Music is Life

Where were the "naturally gifted pianists" before the piano?

This article has been stewing in the back of my mind for a while and now that Google’s doodle today showcases the inventor of the piano, Bartolomeo Cristofori, I thought it would be a perfect time to finally put pen to paper, or finger to keystroke.

I’ve heard this many times, “Don’t you have to be born with an innate talent to be a pianist/musician/mixing engineer/artist.” While I certainly believe that there are those who are seemingly gifted with divine talent I think that for the rest of us it takes hard work, practice, and focused effort. Yes, some potential has to be there from the beginning. In some letters to his father (May 14, 1778), Mozart wrote about one of his composition students who just could not write any music to save her life. She most certainly had musical talent as she was masterful at her instrument and could play about 200 pieces from memory yet this did not transfer whatsoever to the field of composing music.

I feel as if talent is like soil, it has to be ready to give life yet needs to be worked. Seed needs to be planted, water needs to rain, the sun needs to shine, and hands need to harvest the fruit. Of course some soil is extremely fertile whereas some just won’t grow anything. Most musicians or artists put in an incredible amount of time to master their craft and even continue to refine their technique even though they’ve reached mythic levels of craftsmanship.

Another thing to consider is this: when people throw out a statement such as, “They’re a naturally born pianist” I instantly think, “Where were the naturally born pianists before the 18th century (the first appearance of the piano)?” This leads me to believe in something even bigger than music: there must be certain ways of thinking at which people are adept. These processes of thought probably cause people to become skillful at certain tasks or behavior. I consider myself an extremely musical person but I can’t throw or catch a ball to save my life. I am very uncoordinated with coarse motor skills, I can’t even dance Sad But put a piano or guitar in front of me and I can perform as if the instrument was an extension of my body. Before the advent of the piano people who are born with a “natural gift for piano” probably excelled at some other parallel processes of thought and motor skill.

The bottom line? Maybe 2% of us artists are “divinely gifted” but for the other 98% of us we work our asses off.

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