Natural Talent

A guitarist is by nature an emotional sort of person.
I mean, it's
such an emotional instrument, I think it attracts
people of a
highly sensitive nature, who need to learn to play so
they can
express that emotion, so it doesn't drive them crazy,
perhaps!

Because of this, I think we can fall prey to a few
psychological
conditions that make our progress as guitarists and
musicians
much more difficult than it needs to be. One of these
conditions
is the chronic mood of doubt, which manifests itself
as the
spoken or unspoken question of "Do I have any Natural
Talent for
this?" "Am I kidding myself here, thinking I can learn
to play like
these obviously talented players I hear, who make me
feel so inadequate?" Boy, I spent a lot of time feeling
like that. I
remember listening to a Segovia recording of the Bach
Bouree in
Em, which I was working on at the time. He played it
so fast, and
I was so struggling to play it at even half that
speed, that it put
me in a serious state of self doubt.

Well, I have learned a few things about this subject
of "natural talent", and I think they would
be good and useful things to
share with the aspiring players out there.

You Too Can Be A Superhero!

My first insight into this "question" was when I
observed how I
reacted to my first experience in taking lessons. I
had taught
myself guitar for three months before I began formal
lessons. I
was practicing for 3 hours a day by myself, working
out of a book
called something like "Teach Yourself Guitar the Easy
Way". It
was a pretty decent book, and I learned first position
notes,
some chords and some songs. When I started lessons, I
started
with Mel Bay #2, and had a lot of mis-conceptions
cleared up,
and started learning a world of things I had no clue
about, with
the aid of a very good Jazz style teacher.

When I started lessons, I began to practice even more,
5 or 6
hours a day. As a result of this, and because I did
have some
degree of "natural talent" (which I will define
later), I got pretty
good pretty fast. My teacher was amazed, and used to
show me
off to everybody, as I had become his "star pupil". He
would
always say, "Tell them how much you practice."

Now the funny thing is, I would always lie about it,
and tell them,
"Oh, 2 hours a day". I didn't want them to know I
practiced so
much. I thought, "I don't want them to know how much I
work at
it, I'd rather let them think I'm some kind of
genius". I used to
get really afraid someone would realize how much I
worked at it,
then I 'd just be like everybody else.

Now, I do forgive myself for this character flaw,
because I
understand why I felt this way. I grew up in a big
family, and
there was only so much attention to go around (and
being
someone who would spend a lot of time on stage in
later life, I
needed a whole lot, by nature). This was the first
time in my life
I ever stood out at anything, and had people pay so
much
attention to me, and make me feel special. It was a
good gig,
and I didn't want to blow it by having them find out
I'm just a
common slob like everybody else. No, I'm special. I
just picked
this thing up, and got divinely inspired.

Besides, my fondest desire as a child was to be a
super hero, like
Superman, or Spiderman. I'd even settle for Batman!
This was the
closest I had come to fulfilling that career choice!

Learning What Being Special Really Means

As I began teaching, I got the opportunity to see
large numbers
of people attempting to learn to play, and I started
to really
investigate this idea of natural talent. Was there
such a thing,
and what were the reasons some people got really good,
and
others did not. I saw many people grapple with the
challenges of
learning to play, and I realized that yes, I do have
some natural
talent, because many of these people were having such
a harder
time than I did. But I also noticed another
interesting thing. A
very good percentage of the people I was teaching
seemed to
have at least as much talent as I did. Some maybe
more. But
very few had the burning desire I had. Very few were
practicing
the number of hours I did, even from the beginning.
Very few
seemed to have the almost desperate need in their life
for this
thing we call playing the guitar.

So I saw that there is literally a whole lot of
natural talent
around. But there isn't a whole lot of love,
dedication, and "hard
work".

I started to see how immature, and downright incorrect
my old
way of thinking was, when I was trying to be a
Superhero. I
began to realize how beautiful a thing it was that
someone would
love and need something as beautiful as playing the
guitar, that
they would give so much of themselves to it. I
certainly thought
it was beautiful whenever I saw my students do it, and
I still do.
I was beginning to see that love, dedication, and hard
work were
the really "special" things. (Of course, it has never
felt like "work"
to me. It is called "playing" the guitar, isn't it?)

You Expect Me To Practice Only 5 Hours a Week!!??

