc. So wherever you happen to fall on the spectrum, there is undoubtedly a way to make it work for you.

Anyway, I would venture to say that your motivation level, interest, and enthusiasm, operating through your particular temperament, result in your innate talent. It is well established at this point that our brains actually change in response to what we learn and do--our behaviors. When you are learning guitar, you are actually "re-wiring" your neural pathways and changing the structure of your brain. You are building new connections, and new abilities. So what exactly is innate, anyway? I mean, after you have played guitar for three years, hasnít that skill become innate in you? In a very real sense it is enabled by the very structures of your brain itself. That sounds "innate" to me, by definition.

I think creativity is also very misunderstood. It is not something that one either "has" or "doesnít have." Everyone is creative to a certain degree. Yes some people may seem more creative than others, and some people show their creativity in different ways. But none of us really knows just how creative we might be, given the right circumstances and the right approaches. There are things that we can do to bring out and nurture the creativity each of us has. The first step is to realize that there really are no rules. We need to start trusting our ideas, to stop judging them right away, and to stop worrying about whether we are "creative enough." Beyond that basic advice, certain of my books, like Speed Mechanics and Secrets to Writing Killer Songs, explore a few more specific techniques for expanding creativity in their respective areas.

Bottom Line:

Donít worry about whether youíre one of those chosen, "special" people with "talent." Just follow your own heart: your own motivation, enthusiasm, and interests. And in time, people will be talking about what an incredible "talent" you are. If you have the drive, thereís certainly a way that you can make your mark out there.
 

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