Gifted or stubborn?

If you play a musical instrument, you probably fall into one of two categories…Naturally gifted, or dedicated and stubborn.  And if you are very lucky, both.

There have been numerous, truly gifted musicians over the years, some of which seemingly endowed with an ability to see music a different way, or a to be able to pick up an instrument and play it. And some, who really study and become so technically proficient that it is staggers you.

Personally, I have always been attracted to musicians who seem to have a raw, or god given talent for music (or art for that matter).

Grant Green, has been one of my favourite jazz guitarists for a long time. He arrived on the Jazz circuits as a young man, and the professional musicians that he was jamming with said that the things that had taken years to study, he picked up in a matter of minutes of playing with them. Jimi Hendrix, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, too, all seemingly gifted (or cursed) with the ability to see music differently and manipulate it in a different way to everybody else.

For the rest of us who have to study, practice, and work our fingers to the bone, I have a different kind of admiration. I personally started playing late in my life and while my brain is equipped to process music, and make sense of music theory, my hands have always been my handicap. The determination of somebody for whom music doesn’t come easy is a testament to my theme, they love music so much, that they study and study, and practice and practice.

It is frustrating, even infuriating at times. You constantly strive for perfection and very rarely achieve it. Let alone the hours spent going over scales over and over again. But it is always worth it in the end! If it were easy for everyone, there would be no value in it.

History celebrates the genius composers and super gifted musicians, as they well should.  But as most people who have tried to learn an instrument will tell you, the vast majority of working musicians have spent years of there lives learning their trade.

And that, deserves as much (if not more)  respect.

2 thoughts on “Gifted or stubborn?

  1. They say the world is full of answers, what it needs is good questions.

    Does the amount of effort (practice, learning, perfecting) that went into a piece of music or performance count for anything? I think the arts are very cruel: from the listeners perspective, the only item on the scales is the output, not the input.

    That said, if sweating 24 hours a day got you to the point where you could play better than Jimmy Hendrix, then bravo, the tortoise has beaten the rabbit. Output always wins. The “inspiration versus perspiration” argument takes you some way, but it doesn’t address the “genius factor” I saw Hendrix live in 1966 in a tiny pub-basement gig in Golders Green – stood three feet from him. We were all aspiring guitarists then, and what we saw we simply could not believe. He didn’t play “better “than anyone else, he played different to every other guitarist. Different better. If you had told us he was not of this earth we would have believed you.

    Every once in a while a Hendrix, a Thelonious Monk or a Charlie Parker turns up. No amount of perspiration comes close to genius. However I think a lot of good music flows from “craftsmaship” and not genius. I don’t want to listen to genius all day and night, it’s exhausting. Sometimes what I want is just good music, well played. It’s what craftsmen do. And I admire those who have learned their craft.

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