What My Teaching Experience Shows

When considering the study of music, a question often comes up. How important is natural talent? I have had the opportunity of teaching some incredibly talented kids. One thing I’ve learned from my teaching experience is that the diligent students who sometimes struggle and don’t seem to have much natural ability pretty quickly pass the talented students who are less disciplined about their practice. When it comes to becoming an excellent musician, practice far outweighs talent.

What My Personal Experience Shows

I wouldn’t call myself someone with much natural ability. I love music, and I work hard. That’s how I’ve gotten where I am. I have the privilege of studying under some amazing professors! But music school is really hard for me. I wish music came naturally to me, but at the same time I’m glad I have to work to get results so that I don’t become complacent. If things come easily, it can be difficult to make yourself invest the time necessary to continue to improve.

What Research Shows

There is a debate happening among experts surrounding the “10,000 hours rule” as presented in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers. Gladwell presents the research of Dr. Anders Ericsson, claiming that anyone can become an expert at something with 10,000 hours of practice. That’s all it takes! The debate lies in the question of whether it is only the 10,000 hours of practice that play a role. No one argues that practice is a major part of becoming an expert. But what about the quality, not just quantity, of practice? What about coaching? It’s not clear whether what Gladwell presents is 100% accurate, but there is a point to it. Details aside, the research seems to indicate that deliberate practice makes much more of a difference than innate talent.

So which is more important? Practice!

Please share your thoughts in the comments section. How big of a role do you believe talent plays in becoming a successful musician?