Category Archives: Music

Where Does Talent Come From

6 - Talent

New talent arising is not the product of a single phenomenon. If we think about some historical examples, such as the Florence Artists of the Renaissance, we can identify a pattern: Talent tends to appear in clusters.

There is a proportional leap in talent arising when and where we can identify a chain of mentoring. This adds up to a cooperation and competitiveness amongst artists that start accelerating their learning speed.

Gary McPherson from the “Melbourne Conservatorium of Music”,  the Australian “Victorian College of Arts” faculty sister, studied the practice of a clarinet apprentice (named Clarissa for the purpose of the study). This research revealed an average person being highly productive for 6 brief minutes, during one of Clarissa’s practice sessions.

Clarissa listened to the song at work, played two notes, focused her attention on the paper, and played 7 more notes. After the first mistake she stopped and started singing the phrase. Then she paused herself, like she was re-playing the phrase in her mind, and finally started playing.

This process is commonly known has Deep Practice. The student is managing the process of dealing with errors by fixing them with focused attention.

Deep practice consists on performing on the edge of one’s ability. This will lead to mistakes that will make the student perform better by forcing him to fix the errors.

Effortless performance is a terrible way to learn. Obstacles, on the other hand, are desirable in learning because the student develops the ability to turn mistakes into skills.

Talent, therefore, does not come from genes and environment. Talent is not the product of nature and nurture. It’s a skill acquiring process that comes from deliberate practice:

  • Technique;
  • Constant critical feedback;
  • Focus on shoring up weaknesses.

It is when this deep practice method starts converging with powerful ignitions of creativity and challenge, combined with a master coaching guidance that skill is created and talent is acknowledged.

For more on the subject check “The Talent Code”, by Daniel Coyle

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1st Step: Identify the Problem

4 - Good Moon Pill

When we start to play an instrument everything seems magical. It’s fun and exciting as a social experience and when you’re practicing it never feels like you’re alone. You’re always listening to your favourite songs and your guitar never let’s you down. It’s like a good mood pill. Therefore you want to know a little more, just like Alice in Wonderland. And your curiosity leads you forward – deep in to the rabbit hole.

It is only when you start facing troubles in the creative process or technical performance that you start thinking about it and usually go to school to learn and to know better. You look up to your favourite musicians and – if you’re lucky – you’ll be properly advised.

I have strong feelings that this natural individual process, when mislead, can harm the innocence of the ones who are more right side brain oriented. The discussion is already been stated: Do schools kill creativity?

Although the teaching process is meant to build your strengths it also creates problems. And the feeling of weight can settle. As an European student and worker I’ve came across hundreds of individuals who either dropped out of school, changed course subject or feel unhappy with their jobs.

In Music and in Jazz, probably one of the most creative and free form of expression and communication available, one can only imagine the weight of frustration on all these kids (and grown ups) who just liked to play for fun and now they don’t even want to sit around their grandpa’s old piano.

If you come to think about it this can probably be the worst problem of the musical education business. People are drawn to music for it’s benefits, simplicity and great fun but they step back from it causing a downhill on the instruments and bookstore market sales and demand of music schools business.

But music and jazz are forms of expression and communication. And it’s this kind of freeing process that I believe that it’s worthy, special and unique. Nevertheless, the ability to perform, to get better results, to achieve higher grounds can be very stressful.

Nowadays we use music as a therapy, we study the history of it, practice it and perform it on multiple scenarios. Science and research in other areas such as psychology, neurobiology and sports, are actually focused on the unravelling of the causes and conditions on which we perform at the peak of our abilities. Society even worships highly developed and skilled Olympic athletes.

But in the music core of action we seem to only be able to benefit on that parallel ground breaking research that has been made successfully.

Our goal is beyond. We believe we’re able to determine the best way for the professional musician, and also the amateur, to go from tension to release. Why not start teaching and composing from that relaxed, opened and free state of consciousness?

In our core lies a strong will to rather than practice music one should practice everything. And everything can be practiced through music, with focus and mindfulness, in order to achieve mastery.

What, How and Why?

Just Do It

Nike’s mantra says it all: Just Do It. If you want to get things done, achieve some personal or professional goal, be a better athlete or a healthier human being: Just Do It.

As musicians we all want to get better every day. Practice more, perform better, and get greater results. But the longer we stay in this eagerness to excel the more we risk exposure to stress and frustration. It’s a competitive world and, some how, we feel that if we don’t keep it going we might fall off the wagon and get run over by something called Life.

So, what if we consciously get to choose to step off that moving train while, at the same time, enhancing our natural talents to raise performance to an even higher level? How do we help our students, our community and ourselves in order to lead more productive, meaningful, and fulfilled lives through musical performance, composing and teaching?

To DO is actually easier said than done, mostly because we know “what” we want, some know “how”, but only a few realise “why”. And the outcome manifests in tension, anger, sadness or lack of inspiration and motivation.

In Portugal we use an old expression that goes like this: “O segredo é a Alma do negócio” (Secret is the business’ Soul). And I’ve always wondered why. Why does it have to be like this, especially in a world-wide… web? Why can’t we share our knowledge and expertise to bring the best out of our fellow mates and ourselves? How do we do it?

What are the best ways to lead naturally and effortlessly to the centre of our beings? Focus and meditation can centre the self. As any other activity! But what I aim for is not only to benefit from the relaxed state of mind that focus and meditation can induce.

What we need is to bring our performance to that core. What we want is to transform our practice into meditation. By doing so we will no longer meditate to perform better. We will perform to meditate because maximized performance IS focus and meditation.