Saturday, February 28, 2009

(PM) Musical "Genius" or Practice?

An article from Psychology Today relating musical ability, general intelligence, and hours of practice:

An excerpt:

Musical achievement = general intelligence + domain-specific skills + practice

[researchers] tested this model using a statistical technique called regression and found that general intelligence (as measured by a test of abstract reasoning), music ability (as measured by a test of tonal and rhythmic differentiation), and time devoted to musical practice and lessons significantly accounted for more of the variance in music achievement than practice alone. In other words, even with practice entered into the equation, both general intelligence and domain-specific music ability added to the prediction of the variance in musical achievement above what would be expected by chance.


  1. I think the way forward is to simply capitalize on a specific tendency or innate predisposition; this may be achieved directly or indirectly. Once this potential is brought to fruition, I think the greatest factor in determining musicianship (or any vocation) is passion and approach. A fierce desire to learn, to grow, to revel in wonder, dwarfs any amount of humdrum practice. I agree that general intelligence, specific skills, and practice are necessary in becoming proficient at anything, but it is what drives us that leads us into the areas of study that yield the most results because we are interested—we are passionate about this direction, now. A genuine physical, emotional, and spiritual investment fortifies our will to be the best (insert passionate interest here) we can possibly be. Skill is realized in fluid and natural motions of experiential learning. How did we get there: (or here) – interest - what keeps us going: deep-rooted passion.

    “Musical Genius or Practice? All the practice in the world will not help the student whose sessions are not infused with genuine interest and passion. Emotional groove and connection in Humanity is achieved through awareness of our environment and world. So what determines a Mozart, Stravinski, Petrucciani, Van Gogh, Odd Nerdrum, Paul Watson or Gene Baur? I think passion, approach, and emotional dedication; all of these attributes and potential skills become second nature when a person has chosen to pursue the thing they are most passionate about. A work ethic is ingrained into our biological and neural structure; our chosen field of study is our (active) way of interpreting the world we live in, and the more knowledge (truth, beauty, love, compassion) we seek--the more proficient and generous we become. I know it seems simple to say that passion and approach are the means necessary to true success (proficiency, happiness) in a chosen area; but I think it is a mistake for passion and approach to go unmentioned in an article about human achievement. I think when we ask ourselves in honesty, what are we most passionate about, and explore our answers--the practical and dream-like journey begins.

  2. No doubt about it; internal motivation, drive, passion, are necessary pieces of this puzzle -- but how to account for the development of these dispositions? It is a question that plagues all attentive educators.