Frankly Anything


A blog about, frankly, anything

What Makes Someone “Gifted”

I’ve been on and off the drums over the last 8 years, ever since buying my first, and only, kit. Don’t let the “eight years” mislead you. As pilots log their “hours in the cockpit”, if I were to do the same for “hours on the throne” it’d probably total up to somewhere between 6-12 months (and my lack of proficiency on this instrument proves it).

A while back I picked up a copy of John Riley’s excellent drum technique DVD “The Master Drummer”. John is an authority on modern drumming, esp jazz drumming, and has a number of devotees. His speaking style is a little on the stiff side, but the quality of what he was to say on drumming is without peer.

In the DVD he pauses for a moment to reflect on the idea of “The Gift”. i.e. why do some people seem “gifted” when it comes to playing the drums (or any craft really) and others not?

I found his response to this question really powerful. It applies not just to drumming, but everything.

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Category: Cognition, Music, Strategy

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2 Responses

  1. Tony Kinard says:

    That is indeed an excellent answer to such a question about being gifted, although I’m not so sure I agree 100%. I do whole heartedly agree that John’s attitude and approach is definitely something everyone should adopt. Invest yourself in everything you do with passion – at least be passionate about the experience of the investigation/journey. In doing so, I believe people will find they will succeed further with the things they attempt, uncover so many talents they did not realize they had.

    The rub: Passion does not equal talent.
    I can honestly say that what Johnn as described has been my natural approach to many things in life and it has proven very fulfilling. However, there must be something else to when it comes to talent, I think. Maybe how we are genetically predispositioned for something vs. another. Maybe how our brain was hardwired at a young age due to some aspects of our environment and/or nurturing.

    I say this based on having thought about it a lot from my own experiences. There are many things which I seem to pick up and learn at an excellerated rate – in fact almost as if there was no learning at all. Effortless. Like I was born for it – regardless of whether or not I’m passionate about it (I have seen where this has frustrated some of my friends to no end). While at the same time, there I things I’ve been so very intrigued and passionate about that just don’t seem to click at all to me. Try as I might, no talent. Frustrating. Touche at me.

    I’ll give you two examples. I’m very passionate about both.

    The first, photography. Never really felt it was something learned. When I look at images, anything from advertising images to masterpieces like those of Ansel Adams, I seem to pick up on a mass of information about those images that don’t seem to register with other people (messaging, emotion, shapes, light direction, shadowing, object relation and composition, etc, etc). It’s like I’m tuned to it or a filter is turned off somewhere in my head. When I first picked up a camera, it made complete sense to me. I use it to express and create effortlessly. Just sort of happens.

    Second example: The guitar – or any musical instrument for that matter *sigh*. I have zero talent for musical instruments although I’ve wished so much that I had. I’ve tried. I’d love to be able to create and communicate via the guitar as naturally and effortlessly as I do with the camera, but try as I might… it makes no sense to me. I went out and bought a slightly expensive guitar – such a beautiful instrument. Got books on it. DVDs. Tried playing until my fingers bled. Nothing. Nada. It just won’t click. It doesn’t make sense to me. What I would give to create music like I can create other art. C’est la vie, I guess.

    Know anyone interested in buying a gorgeous Ibanez exotic wood, electric acoustic guitar? Mint condition. 😉

    • Nick says:

      Hi Tony,
      Thanks for the thoughtful reply to this post.

      I suppose it depends on how you define the word “talent”. I’ve known musicians who, I thought, possessed talent but then later discovered that, compared to others, they were hacks.

      When did you begin seriously studying guitar and for how long? Did you have experience playing any other instruments or was guitar your first? Did you have a teacher or were you going it alone?


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