It took me a while to understand why all people who
said they
wanted to play the guitar didn't spend most of their
day doing it.
I remember being in high school, and filling out the
form for
getting extra credit for taking music lessons. Mine
said you had
to practice at least 5 hours a week to qualify. I
raised my hand
and said, "excuse me, I think there's a mistake on
mine. It says
you only have to practice 5 hours a week, shouldn't
that be 5
hours a day." I couldn't understand the concept of
only practicing
5 hours a week! Boy, did I learn different when I
started teaching full time!

Now as the years have gone by, I have become much more
tolerant. I can accept the fact that there are people
in this world
who want to play the guitar, and yet only want to
practice maybe an hour a day, or whatever. I also realized that
these are the
people who are probably not planning on becoming
professionals,
and that's okay. There is a place in the world for
people like this,
although the world would probably be a better place if
more
people spent most of their day playing the guitar. But
of course,
professionals do need some people who just like to
listen, and
admire how special we "full-timers" are.

In all seriousness though, I am always moved when I
see so
many people, school teachers, landscapers, office
workers,
mothers and fathers, make such a commitment to keep up
their
efforts to learn to play this instrument, in the midst
of otherwise
very full and demanding lives. Maybe they only get to
practice 20
minutes a day, but it is very important to them, and
they make
sacrifices to keep it in their lives and have it grow.
That's one
reason I have made a specialty of showing these people
how to
get the most out of the time they put in.

Okay, So What Is "Natural Talent"?

Natural Talent is a pre-disposition in the mind and
the body, to
do the right thing. When a person who has natural
talent for
singing hears someone sing, their body and mind "know"
what
that person is doing to get that sound. And their
body/mind
knows how to do it too, or how to begin moving in that
direction.
(They don't have to know this consciously, that is
"know what
they know, and how they know it, they just "know").
Some people
come in for lessons, and they "tend" to do everything
right, from
sitting comfortably with the instrument, to
positioning and using
the fingers. Some people do everything wrong, and must
be
shown, painstakingly and minutely, exactly what to do.
These
people are the ones I have learned most from, about
teaching
and about playing.

Understand that everyone falls somewhere in between
the two
extremes of total cluelessness, and being a genius.
Yes, I have
some talent, as do many people. If I didn't work
really hard, it
would have got me nowhere. I needed a whole lot of
education to
go with that talent. So did Beethoven, who studied
with Haydn,
and so did Bach, who spent his life copying out the
music of
composers he admired, in order to study their work. So
did Eric
Clapton, who spent years copying every blues record he
could
find.

Don't Worry If You Think You Don't Have Any

I have, as I said, some natural talent for guitar, but
I sure don't
have it for singing. When it comes to singing, my head
is on
backwards. Whatever the right thing to do is, I'll do
the opposite.
I don't need "Singing For Dummies", I need "Singing
for Retards!"

But guess what? I get paid every week now for singing,
and
people compliment me all the time on my voice. That is
because
I tried my hardest with many teachers over the years,
and slowly
began to "get it". Not as fast as someone with natural
talent, but
I discovered how to express myself with my voice, make
a sound
that was pleasing and not ugly or strained, and
fulfill my desire
and need to sing. I also found that I could move
people with my
singing, and transfer my emotion to them, which is
what music is
all about.

And that is the good news. With the right approach,
any one can
learn anything. I have proven this as far as playing
the guitar
goes, for myself and for my students, many of whom
have had
their "heads on backwards." In fact, the more you
really try, the
more "Natural Talent" you will discover in yourself.
It is like
having a little voice in your head guiding you in the
right direction
if you will listen. I have found the more I listen,
the louder that
voice gets, and I hear it more often.

Summing Up

Having "talent" is not the primary factor in whether
or not you
will become a good or great player. Your burning
desire and
desperate need to play, coupled with the correct
understanding
and approach, are the most important things you must
have.

There are lots of people with talent, but not a lot
who allow their
desire to grow, and become powerful. If you can allow
yourself to
feel this need and desire, and use the power of that
to overcome
all the obstacles you might encounter along the way,
you will find
all the talent you need to be the player you are meant
to be.

Copyright 1999 by Jamie Andreas ( HREF="http://www.guitarprinciples.com">www.guitarprinciples.com)

Jamie Andreas is a virtuoso classical guitarist from New York.

She started playing guitar at age 14, by 17 she was giving concerts and teaching guitar.

Jamie Andreas

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